Adding Value to Change #IMMOOC #LCInnovation
In what areas of your life do you feel valued? Do these areas coincide with where you choose to dedicate more time and energy? Where you give more of yourself? Do more? Go above and beyond? Feel more comfortable taking risks?
I (Annick) have been married for 10 years now, but have been with my husband Chris, for 15 years, and see the importance of feeling valued so clearly. With having spent just about as many years of my life with Chris than without him, and with having four kids who constantly demand our attention, it’s easy for us to forget to show our gratitude and make sure that we feel valued by one another. When Chris reminds me of my “to-do list” at home when I’m already feeling overwhelmed by life in general, it makes me resentful and upset. But, when he thanks me for having done something (even if it’s something that I typically do), it makes me feel valued, which makes me want to do even more. A simple change in approach makes all the difference. It’s really no different at school; with the busyness that a school day brings on, meshing into busy weeks, that turn into months, it’s easy to forgo showing our appreciation, but we need to remember that reminding someone of their value goes a long way and can truly make the world of a difference.
Entering my (Matthew) fifteenth year as an educator and seventh as the principal at #SiglerNation, value is something I am constantly trying to ensure others feel. I want the community of teachers, families and students I serve to understand just how much I value them. Value is such a simple word, but the definition of value leads me to believe it is more complex than first thought:
the regard that something is held to deserve; the important, worth, or usefulness of something.
We believe value is something deeper than saying thank you or sharing a “treat” in a staff members mailbox or lounge. Value, in terms how we want someone to feel can be the difference between someone working for you or right alongside you. While the obligatory thank yous may make a person feel valued in the moment, it’s the actions that follow the words we use that truly allow one to feel valued over time. Notice we used the word “actions” and not action. Value is a feeling acquired over time. It is a collective series of small acts that build upon one another leading to deeper feelings of equality, belonging and a sense of empowerment that can inspire greatness.
“When educators become the learners, reflect on their experiences, and consider implications for their own practices, it can translate to more robust learning experiences for their students.”
As I (Matthew) reflect on my experiences as an educator over the last fifteen years, I am drawn to my experiences as an assistant principal where the value I felt drove me to want to be better, to want to learn more and become the best leader I can be for a school community.
Entering my third year as an assistant principal, I was reassigned to a Title I, Bilingual campus where nearly 90% of the students qualified for free and reduced lunch. This was contrary to my previous assignment where I had served a school community with over 800 students of which a mere 5% were identified as economically disadvantaged.
As I moved in my belongings on day 1, I recall spending a large amount of my time looking around the building which was over 50 years old comparing the low ceilings and dimly lit halls to the building I had previously come from which was just two years old. It would have been easy for the principal at the time to dismiss the importance of the aesthetics of my soon to be office as dark and dungy, but she made me feel valued from the beginning. A fresh coat of paint was just what my office needed to make me feel as if I had a home in this new building. It made me feel as if my arrival was something important. It made me feel as if I was wanted. It made me needed.
The principal could have used my lack of experience in a Title I, Bilingual building as a reason to hold my hand and slowly introduce me to tasks, she did just the opposite. She understood my goals and desire to want to be a principal one day. She helped me hit the ground running. I was her student and she was the teacher and this quote from #LCInnovation sums up her approach beautifully.
“If our goal is for students to create better opportunities for themselves and others, we have to step back and allow them the space to explore and learn how to learn.” – Katie Martin
She valued me from the start. It was the value I felt that made the difficult days a little bit easier, the long days a little bit shorter. Her value in me and her knowledge of where I wanted to be in my career, helped paved the way for me to go get there. She paved the way not only for me to get there, but she made sure I would be more than ready upon my arrival.
I spent two years working as an assistant principal under this awesome leader. Yes, she was the principal and I was the AP, but it hardly ever felt like that. We were a team!
Seven years later, I still feel the value she instilled in me and I do my best to make the assistant principals, teachers, parents and students I work alongside feel the same. In fact, it was a conversation last week with my current assistant principal as we exchanged thoughts about education that makes me feel as if I am on the right track. We were discussing educational books we were reading and how much of what we read about what teachers should be doing with students can just as easily transfer to what leaders should be doing with teachers. This quote from Katie, sums it up beautifully. Just imagine the word students being replaced with teachers.
“My students and I are better partners now and they navigate the unchartered waters with me because their voice is just as important as mine.”
Just like Matthew, as I (Annick) reflect on my time in education, there are certain moments and people that stand out because they made me feel valued beyond belief. There is one particular person who has helped to shape me into the teacher that I am today. Through his incredible ways of guiding me while also giving me wings, I’ve felt comfortable and confident enough to take risks, try new things, and share what I’m doing along the way. I distinctly remember that during my first year as I teacher, I was interested in giving a session during one of our divisional PD days. When I approached him to discuss this possibility, I expressed that I wasn’t sure if it was my place to share because “I was just in my first year teaching”. He quickly reminded me that my voice was important, that what I had to share was worthy of sharing, and that others could learn from me no matter where I was in my career. That was a powerful moment for me, and I’ve been running with it ever since. Fast-forward to 9 years later and this man continues to consistently make me feel valued. From emails expressing his thanks after I do something “above and beyond”, to check-ins, to conversations about what’s going on in my life. Even during the period when he wasn’t my principal, I continued to feel valued by him. He genuinely cares about me as a whole person and doesn’t view me just as a teacher. This reminds me of a quote from The Innovator’s Mindset, by George Couros:
“Do you see the personal moments you have with your staff as investments or expenditures? Ten minutes you spend listening to someone… will do wonders from a leadership perspective to instill loyalty in that person, as well as a willingness to go above and beyond what is expected. Those moments are investments in the relationships that foster a culture of innovation.”
We are sure that you, too, have stories like the ones we shared. Feeling valued has such a powerful impact on what we do and how we grow. As Matt mentioned, he’s very mindful of leading a school where everyone feels valued; teachers, students, and parents alike. Although I am not in admin, I too am very intentional about showing gratitude so that everyone knows that they matter and that they are valued. Although our primary focus in school is growing learners, we know that each member of the school community needs to feel valued. They need to feel as if they have a voice and a seat at the decision making table, which in turn, will help our students.
As we close, we wanted to leave you with suggestions on how you could make members of your school community feel valued. We would love to hear how you make each of these folks feel valued on your campuses.
The job of a teacher has become increasingly difficult, yet teachers have continued to find ways to innovate and transform learning experiences for students. To ensure teachers in your building feel valued we suggest two things; time and autonomy. We are not suggesting teachers just do whatever they want. Rather we are suggesting building leaders use the time of teachers wisely, allowing them to learn from one another and trust teachers to make decisions for the unique learners within their classrooms. In chapter 4 of #LCInnovation, Katie refers to this as “agency”.
“Agency comes from the power to act and requires learners to have the ability to make decisions and take ownership of their own behaviors in the process.” – Katie Martin
Students come to us as incredibly unique and curious children. In order for them to feel valued, we must first get to know them and continue to build on their amazingly curious minds. Just like we suggest giving time and autonomy to teachers, we believe it is important to give students time and choice in what they’re learning and how they’re learning it. Building those relationships in order to incorporate their interests and passions into our classrooms is the foundation to where value can begin to stem. Taking the time to truly get to know each and every one of our students while also sharing our story is key. And the added beauty in all of this? Once students begin to feel valued by what their teachers are doing and modeling, they too will begin to act on it, helping their peers feel valued in another light!
Parents send us their very best every day. It’s our responsibility to educate, love and care for their best. It is what they entrust us to do as educators. While we openly accept this awesome responsibility, we know we cannot do it alone and the parents are partners. As partners, we need the actions towards our parents to communicate we value their partnership. One way we show parents we value them at #SiglerNation is opening our doors to them. Parents are welcomed in our building. They eat breakfast with their children. Parents are able to walk their children to classrooms. They eat lunch with their children, without a schedule determined by the school and often you will find parents attending our after school clubs to see their children in action. If the feeling we are after is value, a great place to start is making parents feel welcomed!