1, 2, 3, 4, 5 Challenge
Jason James issued this blogger challenge to me, so why not. I have about five other blogs in my head right now in addition to all the work stuff I need to be doing, but I like these. They bring us together as a blogging and #oklaed community.
What has been your ONE biggest struggle during this school year?
One? Just acclimating to any new job is a big deal, but moving to a new district as a first-time superintendent is an over-arching challenge with layers of challenges beneath it.
I’m going to say that finding balance has been hard. I’m expected to be active in all facets of the community. I want to be in schools and getting to know teachers and students as much as I can. I want to be at events – not just to be visible, but because I really enjoy immersing myself in the culture of our various schools. I also need to learn the parts of my job that are unfamiliar to me. I spent seven years over curriculum in Moore. I have a dissertation in school finance (but probably more things I don’t know in that world than things I do). I’m trying to find the sweet spot in our bonding capabilities so that we can move on our next round of projects. I’m still teaching C&I at Southern Nazarene (because teaching feeds my soul). I’ve even continued blogging – more now, since my frustration with the state is mounting again (though it’s directed at different offices). And then there’s a personal life. I’d like one of those. I seem to remember enjoying that at some point. It’ll come together at some point, though. This is year one. It gets better, right?
This is where other superintendents chime in with all the reassuring comments.
Share TWO accomplishments that you are proud of from this school year.
First is the night I co-moderated an #oklaed chat with three Mid-Del students. They were insightful and witty, and they’ve been in and out of our chats ever since. My predecessor, Dr. Pam Deering put together my student advisory group, In the Mix. She left a lot of things headed in the right direction for me this summer. This may be the best one.
Second would be the #GiveItBackOK campaign that I had a part in starting through social media. It wasn’t my idea alone, but I have been fortunate to be able to give interviews and support it. Several districts’ foundations have set up donations campaigns for it. Our own foundation went through a leadership transition around that time, but donations keep coming in with the hashtag announced. While this doesn’t restore the hole in our state funding, and it doesn’t help us give teachers the much-needed raises they deserve, it helps us support our most creative, motivated, and innovative teachers with the projects they want to do for their students. Sometimes I forget the power of social media and need a reminder like this.
What are THREE things that you wish to accomplish before the end of the school year?
First, I want to figure out as many cuts as possible to make that don’t impact the number of teaching positions we have next year. We know we will have to make cuts, but I don’t have to like it. I’ll go kicking and screaming into the process, and we’ll get through it. It’s going to impact teaching and learning, though, no matter how we slice it.
Second, I want to help find candidates to run for the Legislature so there won’t be so many uncontested races this time around. Remember, in 2014, only 49 of 126 seats that were up for election even had to be on the ballot. It’s like we’re taking Democracy for granted.
Third, I want to find ways to unburden our teachers and principals. Our job as central office people should be to shoulder the mandates that our Legislature gives us. Maybe we can help schools understand that teaching is the best test prep – way better than designated (or pre-packaged) test prep. The sooner we can get back to just letting teachers teach, the better.
Give FOUR reasons why you remain in education in today’s rough culture.
Obviously, I’m a stubborn mule sometimes. I just can’t take those greener pastures. Mainly, I just love kids. Still, I look at my desk sometimes and can’t see anything that helps me remember why I majored in English and thrived in this profession. So I go out and find it. Allow me to elaborate.
My response to the #oneword challenge last month was purpose. Educating children is my purpose. Helping the people who spend every day with kids is my purpose. It’s who I am, plain and simple.
Which FIVE people do you hope will take the challenge of answering these questions?
I’m going to give a cop-out answer here. Rather than challenging current bloggers, I’m going to challenge groups of people who need to see what happens when they use their words. It’s powerful and transformative. It changes me more than I change anyone else.
- Any of my current and former SNU students. I’m not saying you’ll get bonus points for this, but what do you think I’ve been having you do by writing class reflections with hashtags like #onecoolthing all semester?
- Any of my co-workers in Mid-Del, especially those in leadership positions. Remember who your boss is. Remember that I don’t have to always be right or have your agreement. Speak your mind. Put it in writing. We are a community of diverse, intellectual thinkers.
- Joy Hofmeister. Ok, she’s not a group of people, but I’d love to hear what she thinks – not on policy, we hear that all the time. I just think she’s at her best in moments like these when we get to hear her riff.
- First year superintendents. I don’t know about the rest of the people in the first-year superintendents’ program, but I find plenty of time to catch up on emails and work on my blog during these sessions. We have another one coming up on the 24th. Have something out by then.
- Any legislator who vehemently claims to support public education. I probably don’t have to explain why.