Yesterday was an interesting day, to say the least. My head was spinning...full of many different ideas, projects and thoughts. My heart was was reeling full of many different emotions, feelings and sentiments. When I awoke this morning, the above quote popped to the front of my mind. "Sometimes we need to zoom out in order to refocus." This idea of "zooming out" seemed to be intertwined with a lot of conversations I have had, yesterday in particular.
I had a fantastic conversation with one of my bosses, in which she was reflecting about our past few years in our district. She said "I never realized, until today, how much we have accomplished. When we are in the middle of it, we are constantly second guessing, wondering if our decisions or actions have really had the impact that we had hoped for." My response was "It is really hard to see clearly, when we are in the middle of the trees, but if we just zoom out, and look at the whole forest...one might be awed at what we see." (Well, I didn't say it quite as poetic...but you get the picture :).
Interestingly enough, at the same time...I was really struggling myself. I didn't even realize until now, that it was pretty much the same struggle. I was wrestling with the fact that I really want to affect change, I want to create impact. I beat myself up, often, because I feel like I am failing. I feel like I am too small for such a feat. I often feel like I am running on a hamster wheel, going...going...going, but really going nowhere. This is about the time, when one of my good friends usually steps in! Always at the right time, always with the right words.
He is always reminding me to think more "big picture", in an essence...to zoom out. As he witnesses things from the outside, he sees things differently than I do. I tend to zoom in...way in. I get tripped up by the little things, that seem so big at the time. But it's when I zoom out, look at things as a whole...the picture becomes much more clear. When I do this "zooming out", it causes me to check myself...check my perspective. I always thank him for these reminders, because I need them to refocus. I need to be reminded to think beyond myself...not much I do is about me (or at least that is my intent). When I remember that, I can re-frame. I can then use that wide frame to regain my focus. If my goal is for the greater good, then I need to put my own ego and my own knee jerk emotions aside. I need to realize that it IS the small things that create big change. I say it often enough...I guess I just don't listen. If we CAN connect the dots of those small things, maybe they actually do line up to help create a wave of change.
There have been a few times recently when I have reflected on the amazing impact some of my people have on the greater good. I don't think THEY see their magnitude. This is what I say to them "You need to step back...really step back and look at your reach, look at your impact."...and then I proceed to explain the view from where I sit. I know, for a fact, that I have said it at least three times to three different people in the last week. But why can I not say it to myself?
We all have incredible things to offer, but many times we don't even realize our effect. Often times, we are so hyper focused on the here and now. It is important to be in the moment, but it is also so imperative to reflect, and pan out. Zoom out. I know when I do, it is always a huge wake up call that forces me to refocus.
So...keep things in perspective...zoom out every once in awhile and adjust focus as needed, so you can view YOUR impact clearly.
I have recently realized that I am drawn to water. It is near the water that I am calmed and introspective, with a quieted mind. Some common words used when talking about the symbolism or water are: Life, Motion, Renewal, Blessing, Intuition, Reflection and Transformation. When I review that list, it makes sense that this is where I often find refuge and recharge.
One thing I love about the water is when something is put into the it, there is a ripple effect. If you skip a stone, jump in, swim or just simply put your foot in, it causes a change. This change has a radiating affect. This effect is where I am reflecting today. This idea has been in my mind quite awhile, and I will do my best to put it into words and context.
I truly believe that "small moments have huge gains", but we are often unaware of those small moments, and miss the effects. I think it is important to realize that we DO have an effect, whether it is positive or negative, we do. That is important.
Words: I have said many times, "Words have power". They do! They have the power to lift someone up or tear someone down. It is also important to realize that they have a lasting effect. So many times, I personally have let others' words, affect me. Sometimes in a good way, often times not. Words stick to us and are worse then physical bruises, because many times, they do not fade. That is why I really try hard to use that power for good.
In my life, it has been words from others, that have kept me moving forward. To the speaker, they may not even have thought twice about it, nor the effect. People do not realize the reach that words can have. Someone believing in me, when I did not have belief in myself, has helped me to then pay that forward. It is because of this that I am very cognizant of my words and work hard to choose them wisely. My words will affect others and so on. Words change us, which in turn changes how we react, interact, speak, do. THAT is the ripple effect.
Think about our students. Often times, we do not know what they are dealing with. Our words to them, may just be THE ONLY words directed to them, that day, week, month. Because of that, our words have a tremendous ripple effect. WOW, just think of the magnitude of that. What were your last words to a student, how might that affect their trajectory? Now let's take it further...this is not only true for students, but for everyone!
One of our principals put up students pictures in the staff lounge. The idea was that teachers would add post-its to the picture, if they had spoken WITH that student. What a powerful experience! It was shared that there were days when some students had 0 post its. ZERO! I broke down in tears when I heard that. BUT, think of the tremendous learning. Think about the affect that had on those teachers and the hope that moving forward, they thought about their interactions with more intention.
I have a bad habit of "getting mushy" with people by letting them know how much their words had an effect on me. I do this because I want them to know the power of words. My hopes are that they will realize and understand, that they have that power and I appreciate them using that power for good.
As I am processing to write this...so many other ideas of this ripple effect come to mind: our choices, our actions, our relationships, our movements. The breath of this idea is overwhelming and I think I will need to explore each of these in depth...at a future time.
For now...my call to action is to really reflect on our words...choose them well...they have power, remember that.
Below is a video of a man that skips a rock. Each time it hits the water, it creates a ripple. As you watch, think of each of those skips as our words.
So if you know me at all, I am always encouraging others to step out of their comfort zone, lean into the discomfort...just jump. I call it "nudging", but they may call it "pushing". Well, you might also know that I am BIG on "walking the talk". So I wanted to share some of my personal stories in regards to the above. They are not all stories of the standard of "success", but I do share how I used them to stretch forward. I believe that by sharing our truths, we can help others.
Last week was a big "stretch forward" week for me. It was my first time presenting for CUE at the first ever CUE BOLD. I went into this weekend, only knowing two people (HUGE leap for me to hang out with strangers for 2 days...big introvert anxiety), but man was it fantastic! More on that in the link below.
The second big stretch was that I recorded my first podcast! When Brent Coley approached me to do this interview, my first thought was "HE** NO!". I can kind of write, but have a coherent conversation, that others will hear? NO WAY! BUT, I didn't say no...what I actually said was "That is WAY out of my comfort zone, but I need to do it because I can't ask others to risk, if I don't". The topic: Stretching out of our comfort zones!!! It was all about us sharing stories of stretching forward. The topic is what sparked this blog post. I expand more on the CUE BOLD story and others, listen here: brentcoley.com/podcast . We recorded last Thursday and it was such a wonderful experience! Now will I listen to it? I am usure-(I don't want to hear my own voice), but I am so glad I did it.
I often talk about "switch flip" moments. A colleague asked me what that meant the other day. I explained it was the "aha" moment when something shifts in someone. Something triggered them to change something...a light switch was turned on. One of my big "switch flip" moments came as a result of reading Brene Brown's book Daring Greatly. The whole book was wrapped around this Teddy Roosevelt quote:
In the book, Brene talks about the fact that she WANTS to be in that ring...all in. I realized that I wanted to as well. I started stepping out of my comfort zone, knowing full well that I will fall...but at least I made the move. Last year I started using that quote with others: "Dare Greatly". I even gave the Roosevelt quote along with a plaque that said "Dare Greatly...#take risks" to teachers in our district that I wanted to celebrate for stepping out of their comfort zone. I LOVED seeing others take risks and the big pay offs.
BUT do your words ever come back to bite you? Mine do ALL THE TIME, but I love that. I LOVE when people put me in check...especially when those words help me stretch.
Last year I received my Administrative Credential, I didn't know what I was going to do with it, but I knew that I wanted to move forward. A principal position opened up in my district...hmmm. I was actually told that I wouldn't even make the paper screening. My first reaction...recoil. But then I started thinking...well, if I go into this knowing I have NO chance, then I know I am just going in for the experience. I was wavering back and forth. Do I put myself out there and make the people I work with every day, have to turn me down? How awkward will that be? I was texting with a friend about it and her response "Come on, Cori...take a risk, dare greatly!". Well...what could I say to my own words except "Ok...I will!". I turned in my paperwork and low and behold...I did make it through the paper screening. Again...I entered the interview knowing the absolute truth that this was ONLY for a learning and growing experience. Boy, was it! I did not get the job and I am actually glad that I didn't (a story for another time). But I WAS glad that I put myself out there. I stretched myself and I learned a lot! I took all that learning about myself and the organization and have used it as I proceeded forward this year.
A few months later, I was messaging with a gentleman that I had met through Twitter. At one point, I asked him if I could interview him for a blog post on "innovation". He agreed to it, but only if we did it through Voxer. What the heck is he talking about? Well I learned it is a "walkie talkie" type app. This was NOT something that I wanted to do...I wanted to hide behind my keyboard to conduct this interview. I was on high introvert anxiety. Well, his words to me were "Cori, how can we discuss innovation if you won't be innovative in how we discuss it?". Dang it... he was right! So, I reluctantly opened an account and sat quiet. Next thing I know...someone else was invited to the "chat" and it was go time. I was introduced to the other gentleman and the ball was in my court. I had no other choice but to talk into this thing...EEK!
THAT interview was never written up, but I had no way of knowing that those two gentleman would make such an impact on me! I am so thankful that Jon Corippo and David Culberhouse stretched me in that interview (and continue to do so, daily). These two stretch my thinking like I can't even believe and they encourage me to stretch myself like I never knew I could. They have changed me for the better, and I am so thankful that I took that initial leap!
Whenever I even think of going into that recoil mode, I think of these two stories and many others. I realize where I would be if I took the easy, route...if I had stayed in my "comfy zone". I know that I would not be who or where I am in my life today. I now take leaps, know that I will stumble and fall, but also know that I will do so "daring greatly". I know that I will always come out with something positive as I reflect on the process, the learning and the journey and be better for it.
So my call to action...just dare greatly. It could be something as small as me speaking into the Voxer app...which lead to unknown HUGE gains.
I was sitting at a kindergarten NGSS training a few weeks ago and they were discussing the NGSS shifts. Their task was to write a "tweet" about a shift and share it with someone else. One teacher came up to me to show me the hashtag she wrote on hers-#shifthappens. Ever since then, that term has stuck with me. It has so many different meanings...I could write multiple posts, but I will start with one. I am in constant self reflection mode (not sure if this is a good or bad thing) so this post will be a reflection on the shifts in me.
A few days ago, I made this image through #teacherstats and tweeted it out. I was actually quite surprised with the text that I wrote. I don't usually use the word "strong" when I think of myself, and never really thought about my shift in focus, until I wrote it.
Within the last year or so, my shift HAS really changed. I have started looking at education more globaly. Beyond my classroom, school site...even beyond our district. My main shift has become: "How can we create a better experience for our students?" I really want to be part of making this shift in education. Looking at the "350 Students" in that image just seems so small...I want to reach more.
Classrooms need to be student centered.
Students should be creating.
Students need to be talking...to each other.
Students need to be practicing meta cognition...out loud.
Students should be given multiple entry AND exit points.
All students' ideas need to be valued.
Meet students where they are, not the other way around.
Teach to the edges, there is no average.
Students should be engaged and empowered in their learning.
Student voice and choice should be prevalent in the classroom.
Relationships matter, build that foundation.
Create experiences that are relevant.
Foster student passions.
I don't need the "why", I already know that one. Students NEED and DESERVE it. My focus is on HOW can we create these shifts. Where do I fit into it? How can I (one person) affect a large change? I find myself asking the same questions again and again, hoping someone, somewhere will have the answer.
How can we ensure that students are at the center of learning?
How do we help others understand that teaching is not about us, it's about the students?
How do we encourage others of the need for a shift?
How do we deal with those who are digging in their heels?
How do we build capacity in others to help lead the change?
What do we do with our early adopters?
How do we help others move past insecurities and take risks?
I find myself having these conversations with some incredibly savvy educational leaders and it leads me to even more questions. But what I do find is that through these conversations, it creates more small shifts within me. I was never one to have strong opinions, and I NEVER shared my opinions if I had any. This has changed. I am finding my voice...because I believe we need to be "louder" if we want to be heard AND listened to. I have found my voice because I am passionate in doing right by our students.
I always go back to this phrase that my friend, Jon Corippo shared with me a while back: "Use your megaphone for good." So I always try to do that. Whatever forum I am in, I try to help create positive shifts. Whether that is one on one, in front of a crowd, through Twitter, this blog space....I try to convey this message: We need to keep changing FOR and WITH our students. They NEED to be at the center, always." I don't know if I have made a dent...but I will keep trying, because our kids deserve it!
I am sitting here, with a laundry list of other things that I should be doing, but I am compelled to write. I know that my mind will be of no use, unless I get this out. I wrote a piece earlier today to be published in an ebook. The topic was about "collaboration" and my piece was about "Finding YOUR People"...more specifically: Finding Your Tribe. I will share some of that piece in a minute, but the interesting thing is...right as I pushed submit on that piece, I received a message from one of my "tribe people". This message was an incredibly kind, supportive, wake up call to me. It was exactly what I needed, at that exact moment in time. Funny how that works. More on that in a bit.
Here is an excerpt from my story:
#tribematters: This idea of finding your tribe, is new to me...but so transformative! It wasn’t until this last year, that I feel I have found my tribe people and have understood the impact. I describe a tribe as a group of YOUR people. These are the people that “get” you. They understand where you are coming from, where you want to go and help you to get there. They are there to listen when you need an ear, lift you when you are down, celebrate when there are wins and push you farther than you thought you could go. Your tribe members don’t necessarily need to be like minded people, but they are usually like hearted people...that is where the connection is made.
I personally have been extremely blessed to have found my tribe! It is not large, but they are large in my life. It is made up of amazing, humble educational leaders who care. I would not have survived this last year without this crew! There have been many times of self doubt, pitfalls, frustration, small wins, big wins, naysaying, bullying, good times and bad...and they have seen me through them all. They have helped me to see things and believe things in myself, that I never knew. They put me in check when needed and they absolutely stretch me AND my thinking.
I have come to rely on this amazing group of people for a lot. I just hope that I can give back in return. This should be a two way street and I often wonder if I am pulling my weight in these relationships. I often reflect and wonder how I can give back to them. I don’t feel I have much to give, besides my ear and my heart...both of those are always free and clear when/if they are needed...I hope they know that.
And this is when I got today's kick in the a**! The thing that struck me, was that I easily and openly received the message...this is new to me. My usual MO is to quickly put up walls when hearing tough stuff, but this was different. Why? I think I have figured it out...intent. While I was listening, my eyes were tearing up and I really didn't know why. I now realize, it was because of the intent behind the words. This is a trusted person (which is tough for me in the first place) whom I have great respect for. This person was seeing the effect things were having on me, when I couldn't see it myself and stopped me in my tracks. The words and the intent were implicitly authentic AND real. I took them in and made the shift in my mind and my heart. I went through the rest of the day, functioning in a different way...looking at things through a different lens. THAT is what your tribe can do for you.
I know this person does not even see the power of these words, so that is why I decided to write. I often say that words matter because they absolutely do! Something we say, can change someone else (good or bad). That 1 minute message created a shift...words are free and take up very little time. Let's use our megaphone for good.
I am thankful every day for the amazing people that have entered into my life and often question how I got so lucky. If they are reading this, they know who they are because I thank them often, yet don't feel I can thank them enough. I urge you, find YOUR people and hold on to them.
Mother, Teacher, Administrator, Presenter, GCE Level 1 & 2, Encourager of others.
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