Lifelong Learner & Reflective Practitioner

Lifelong Learner & Reflective Practitioner

Let's Transform Our Schools Into TRUE Professional Learning Communities

Let's Transform Our Schools Into TRUE Professional Learning Communities
In Your School- Do all stakeholders subscribe to the belief that EVERYONE has something to learn and EVERYONE has something to teach? This blog can help you gain insight on how to facilitate this transformative mindset with your faculty!

Dec 18, 2012

Taking Santa's Advice to Inspire Renewed Dedication in 2012

Authors Harvey, Cottrell, Lucia, and Hourigan (from the Walk the Talk professional development group) created a really adorable little book a couple of years ago entitled "The Leadership Secrets of Santa Claus." The book tells how to "get big things done in your workshop all year long." It's a cute book- geared for leaders. It uses Santa's secrets as bits of advice to help leaders become more successful. The Secrets are 1) Build a wonderful workshop, 2) Choose your reindeer wisely, 3) Make a list and check it twice, 4) Listen to the elves, 5) Get beyond the red wagons, 6) Share the milk and cookies, 7) Find out who's naughty and nice, and 8) Be good for goodness sake. I'm sure that you can figure out the analogies on your own...very basic important leadership principles. Well, I thought the idea of the "Santa's Workshop" metaphor to be so cute that I modified some of the material and put it in the PROFESSIONAL GROWTH section of our Monday Memo that teachers will receive when they return to school on January 4, 2010. Administrators work over the holiday break, so I thought that it would be fun to "pretend like we had a visit from Santa and share his insights/advice with our faculty." As I said, I did modify the content to 1) make it appropriate for teachers- not just administrators and 2) condense the information down enough for teachers to actually be able to read it during a break/planning period. I have copied the text of my memo to our teachers below. Please feel free to steal it to use with your own faculty, and/or modify it as needed to suit your needs.

As you all know, your loyal administrators worked through the holiday break. While here in the school- all alone- we had a very special visit...from none other than Santa Claus himself! As you can imagine, we were incredibly excited. We had a very nice visit with Santa as we talked and talked for hours. When Santa asked what we wanted for Christmas, we were both very quick to tell him- The best possible gift would be having our school come off target status and for all of our students and teachers to reach their fullest potential. We told Santa that we wanted to be a JOYOUS place...for students and for teachers. Santa then made the decision to share some of his very best advice with us and he gave us permission to share this valuable information with you. Santa did 5 things to make his workshop in the North Pole a happy and productive place. He advised us to:
Focus our energies on building a wonderful workshop. We have to have a mission that we are diligently working toward each and every day. In Santa’s workshop, they have too many teams of elves, toy orders, and time constraints to dilute themselves, head off on tangents, or just plain lose sight of why they’re there. They have been successful by keeping their mission at the heart of everything they do. What is our mission? Do we need to revisit it? Are we keeping our mission at the heart of everything we do?
Choose our reindeer wisely. You know Dasher and Dancer, Prancer and Vixen; Comet and Cupid, Donner and Blitzen. But do you recall the least famous reindeer of all: Misfit? Probably not. He’s not part of Santa’s team anymore. Misfit was not a good match for what Santa and his team of dedicated reindeer and elves were on a mission to accomplish. Unfortunately, Santa did not probe Misfit enough to determine if he was committed to teamwork, dependability, fairness, and loyalty. As we are presented with vacant teaching positions, we are committed to bringing in more and more folks who will help us create a wonderful workshop here in our school. Many of you have contributed to this process. If we get the right people in the right seats, we will strengthen our team and achieve our goals!
Make a list and check it twice. We must have a plan and we must be thoughtful, strategic, systematic, and organized in carrying out our plan. Santa said that if he did not have a very specific plan in place, and if he did not ensure that all of the elves were aware of the plan, there is no way that they would be able to handle endless streams of request letters, make millions of toys, package those toys so that they could be delivered in perfect condition, and deliver the exact right gift to the exact right person to the exact right house millions of times in one night! If Santa’s team can do it, SO CAN OURS! We just need to make sure that when we meet to plan with our grade level team members each week that we are asking of ourselves and one another- questions like, what needs to be accomplished, why does it need to be done (how does it contribute to our overall mission), when does it need to be done, where are we in relation to our goals, who do we need to assist us in accomplishing this, and how is this going to be accomplished?
Listen to the elves! Way back in the day, Santa used to make all of the toys himself. As the population grew, he eventually ended up having to hire MANY elves to assist him. The good news was that Santa had a wealth of experience to assist the elves, the bad news was that he used that experience to a fault. Santa explained to us that we should also listen to you guys (our teachers) because your insight is invaluable. We agreed and told him that we were really working hard to do that. Santa went on to say that the same principle should be used by the teachers. They should listen to their students. Their insight is also invaluable. Like we always say, the best administrators are those who never forget what it’s like to be a teacher, and the best teachers are those who never forget what it’s like to be a student.
Get Beyond the Red Wagons. Santa told us about how for many years the most popular toy produced in his workshop was a shiny, red Radio Flyer wagon. Every kid wanted one. The requests for these wagons were so abundant, and they brought so much joy to the children that the elves practiced and practiced making them until they became masters of wagon-making. The elves were extremely proud of how skilled they had become at making them. Everything was great for many years, but then Santa started getting letters from kids stating that they were no longer interested in getting a wagon. They wanted video games, ipods, and DVD players. Some of the elves resisted to adandoning the status quo because it took them so much work and so much time to become comfortable and confident in making the wagons. This is perhaps the most important bit of information Santa shared with us. We have to ask ourselves….Are we resisting making changes and modifications that will better meet the needs of our students for the sake of our own comfort? It’s a hard question to ask, but if we seek to continuously improve we WILL ACCOMPLISH our goal of making sure that every student reaches his or her highest potential.