growth mindset · Mandy Froehlich · reflections · relationships

Make Every Moment Count

You’re at work. It’s been a tough day. You’ve had a hard lockdown drill, you were just told it’s time for another formal observation and all the extra paperwork that goes along with that, there has been a rash of kids out with the flu, which means getting their work together and planning for their return. You have a pile of work on your desk that needs feedback, late work handed in that really needs to be handed back, and the last kid that handed you a quiz had wiped a booger on it (hey, it happens). You’re wondering what to tackle first in the 25 minutes you have left for prep when you realize you haven’t gone to the bathroom or eaten lunch. Overwhelmed, you look around and one of your neediest kids in your class is walking in your door, eyes fixed on you, looking like he is in trouble…

And in these moments, we have a choice.

One option would be to give them the “now what did you do?” face and be immediately irritated that s/he interrupted the few moments that you had to try to dig out of your piles of work or just take care of your basic human needs. When they start to speak, you could couple that look of irritation with an exasperated-sounding voice and tell them that if what they need isn’t important, they need to get back to whatever or wherever they were supposed to be.

Another option would be to take a deep breath and remember your teacher’s heart. Give the child a clean slate, smile, and look at them like they were just the person that you wanted to see. The choice that you make in that moment could be the only time during the day where that child didn’t feel like they were disliked or trouble or a walking problem. I guarantee that they wouldn’t be in there if they didn’t need you in some way, and should they need to justify the importance to you in comparison to your other duties?

Our job is to teach children. Assessments, feedback, curriculum and data all have their place, but our main goal is to help develop healthy, mindful, happy kids. It doesn’t matter if they are five or 15. It is not our place, no matter how difficult our current situation is (professionally or privately) to allow our baggage to affect the students we serve. They might not understand everything that is happening in your day, nor should they be expected to. Their focus should be on developing their own skills, personalities, and working through their own adversities. They should never be the collateral damage in someone else’s bad day.

That child could have been coming in to tell you they were recognized in another class for doing something amazing and they chose to tell YOU. They could be coming in to tell you they need a hug because they can’t remember the last time they got one. They could be coming in to admit to you they’re suicidal and finally gathered the nerve to ask for help. Your reaction could determine the outcome of that moment.

It’s possible that the child you see coming into the classroom might have challenges at home that you don’t know about and can’t even dream of. That if they truly wrote their story out for you, you wouldn’t even be able to read it because it would be so heartwrenching. This could be any kid in your class at any moment of the day and there’s a good chance you don’t even know. That one smile, from that one moment, could be the entire reason that they come to school. Not only is it your job to know their stories, but it is your entire reason for being a teacher. Create the relationship that brings these kids through in their time of need. And sometimes it might feel like their time of need is every day, and if that’s true, so be it. That is why teaching is more than a profession, it is a calling.

And if you screw up and accidentally allow your irritation to come through? No doubt I’ve allowed my current situation to dictate my reaction to the people around me. However, just like we would expect out of kids, there should be an apology. Say you’re sorry. They might be kids and we might be the adults, but being an adult isn’t an excuse for poor behavior. We are not the “boss” of kids, nor are we above apologizing to them. Being nice, kind, and showing humility does not “undermine our authority”, it shows that you’re human.

It’s so important to be aware enough of what you’re doing during every moment of the day and to watch for these opportunities to build kids up. If you choose option one, that choice is more about you than it is about them. Choose to have moments that end with a smile and a high five. Those kinds of moments are the absolute best part of teaching.

make moment count

growth mindset · leadership · Mandy Froehlich · PLN · reflections · Social Media · Uncategorized

What Is the Point In Blogging?

Lately, I have been asked repeatedly by various people why I blog. I started blogging because one of my good friends, who I have a ton of respect for professionally, told me to. That’s it. It was never an epiphany that I had on my own. Over the course of a lunch, he told me that he felt he needed to blog just to get stuff out of his head. At that point, I actually thought to myself that he must be so much more intelligent than I because there was no way that I’d ever have so much in my head that I’d need to write. I had all the typical reservations about creating a message that would be put out for the world to see. A year and a half later, blogging is one of the areas where I am so thankful that I took the leap and stepped outside my comfort zone as it has really helped me define who I am as an educator.

Why?
Yesterday, I had a meeting with our district Innovation & Leadership Cohort. We worked with George Couros over the summer to set up blog/portfolios. They did their first post with George and I had tried to send out post ideas, but realistically, as the summer began to wind down and we had conferences, back-to-school inservice, and then the beginning of the year, I had a feeling that if something had to go, it was going to be that. I knew that because when I started blogging, it was the first to be put aside for the next day or week because I didn’t “need” it. And as we are now well into the meat of the school year, as I looked around at the exhausted faces in front of me at that meeting, I felt incredibly guilty asking them to do one more thing. I know that we often run our rockstar teachers ragged because we know that they will do what’s best for students, but I really felt like this was something that might help them instead of being just one more thing. I tried to give them some of the “whys” behind why they would spend their valuable time on blogging, and they are as follows:

I give back to my PLN
I feel like this is one of the most overlooked reasons to blog, but I often felt like I was taking from my PLN and not giving back. Even though this isn’t the reason I blog, it is a great side effect. People often miss that a PLN is a community of learners and in order to receive you need to give. While I never expect my PLN to read it, I do feel like even if one person a week reads a post along with my interactions on Twitter, I am at least contributing to my PLN community.

I have developed my core beliefs
By really working on my reflection skills, I was able to develop what I consider to be my core beliefs about education. I only realized that I was even doing this after I had written awhile and noticed some patterns in my own thinking. I can now rattle these beliefs off at any point, and I bounce every decision I make off of them. Developing these beliefs has also made me more engaged in my profession. I know what I stand for. It is incredibly powerful to understand what it is that makes you tick and holds you up when it comes to certain ideas and concepts in education, especially in the face of adversity. There are times when these beliefs are my lifeline and assure me that I am making the right decisions when they align to these philosophies. I am also more bound to my thinking when I write about it and put it out there for the world to see. Similar to writing down actionable goals, I feel like if I want to be who I say I am, I need to live the ideas that I write on my blog.

I am able to create space in my head
When I realized this was happening, it officially dawned on me what my mentor was talking about. I described it to the Cohort as being able to get something off my mind, but it’s definitely not only when I need to vent. If I am turning something over in my mind, trying to reason through it, blogging forces me to get it written down. I need to make it a coherent thought in order to share it out, and that takes a significant amount of working through the issue before I can do that. Once I have done this, I am able to stop thinking about it chaotically in my head, and therefore, create some space. This is something I developed over time as I practiced effective reflection and putting my thoughts into writing. Creating space has been what keeps me blogging.

Tips
Below are a few questions and tips that I’ve been asked about blogging that I thought might be helpful for someone just starting out.

What if I write about something everyone already knows and I look stupid?
Would you ever tell your students to be careful about what they say in collaborative groups so they don’t look dumb? I didn’t think so.

This question is easy to get over when you begin to realize that you should be blogging for yourself. Even this post, which might seem like I’m writing it as being informational for a reader, is really about me getting my thoughts together about blogging. The next time someone asks me, I will be able to cohesively explain all these reasons and tips. While writing to give back to my PLN is important, I really write for me. Because I do this, it doesn’t matter if someone knows what I know or not because I am on my own learning journey. If they didn’t know, awesome. If they did, hopefully, they can bring me along faster and help me out with what they know.

Also, awhile back a teacher shared this video with me and I have found it to be true over and over, especially when I go to other districts to teach something about technology. There are always people who know how to create an amazing Hyperdoc and someone who is still trying to figure out how to get to Google Drive. There will always be someone who knows more than me, and always someone who knows less in certain areas.

Where do you find the time?
When something is important, I will make the time. Sometimes, I use Voxer or the voice recording feature in Google Keep during my commute to record my thoughts and type it up later. I have also used speech-to-text while in Google Docs to speak my post, usually with some major word choice issues that need to be fixed, but I can essentially copy it into a blog post when I am able. I have written parts of posts in the grocery store checkout line and walking to my car from work. I do it wherever I can. I am now able to write fairly quickly, although it has taken me practice to get here.

What do you use for a site?
I use WordPress, but there are many other sites depending on what style you want. Blogger, Wix, Weebly, and Webs all have great blog features.

How do I get people to read it?
Tweet it out, put it on Facebook, post it on LinkedIn. If you think certain people will like it, mention them. If you think it applies to certain PLN groups you’re in, hashtag it. When you begin, you will not get 500 people a day reading your blog, but remember, that doesn’t matter because you are writing it for you, anyway.

What do I write about?
It depends on what you want to write about. My friend, Rachelle, writes posts that are about how she uses technology in her classroom. The posts rock. They are super practical. My blog is usually ideas and reflections that I’m working through. Sometimes, they are about leadership or experiences I had with my students that I’m now looking at through an administrative lens. We each wish we could incorporate the other’s style into our own. My posts stem from articles I read, conversations I have had or overheard, or interactions with people both positive and negative. I also keep lists of potential topics that I haven’t fully thought through, but are concepts where I would like to spend more time exploring my own thinking.

The amount of professional growth I’ve experienced by blogging has completely taken me by surprise, but now that I have made this discovery, I am fully committed to continuing my reflections. Experience has taught me that there is power in becoming a true reflective professional. I have discovered my core beliefs which defines who I am as an educator, and I’m able to create extra space in my head to organize my thoughts. It is one of the most valuable tools I have to continue my own professional growth.

believing in yourself

Climate · Culture · growth mindset · innovation · Innovator's Mindset · leadership · Mandy Froehlich · PLN · professional development · reflections

The Ability to Change: It’s not about the technology

Today, I was at a Technology Director’s meeting. I know it may not sound riveting exactly, but it is one of the best cross-district meetings I attend. Basically, we get a bunch of super smart, incredibly kind and collaborative people in a room and we attempt to solve the world’s problems. My favorite part? This particular group begins almost every answer to a tech question with a focus on learning instead of tech. It makes my heart happy.

At one point, the question was raised regarding strategies for helping people deal with the constant technology changes both within schools and the growth of technology in general. I had spent a great deal of time last year and over the summer thinking about this and reaching out to my PLN to bounce ideas off of them, and what I came up with was a little bit of what we have been implementing at the beginning of this year, and it is also where I have seen the most changes in some of the teachers I work with. What I have noticed over the last few years of working with people and technology is that the ones that are the readiest for change have certain characteristics in common, and there are things that districts can do to help support teachers and admin in these areas. The part in all this that I think is the most interesting is that we are trying to get people comfortable with technology change, but it is not about the technology at all. It is about their ability to accept change in general. We are focusing on the wrong aspect of technology change if it is the technology we are concentrating on.

These characteristics are as follows:

Mindset

It’s more than Growth Mindset. Most likely Innovator’s Mindset. Maybe there’s even one step further…a Teacher’s Mindset. Knowing that change is inevitable and will continue to happen whether they accept it or not because our students are constantly changing, their needs are changing, their experience in the world is constantly changing. It doesn’t mean they like every change that comes down the pipe, but they pick their battles based off from what they feel is not good for students. They are also naturally reflective people (which, to me, is part of mindset), and their reflection goes beyond wondering if the lesson went well. They will also ask:

“Were my students engaged? Empowered?”
“Did each student get what they needed when they needed it?”
“Is there anything more I can do to support them? Help them enjoy their learning?”
“Are my expectations high enough?”

These questions don’t change much for an administrator. If you exchange “student” for “teacher”, they are actually identical.

Adaptability

People who are able to accept change are adaptable. We tell students that part of their career readiness skills is adaptability, but it is difficult to actually teach adaptability in a world where procedures and policies keep people safe (sane) and give us some controlled chaos. Through raising four of my own kids and being a teacher, I realized that kids actually LIKE structure. They like to know what is going to happen, and it makes them feel safe if they know what is expected. The same goes for when we become adults. Nothing will make a teacher more upset quicker than a new initiative that they haven’t been trained on because they don’t know what to expect or how to begin.

Anything that would work on our adaptability skills will take us out of our comfort zone. So, for some people, unless they have been regularly forced outside their comfort zone either by their own choice or by some sort of adversity, might not develop the skills to adjust to new conditions or environment as well as others. I believe that people can develop and work on their adaptability skills by pushing themselves to learn outside their comfort zones. Focusing on adaptability as a skill that we want teachers and admin to develop is the first step. Asking them to self-reflect on their skills would be the second, and then regular nudges to step outside their comfort zone, and supporting them when they do it, would be the next. This might actually be learning about and integrating technology into their classrooms, but the adaptability will come as they become more comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Professional Engagement

This might be one of the issues I’ve been noticing the most lately, and I only figured out it was a thing years ago after I had been disengaged, then subsequently re-engaged, from mine.

I was reading the School Leaders Dunk Tank by Rick Jetter and Rebecca Coda, and it discussed how people can become adversarial when they feel like they feel like they have not been supported and, therefore, develop feelings of hurt. The hurt turns into resentment, and that resentment infiltrates many other parts of their professional life. You could easily replace adversarial with disengaged. Disengaged professionals begin to dislike their jobs because they feel like they are no longer making a difference. They think that kids begin to do things to them “on purpose” just to irritate them, or they take new district initiatives as personal vendettas. But, they absolutely worst part of no longer being engaged is that they forget that they are there for students, and the difference they make in their lives every day. And if you’re disengaged, the positive difference that they got into teaching to make can then become a negative one.

I have been speaking with teachers about the concept of being disengaged, and the truly reflective ones can see where they have begun this transformation as well. I wholeheartedly believe that all of them can see it, some of them are just more willing to admit it than others. Noticing these parts of oneself is the first step to changing them. We have also been working on a “Back to Basics” initiative in our district. We have been trying to re-engage teachers with activities to help them remember why they got into teaching to begin with. For example, at the beginning of the year, we had all the teachers participate in a Flipgrid that asked them why they teach. We have also been focusing, in our high school, on personalized PD, not only because it is the right way to allow teachers to learn, but because we want them to remember what it’s like to be curious and love what you learn again. Back to basics.

Counting Your Initiatives

This one is a district/building level issue. I worked with a district recently who said they had five initiatives. When I heard that I thought, “Whoa, only five? Not bad!” But, the fact was that when I expanded those initiatives, there were 53 initiatives within the five overarching initiatives that were being implemented. Being adaptable and willing to change is one thing, but people cannot be overloaded and then chastised for not changing with those kinds of crazy expectations. The perception of your ability to change should not be dependent on how willing you are to go with the flow when there is an exorbitant number of things on your plate. District leaders need to be reflective enough of their own expectations to know if what they are asking for is even reasonable.

change 2

Nobody would argue that change is inevitable. In speaking with a colleague the other day, she mentioned how our students, when they are parents, will have a better idea how to work the current technology than most current parents do now just because they grew up with it. The only issue with that is that the technology in 15-20 years is not going to look anything like it does now. Which means, if education professionals are still teaching then, the technology that they’re working with isn’t going to be nearly the same. We can’t focus on technology when we are focusing on change. We need to focus on the ability to accept and grow with change. The ability to work with the changing technology, with that mindset, will come.

growth mindset · leadership · Mandy Froehlich · PLN

Allowing Fear to Write Your Story

I truly believe that our stories make us who we are. Our experiences come together to help us determine how we will react to situations, treat the people around us, and the path we choose to move forward. It’s one of the reasons that teaching is so complicated. There is never an easy way to account for people’s stories and how they affect their learning or the path they’ve put themselves on.

I had two experiences this week that were eye-opening while I was presenting at the #NetX17 conference in Texas. Even though these conversations came from two different people who didn’t know each other at two completely separate times, to me, they were so closely related that it was difficult to ignore.

First, I met Trevor Regan. Trevor speaks about failure and fear, how our brain is wired to make us hesitant to put ourselves out there and take risks, and how purposeful, positive reinforcement can change the way that we react to a situation. Our brains truly are amazing, and word choice can be a powerful weapon for both good and evil. While I learned a ton from Trevor, this concept really stuck with me:

Don't try to defeat fear, dance with it. When we appreciate the role of fear, we can thank it and move on anyway.

Fear keeps us from having amazing experiences when we are afraid to try in the first place. It made me reflect on my fear of getting up in front of people, and how I had to take 18 credits of public speaking in college just to gain control. People often ask me how I “got rid” of that fear, and my answer is that I haven’t. I still have it all the time. I need to take deep breaths before I present, still doubt my abilities, still sweat and shake, and I still get up and do it because I have learned that the feeling of working with people in that capacity is more important and rewarding than my fear and anxiety of public speaking. It’s definitely not gone, it’s just controlled. I danced with this fear, acknowledged it, stepped on it’s toes a little, and do my best to let it go as much as possible. The important part is that I persevered because I chose that I wouldn’t let that fear keep me from something I really wanted, but I had to make a conscious choice for that to happen, had to work at it, regularly failed but kept going, and I still actively continue to fight against it every single time I get up to speak.

That same day, I was having a discussion with a friend of mine about our stories and when choices need to be made. He said, “You need to decide how you’re going to write your story. Don’t allow it to be written for you.” This really hit home for me. It’s easy to feel in control when times are good, but in times when things are difficult the amount of effort to take control can seem insurmountable. Between those two conversations, it dawned on me that all the times that I have had surprising, positive outcomes from decisions, it has been when I have gone through something difficult, struggled, and have decided to not allow fear of the unknown to dictate my life. But, every single time this has happened, it has been me that has had to decide that I was going to be the one to take control of my situation. When I was a teacher and I began to disengage from my profession after five years, I had to take the bull by the horns and figure out what I needed in order to be passionate about my work again. There was no district, administrator or curriculum that was going to do that for me. It was scary because I had to put myself out there and admit that I had been relying on other people to make me feel happy and successful. Again, and example of when I made the decision and took control of my story.

eleanor roosevelt

So often we sit back and think about everything that needs to change for us to be happy or successful, but fear keeps us from taking control and making those things happen, so we allow our stories to be written for us because then we have someone else to blame and a reason to complain. Then we have no reason to be afraid of failure because we didn’t try in the first place. Change is so difficult, but it’s also a constant. We have a choice about how we react to that change. Are we allowing change to happen to us or are we using change to work to our advantage? Does the change keep us living in whatever fear we’ve allowed our brains to hang on to, or do we decide how our stories will turn out? It doesn’t really matter what kind of change it is, whether it’s the fear of integrating more technology into your lessons, changing jobs, making a personal life change, writing a book…although there may be different levels of anxiety for each of these, if we never try, we have a 0% chance of being successful and we are allowing either our fear or other people write our stories for us. We all have the chance to make decisions that will ultimately change our trajectory. We just need to be brave, persevere, and take control.

growth mindset · leadership · Mandy Froehlich · reflections

The Art of Transparency

Reaching the delicate balance of transparency can be a tricky task. In all the districts that I’ve worked, I’ve never experienced the kind of complete transparency that everyone would like to see. Mostly, I think this is due to so many factors that go into being transparent that it’s difficult to have all of those components in place. You can’t just “be transparent” and everyone is happy. There is a balance.

Transparency is the releasing of information in a way that stakeholders know what is happening, the “why” behind decisions being made, and how exactly it will affect them in their roles. Many times I’ve heard how there should be “complete transparency”, but we never really define what that means, and it seems to a term that is hard to quantify. How much information is necessary for complete transparency? What crosses the lines into too much information, the wrong kinds of information, or even privacy lines? The balance for transparency comes when there is a healthy mix between the information that stakeholders are receiving and the trust that stakeholders have in the people making the decisions.

This became the most obvious to me when I was in a technology integrator and spent time working around administration, even though I wasn’t one myself, and then the rest of the time I spent in classrooms with teachers. Inevitably, I would see decisions made on the administrative side that made sense with the information and data that they had, but would then hear teachers grumble about decisions made because they didn’t understand how the admins had come to those conclusions. I remember this happening to me when I was a teacher in other districts as well. A top-down decision would be made and I would think, “What were they thinking?!?” because I didn’t have the information that brought the admins (or decision-making committees) to those conclusions.

Worst case scenario, of course, is no transparency, which I have experienced as well. A lack of any kind of transparency (ie, when you find important decisions that were made buried deep down in board meeting minutes and only knew because you read them). A lack of transparency breeds distrust. It’s like saying, “I don’t trust you to come to the right conclusions with this information.” And if someone isn’t forthcoming with info, then we immediately want to know WHAT the info is and WHY they wouldn’t tell us.

While I am a ginormous advocate for consistently giving the why, I think that there is always the issue of giving too much information to where stakeholders begin to tune out as well. At some point, we need to trust people to do their jobs and make the best decisions possible with the information they are given. In every district I’ve been in, without fail, if people do not trust the decision-makers, they will desire MORE transparency to decide for themselves if their decisions are valid. After all, when someone withholds information/reasons/data/the “why”, they are already making a decision for you by not providing you with the information that you need to make the best decision for yourself. If we trust these people, we are more likely to be ok with this than if we don’t trust them.

So, there is more to transparency than just giving out information. There is the right timing, the right amount of information, and addressing multiple possibilities of decisions & how one was made…but also the question of “how much does our staff trust us?” (with an honest reflection on this question, because if your staff doesn’t trust you, you’re already not supporting them properly). If there is a lack of trust, more transparency will be needed to support decisions, and ultimately, this transparency will help build the rapport and trust necessary for stakeholders to ultimately be accepting of the people making the decisions.

Transparency

growth mindset · innovation · leadership · Mandy Froehlich · professional development · reflections · relationships

Sit Down You’re Rocking the Boat

If I could choose one of my goals in which I was guaranteed to make happen prior to leaving education, it would be to create leaders who are engaged in their profession, energized to create meaningful change, and are willing to spend more time outside their comfort zones. I want people to love their jobs. I want them to make the people around them love their jobs. Students are watching our EVERY MOVE. If we model our love for learning and education, the students will most likely follow suit.

To me, to support teacher leaders in reaching the level where they feel this way about their profession and working with kids would be the ultimate accomplishment. Ideally,maslows-hierarchy-of-needs every education professional should have the potential and motivation to do just this, but I honestly think that there is a hierarchy of needs that needs to be met to reach professional “actualization”. We often talk about Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs when looking at students and why or why not they might be successful in their learning, but I think that when you look at adults and their professional lives, a similar case could be made.

So, for example, if a teacher struggles with belonging in their grade level team, how does that affect their ability to try something new or think innovatively? When you spend so much of your time outside your comfort level just by being with the people that you work closely with, are you willing to push outside your comfort zone in other areas?

Another example: if potential leaders don’t feel like their jobs are secure or they don’t feel safe in their jobs for various reasons, how much can we expect that they are willing to become engaged in their profession, energized to create meaningful change, and willing to spend more time outside their comfort zones? There are many reasons that teachers might not feel safe (physically, mentally, and emotionally) even though that might sound ridiculous at a school. I worked in a school where some students with behavior issues were becoming violent, and teachers and paraprofessionals were being bruised and injured by students on a regular basis. The anxiety of being injured by an angry student could affect the feeling of being safe, and I’m positive that this is not a specific incidence, but instead more commonplace than the public would even believe.

I’ve also been involved in situations where employees are nervous for their jobs for various reasons that might or might not have to truly do with their performance (political, cultural, budget cuts, errant leadership). If any employee doesn’t feel like their positions are safe, or they feel like they could be “fired” for trying something new, they will be less likely to rock the boat. Unfortunately, this is exactly what we want these leaders to do, whether they reside in administration roles or teacher roles. We WANT them rocking the boat, thinking innovatively, pushing others to do the same. Yet, if they don’t feel safe to try new ideas, don’t feel safe to fail because their jobs are on the line, they will be less likely to do these things.

Many issues that can stop a potential leader from moving forward and reaching a level of professionalism that would keep them fulfilled and provide them with opportunities to create real change reside within issues in the climate and culture of the district. Realistically, shifts in climate and culture need to happen in order to truly give everyone this chance, but while they are happening and everyone is shifting into the new normal, here’s my question:

How can you create much-needed change in a classroom or district when in order to stay safe you feel you need to maintain the status quo, but to create the change you need to rock the boat?

I’m not actually sure I have the answer to this. So many times I feel districts are wrapped up in every new initiative that they subscribe to, that they forget to go back to the basics. (climate, culture, mindset, effective leadership, embedded support). They forget that every teacher, like every student, has different needs and personalities, and in order to bring them up to being the professionals that they desire to be, we need to give them the support they need to not only function, but then excel as well. So, what can a professional do to move forward when their basic needs aren’t being met? Is there a way to recognize those needs and get them met even if the source is external? As a district administrator, how can I find these needs and support the staff to create the leaders that rock the boat? And how do I find and support the teachers who have been told to sit down so often, that they don’t remember what it’s like to stand up?

gates

growth mindset · leadership · Mandy Froehlich · PLN · professional development · reflections · relationships

Celebrating Our Strengths to Support Others

I like to think that I subscribe to the humble-teacher way of thinking. I did not get into education for recognition or to tell people how great I am. I truly believe that the most awesome people I know show their greatness in their actions and never need to tell a soul how fantastic they truly are. That being said, there are times when it’s important to recognize your strengths. First, taking the time to identify your strengths means you also recognize your weaknesses, and it’s as important to know one as it is the other. Second, knowing what you excel at allows you to be aware of what you bring to the table when you collaborate with others and use your powers for good. So many times I work with teachers who are bashful when I ask them what their strengths are because they don’t want to toot their own horn, but there is definitely a difference between bragging and being willing to recognize your talents and share your ideas. Being humble and sharing your strengths are not mutually exclusive. The more I’ve moved to realizing that I do have ideas to share that would help someone else, on Twitter for example, the more support professionally I’ve received in return. Similar to the idea of if you put positive thoughts out into the universe positivity will come back to you. ‘Er something like that.

I used to have a friend that told me I hedge too much, and I ALMOST started this blog post with “I’m not good at many things, but…” which isn’t true. I do have talents. While it’s easier for me to blog about this now, it has taken me a LONG TIME and a significant amount of effort to get to this point because, I’ve found, that in general, we learn about our strengths and weaknesses best from going through a challenging situation. True reflection sometimes contains some personal and/or professional soul searching. But no matter how we come by these realizations, it’s time that we all start to wear what we know to be our great qualities at as a badge of honor so we can continue learning in the areas where we haven’t earned our badges yet. For example, a few of my strengths are as follows:

I’m an all or nothing girl – Everything I do, I am 100% in. There’s no middle ground… there’s no halfway. While some people might call this obsessiveness, I like to call it tenacity or relentlessness (or at least when people talk about me, those are the nice terms they use). The other day I was in a book study group with a teacher that I’ve known for awhile. She read a quote, and then turned to me and said, “This quote reminded me of  you. How you always seem to move forward even when someone tells you it’s impossible, and you just keep going, no matter what.” Well, this is where that strength comes in. When some people would be willing to let go and would tell me to move on, I hang on anyway, believing that something amazing can come from having faith in and working toward something that seems improbable. The things that are most worth our time and effort are rarely easy, and they typically only come with sacrifice and diligence especially when it appears they are heading toward failure. What this means: if you’re working on a difficult project and you want someone who is going to stick with you to the bitter end no matter the outcome, I’m your gal.

I can read people like a book – Because of my challenging childhood, I learned to read people very early on. I never walk into a room without taking stock of the climate of the room and the people in it. I am particularly good at watching the people I care about and knowing when they’re having an off day. This strength allows me to change my communication style to what people need at the moment which in turn allows me to make deeper connections, and the massive amount of value I put onto the relationships I create is another one of my strengths.

Like I said, knowing these strengths allows me also to recognize areas where I could use additional learning opportunities, even in relation to my perceived strengths. For example, lately I’ve been looking more into implementing balance into my life. It’s very difficult to be 100% into everything you’re doing and not find that your attention needs to be in 100 different places at once, and that’s not healthy. I also need to get better at recognizing that not everyone is like me, and I can’t push expectations that I place on myself onto other people. For example, realizing that just because I take on an additional project at work without a second thought, doesn’t mean that everyone else is going to be willing to do that as well, or just because I’m willing to take the time to create an additional learning opportunity for teachers doesn’t mean that they are going to be willing to partake in it, and that doesn’t make them poor professionals.

We have put so much time and effort in using the word reflection, but don’t take the time to do it often enough, and when people do, it usually revolves around a post on something we need to improve on. This is important, of course, but so is recognizing the great things that all of us bring to the table. When we recognize someone else’s rockstar qualities, it inspires us to be better than we already are. So, take some time and truly think about it. What are your strengths? How do they relate to you’re to-do list of learning either personally or professionally? Because this kind of reflecting is not easy, but it is definitely important when we desire to grow as a whole person.

steve jobs