One Year from Now

Where do I want my school to be one year from now (June 1, 2023)?

Given that it’s NBA championship time, I’m going to answer that question by reflecting on two legends from the Golden State Warriors and by borrowing some of the language of sports.  If people look around the room during any faculty meeting — and whether they like it or not — they are all teammates to each other.  And sometimes, they are the coaches of one another.  So they are always teammates and sometimes coaches.    

A year from now, I would like for us to be able to say that we found joy in our work by encouraging each other and by noticing what is great or emerging in each other.  In fact, that’s the only way that I know of to consistently find joy in this work.  

So back to basketball and the Golden State Warriors… If you’ve ever listened to audio of Steve Kerr coaching his best player — Steph Curry — you will find that he always tells Curry to keep shooting, even when Curry is missing shots.  And he trusts Curry, even when Curry is taking crazy, circus like shots.  There is never a moment where he allows doubt to creep into his relationship with Curry, in part, I think, because he can’t afford for Curry to doubt himself.  They argue, sure, and they disagree, but the Coach (Kerr) never wants the player (Curry) to doubt his talent.  Not for a second.  All he wants to do is to encourage Curry to be Curry.  And, next June, I’d like to be able to say that more of us treated more of us that way, when called upon to support each other. 

And… as pure teammates, there’s another thing to learn from the GSW.  If you’ve watched the NBA finals, Curry hasn’t been that consistent.  He’s had some rough patches.  And yet his team is still leading the series.  And that’s because other, lesser known players have really stepped up.  These are players that no one in the league saw coming.  And some of the best photos from the games have been photos of Curry looking at these players with great pride and clear joy.  Even when he himself is not having a great game, he is clearly enjoying and appreciating and cheering for the efforts and successes of his teammates.  He’s happy that their talents are on display.  He’s happy that their hard work is paying off.  He’s happy that his team is succeeding, close to winning a championship, even if he himself is having an off day.  

So next June, I want to be able to say that I spent more time encouraging others to be great in the ways that only they can be great and appreciating them for being great in the ways that only they can be great.  Watching them teach a lesson that they can really go deep on, listening to how they construct lessons and wrestle with their craft, overhearing them connecting with a student, seeing them lift up a colleague when they are in need, noticing that they put out fresh flowers at the school’ entrance, and catching all the ways that they tell each other — and me — to keep shooting, no matter how many we’ve clanked off the rim. 

Leadership Analogy

This one’s from the world of composting (and a WITI by Cass Marketos).

In order to make your compost good, you need to be able to get to know it. What do you see? What do you smell? Is the pile crumbly and dry? Is it slimy? These simple and observable features will help you make small adjustments, over time, to what you add and when you turn so that you can work your way toward an ideal pile. 

I’ve been thinking about this one a lot lately because I’ve been observing classrooms (5 – 8 per week), and I’ve been reminded of the power of getting out from behind my desk (or laptop). The simplest sensory data tells me much of what I need to know about what’s happening in my school and what small adjustments might be necessary, over time.

The “Ego Epidermis,” School Leader Edition

If I could share anything with school leaders across the country, it would be this quote from writer Derek Thompson, staff writer at The Atlantic. (He’s writing about writing and writers, but you can just as easily substitute “school leadership” or “school leaders.”)

I wish there were a formula for growing one’s “ego epidermis” to the perfect level of thickness. There is not. All I can say is that writers of all ages should stay away from the extremes of hypersensitivity-to-feedback and obliviousness-to-feedback. Seek out wise criticism. Reserve time in your week for the regret that comes with getting things wrong. I promise the feeling will go away, and something else will appear in its place, which is learning. I write to learn. Maybe some people don’t, but I’m not sure what they’re doing with their lives.

Source: Why Simple is Smart.

Klingbrief (Volume 104)

The Klingbrief wheel keeps turning, as our editors and writers scour books and research journals and periodicals and podcasts and keynote lectures (etc.!) to offer encouragement and instruction and training and nudges and provocations to teachers and school leaders across the globe.

The work of education has never not been challenging. And it seems to require more nuanced understanding and practice with every passing year. Klingbrief can help.

The October issue will remind you about the importance of offering time, space, and grace to your students — and yourselves. It will equip you to build community, to cultivate belonging, and to reach beyond your typical models of thinking (and thinking about thinking). Best of all, it will invite you to take apart — by questioning — some of what we take for granted in order to rebuild — by imagining — some of what we might cherish. Dig in.

In Praise (Again) of Constraints

It’s nearing peak fall foliage season in my part of the world. That’s inspiring me to shake the digital tree — the wilderness I wander online — and share the most interesting and beautiful leaves I’ve seen lately.

Here’s one — a screenshot of a screenshot of a poem by William Bronk. The last line is as good of a summary of RW, since August, as we are likely to find. Also, and more important: it’s a perfect frame for the week, portioned out as it likely is already. You can either make a career out of pushing against constraints, or you can find ways to praise and cherish them.

Source: a Tweet from Tom Snarsky.

Filling Up My Tank

Since school started, I’ve been trying to post something at RW Monday through Friday. I’ve mostly hit this target, with some experiments thrown in, and I’d like to continue to hit it. But that’s going to take some counterintuitive planning. In order to mostly succeed over the long term, I’m going to have to commit to not being perfect. And to routinely filling up my tank so that it never goes completely empty. The latter is just bad for the vehicle, right?

So I’m going to take off the last week of every month — even if I’m feeling great and filled with writing ideas. That last part is critical. I think my contribution will last longer, and have more impact over time, if I rest before I’m broken.

As for you, dear reader, I’ll also make a suggestion.

The point of the daily post was to help us both to build a habit. I wanted to connect with you each morning or at least predictably. Many of you have told me that you like starting your day this way. Or reading RW during your first coffee break of the morning. Or wrapping up your day with it, as a way to transition between work and home.

I love all of that, and I don’t want to get in the way of habits that are helpful to you. So during each of my “break” weeks, I suggest you still show up for your RW time. Keep the appointment, because it’s not so much an appointment with me as it is an appointment with yourself. You could scroll through the archive if you want. Better yet, though, you can just leave the 5 or 15 minutes completely open and let your mind go wherever it wants to. You could think about how your actions are lining up with your values and beliefs. You could check-in on progress on those goals that are most important to you. You could take the time to actually figure out what goals are most important to you. You could jot down a quick note of gratitude and send it to the intended recipient. Just don’t try to do too much. Tanks, this week, are for filling.

I’ll see you next Monday.

Steve

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