Saturday, July 13, 2013


I met the smartest person in the room at ACSA.

My reflection of my week spent at the ACSA Colloquium for New and Aspiring Principals, July 2013
I know you must be familiar with buying apps, songs, or books on iTunes. This past week, I purchased 8 books. On Tuesday I purchased and downloaded 5 books in under 6 minutes. I was at UCLA for the ACSA conference, so I was fortunate enough to be using the super fast wifi provided by the State of California. I was sitting in the conference room surrounded by 100 school administrators. I was sure they were all much smarter than me, and I was thinking, hoping, that if I bought every single book mentioned at the conference, I would be as smart as the people around me. After all, I have recently read Mindset by Carol Dwerck, and I have a growth mindset. I can learn, if I have the right materials (books), and if I put in the effort. So I bought these books; all of them. I downloaded all of them to my iPad. Downloading has its distinct advantages; if I download the books, no one in the room is able to see me walk up to the book table and come back with 8 new books in my arms. Maybe most of the other people in the room already owned the books, read them, and had sticky notes and highlights throughout. How embarrassing if I were the only one “needing” all of these books. So, I sat at my table group and took advantage of the superfast wireless and got them ALL!

Tuesday was the first full morning of the conference. Monday had given me a taste of what was to come, but this was our first full day. I was eager and ready to learn! The speakers were amazing. Dr. Anthony Muhammad discussed the will to lead (my biggest aha moment of the conference was I do, indeed, have the will, desire, and hopes to lead) and healthy and toxic cultures. I took pages and pages of notes in my spiral. Then we went to small groups to discuss.  Our small group of 11 circled up and talked through the amazement. I listened and I shared. I starting realizing how much each of us was sharing. What were the needs of each of our schools? What were our deficits? We talked about the “Recipe for Disaster” (inappropriate preparation, poor support system, and task overload). How could we have only known each other for a day and share as honestly as we did about our own leadership and our own schools? Boy these people were smart. As each person shared, I thought “this is possibly the smartest person in the room”, but then the next person would share. Wow. They were all the smart ones. We had heard from Dr. Muhammad about getting our school on all one bus going in the same direction. Tuesday afternoon I thought to myself, “I am on a leadership bus, going the same way, with some very smart people”.

As the week continued we heard from speakers in small sessions, Kyley Ybarra and Susan Mills, and we continued to hear from speakers in our large sessions, Pam Robbins, Dr. Sharroky Hollie, Erin Kominsky, and Jeff Eben. All inspirational, but all very practical, logical, and smart. After each presentation, there was ample time for reflection, large group discussion, and small group discussion. It didn’t take long for me to realize that it didn’t matter who was the smartest person in the room. What mattered was, the smartest person in the room was the room itself. The sharing. The collaboration (which I learned is co-labor, right?). What matters is the strength from the connections, the common passion about our schools, our students, and our teachers. (you notice I didn’t write passion about our test scores?) Together this room of 100 school administrators was strong, empowered, and certainly on the right bus together. Leading and caring. How smart is that?

*I filled my spiral with notes and ideas, but I also had a separate place for these big takeaways:

·         Help the teachers learn from each other.

·         Don’t forget to praise the first follower. They are truly a leader.

·         Put together a small group of diverse people who can discuss ideas—not always educational in nature. Big ideas can come from such groups.

·         Students learn to behave the same way they learn curriculum—through explicit instruction

·         Be a transformational leader—lead a person into better behavior rather than being satisfied with identifying and criticizing current behavior

·         Frustration is natural and human. Frustration is the feeling of anxiety as a result of the inability to perform a task.

·         Healthy school culture is where a staff member raises their hand to say “what do I need to contribute to help solve this problem?”

·         Responsiveness is a journey

·         Create fertile soil for good seeds to grow

·         Go where the students are

·         Engagement is like playing jazz

·         Who are the students at my school who are saying “amen” at the Catholic mass?

·         Be a more appreciative listener

·         Trust matters

·         Norms are not just for meetings.

·         Turn that window into a mirror

·         How many wins have you had today? (just writing it makes me cry)

·         We are in the hope, dream, and love business.

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