About DrABHosey

Dr. Ashley B. Hosey is an author, speaker, and educator. In his many years as an educator he has worked in the both the high school and elementary levels in addition to working in an alternative school setting. He has served both urban, suburban, rural and at risk populations. Currently he serves as a principal in Cobb County School District.

Education Can Break Generational Curses…if you believe.

Generational curses or cycles – any pattern , framework of thought, types of actions, expectations and skills or lack of skills that are taught or learned in family and are passed down which results in each generation repeating and living in same or similar lives with little growth or mobility from generation to generation.

Growing up I had a friend. We had attended different elementary school but went to middle school together (we only had one middle school in my town). He lived close to me in my new neighborhood. In school I was always an honor roll student and in the honor classes, but I quickly learned that my friend was not. As a matter of fact, he wasn’t in any of the regular classes …he was in “that” classroom.  Now as educator, I know the proper term was Special education or self-contained or small group. If I remember correctly, as kids say his family had never been “good” at school and I believe that previous siblings may have been in similar classes.

Nevertheless, we became good friends and played often after school and as kids often know…there are no labels or special education in play. On the verge of our 9th grade year as all 8th graders do, we started the process of registering for our High school classes and back then our “high school diploma track”. (College preparatory, General, Special Education or Vocational). There was no option or discussion in my house for me choosing anything other than College Prep.  One day as we concluded our play, I remember distinctly my friend talking with my mother about what diploma track he should take. He asked,” Do you think I could take those same classes your son takes?” My mom responded that” she didn’t see why not. He could always try it and if it didn’t work out for some reason, he could change it later.”

So, he did.  Four years later, he graduated as an Honor graduate. Four years after that he graduated with a college degree (scholarship). In the time since (because we are still friends) he has traveled the world far and wide and have been places that few people in my small town or his family have dreamed of going. Great and awesome story that I love to share because I am very proud of my friend.

However, there is a part of the story that I don’t often share. At our graduation, I distinctly remember my friend’s middle school teacher (it really was a small town) attending our graduation. He was in the crowd of well-wishers congratulating us all. He kept saying that he just couldn’t believe how far my friend had come since middle school. He couldn’t believe that a kid who in that small group class in middle school could barely do math was graduating with honors. He was moved to tears.

This is a part that stuck to my spirit and stays with me today as an educator: His teacher did not believe in him.  The teacher did not believe that the student could be more than the situation he was currently in.

Breaking Cycles/Generational Curses:

Former Georgia governor Roy Barnes spoke to my student leaders at the high school where I was principal once. Governor Barnes was alumni from the school, and I consider us friends…I mean I don’t “have his cell phone” type friends but I’ve been to his house a few occasions and have watched a UGA football game or two with him. In his speech, he spoke about breaking family cycles. “My brother and I were the first to graduate from High school. Once we did that everyone after us was expected to graduate high school. The cycle was broken.  Once I was the first to graduate from college. Everyone after me had the expectation or hope to be able to at graduate from college. That cycle was broken in our family forever.”

There are a lot of cycles and curses that can live in families from generation to generation. Examples of some family cycles can be poverty, poor education, poor health choices, addictions, racism, incarceration, routines, geographic location, types of employment, …even political views.  These cycles/curses can seem to lock students into a spiral and path that can seem automatic, inescapable, hopeless, trapping and without options.

However, as Governor Barnes explained all cycles/generational curses can be broken. And once they are broken, they are broken forever.  Education is the key to unlock them, break them and set our students free to pursue their dreams and destinies.

How We fail to believe in students:

Belief is required to break Generational curse /cycles. As adults we can often fail on this one thing with students. Educators can start to doubt students based on negative parent interactions, sibling’s behavior or their current circumstances that they see. “Well you know I taught the older brother (or sister) …” or “You know that family is ….” or “This student will never be able to …”

Parent can make the mistake of wanting the exact same education for their child …even if the education they receive was inferior. “When I was in school we did it this way “ or “I think this should happen in class because that’s the way I learned it. “ We often pass on educational curses by saying such things as “I was never good at math “thereby inferring that understanding of math is “genetic” and that students have a born excuse or limit. Sometimes we are the ones who limit students, and we have to learn to step out of the way.  

My passion as an educator grows from the belief that we must see past students’ current circumstances to see their true potential. We must believe our student have unlimited potential.  No “ifs”, “ands”, “buts” about it. We must believe in our students without limit.

As a leader you must push past the current circumstances of students and train others to do the same. You must also teach the students to see past their current circumstances too. Even now many of the students in our high schools are the first to graduate from high school, many are the first generation in America, and many are the first to consider future with collegiate aspirations or professional careers.  At one of the schools where I served as principal, I coined the motto and mantra “We are not what people may say. We are not what people may think. We are more than they can ever imagine.” This was repeated daily, on all parent communication, spoken at all assemblies and displayed for all to see.

My six grand children

As a principal you have to listen to your parents. Even when sometimes it’s difficult, critical, or hard. I remember being in a meeting with a grandmother who was expressing her frustrations with the school and her grandchildren. I had suspended one of her grandchildren (I don’t think it was the first time) and we were conferencing about what we could do to prevent the incident in question from recurring. I was raised to always respect my elders and so I simply allowed this grandmother to talk and I listened and didn’t interrupt…even though I was “the principal”. The grandmother laid out her frustration. Not blaming me or really blaming the school directly but she began discussing the experiences she had had with the school over the years. “I have had 3 grandchildren to come through this school and not one of them have graduated and I have 3 more.” I continued to listen. “I’m not blaming you or taking up for them, but something is not right about that.” Three of her grandchildren had matriculated through before I got there but based on the one, I was currently dealing with discipline wise …I understood how.

This grandmother’s approach was one which may have turned off or offended others ( her tone was rough and she was loud with a sharp tone ) and it would have been very easy for me to stop listening and said to myself ” well that’s not my fault because I wasn’t here then!” or as so often we do “ your students are misbehaving and that’s your fault at home because we didn’t raise them” or “ I can’t fix your family that’s not my job.”

However, I continued to listen as she continued to talk and gave me some of the history with the family and how she came to raise all of her grandchildren… things I knew and many I didn’t know. Then as I listened through all of it… I started to “hear” her clearly.  “Help me. Help my grandchildren do better. Help my family break this cycle.”

When the meeting concluded, I remember telling her I would do my best to get her that diploma for her. And just like that I had a new challenge. Despite my efforts and building relationships, I struck out with grandchild number 4 and number 5. No diploma. Due to circumstance beyond my control, they moved and eventually dropped out. However, 5 years later… Proudly, I was able to give grandchild number 6 their high school diploma. I remember seeing that grandmother at graduation sharply dress and beaming with pride. I am not sure if she even remembered our conversation at all. But I had because it made me a better principal and educator. I began truly seeing past the circumstance of my students, all of my students, and working to break their generational curses and cycles.  I pushed my staff to do the same and it changed our school culture. I found ways to exposed students to ideas, concepts and cultures that would cause them to think past their current locations and circumstances.  Creative scheduling, engaging conversations, creative course offerings, mentor programs, fieldtrips, career fairs, college fairs, academic competitions, innovative programs, increased rigor, guest speakers and unconditional love plus a principal and staff that built the best positive and caring relationships. We were not going to be the limitation to any student potential or the reinforcement to any family cycles or generational curses.

“We are not what people may say. We are not what people may think. We are more than they can imagine!”

Educator. Believer in Children. Breaker of Generational Curses.

Reflection:

  • How are you working to help students in your school to see past their current circumstances?
  • As a leader how are you ensuring that your staff and teachers are able to look past their students’ current circumstances?
  • What are some barriers and blockers of student potential in your school and how do you remove them?

Please continue to read my blog posts as I continue to reflect on how to lead past your mistakes. Please “like” my post, leave comments, follow my blog, and share your stories so that I can continue to learn too.

The Power of an Apology

The Power of an Apology.

It was one of those days. Actually… it had been one of those semesters. It was one of those impossible battles… where you’re making things work with “shoestrings and duct tape” types of semester. I was tired and battle worn. I had a meeting scheduled with a parent who was not happy because their student was failing …and of course it was the school’s fault. Due to some staffing issues, the class had been unconventional and had a change of teachers, substitutes, and some blended learning.  My staff and I had worked very hard to ensure instruction and learning during the transitions of staffing and had done everything in our power to make it work for the students. It was not perfect but as you do in situations out of your control you do the best that you can.

We had the meeting with a parent who was not happy. In the meeting from the school side was myself, my assistant principal and a teacher. From the start,the meeting quickly went downhill. I began to get agitated. We answered the questions as best we could, dodged the personal attacks and talked about the personal responsibility of the student to complete assignments. It continued down hill. My head started to hurt.

Then to my surprise the teacher who I thought knew the whole situation, started commenting and asking questions which was opposite and started to undermine the school’s position. The parent sensing division in our position pounced. The meeting tumbled further downhill.   I got even more agitated. Then as the teacher talked more it made the situation worse and started to undermine all of the work that my assistant principal had done for this class and students all semester. The parent became more aggressive. The meeting was in a death spiral of flames and smoke. I was beyond agitated but knew that I had to do something to regain control of this meeting quickly and made a decision. I cut the teacher off and told the teacher that they could leave and that they were no longer needed to finish the meeting. The teacher started to protest, and I again cut them off and said “That will be all. Thank you.”

In my mind, I needed to remove the teacher because they were unknowingly feeding into the parent’s complaints, issues and accusations. It worked. After the teacher left, the parent eventually calmed down, we regained control of the meeting and was able to finish the meeting in a somewhat positive nature.  I think we may have “agreed to disagree”. Meeting completed. Issue solved. On to the next waiting problem.

BUT I couldn’t. As I processed the day’s events at the end of my day, the meeting and exchanged bothered me. Why? because although I had won that battle (won is a loose term) … I felt I had made a mistake.

The more I thought about it, although I saved the meeting, I had made several mistakes. The first mistake was that I did not prepared my teacher for the meeting or give the teacher the needed information to be a productive part of the meeting.  This was not my teacher’s fault. The fault was mine as the leader. My assistant principal and I had talked, and we knew the whole story, background and situation. However, I let the teacher come into the meeting blind. That is never good. The leadership lesson that I learned (and still practice to this day)is that in any meeting whether contentious or not, I make sure that all parties understand the purpose of the meeting, the situation, all the available information, the school decision or position and any information needed to participate in the meeting.

The second and larger of the two mistakes was that I regained control of this meeting, but I had done so at the possible cost of embarrassing my teacher. I never want to dismiss or to make a staff member feel dismissed. This teacher was a good teacher and I considered them a good part of our positive school culture.  Anyone that has worked with me knows that I value relationships with the people I work with and serve very highly.

I could have continued with business as usual, but I felt that I made a mistake which needed correction.  The work of education is a hard job and you need good teachers, good people, to fight the fight with you.  I knew that I needed to make it right with the teacher, so the next day I called the teacher to my office.  When the teacher came into my office by their body language and expression, I could tell I had been right.  I believe the teacher was expecting me to write them up, fuss more or to chew them out.

I told the teacher that I wanted to discuss the meeting from yesterday. I told them very honestly what my intention was, but I told them also what it was not.  I continued to say that there were a thousand and one ways to save that meeting and in reflection I felt that I had chosen the wrong one and I apologized. I told the teacher that they were a valued member of our school, school culture and that I appreciated all of the work they did for children at our school. Most important I told the teacher that if anything I did made them feel undervalued, disrespected, or diminished in any way that I was sorry. Immediately, the teacher’s body language shifted, and I saw the tension leave their face and body.

Because I took the time to apologize to this member of my staff, the teacher remained a strong member of my staff and we still enjoy a good professional relationship to this day. I also learned the importance of preparing teachers and staff to enter potentially volatile meetings so they know all of the information and can better respond.

Leaders do not always get everything right or perfect.  Leaders can be wrong. When you make a mistake or error, you must be willingly to apologize when necessary. Some people see apologizing when you are in a leadership position as weak. However,I see it as the complete opposite. Your strength lies in your ability to admit when you are wrong. Apologies from the position of leadership can be powerful lessons for the leader but also powerful demonstrations for those who would follow you.

“I am sorry” can be three of the most powerful words in the leadership. Sometimes they will be accepted and sometimes they may not be accepted but that should not stop you for giving them when necessary. Remember education is a people business and you win with people. An apology can humanize you with your staff and it can repair strained or torn relationships or strengthen relationships. And apologies are not just for the adults …but that’s another blog post entirely.

Please continue to read my blog posts as I continue to reflect on how to lead past mistakes. Please “like” my post, leave comments , follow my blog, and share your stories so that I can continue to learn too.

LEADING Past My Mistakes: My 2020 Blog

Leading Past My Mistakes: New Blog Introduction

I once read a quote that said, “If you want to make everyone happy don’t be a leader, sell ice cream.” Leadership is hard.  To be a good leader and try to do things the right way is even harder.  In my educational leadership journey ,I have learned through experience this is true…very true. Along the way, I have made many, many mistakes. However, as a leader you don’t always get the option to quit when you make a mistake. A true leader must learn to lead past their mistakes.

In 2020, I will use my leadership blog to explore and reflect on some of the mistakes that I have had to learn and lead past.  These lessons came at various points of my career as a teacher leader, assistant principal and as a principal. To be better leaders, better educators we must reflect on our performance, look critically at our victories, look honestly at our mistake and grow from them all. Over my career as an educator and educator leader, I have tried to do just that and my experience (…and sometimes lack thereof) has afforded me many learning and growth opportunities.

The point of my 2020 blog is sharing so that other leaders can learn from my mistakes (no sense in repeating what you can avoid!). All names have been deleted or changed to protect the innocent… and some of my pride! The lessons I have learned have be invaluable to my leadership growth and improvement.  We have to be the best to make our schools the best and to give the best to our students. Your school’s success depends on your leadership being successful and you being an effective leader. Be encouraged because all leaders make mistakes and we get things wrong from time to time. What matters is how we deal with our mistakes, that we don’t quit and that we continue to lead past them.

 I hope that you join me on this journey in 2020, and even share in the dialogue as we all try to be better assistant principals, principals, teacher leaders and school leaders.  In 2020 our mistakes and fear of mistakes will not hinder our leadership because we will LEAD past them.

Please continue to read my blog posts as I continue to reflect on how to lead past your mistakes. Please “like” my post, leave comments , follow my blog, and share your stories so that I can continue to learn too.

“Hey Leader, What’s in your Wallet?”: What is on your Commitment card?

What is on your Commitment card?

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One wonderful summer day, I was out and about with my five year old son when he decided he was hungry. We decided on a local restaurant and settled down for a meal. As customary , we were greeted ,seated, and then greeted by our server. Our server greeted us with a smile , introduced herself , asked for our drink order and then left to fill the order. However, before she left she place a small business card on our table. I thought the card was a coupon on something to do with the menu. However, when I picked it up, my mind was blown. On the card in print were four commitments that the server was making to me, the customer.  Not only were the commitments printed but simply and clearly defined:

MY COMMITMENT TO YOU

Reliable- I am dependable and you can count on me

Responsive-I act quickly to respond to your needs

Knowledgeable- I can explain and recommend menu items

100%- Is what I will give you to ensure  your *Restaurant’s name* experience  is pleasurable

And at the end of the commitments was this phrase “ If for some reason, I did not meet my commitment to you, please let me know.”

This was different and I was impressed. Immediately I thought what if school leaders or teachers did this? How powerful it would be if as you hand out your business card to parents, students and stakeholders that they not only received your contact information but your leadership commitments and guarantees.

As an educational leader, you must be committed …accepting the position is not enough.  You must commit to the work, to the mission, to the students, the staff and the community. This is educational leadership 101. It is basic. Every leader and aspiring leader should know this.  However, as the leader, can you  and do you actually define and put into words your core commitments?

 Just as in the example above, can your commitments be summarized and clearly stated. What can teachers, students, and your community expect from you every time you step in your building. What can they expect every time they engage with you and communicate with you? What are your leadership guarantees? As a leader, you are a brand just like Coca Cola, Pepsi, McDonalds or Chick fila. When you walk into the door of any franchise or store with a brand, you know what to expect. How do you define your leadership brand and leadership experience? What can the people who follow you or engage with you expect?

Commitments hold you accountable and to a higher standard. They are completely essential to the work that we do as leaders. They serve as part of our compass which guides our actions, decisions, and directions.  However, how often do we say them aloud or put them out in world for others to see? Is it because we are afraid that once we say them or publicize them, others may hold us accountable for them? Accountability is a part of leadership.  Holding yourself accountable and allowing others to hold you accountable can boost your leadership into the next level. It also allows you to clarify and narrow your focus because you cannot do everything but there are some things that you can do very well. As a leader you just must ask yourself, “What is most important to me and what do I want to be my brand of leadership? “

When you give someone your business card, you give them your job location, phone number and ways to reach you. Why not give them what matters the most about you?

I think I am ordering new business cards.

Reflection:

As a leader:

What are your Leadership commitments?

 What do you guarantee to those you serve?

What can people expect from you every situation, every day, & every time?

Do your leadership commitments extend to your students as well?

“Sometimes it’s not the seeds or the plants… it’s the soil.”

Leader How does your Garden Grow? Series finale

 “Sometimes it’s not the seeds or the plants… it’s the soil.” Part 5 of 5. 

Sometimes you find that despite your best efforts, your garden is not growing. You have planted good seeds. You have watered and nurtured them, but the plants are not growing.   As the leader of organization, you can find despite your efforts your organization is not growing, living up to its potential or is just stagnate. You have tried research-based practices, organizational strategies, great resources and have the best people in place but you are not seeing any growth or positive yields. Then you realize something profound. Sometimes the problem is not the seeds or the plants…the problem is the soil!

It is not what you’re are planting, it’s what you are planting them in. All dirt is not the same. All soil is not the same.   Soil can sometimes lack key nutrients that plants need to grow. This can be based on the region or the location. Moreover it can be based upon what was planted in the soil before. Certain types of plants or gardens can leave soil depleted.  Farmers rotate crops on certain lands so that it gives the soil a chance to recover. Likewise, the culture of your organization can be depleted. The culture of your organization can not be ready or can not be optimal to support or achieve growth.  The previous administration could have created a toxic work environment, or your current organization goals were too ambitious and over worked the soil and burned out the culture.  Whatever the case, as the lead gardener when you realize that the soil is depleted or not nurturing for your garden, you must fix it.  The soil is important because it nurtures your plants.  The culture provides the inspiration for your organization. It is what connects all the people in your school community.  It keeps your organization going day in and day out. It brings out the best in everyone and allows every to be their very best.

How do you fix the soil? This is an important question to answer. Dirt is dirt, right?  How do you fix the ground? A school is a school, right? The answer of course is no it is not. Every school is different, and every school culture is different.

When a gardener realizes that their soil is lacking, they find ways to nurture the soil. They add the nutrients to the soil.  They bring in fresh soil(ideas) and mix it into the depleted soil.  They are careful which plants they plant and when they plant them. Some gardeners even bring in outside help(shout out to all cooperative extension agents) to analyze their soil so that they can find exactly what it needs and what it is lacking.  Leaders in turn must look at the culture of their organization and find ways to fix and adjust it.  If you want to have a certain type of achievement or to meet certain goals, the culture is important to the seeds that you want to plant. By analyzing your soil can figure out exactly what is wrong with it and what the plants need to thrive. A master gardener will spend time learning. A leader must become a student of their organization. Perhaps morale is low in your organization. Maybe the work load is too much for members or maybe the people are willing but do not have the skills to do the work. In education, your school may not have the community support or stake holder buy in that your school needs. There could be a lack of resources in your school for your teachers and students. Maybe the soil of the school does not give or show enough gratitude and appreciation … after all it takes a lot of effort to push through dirt and mud to bloom.

Building relationships are important for the leader so that they can understand what the soil needs to nurture staff growth.  Through good relationships a better understanding of the history of the culture or your school can help you gain valuable information into why the culture is how it is and has developed.

Just like a master gardener knows that some plants are more resilient than other plants and thrive in the soil when other plants have not, a leader will know that there are staff member who have thrive when others have not. There are always teachers and staff who have remained with a school through good times, bad times, abundant times, lean times, good leadership and bad leadership. A good leader will take time to build relationships with them to listen and better understand the culture of the school …the good, the bad, and what is needed. Leadership is a people business. You win with people. You can not win without people and you cannot win consistently if you do not know your people.

Leaders need to realize that major culture shifts can take time. the leader must plant carefully and be realistically of what they plant. You don’t grow Oranges in Maine (at least not without massive effort and resources). It can take a while to build the perfect soil …sometimes through trial and error. However, you can find ways to be creative within the culture you have now …slowly making changes adding in additives here and a boost to the soil there.  Leaders can plant small ideas with big yields or easy wins that can boost confidence and morale. Leaders can sprinkle in small rewards and recognitions to boost the growth. Leaders can build relationships with their staff so they can better support them and grow a supportive culture.

Everybody can afford a little Miracle grow every now and then!

As leader:

  • Do you have good soil to nurture your planted seeds?
  • What are the needs in your organization’s culture that need to be addressed?
  • In what practical ways can you affect or address your culture to make it better for students? For teachers?  For parents?
  • What relationships do you have with people in your building? What do you know about them professionally and personally?

Read my blog posts and reflect to see “How your garden grows.” Please leave comments so that I can “grow” too.

“Perennials or Annuals” : Leader How does your Garden Grow? Part 4 of 5

Leader How does your Garden Grow?

 “Perennials or Annuals” Part 4 of 5

If you have ever gone to the local nursery with the intent to plant buy plants or if you have ever searched a plant website for ideas, you have come across this sign “Perennials or Annuals”. ( I always have to remind myself which is which!)  One type of plant returns every season once planted and the other must be replanted each year.  You must make the decision on which type of seeds or plants you want and be aware of which type of plants that you have in your garden. 

Once planted and nurtured, a perennial plant will automatically bloom each year and come back every year. A Perennial plant becomes a permanent part of the garden.  It becomes part of the culture of your garden. In every organization there are some things whether habits, ideas, procedures or practices that you want to be automatic and you want it to be a permanent part of your garden(organization) and the way and how you conduct business.  These types of things may be your customer service, your procedures for addressing issues, the quality of service you provide, the things which separate you from your competitors or industry.  In education there are somethings that you may want to be a part of the culture of your school: staff commitments, quality of work, positive relationships and instructional practices or standards.  Also, as educational leader, there are people, positions that you want to bloom every year and return to your garden.

Annual plants have a season and then must be planted again the next year. This is not bad because everything has a season. It always gives you the opportunity to plan better, get different plants, move plants around or to get more durable types of plants. In organizations, there are things which are only for one season and are temporary. There may be quotas to be met, company priorities may shift, the needs of your stakeholders may change, you may have to address a specific need or unexpected situation. In education, we may need to address certain issues for a season: student discipline issues, attendance issues, achievement data issues, staff or faculty issues.  However, once those issues are resolved or results are achieved, the issue no longer needs to be addressed.  Also, unfortunately in education, this can also mean education fads or trials that we use in attempt to boost achievement but later realize they do not work or not good for students, so we let them go after a season.  As a leader is may also mean people, committees, positions or task force that were brought into the organization for a season but may only be needed for a season.

In your garden:

  • Do you have “annuals” or “perennials” in organization?
  • Can you identify which plants are which?
  • Do you need more of one or the other?
  • What is your plan to re plant your “perennials” each year?

Read my blog posts and reflect to see “How your garden grows.” Please leave comments so that I can “grow” too.

Don’t Waste Time Watering Rocks!

Leader How does your Garden Grow?

 “Don’t waste time watering  the Rocks.” Part 3 of 5

You have to make sure to spend your energy on the right things.

Growing a garden is hard work.  Planting a garden is hard work. Setting the environment for maximum growth is hard work.  Maintaining the garden is hard work.  Leading an organization, setting a direction and vision for an organization, doing the work so that an organization can grow is all hard work. You do not have time to waste of tasks which do not yield effort and are a waste of effort.  Do not waste time watering the rocks! Leaders do not have time to waste watering rocks.

Rocks represent those things in your organization which are firm in the culture of the organization. It can be procedures, values, traditions, or even be people. “We have always done it this way.” There are people in organizations who do not like change. There are people who will not change. There are people “who are who they are” and will not bloom into anything different. In organizations there are values and beliefs that are old as the organization and will not change. Old ideas can be rocks as well. Some leaders spend too much of their time on things that will not and do not change. Do not waste time watering rocks.

Rocks do not grow. If the purpose of your efforts is to make things in your garden grow, then watering rocks is a waste of your time, efforts and resources.  Rocks do not grow.  They can be polished, sanded, buffed, or even painted but watering a rock will not make it grow… no matter how much you wish it to do so. Stop watering rocks!!Water represents your energy and resources. Using them in such a way and wishing for an impossible outcome is not only exhausting, but frustrating, and futile.

Instead spend your time watering those things in your garden that will grow, sprout and bloom as the results of your efforts and investments. There are people in your organization who have great potential to grow and be better. New employees, new teachers, talented team members, and people with hidden potential.  As a leader you have the responsible to nurture those who follow you and are in your care. This will make your organization better and the best version of itself

Rocks can be removed. If a rock is in the way of the garden’s growth, rocks can be moved to a different part of the garden or can be removed all together from the garden. Rocks can be repurposed and add to the landscaping plan and can add contrast. People can be transferred, teams can be shuffled, goals can be changed, duties can be reassigned, and mission & visions can be reworked.  This may make your garden better more functional. However, removing some rocks can leave huge holes which must be filled with new soil or plants. However, this must be part of the garden plan.  Rocks can be incorporated into your plan. Core values which are important to your organization should be part of your plan. They may just need to be place in different contexts.

Sometimes they are not worth removing. Sometimes its best just to let the rocks stay and lie where they are. Rocks can be small or huge. Rocks can be buried deep into the ground and can be very heavy making them very difficult to move and a waste of resources to attempt to move them. You can spend countless hours, resources and man power only to discover it will not be moved. Sometimes you have to evaluate whether or not the removing the rock is worse than just letting it remain and focusing on the garden and the new growth.

If you focus on your new growth and plants which grow, rocks can be a covered up with new growth when plants are in full bloom. The rocks can remain, but you shift the focus from them to the rest of the garden’s fresh blooms and growth. As the gardener, you shift your efforts to changing the focus in your garden.

Everything in your garden can have purpose if you account for it in your plan. However, you must understand its purpose and function. As the gardener it is your job to set the purpose for your garden. It is also important that the gardener sets what the focus should be and where you spend your most valuable resource which is time. Time is precious. Energy is limited. Change is difficult. Do not waste your time watering the rocks. Spend your time watering the plants that will grow. You must figure out something else to do with the rocks. Because rocks don’t grow.

As a leader:

  • What rocks are you watering?
  • What types of rocks have you noticed in your garden?
  • Do your rocks have the right purpose in your garden?
  • What is your plan for your rocks?

Read my blog posts and reflect to see “How your garden grows.” Please leave comments so that I can “grow” too.

“Leader How does your Garden Grow?: It’s more than just planting seeds!”

 “It’s more than just planting Seeds”  Part 2 of 5

As leader it is your job to influence your environment and organization for maximum growth for all stake holders.  This requires skills and often finesse.  You become the lead Gardner for your organization, school or group. If it was just as simple as planting seeds and then walking away everyone would have a green thumb and be an excellent gardener and all schools and organizations would thrive and grow, prosper and achieve. However, to be a gardener that transforms their organization and gets the most growth from its stakeholders, a leader has to put in constant and consistent work. 

The Gardener must have a Plan. Before you plant or do anything, the gardener must have a vision of what type of garden they want and what is its purpose. What are you trying to grow? Is it a food garden to provide food? Is it a flower garden to provide beauty? Is it a pollinator garden to attract insects like butterflies and bees?  Is to prevent the land from eroding?  Is it to transform a space? Whatever the purpose the Gardener must know before the work is put in.  The gardener must have an idea what they want their garden to look like in the end. What types of colors? What height of plants? So as a leader  ask yourself what do you want from your school, staff and students?  What is your goal for your school? What is your vision? What does success look like in your school?

Preparation is key. Before you begin a garden, you must gather all the needed materials and resources necessary for your garden to begin. You need to gather your tools and your equipment and the hands and help, if you need help, to build your garden.  You need to gather the plants, seeds, pots, mulch, rocks, and other materials you need to make up your garden. Some people can gather everything at once and complete it all in one big push because they have the resources, equipment, money, and the help.  Others are limited and plan their gardens one step at a time or work in phases to do a little at a time. Without this step, the execution of the plan can fall apart or be difficult. What do you need to make your vision a reality? Do you need the right staff? Do you need volunteer help? Do you need financial resources?

Prep the ground for the best results.  In order to plant seeds. You must prep the ground to receive the seeds. You must till the soil and break up the soil. You must remove barriers and things which may impede the growth of the seeds such as rocks, tree stumps, trash and dead plants.  If the soil is not rich, you may mix in some new soil to boost it up or add some nutrients in the soil. You may even put down a barrier which gives the seeds a chance to grow without other influences or weeds that you can not see at the time from growing. Have you prepared and removed all obstacles to your goals?

You must pull the weeds. Once planted you must maintain and keep up your garden. You must water your garden, care for your plants and you must pull the weeds. The weeds are the influences and distractions which choke the productivity in your garden. Weeds sprout up any and everywhere. Weeds are natural. However, if not addressed, weeds will spread and choke out the rest of the garden by taking away the nutrients. If your organization or school uses people or has people in it …. Weeds can grow. The types of weeds often seen in a school garden are conflicts, gossip, rumors, personality conflicts, disagreements and seeds of discord. As the leader you must pull the weeds as soon as they show up. The longer you wait the more they spread and the more work it takes to pull them up. As a leader you must monitor conflicts and sources of conflict in your school or organization. You can help prevent weeds by using some weed killers. Weed killers are the things that you do to be proactive to prevent conflicts in your staff. Team building, fairness, morale building activities, clear expectations, clear communication, and staff recognitions are great examples of weed spray that can help prevent weeds in your garden.

Picking the right plants. When planting a garden, you must be sure that you choose the right types of plants. There are so many different types of plants that you can plant in your garden. There are fragrant plants, blooming plants, ground cover plants, and different color plants.  You must be sure that plants you choose, fit the garden that you have and the garden that you want. You must make sure that the plants that you have in your garden are suited for the weather and climate. Does your garden get direct sunlight or is in the shade? Is your climate dry with little rainfall or is rainfall abundant?  Some plants will not do well in certain environments. They will not achieve their maximum potential without lots of work and maintenance. Sometimes the gardener can choose the wrong plants and spend too much time maintaining the plant because it is just planted in the wrong location or needs to be moved to another garden. Not all plants will thrive in the garden you plant.  As a leader in your school or organization you make sure that you have and choose the very best staff and people for your team.  You not only have to be sure that you have the best people but the right people for the tasks, the jobs and for the work in your organization. Also as a leader you must recognized that not all programs and initiatives can be work in every school. You must know your community and school.

Master Gardeners must grow too. Gardeners must continue to learn in order to create the gardens they desire and to maintain them. Master Gardeners train and develop their skills.  They read about the plants or seeds they have planted and how to bring out the maximum potentials.  They talk to other gardeners and visit other gardens to learn.  They know that in order to have the best garden, they must be the very best gardener.

As a leader

  • What type of garden are you trying to plant?
  • What is your maintenance schedule and routine for maintaining your garden?
  • Have you identified the weeds and a method of weed control?
  • Do you have the resources to build and maintain the garden you desire?

“Leader ,How does your Garden Grow?”

“Introduction : How does your Garden Grow?” Part 1 of 5

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After

During the summer, as many principals across the world, I spend the time “off” preparing my school building and campus for the new school year and the arrival of staff and students.  I work on curriculum, instructional themes, plot strategies, building improvements, facility upgrades, building partnerships, and even …landscaping. This summer I found myself working on my “Friday “project of improving the front entrance landscaping to make it more visually appealing to our guests, staff and my students.  I made many trips to the local Lowe’s and Home Depot (and made a few friends at both stores). I hauled many, many bags of mulch, gravel, soil and trays of flowers. I spread the fresh mulch, added all the gravel, added edgers, remove dead shrubs, cut tall weeds, and planted new colorful flowers.  And like most principals and teachers… I spent a lot of my own money to make the project happen just right.  Anyone who has ever planted a flower garden, or any garden knows that it is now an easy task …no matter what you may see on television or in a magazine! It is hard work. It requires a lot of thought, planning, effort, countless hours of labor and maintenance. The work can be demanding, tiring, lonely, frustrating but when done correctly it is very rewarding in the end.

As I worked, planned, and watched the vision take shape, I thought to myself that this is a perfect analogy of what being a school leader is like. The leader is the lead gardener and the garden is your school: all of the people, students, strategies commitments, missions and visions. It is the job of the school leader to create a beautiful garden, maintain it, and help it grow to its full potential. The school garden must be carefully planned cultivated, nurtured, and worked to create a garden which everyone can enjoy and benefit.

 The leader toils and works during school breaks and after hours to make sure that their school is ready and growing. The leader continues to nurture their school once the seeds have been planted and school year begins.  They make sure that all the members of their school are supported and cared for so that they can bloom. The leader also recruits help when needed, researches better techniques, and brings in additional material when needed. It is hard work and tedious work, but the leader believes in the garden and knows that the work is worth it. The benefits and rewards are great and are for all. Are you the lead gardener at you school? 

  • Are you the lead gardener for your school or organization?
  • Does your garden need some help or is it prospering?
  • How does your garden grow? Is it healthy?

Read my blog posts and reflect to see “How your garden grows.” Please leave comments so that I can “grow” too.

When to lead with “I”

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There is no “I” in team.  This is true. Leaders are supposed to be selfless. This is true. However there are times when a true leader must use the pronouns of “I” and “My”.  There are times that you must lead with “I”.

For a leader the most important time for them to use “I” is when there has been a mistake or something has gone wrong. When things go wrong, it is very easy for people to shift the blame and blame other people.  There are times that the blame does belong to someone else on your team or someone under your leadership. However, a true will accept the blame and shift the blame focus from their team members.   For a leader you take none of the credit when things go right but you must absorb the blame when things go awry.

The 2018 College Football Championship game between the University of Georgia and Alabama was decided in overtime by one touchdown pass.  The Alabama receiver caught the pass and ran into the end zone due to a missed coverage by a Georgia defensive back.  In the post-game press conference when asked about the game, Coach Smart of Georgia could have pointed the blame at his assistant coaches for making the wrong calls or the players for missing the coverage but he did not do that. In his press conference Coach Smart absorbed all of the blame and heaped all of the praise on his players. True leaders know that the blame or “the buck “always stops with them.

Can you imagine what it would be like for a head coach in his position to do the opposite? What if the head coach blamed the players publically after losses? What if the head coach blamed his staff during press conferences?  Can you imagine what impact that would have on the team and players?  Can you imagine players wanting to play for a coach who did that?

A leader’s job is not just to lead but it is also to protect and support. Leaders have thick skins so that they can absorb and deflect blows and attacks meant for those who follow them. True leaders also know that people will not follow a leader who is always shifting the blame. Team members are more loyal when they know that their leader will protect them and take the blame from them even when they deserve it.  Team members will also be more open and willingly to accept criticism from such a leader. Most importantly team members will work harder and get better for a leader that will make sacrifices for them.

A true leader knows that once you accept the blame or the failure, you can shift effort to finding a solution or getting better.  If you are not willingly to shoulder the blame as a leader then perhaps you are not ready to lead.  Blame finding, blame casting, and finger pointing is wasted time that prevents you from finding solutions and moving forward.

True leaders use the pronouns “I” and “we” instead of “them” or “they”. One is the language of ownership and accepted responsibility and the latter is the language of blame.

Remember in times of blame or mistakes, a leader leads with “I”.