This summer I had the opportunity to attend the First Institute at Kasson-Mantorville High School. The Institute was phenomenal with national keynote and breakout speakers including Myron Dueck, Rick Wormeli, Garth Larson, Tom Hierck, Ken Williams, Todd Whitaker, and others. I can’t say enough about the information I received over those 2 days in Kasson. As great as the experience was, I learned just as much from the trip because I was able to travel with my friend and fellow principal, Eric Olson @EEC_Principal. The four hour round trip to Kasson and back were filled with conversation and unstructured professional development. It made me realize we don’t have enough time to learn from each other and our experiences. That is precisely why being present in social media and reflecting with posts/blogs is so important. Educators have so much to learn from each other that connecting and reflecting should be required for all of us.

My biggest take away from my time spent at the conference – covering everything from standards based learning to RtI to school culture – revolves around Who We Need To Be for kids. Eric and I have very different personalities. He is an outgoing, high energy guy around the clock. I tend to be more reserved and introverted in most situations. As we were sharing stories and learning from each other, I understood that both of us change day to day and minute to minute to be Who We Need To Be for kids. As we were packing up on the final day, this note to the cleaning service caught my eye and I took a quick picture. This random act of kindness to people he never met really made me think about the positive impact we can have on our kids. I’m sure this note was both highly unexpected and more than appreciated by the hotel cleaning service. It took very little effort and a huge heart. Eric takes the same approach with the students and families in his building, and we should all aspire to do the same. Those little things make a huge difference and it’s truly Who We Need To Be for our students and families.

Sometimes Who We Need To Be for kids takes us out of our comfort zone. For me, being silly and outgoing doesn’t come natural. But our kids need that at times to feel safe, have fun, and ultimately learn. Sometimes our students need a calming presence. That may not be Eric’s natural state (the guy seriously has more energy than anyone I know (and I work with 1st grade boys)), but he is that person when he needs to be for kids and families and staff. In Rita Pierson’s Ted Talk titled Every Kid Needs A Championshe says, “The tough ones show up for a reason. It’s the connection, it’s the relationships. And the key is, while you won’t like them all, they can never ever know it. So teachers become great actors and actresses…Every child deserves a champion.” My challenge to everyone working with kids, including myself, is to be that champion for all kids they come in contact with. It’s often not easy and sometimes takes acting to accomplish, but it’s what our kids deserve. Those connections and relationships we form with our students will be the determining factor in how much they are able/willing to learn from us. Do the little things, take risks, be a champion, learn with your students, expect greatness, and care…It’s worth it!