10 minutes to blog – a random list of learnings today

1. I am grateful for the place and the people that I call “work.” My school allowed me a five week sabbatical to do some important things: 1) further my study of the future of schools and schools of the future, 2) temporarily reduce my typical work week from 75-80 hours to about 35 hours so that I could spend more time with reflection about 21st century learning and, more importantly, my wife and two sons. By doing so, the school sent a powerful message to me and others – you are important to us…your health and happiness and passions for learning are important to our work as a school and a community of people and learners. Many people stepped into the gap for five weeks so that I could take this opportunity and make the most of it. A host of people did more than they even usually do so that I could have this sabbatical. Unboundary hosted me as a 40-year-old intern, and several people welcomed me to their schools (Lovett, Trinity, Bay School, and St. Gregory) for extended visits and observations! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!

2. It is an adjustment to return to work and the routine of the usual after a rare and special opportunity to do the unusual. Also, it is virtually impossible to summarize my five week sabbatical in the time and space that many folks want me to do so. I am so thankful for those who have read my blog, posterous, and tweets during my sabbatical…we have been in an ongoing, virtual conversation that enabled some richer face-to-faces today! Thank you readers and commenters and encouragers. And thanks to the fellow sabbatical-experiencer who gave me much good advice today! Invaluable!

3. Saying “welcome back” and seeking out a newly returned person are critically important. I so appreciated the folks who hugged my neck today and, at least, seemed to be glad that I was back. I can get so caught up in my busy-ness that I do not do a consistently good job of this when other people return from an absence – a family medical leave, a conference, a wedding or funeral, etc. – and today I got a taste of how important this human connection is. It feels good to be welcomed back and asked about the time away! I love my faculty, and I need to make sure I show it. This is one important way. Also, I particularly appreciated the folks who simply came to say hello and talk…no work-related question/problem to ask when done with the chit-chat. They just wanted to talk about my time and experience and theirs. I need to do this same for others more often.

4. People need to slow down. Years ago, in the tunnel at Westminster, on my way back from lunch, Lauren Martindale (a former student of mine and now a many-years graduate) said, “Mr. Adams, slow down. You always seem like you are in such a hurry. You would be much cooler if you reduced your speed from place to place.” Today, during re-entry, I remembered Lauren’s sage advice to me. Many of us are too hurried – trying to do too much. We should teach less, learn more…moan less, celebrate more…hurry less, enjoy more. My sabbatical helped me get re-balanced – like good car maintenance – and I hope I can maintain that deliberate, careful choice of pace and number of irons in the fire. Choosing the “right” number of things on one’s plate means we can do more (all?) of them with more greatness. The more we try to bite off – the faster we try to get through the tunnel – the more we miss opportunities to really understand some important things in life.

5. My four year old cried last night and tonight that my sabbatical was over. “Daddy’s ‘sabbitical’ is over…I wish he was still on it!” That’s good feedback. The future-oriented feedback that John Hattie explains is the real, critical kind of feedback.

6. I am so blessed to work with those I worked with today. We had an in-service, professional development day today. We structured it as a “FedEx” day with differently structured time for people to get together in self-assigned groups to collaborate on innovative ideas and educational possibilities. In the morning, I worked with my PLC-F (professional learning community facilitators) team to brainstorm some lesson study possibilities around PBL (project-based learning, problem-based learning, passion-based learning, place-based learning) and current events. It was so fun to work this way and have the gift of time and willing collaborators and creative thinkers. Then, I got to do it again in the afternoon with a team of 6th and 8th grade teachers of students in math (I meant to write it that way – not “teachers of math”). For a few minutes this morning, our whole faculty interacted and engaged with our developing vision statement for learning in this century, and then I had the good fortune to work on two teams who are taking this vision seriously…taking ownership of it…wanting to roll up sleeves and do the work that will narrow the gap between our current reality and our vision. SO EXCITING! Those who took initiative and advantage of today surely got a lot and gave a lot!

7. According to a post from a colleague and blogger I admire greatly, I am a scientist! SEE HERE FOR CHARACTERISTICS THAT I USE IN MY WORK AS AN EDUCATOR!

8. My PLN is a great source of wisdom and encouragement – I received the following email moments ago. It was titled “new lenses,” I think after a blog post I recently completed for edu180atl. I was not supposed to write for 4-8-11, but I would do just about anything for my tribe of fellow educators on Twitter and the blog-osphere. And the idea for the post came from a blogger that I follow and have never met. Being connected is the way to be. Working alone, without a tribe, is not my preferred way to work…and I think not the best way to work for anyone. Have a tribe!

Bo,

As I was channeling my inner-origami artist and simultaneously figuring out how to get a little bit of TED Stage magic, I was thinking of you as you embark on this new beginning. You know how much I LOVE Maxine Greene’s Teaching as Possibility: A Light in Dark Times, but this especially resonated as I reread her words this evening:

Sometimes, introduced to a reflective or a learning community, someone will become aware of the dearth of understanding in her/his own domain, of the blocks to knowing and to questioning. Sometimes, a teacher or a relative or a friend may pay heed, as does the singer Shug Avery in The Color Purple (Walker, 1982). She suggests to Miss Celie a way of being without “that old white man” in her head, actually a way of becoming free. Celie writes: “Trying to chase that old white man out of my head. I been so busy thinking bout him I never truly notice nothing God make. Not a blade of corn (how it do that?) not the color purple (where it come from?) Not the little wild flowers. Nothing” (p. 25). She, too, made aware of alternatives, can discover that “she feels like a fool” because of what she was never enabled to notice and about which she had never asked.

I love that your sabbatical enabled you to notice the big and the small things. To shed light on all that is possible.

Keep up the fine work, Bo.

9. I started writing about an hour ago. I thought I had NO time to write tonight, but my relatively recent commitment to blogging has caused me to practice writing-to-think and feeling positively compelled to take “just 10 minutes” to get something recorded about today. I am glad that I made the time to write and to think. Also, blogging is just different than the writing I did for years that only I could see – creating the potential that even one reader may comment on a post is a kind of art and potential energy and collective-thinking invitation that I have grown to find invaluable…even if no one comments. (But a comment – of just about any nature – is so great!)

10. I am very excited to read the next edu180atl post. When will it get here in my reader?!

5 thoughts on “10 minutes to blog – a random list of learnings today

  1. Hi Bo,

    Since Winston and I were out of town, we missed yesterday’s Parley. I enjoyed your post and think it would be wonderful if you were able to experiment with a webcast the next time I’ve recently “attended” webinars where I could see a presentation on the screen and hear the speakers live. Impressive way to offer the opportunity for more inclusivity and higher attendance.

    BTW, while out of town I read a simple book on tweeting. My guess is that you had only a few parent tweeters because many of us have simply not yet tried this form of technology-enabled communication. I think it’s intriguing that you are subtly encouraging us “to get with the program” or should I say expose ourselves to the new technologies that our kids are mastering and using daily. Thank you also for your obvious respect for all kinds of communication–traditional and cutting-edge. Our family appreciates your leadership and the great example you set as a person, teacher and a principal for our Westminster student.

  2. What a great experience! I’ve been following for a few weeks and you’re inspiring me to reflect more on my learning (meant to write it this way…not “teaching!”)

    Thanks for sharing!

    Sydney Mathis Bullock

    • Is this Sydney from 7th Grade U.S. History, years and years ago?! Are you an educator somewhere? Hope you are well. Thanks for re-connecting via the blog.

  3. Thanks, Bill. I really appreciate that feedback. The human side of our work-selves is so important to share, as it can get muted if we are not careful, and I really appreciate your encouragement and support for doing so.

    Learning is so relational, and we need to relate to one another by sharing and accepting a transparency that can be missing from human industries…ironically.

    Take care. Hope to see you soon or talk when we can.

  4. Bo,

    There’s so much that I love about this post—but more importantly, it shows how passionate and infinitely human you are as a school leader. You were vulnerable and real here in a way that most principals never are.

    Don’t underestimate how important that is. It sends a message to your teachers—–including those that you don’t get to see very often because they’re on the opposite side of the campus AND those that haven’t always seen eye to eye with you.

    I wish more school leaders were willing to share in this way. It would help schools—which are increasingly pressure-packed, sterilized places—to be more human and personal.

    Rock right on,
    Bill

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