Monday, November 17, 2008

Week 13: November 17 - 21, 2008

Upcoming Events:
17 Nov -- Fellowship of Christian Athletes Assembly; 10:30 - 11:15 a.m.
18 Nov -- Progress Reports Verified
19 Nov -- Leadership Team Meeting; 7:30 a.m., Room 103 (see agenda below)
19 Nov -- Pass out student progress reports during 5th hour
20 Nov -- Annette Lanham; Open Enrollment Insurance, Conference Room; All Day
20 Nov -- Technology Cohort 1 Meeting; 3:00 in Room 305 (yep, all the way up there)

LT Meeting Agenda:
EPP -- Align the Design; pg. 88 (by Nancy Mooney & An Mausbach)
Discussion on SIP; team meetings; yearly progress
Dance Assignment Rescheduling
PBTE -- Admin Assignments

"Change is a double-edged sword. Its relentless pace these days runs us off our feet. Yet when things are unsettled, we can find new ways to move ahead and to create breakthroughs not possible in stagnant societies" (Fullen, 2001).

The impending storm became more and more obvious...
I think I became mildly cognizant of the weariness and stress on the staff somewhere near the election of our 44th President. I suppose the excitement of the event distracted us for the moment, but the reality of our daily pressures returned with a vengeance. Benton High School is deep in the throes of dynamic change. We didn't start our journey this fall; no, we started it more than 16 months ago. As a matter of fact, as hard as it is to believe, we planned it.

In Michael Fullen's Leading in a Culture of Change, he reminded me that we are in the stage of "coherence making." He states, "You don't have to become Dr. Strangelove to realize that living on the edge means simultaneously letting go and reining in" (p. 107). Making our plan coherent often pushes us to the edge of chaos -- the tipping point -- and then we change and the dynamic is reclaimed only to be followed by an implementation dip. So, what is our plan? It's our SIP -- School Improvement Plan - with our FOUR specific and focused goals to achieve:
1. Close the achievement gap in our students improving our highest performing students while also increasing the performance in our students determined to be "at risk."
2. Increase the number of students who graduate (ie. reduce the number of dropouts)
3. Improve students' attendance to school/classes
4. Integrate technology as a system of technological, pedagogical and content knowledge into our classrooms using constructivism.

How Do We Re-establish our Moral Purpose?
Fullen goes on to explain that once we created our plan, we have to have the moral purpose -- commitment to betterment -- to accomplish it. We spent last year working through establishing our moral purpose. I guess I might confess that I presumed that once our moral purpose was set it stayed. I was wrong.

Relationships, Relationships, Relationships
Fullen says that creating and building relationships in an institution in change are second after moral purpose only because you can't have two firsts, and he states, " is actually the relationships that make the difference" (p. 51). I sort of thought we were doing well in the relationships department at Benton, but according to our "Mood Ring Survey" last week, we are not faring well. I tried to find team-building activities that would combine our teachers across departments -- allow us all to meet each other. Despite the complaints about time wasted on "stupid activities," I must say in hindsight, it probably worked. Now I am left to wonder what has changed? What are we missing that does not allow us to grow together in our common pursuit to become a cohesive team? I need more input than what you gave me on the survey in order to make it better. Feel free to help me out on this one. I am lost.

Knowledge Building
The next step in leading change is building, sharing, creating, and managing knowledge. This is a TOUGH, tough, tough step, and I really think we are excellent at it. I think it's this step that causes our stress. Think about it. Think about how much DYNAMIC change we are leading. It's collaboration. It's department meetings. It's our departmental professional development. It's creating, sharing, building and managing essential outcomes. It's our benchmarking. It's our ACT push. It's our BAR team. It's Core Lab. It's the word wall and the math passes. It's the technology cohort. It's tightening up the discipline without losing too many kids. It's the tardy policy. It's the cell phone policy. It's all TOUGH, tough stuff. And it carries with it a master than none of us like very much. Its name is "Accountability," and we all serve it. Accountability has middle name; it's Data.

In a Moment of Lucidity...
I have always felt like information I need is delivered to me when I need it. I pray for wisdom and grace every day as I learn to lead our school to be the best that it can be. I am never disappointed on either front. My heart and mind was opened to the clarity of the moment this morning sitting in the 8:15 a.m. service, and it was solidified at the Jazz Express Concert I attended with Kurt tonight at the Missouri Theater. It comes by realizing how thankful I am for what I have in my life -- and the problems are really just the bottom half of a glass of opportunities. I am thankful that I start each day of my life full of joy and enthusiasm for the work I get to do with you all every Monday through Friday (and then some). In this day of economic distress -- I have a great, albeit extraordinarily difficult, job. I work with great, albiet sometimes arduous, allies. I deal with great, albeit troubled, children who deserve much more than I can ever offer them. I am thankful for my own family who allows me to spend colossal amounts of time on my Benton family. I am thankful for your tolerance of my learning. And I want you to know that I hear you. If you only knew how much I want to make things easier for you all -- to make everything work right. I guess you do now. And for that I am thankful.


Kerry said...

In the midst of lesson planning last night I received an email from Tori Grable telling us of the passing of the mother of Dawn Smith (Central Language Arts peer). The past several days of news have also included the deaths of young women in car accidents in St. Joseph.
That information caused me to pause and reflect on my moral purpose and whether what I do in my waking hours contributes so that I might leave a legacy of my time on earth.
I certainly don't harbor any fantasies of curing cancer or walking on the moon, but I do want people to know I was here and that my work had a positive influence on even a few.
Just as you ask the sometimes troubled students why they come here every day, I paused to consider that question and found that there must be something I am getting from it. Banging ones head into the wall will only provide stimulation until you pass out.
Then I realized that I'm letting the negative, frustrating moments outweigh the positive meaningful ones simply by focusing on them. Turn the focus away and the burden may just seem lighter. The workload probably won't diminish, but the perceived value of it will increase.
There is too much to be grateful for in this week of Thanksgiving to list, but my hope is that my prayers for those who assist me every day will be met with favor and the blessings will be upon you.

Tori Grable said...

I fear that all too often I am the one who deflates your sails when you think all is well, and I work hard to keep myself from getting trapped in a sea of negativity. There are good days. Days when my students are cooperative, smiling, willing to talk about what we read, willing to write about what they think, and I, too, am thankful for the many things I have in my life, including the opportunity to work with my outstanding colleagues at Benton in trying to help prepare our wonderful kids for the world in which they live.

And then there are days that as soon I walk in the door, I am disappointed, dismayed and discouraged. I returned today from a fabulous four days at the NCTE conference in San Antonio. Wonderful weather, great food and a boat ride through the Riverwalk area. So many new books for my classroom and those of my colleagues that I had to buy a second suitcase and find another carry-on to accommodate them all! But the note my sub left for me brought a gray cloud to hang over me. "1st period -- I had difficulty getting them to work. They wanted to talk. To top it off, they complained they did not have enough time to do it!" And that's probably my best-functioning class.

So what now? Really, I had left a task that was an extension of the work we had done before I left. They were prepared for it and simply needed to do their own analysis in class as practice. Yet they balked. I am dragging my feet to team collaboration today because I'm at a loss for where to go with these kids. This is not a feeling I've been accustomed to in my 19 years of teaching. And it's one I don't like. I'm open to suggestions from any and all.

Like you, I feel like we've done some good things to build morale and grow a more positive climate here at Benton, but we still don't seem to be where we need to be. I had a great discussion with another educator while I was gone about our situation, and it leaves me thinking that maybe we have to go beyond the four walls of Benton High School. We know that many of our students live in poverty -- and more and more every day -- and we know that because of that they bring certain issues into our classrooms. But what do we do about that? What do we do to reach out into our Southside community to educate those people, to seek their support, to ask for their ideas? What do we do to involve our students' families in ALL things that go on at Benton, not just attending a Friday night football or basketball game? I certainly don't have the answers, but I've spent a lot of time this fall reflecting on my situation, our situation, and the world of Benton, and I think we still have a ways to go. We still need to work on the plan to get us there.

Sean Nash said...

Nice post Jeanette. (yes, I finally got around to reading through it carefully)

I wish I could read this kind of thing here more than the litany of dates and other managerial stuff I have to wade through to get to the good stuff.

As far as: "I need more input than what you gave me on the survey in order to make it better." -goes...

I think the best thing that can be done is to foster more decentralized celebration, ala Bob & Tori's Barbosa soiree'.

I know that this is a characteristic of a tight staff... but as far as how to get that to happen from a place where it doesn't... is the million-dollar question.

You know me- I loves me sum top-down leadership where needed. However, I think we need to incentivize our people to create relationship-building activities from the ground up.

Perhaps we have just implemented too many things beyond where our relationships allow comfort? It happens in the classroom every year. It happens in every teacher's classroom when the books get passed out on the first day.

Perhaps we need to crane our necks... look back... and shore up some powerful relationship-building experiences prior to the next big push. ;-)