Thursday, April 24, 2014

Good-bye Gilmer Elementary

Dear GES Teachers, Staff, Parents and Students,

This post comes to you with much gratitude for the time that I spent with you.  My last day at GES will be Tuesday, April 29, as I begin a new chapter in my career as the Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment for Tatum ISD.  I am very excited about this new opportunity, but before I go, I would like to leave you with some final words of appreciation.

In the 3 years that I've been with you, our school experienced massive and positive transformation.  By working together everyday, we built amazing systems that fulfilled our Mission,

One Exceptional Team + One Exceptional Goal = One's Exceptional Future.  

As a team and as a family, our campus overcame obstacles by moving from the status of being an unacceptable school into being one of the top elementary schools this past year on STAAR.  This is a tremendous honor that makes me extremely proud of our staff and students.

But that's not what I'm going to miss about GES!

My Video Message to the Students of Gilmer Elementary School

Let me be clear.  Performance on a test does not make a school acceptable, unacceptable or even exemplary.  This campus was never unacceptable.  The thing that makes this place special is the relationships in our school.  The smiles, high-fives and positive energy from the kids are the things that make people wake up ready to make a difference at this school.  What people don't know about GES is that the teachers and staff work as a team in everything they do.  This school exemplifies its deep-rooted values everyday, so that we can reach our ultimate goal,

Every Student Learning at High Levels Everyday.

This school is very big in many ways, and I'm not talking about the enrollment of the school.  I'm talking about the size of our school's heart.  I will always treasure the countless stories of teachers and community members going above and beyond to help our students in need.  You can't do that without heart.  Our campus is enormous in its energy.  Everyday, excitement is permeating through our veins to make the day a great one for every kid.  Finally, GES is colossal in commitment.  It amazes me to watch our teachers create innovative plans and captivating activities that make students love learning.

So What will I take away with Me???

Working at GES has been one of the greatest learning experience of my life.  Because of this school, I have learned so much, but I can best sum it up with these few statements.
What Success Really Looks Like!
  1. Reading is everything.  All kids must be good readers to make it in life.
  2. Writing is fun, and if we teach kids to be great writers, they will be amazing thinkers.
  3. Math is different in the eyes of every kid, and our instruction should match that.
  4. Science and social studies are best learned when we experience it, not read about it.
  5. The most important leadership question that all of us can ask is "How Can I Help You?"
  6. Teachers are the hardest-working people in the world, and they deserve our support and appreciation.
  7. The most important skill we can teach kids every day is the value of good character.  All the instruction in the world is worth nothing without a good character.
In closing, I would like to thank Mr. Albritton for giving me the opportunity to come to Gilmer.  He is a class act and a fantastic superintendent.  This district is very fortunate to have him at the helm.  Thank you to the Board of Trustees who are selflessly committed to kids in every decision that they make.  Thank you to the administrators, teachers and staff for being the epitome of the word, team.  All things are possible when a school has a dedicated team of individuals working together to achieve a common goal.  Thank you to GES parents for your continuous support and for trusting us with your most precious asset, your child.  And finally, thank you to the students.  You bring joy to my life, and you have so much potential to change the world.  I hope that you never forget that the power you possess can make this world a thousand times better than it is today.

For Kids,

John Wink

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Hey World! #ThankaTeacherDay is Saturday, May 10!

We didn't get where we are on our own. Somebody helped us get there. You aren't able to read this post because of your own genius factor. Somebody taught you how. You're not where you are in life because you're special. Somebody showed you the way.

A Teacher!

The end of school is near for billions of kids around the world, but for us adults another year in the school of hard knocks is coming to an end as well. Did you learn anything this year?  Did your kids learn anything this year?

Well of course we all learned this year. Sure, there were some days that were rocky, but there were a lot more days that rocked. For that, we need to say thank you to the people who made it possible, teachers. 

Here's the Deal

Teachers are underappreciated, and the profession is often criticized for the shortcomings that befall our children.   As a result, many leave the profession every year because the challenge of educating all children is such an overwhelming task. A lot of times, the things they do for our kids go unnoticed without a word of thanks. There's are millions of teachers who go out of their way everyday to teach us things that will never be measured on a test. They deserve credit.  

Teachers make kids feel special. They give kids value and self-worth as well as a safe place to learn. While kids may not like it at the time, teachers hold kids accountable for always displaying good behavior and character. They walk in the door day after day ready to change the world one child at a time, one minute at a time. In some cases, teachers are the only family some children have.

So here's my proposal - #ThankaTeacherDay, May 10

Let's make Saturday, May 10 #ThankaTeacherDay. On this day let's all tell the world that teachers are awesome. 

# - We want everyone who is living and breathing to go use Facebook, Twitter and every other social media service to thank a teacher who made a profound impact on their life. 

# - We want parents to thank their child's teachers for teaching their children something this year. Even if a parent doesn't like their child's teacher, they should show respect for the work that their teachers did to help their children learn and grow. 

# - We want people to thank their coworkers and leaders who have showed them the way. After all, leaders and coworkers are teachers, aren't they?  I know that every leader and coworker that I have worked with has been an awesome teacher for me in some shape or fashion. 

So What Do You Say???

On Saturday, May 10th, will you join the cause?  Will you post positive comments about great teachers and include the hashtag, #ThankaTeacherDay?  Will you spread the word?  Will you thank your teachers, your child's teacher, or just the teachers that simply rock because they're that great?

The world is where it is because of teachers, and the world becomes a better place every day because of teachers. One of my favorite teachers of all time was my 7th grade Language Arts teacher, Mrs. Juanita Cammack. She died a few years ago but a few years before that I got the opportunity to tell her what an awesome teacher and influence she was in my life. While she made the bigger impact on my life, my simple words of thanks surprised her and brightened her day. 

Teachers aren't in it for the money. They're in it to make a difference and sometime they don't how much of a difference they have made until someone thanks them for it years later. 

#ThankaTeacherDay, a simple expression that affirms a lifetime of work. I hope you will join me as we flood the social media feeds with positive words of thanks for the noblest of professions that rarely gets the appreciation it deserves. 

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Removing our 'Buts' from Leadership

I read Dan Rockwell's post this morning and it slapped me in the face. Leaders are constantly pressing forward knowing that they must keep the organization moving in order to reach the goal. They acknowledge success, BUT the organization has a long way to go. They praise improvement, BUT we're not there yet. Leaders make praise statements followed by a BUT that lists what hasn't been accomplished. How deflating is that?

I understand the need for constant improvement, BUT our teams and teachers need to know that they are making progress without a descriptor of what is still missing. I must admit, I am prone to make celebration statements with the deflating BUT in them.

Healthy cultures thrive on frequent communication and a critical component is celebration. In DuFour, DuFour, Eaker & Many's book 'Learning by Doing', celebration is a huge part of communication. Here are some tips from their research that leaders must consider if they want to celebrate without BUTS.

Be Specific in the Purpose of Celebration

What gets praised gets repeated. If leaders don't specify the actions that caused the celebration, people will think you are random. Praise a specific action and this will remove the BUT because specific praise shows others the behavior that the leaders wants in all facets of the team. Leaders that add the BUT to this recognition take value away from the behavior being celebrated.

Understand that Celebration is Everyone's Job

The way to start a wildfire of progress is to provide avenues for all staff to celebrate each other's work. Distributing and sharing this responsibility makes the celebration more meaningful because everyone joins the leader in picking and choosing what to celebrate. Also, if the leader is the only one who selects who and what gets celebrated, mistrust and skepticism about celebration takes root. Everyone must own and take part in identifying who and what gets celebrated.

Tie Recognition to your MVVG

Celebration is worthless if it is random or haphazard. When this occurs, people become confused about what is important. If you want to grow, you need motivation, and if you want your mission, vision, values and goals to be realized, individuals, groups and the campus as a whole must be recognized for the behaviors that are aligned with these targets. What gets praised gets repeated by others.

Small Tokens are Most Valuable

Leaders add more BUTS when they recognize a few or limit who can be recognized. Failure to recognize the right work throughout the organization creates pockets of frustration or confusion which Anthony Muhammad says leads to complaining, a precursor to a toxic culture. Small and frequent tokens of appreciation to many people for doing work that is aligned with the mission, vision, values and goals conveys significance in the employee and the work that they do. The more frequent and authentic the recognition, the more empowered your staff will become.

If you notice, these strategies didn't have a single BUT in them. That is because when you have a living mission, vision, values and goals, your organization automatically knows they have more work to do. Taking the acknowledgment of the BUT out of your leadership doesn't mean your team is going to stop improving. Celebrating the right work in a targeted and meaningful way will inspire your team to work even harder because the work that they do is being noticed, praised and shared with others. Isn't that what most people want, acknowledgement for a job well done?

Celebration is the fuel of a healthy culture. The more specific and focused it is, the greater your odds are for reaching your goals and the greater your collective capacity will expand, and there are no ifs ands or BUTS about that.

Friday, April 4, 2014

#LoveMySchoolDay, April 11

This past week, I had a staff member come up to me and tell me how much she wished that everyone knew what an awesome school we had.  She was frustrated how disgruntled people came up in her newsfeed griping about their child's school and saying hateful things.  Her point was this.

"I just wish people could come up here and see what an awesome place this is."

So I sat and pondered her thought, and I said to myself.  Why can't we tell our story?  Why can't we tell what an awesome place our school is?  Why can't we brag about the great things happening that no one ever sees?  Why can't we talk about the wonderful things at our school that make us excited and fired up to come to work every day?  Why can't we brag about our awesome teachers and staff and how they go above and beyond to make our campus the best for every kid and every staff member every day?

Do you feel the challenge coming yet?

I could brag about my school, but I don't want to stop with just my school.  Your school is awesome.  People don't know why.  You have excellent teachers.  We don't know who they are.  Your kids are doing amazing things, and everyone deserves to know what they are learning and how you are making it happen.

Here is my challenge.

1.   April 11 is #LoveMySchoolDay 

Get the word out now by sharing this with everyone you know!!!

2. All day on Friday, post, repost, tweet, retweet, on every Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or other social media accounts what you love about your school.  Tell us how awesome your school is using the hashtag, #LoveMySchoolDay.  Brag on your school, students and teachers!!!

Give the world the 411 about your school!!!

3.  Share with the world the great work you and your colleagues are doing to educate all kids.

4.  Let's send the message that we #LoveWhatWeDo for kids, parents and our country.

We are on the front lines creating a better world for the next generation.  The world needs to hear our story.  If you love your school, join us by telling your story on #LoveMySchoolDay