Wednesday, July 29, 2015

A Teacher's Mid-Summer Dream...

School supplies are taking over the stores!!!!!!!!!!!  This is good news for some and a dreaded realization summer is coming to an end for others. If you know me (or a teacher), you know this means I am fighting every urge in my body to go spend an entire paycheck or two on school supplies. After all, a bouquet of freshly sharpened pencils, the smell of an empty notebook, and a pack of brand new sharpies are a few of my favorite things.  However, I am not alone, for the aisles are filling with eager teachers trying to find a steal and get a deal.   Most educators are already working on lessons (guilty) and/or setting up their classroom. If I have just outed any of my fellow nerds post your name, share this blog, and attach a picture of your organized or chaotic classroom as evidence.

If you are anything like me, the summer is filled with summer school, lesson planning, curriculum and unit planning for the upcoming year and another degree conferred and finalized. It has been a whirlwind summer in my household as usual. I spend time enjoying my own kiddos and try to find ways to balance work and home. This can be a challenge when you have the heart of a teacher. After all, a true educator really does not have a full summer break. We are continually learning, growing and thinking about how to get better so our students will learn, grow, and can become who God created them to be.

So, this time of year when I start to feel the pull of the classroom, I savor the joy and anticipation the first day is building and rumbling inside my soul.  I feel torn between summer break when I can sleep in a little later, and wanting to meet the new challenges and experience this new year will bring. The beginning of the school year is really a teacher's "New Year," and we feel devoted, refreshed and ready to attack the world.  As the last few weeks of "freedom," are upon me I begin to reflect on my future students I will be blessed to teach this year. I wonder what will they love, dislike or need? Will I have students who need school supplies, shoes, or a hug? What will make them excited to share, discuss and create? However, I also think about the students I have had in the past. Where are they now? Did they enjoy the summer? Were they well fed and cared for? Are they excited for the next chapter in their lives? Either way I pray for those I have loved and those I am sure to embrace in my heart very soon. I just hope I am able to teach them as much as I will surely learn from them.

I am ecstatic and nervous about starting a new position in a new district this year. However, I do not have my classroom yet, so I am really beginning to wonder what it will look like and feel like when my kids walk in the door. While I wait for my own classroom I am going to live vicariously through all of you. If you are teacher share something you MUST HAVE in your classroom to make you feel "ready." If you are not a teacher share a memory about your favorite teacher or his/her classroom. Warning as educators most of us are living paycheck to paycheck and beg, borrow and steal a lot.  So, we just might steal your ideas, so be creative, descriptive, candid and share!

Allie's Must Have's
1. My dingers ( are used to get attention by tapping on a hard surface. The chime is a musical wand that rings softly. They come in a variety of shapes, but they are pretty popular so you have to order them as they become available.

2. My reading apron. This apron is one I picked up at a yard sale for 50 cents. It has books on it and three big pockets. The pockets hold my proprioceptive pieces for students (stress balls, twist ties, twine etc), pencils and stickies, and one is for my dinger for the day.

3. No teacher desk... If I have a teacher desk in my room I feel unorganized. It sounds strange, but it really becomes a place for me to be disorganized. I tend to just throw things on it to sort through later, and takes up much of my time after school.  For me, I feel like a messy desk is a sign of a messy brain (sorry if you are reading this at your messy desk). As an educator, I am constantly busy and running around the room anyway so I do not sit there anyway. Most of the time you will find me on the floor with pillows and a throw rug, sitting at a student's desk or working with students in a variety of locations around the room. So, the desk is a big waste of space and energy.  I took it out of my room a few years ago and have never looked back. Try it...I bet you will love it.
A picture of my hs English classroom
My reading Corner 

My 4th Grade  Classroom : I like to have alternative seating in my room
 (yoga balls, rocking chairs, ottomans, carpets, couches, chairs, pillows)
My hs English classroom

Sunday, July 12, 2015

What Kind of Leader Are You?

    In a few weeks I will have completed my Master's degree in Educational Leadership in a year. This degree is from Dordt College, an amazing Christian college. This is my second Master's degree, so I am not new to taking courses, but this has been the best education I feel I have ever received. It challenged me, pushed me and made me see things from a different perspective. I have one final paper to write about my thoughts on leadership. This took me a long time to process, but I believe I am ready to share what type of leader I aspire to become. 

I have known since the first grade that I wanted to be an educator. I am one of the rare individuals who can share the moment in my life when that decision was made. (Read Moment Blog for More Information) However, I do not have a defining moment when I made the decision to get involved in school leadership. In fact, I never saw myself wanting to be in a leadership role outside of the classroom. I love educating and facilitating learning in the classroom. I absolutely love my students and become attached to them very quickly. I want to help them to succeed and become who God created them to be. 

 However, I was gradually taking on more and more roles as a leader and then an opportunity for an administrative position became available, in a district where I was employed. When I read the job description I felt a twinge of excitement because I believed I could do the job well. I began to think about what it would be like to share the knowledge I have gained in my personal, professional and educational experiences to impact more than just one classroom.  Therefore, I took on a leadership role the following year while completing my second Master's degree in Educational Leadership. 

 My faith in Jesus Christ, love, compassion for others, and resourceful ambition have shaped me into a passionate educator and aspiring leader. I am innovative and creative, and believe firmly in the power of prayer. I know that these principles or characteristics give me the direction for all my actions and decisions. It is important to hold to your beliefs as a leader because there will be times you will face situations where those ideals and beliefs are all you have to make difficult decisions.  Leadership is not always easy, and that is why leading with your heart and your head are so important.                

Leadership is vital because a great leader can help people to flourish, and become who God created them to be.  The term servant leadership is thrown around in the world of education and business today. However, I have seen leaders who speak these ideals, but truly do not live by the servant mindset. It is not called servant leadership when your people are fearful of losing their jobs, and their livelihood.  When your team is not able to be honest, and forthcoming in concerns and questions for fear of looking like a toxic cloud or being deemed inept. Sometimes leaders must realize their team members need more training, need resources or just want a chance to be heard. They need an opportunity to share information without being destroyed by the wrath of anger hidden beneath paperwork. This type of leadership is called tyranny. Tyrannical leadership is where fear mongering, and control are the reigning principles of the leader.  The tyrant leader is about ownership, accountability for others but not for self, and thrives on control. Tyrannical leadership is not about empowering and growing your people. A tyrannical leader loves the spotlight to be on him or herself, and wants the positive attention to be on "his or her success." 

 Christ was a servant to his people, and did not command they follow but loved them with fervor, and forgave their indiscretions. He did not outshine others, and in fact was born poor for a reason. He was able to show how to humbly serve His people well.  He showed what a true leader does to reach his people and to lead with love and mercy.  Therefore, I believe a leader is someone who follows the principles of Christ. I believe a leader is someone who truly loves and cares for his or her people.  This type of leader gets to know the individuals not just acquaint themselves with the workforce.  This means getting to know the personal side of those he or she leads, and supporting the whole person.  

 A powerful leader models expectations, holds himself or herself accountable,  and is willing to push through the darkest moments in the trenches with the team. A true leader knows it is okay to say, " I do not know, " but is resourceful enough to seek advice and work together with the team to find a solution. A leader does not sit behind a desk and order individuals to do their jobs. Instead a leader is present, visible, makes connections to the staff, and is available to help problem solve and work through adversity.         
I believe a leader needs to be a great listener,  loving, compassionate, resourceful, passionate about your industry and is excited to see his or her people grow. You also have to be willing to stand up for your ideals and beliefs, and not allow your morals to be compromised during challenging situations. A leader guides, teaches, and reteaches when necessary.     

 I am a leader who understands the difference in servant leadership and tyrannical reign. I believe my love, compassion, and willingness to have tough conversations will help to empower others. I know that my desire to continue to grow, learn and develop relationships with my team will help impact  students, educators and the community.  I know my passion for education, creative spirit, and resourceful ambition will empower others to become who God created them to be. I believe the love and compassion I exude will help the team know I truly care, and we will be able to build relationships and connections. This will allow for us to do great work together as we are all aware of how much we love, respect and honor our students and each other.           

 I also believe my "for kids" attitude will assist me in having tough conversations and holding individuals, including myself, accountable. My greatest impact will be derived from my understanding that God created me to be an educator and leader, and I will stay humble through my faith in Jesus Christ. I will serve others with a heart guided by Christ-like love and compassion. I will lead, know when to step aside and follow and help others to shine. As a leader,  I will be bold enough to take risks, courageous enough to admit my mistakes, gracious enough to forgive myself and others, and loving enough to pray for my team daily.