14

Small Efforts Can Make a Big Difference

A simple hello and a wave.

Now that summer has arrived, I am able to spend more time with my daughters.  My wife has been telling me how every Tuesday, when the garbage and recycling is being picked up, the girls run over to the window to watch.  Recently, the guys that pick up the garbage (From Sierra Disposal) have been making an extra effort to wave and say hi to the girls in the window.

Today, we were on the back patio just about to eat lunch when we heard the brakes from the “Gar Kuck” (this is LilWejr-ese for Garbage Truck) and the girls bolted to the front window.  Although I missed their screams of excitement, I did manage to grab my phone in time to catch the last half of the scene (sorry about my talk-to-the-kids-voice).

These guys (the one on the left in particular) could drive on and do their job as they have been directed to do.  Instead they take the 45 seconds to do their job AND make a small effort to make a big difference to my daughters.  Why do they do this?  I am not sure but I would assume that they want to make my daughters smile; in addition, the feeling they get from the waves and smiles from the girls probably brightens their day too.

As parents, educators, and community members, how often do we walk right past people to do the job we have been told to do.  How often do we do the job AND brighten another person’s day with a hello and a smile.

I do not know these gentleman, but I do know that my kids get so excited to see the “Gar Kuck” every Tuesday.  It is the small efforts of these guys that make a big difference to our family.

To these Sierra Waste employees: thank you for doing what you do every day – and thank you for demonstrating and teaching how easy it is to make people smile.

Thanks to Johnny Bevacqua for relating this to the book “The Fred Factor“.  These guys are definitely “Freds”.

14

Leadership: How We Treat People

Lessons from a friend.

This morning I lost someone who brought so much laughter and joy to all those around him.  Ben Meyer – a caring friend, committed teammate, and wonderful person – lost his battle with cancer.

I recently had a conversation with a close friend who lost his mother to cancer at a young age. I asked him,”How do you continue on in life after such a devastating loss?”.  He said, “We have no choice… we live and continue to model and teach the lessons that my mom taught us.  Her legacy lives on each day through me, my brothers, my students, and our children.”

There has been much talk on Facebook about the laughter that Ben brought so many of us with his story-telling and positive outlook on life; you had no choice but to get sore cheeks from laughter when he was telling his legendary stories.  No matter how many times you heard them, (because there was always someone there that had not yet herd them), his strength in re-telling it sent tears rolling down our faces.  Just 3 days ago, when he was struggling to talk, he retold one last story to 5 of us surrounding him in the hospital… that is what he was all about – making people smile.

He treated EVERY person around him with the same care, energy and happiness that just made you feel like you were better because you spent time with him.  Ben was a leader and he knew his strengths.  He never hacked down those around him; instead he chose to build everyone else up.  Ben was not the best ball player… but he played on the best teams because of the positive impact he had on others.

My director of instruction said to me the other day, “People do not remember positions or rank or certificates… they remember how you treat people”.  Ben treated everyone as if he was so glad that you were near him at that moment.  You had no choice but to “catch” his positive energy.  Ben will always be remembered… for the wonderful way he treated people.

The legacy will continue... all smiles, all the time.

When someone passes on, we often hear the good things that he/she brought to our lives.  For Ben Meyer, he heard this throughout his life because that is how he led his life – it was all about the good things.  He continually challenged himself and savoured the moments.

Ben taught me a lot as a person but the most important lesson was a simple but  essential one: treat people well.  I am thankful for the 11 years I knew him.  It is now up to those of us who knew him to continue to model and teach the lessons he taught us… and the impact and legacy of Ben Meyer will continue on forever.

We love ya Benny…

4

Becoming a Connected Leader: A Journey

Image from http://bit.ly/pZYAkL

[caption id="attachment_1343" align="aligncenter" width="230"] Image from http://bit.ly/pZYAkL[/caption]
I recently had the honour of presenting to a neighbouring school district about my journey in developing

8

Making Meetings Meaningful

Originally posted on Connected Principals

As a teacher, I sat through endless staff meetings where information was relayed and the same teachers commented and gave their donated ‘air time’.  As a principal, one of my main goals was to make staff meetings meaningful.  Just like a teacher designs his/her lessons with the students in mind, staff meetings need to be designed with the staff in mind!

My assistant superintendent, Scott Benwell, made a comment to me that put things in perspective for me.   “We have about 15 hours a year set out for staff meetings (due to contract agreement in our district); how are you going to spend those 15 hours to make these meetings the most effective?”

Although I have been a principal for just over 1 year and I continue to learn new ideas every day, here are 10 things I try to do to make meetings meaningful:

  1. Limit the amount of relayed information. If it can be stated in a memo/email – do that!
  2. Spend the majority of time on professional development. This does not mean having your staff sit through another PowerPoint presentation about data.  Facilitate conversations with your staff about topics that are meaningful and that have impact on student learning.
  3. Disagreements are powerful. Some of the best meetings in which I have been involved included fantastic, passionate debates around what we do for our students.  One of the best things about education is that two educators can completely disagree but believe wholeheartedly that what they are doing is best for kids.
  4. Keep to the scheduled time.  If a meeting is set for 1.5 hours, keep it to that time (or shorter).  Staff members have busy schedules!
  5. Invite to Optional Meetings. If there is a topic/issue in which some staff members are truly passionate, invite them to an optional meeting to discuss.  In this way, the only people at the meeting are those that have an invested interest.  Some of the best conversations have occurred at these optional meetings.
  6. Include Everyone. Stop the hierarchy.  If we truly are a learning community, include all staff members.  Too many times, support staff feel silenced at staff meetings; they are as passionate about kids as teachers/administrators so make sure all members have an opportunity to have their voice heard.  Remember that a staff meeting is not about YOU, it is a STAFF meeting. The most effective change is when it comes from the staff so provide a platform for people to feel comfortable speaking.  Include staff in the development of the agenda as well.
  7. Put Out the Agenda in Advance. This may seem like a no-brainer but it is key to having effective dialogue.  People can come prepared to discuss and issue/topic.  Conversations that are thought-out rather than reactive are that much more powerful. Also, limit the number of items on the agenda so there is time for conversations to go deeper.
  8. Set It Up! Make sure that the place in which you meet is set up in a way that encourages all to share their voice.  It is often effective to split up the cliques of people in fun ways too – people can learn more from hearing perspectives of people they may not talk to on a regular basis.
  9. Food, Glorious Food! Meetings often occur after school – people are tired and hungry so keep the staff nourished!  We have an awesome spread each staff meeting as each staff member signs up to bring food one time during the year.
  10. Use Humour.  Stories, Seinfeld Clips, comics… set the tone. George’s Views on Collaboration – Jerkstore! (video could not be embedded, sorry!)

Remember the limited amount of time that all staff members are together – make the most of this time, make it meaningful.

As I love to hear more tips from other educators, please comment so we can continue to improve our meetings.

Following the writing of this draft, I came across a recent post on the topic by Scott Elias: ‘Meeting to Meet’.