You'll notice that for the rest of this school year I will be looking for lessons in leadership and focusing some of my reflections on them. This is the first in my series of "Lessons in Leadership."
Moment 1: EDGE2 Youth Ministry Kick Off Event
It all started Sunday evening with my youth ministry kick off event. The plan was to have a tailgating type party in the Parish parking lot; there would be games, food, music and a bunch of young teens milling about, all culminating with a massive shaving cream fight. At about 4:00 p.m. the skies darkened, and by 4:30 p.m. there was deluge of rain, and howling winds. I had watched the forecast all week and had anticipated the need for an alternative plan, thus we executed Plan B. We moved the event into the Parish Center. This required setting up a space for multiple corn hole games, ladder ball, cup stacking, music, and of course the food. I am so fortunate to have two great CORE members (Joe Worm and Brenda Romano), and I couldn't have pulled it off without them. We got the space ready, and I was feeling pretty good about the whole affair. We headed to the Youth Mass and prayed for an awesome event with our teens.
Following Mass we headed back to the Parish Center, and I was greeted with an unforeseen set back. My husband, who had graciously volunteered to cook the burgers and dogs, informed me that he was having trouble getting the grill up to temperature, and as a result was quite behind in the food prep. Imagine for a moment if you will, 30+ hungry 7th and 8th graders in a confined space, a line of parents waiting to register and sign in teens, and team members waiting for you to make a decision about what to do next. In a split second, I went from feeling pretty secure to thinking, who was I trying to kid? I'm not a leader; I'm a joke. But even in that moment of self-doubt, I realized it didn't really matter how I felt, I had a job to do and people were counting on me. We fired up the stoves in the kitchen, pulled out some pans, and got those burgers and dogs cooking. We put some chips and drinks out to hold the teens hunger off for a bit. My CORE members jumped in, socializing with the teens and helping to get the games underway. I manned the registration table, and answered the questions from the parents. The food came out in shifts, the teens had fun playing the games and just hanging with their friends, and in the time that had passed the weather cleared up. We were able to get outside and have a pretty epic shaving cream fight as evidenced below.
Clearly this event did not get off without a hitch, yet it was a success in many ways. It also reinforced some pretty valuable leadership lessons:
- Think strategically.
- Be clear about what you need to do and decide what is important and what is urgent.
- Break down and delegate tasks.
- Work out what could possibly go wrong and generate a contingency plan.
- We are all capable of being leaders at different moments, the question more often is whether or not we are motivated to lead.
Moment 2: Back to School/Curriculum Night
This Tuesday was our annual Curriculum Night. We have called it Curriculum Night for as long as I have been in our building, and generally sharing the curriculum with our families has been the intent. Going into the year, I had a strong desire to share more than just the curriculum with families on this night. I wanted this night not to be so one-sided, with parents doing a whole lot of "sit n' get" and move to a night with more of a conversational tone. I wanted an opportunity to build relationship with these families. We had a Back-to-School picnic that was well attended, and it gave me an opportunity to mix and mingle with a few of our families, but it really didn't amount to much more than mingling. I really wanted an opportunity for us to dialogue together about our hopes, and dreams for the year, to talk about the things that were important to us, to have families share what they were looking forward to and what they had concerns about.
My first step in reimagining Curriculum Night was to create a video of the information that I typically shared at Curriculum Night. I also created a video with pictures of student learning from the first couple of weeks that I would play to set the tone for the evening. I copied handouts that covered the third grade curriculum and the Common Core shifts for those that preferred hard copies. I posted all the materials on my class web page. Tuesday night came, and it was one of the best Curriculum Nights I have been a part of. I shared with families the web page and the repository of resources, we watched the video, I quickly shared how I would be using social media and innovative ways to keep them informed, and then I explained about the different direction I wanted to take the evening. There were a few unsure faces in the crowd, and it took a bit to get started, but once we got going I felt like it really was the right move. Engaging and empowering families is critical, and having an opportunity for face-to-face dialogue cannot be understated. I feel like the impact was almost instantaneous. One of these impacts was having an increase in the number of views of our class Twitter feed, and families interacting with us using that tool.
There are so many benefits to using digital communication with families. First, and foremost it can aid us in engaging families and empower them to be part of our learning journey. It can allow us to take greater advantage of the times we are face to face. Meaningful, consistent and timely digital communication models effective use of digital media for students and families. A critical benefit is that we get students excited to share their learning in authentic ways, and help them to extend their learning beyond the classroom.
These are just two moments, that stood out against a week full of amazing opportunities. In truth, this week was exhausting both physically and mentally, but looking back on it, it was week full of amazing learnings. Now, it is time to get outside, enjoy some of this phenomenal fall weather and take some time to be with my family.