School leadership is incredibly complex. Perhaps it is because we have so many different stakeholders (students, staff, parents, community, school committees) and so many demands, or perhaps it is because of the challenge of juggling the many personalities we encounter daily, but it is not easy.
Nevertheless, if communication and relationships are at the core of our work and drive all that we do, there are some simple strategies we can employ that can make it easier. One is recognizing the importance of staff satisfaction. Clearly, it is easier said than done.
The following is an excellent article that provides guidance in this regard. Check it out!
The Number One Factor in Employee Satisfaction by Dan Rockwell
Thursday, May 23, 2019
This was really fun! I loved being interviewed by Joe (Murray), Evan (Strauss), and Caroline (Hoffman). Together we discussed start times, graduation, and my advice to students going into next year. Great questions from a great group of kids. Check it out! http://tv.dsctv.com/CablecastPublicSite/show/2826?channel=3
Tuesday, April 16, 2019
Recently, I came across a post on twitter from Challenge Success about the many benefits of summer camp for young people.
The article resonated for me because summer camp changed my life. I attended Challenge Wilderness Camp (now: https://www.roaringbrookcamp.com/camp-history/) in Bradford Vermont for two summers, run by a man named Putnam (Put) Blodgett. I have to admit, the regimented schedule, 125 mile canoeing trips on the Allagash Waterway of northern Maine, sleeping in a three sided shelter in the dark of the forest, and hiking unendingly across the New Hampshire White Mountains was always tough. However, it was the wake up bell every day at the crack of dawn for PT (physical training) that made me beg to go home. I remember speaking with my friend Bryan daily (maybe even multiple times daily) about how badly we couldn't wait to get out of there. The camp had no electricity, no bathrooms or shower facilities, and we had to cook our own meals over the fire daily. We even had to wash our own dishes in buckets of boiled water! Our trips away from the camp involved traveling for hours on end in a rickety old school bus, which had no air conditioning and a propensity for breaking down in the most isolated of regions. I remember vividly, hiking deep in the mountains, seemingly far from civilization and being so thirsty that I had to drink "filtered" water from a standing pond. I will never forget the tiny organisms swimming in my pink lemonade as I lifted the cup to my mouth!
Ironically, the memories of the difficulties and daily challenges of camp always seem to fade, while the positive aspects seem more strongly a part of who I am. I think often of the smell of the forest and the views of the unaltered natural settings. I still whistle to myself when working out as I did at camp, and to this day I love to prove to my family that I can build a fire under the worst of conditions. I can still hear the sound of the brook in the distance as I drifted off to sleep at night. We did not have phones, video games, or television sets to entertain us, we had no choice but to find other ways to have fun. We entertained ourselves and used our imaginations. It's amazing what kids will do when given time and the freedom to explore the world around them. In our case, we would make axe handles out of poplar logs and then practice throwing the completed axes into a tree stump turned on its side (Unthinkable today!) We quietly formed lines in the woods a half mile long and ran as fast as we could in one direction to flush out deer, cheering crazily when successful. We were boys transitioning to manhood and we were free of the constraints of our "real world" homes and the presence of our parents.
I will forever be grateful to Put Blodgett, who we all believed to be a farmer, a logger, and an individual who did not really understand the civilized world from which we came. We were wrong. Put was someone who knew young men, understood the qualities of a meaningful education, and cared so much for his campers that he was willing to make them struggle a bit in an effort to shape them into independent contributing adults. It wasn't until years later that I learned that Put was actually a Dartmouth graduate and a respected alumnus of that school (https://alumni.dartmouth.edu/2009-10-awards-blodgett). Like I said, we were so wrong!
In hindsight, I now know that camp really mattered and I commend Challenge Success for sharing this message with those raising children. It was the place that I learned about leadership, perseverance, grit, and love of the natural world, and for that I am thankful.
Tuesday, March 12, 2019
Ever wonder if providing someone with feedback makes any difference at all in their performance? Have you ever struggled with the feedback you were receiving from family, educators, or employers?If so, you are going to love this article from the Harvard Business Review. Check it out!
Monday, March 11, 2019
Leading schools is difficult work. One of the greatest challenges for me personally over the past 30+ years has been getting all school stakeholders, including students, teachers, administrators, and parents to believe that all students can achieve at high levels. Perhaps this is because many in our society simply do not believe it to be true. Many of us still seem to be of the deeply held opinion, that in life “you either have it or you don’t”. As an example, consider for a moment how many times you have said (perhaps even to your children), “I was never a good math student”, or ever told someone you were not a good singer, dancer, or athlete? We all do it, yet it is not necessarily entirely accurate and is something we are working hard to re-message to the community of Dover Sherborn.
Recently, I came upon a piece in the Boston Globe that captured my attention in this regard, because it contained a powerful quote from one of our freshman students, Ava Yablonski. She was commenting on her recent successes (a state title in both the 100 yard butterfly and 100 yard backstroke) at the MIAA State Swimming Championships. This was no small feat and she was quoted afterward, discussing what she saw as the reasons for her victories. “I’ve practiced a lot and trained hard so I’m proud of the outcome... I’m excited for next season.” It took eighteen words to describe the keys to her success and I believe there is a lesson for us all here. Basically, she practiced (which implies persistence, commitment, and belief in oneself), worked very hard (which implies that there may have been defeats or disappointments that she had to rise above along the way), and has come to the realization that practice and hard work result in positive outcomes. In addition, she now clearly understands that she can grow even more and hence is “…excited for next season.”
I am sure that some would argue that success has a great deal to do with predisposition, genetic make-up, and good fortune, but what if it also has a lot to do with Ava’s formula of practice, hard work, determination, and growth mindset? If so, we as the adults in our student’s lives must convey this message over and over again, even in our doubting moments.
I want to congratulate Ava for believing in herself and the many, many other students in our schools who fight daily, in some cases against very difficult odds, to grow and improve. I also want to thank the many adults in the lives of our young people who continually convey the message that “This work is hard, you can do it, and I believe in you.”
Pine Hill School Growth Mindset Posters