The Reflection Pool

Meditation on Selfies

I’ve never been good at selfies. I get the angle wrong, you can’t see the background, the final photo is often one of me looking startled, and well, not my best. And these days, as I get older, I’m rarely satisfied with pictures of myself. I’m fine with the aging thing (well, mostly – rather be less stiff in the morning) but photos, and selfies especially seem to highlight that process. Pro tip: sunglasses and a smile always help.

Selfie culture is interesting. I recently watched one young person take a series of selfies as he was walking along the street, apparently randomly. I guess one of those ended up on SnapChat, the latest in a series of pics that show his best side to his friends and followers. But I don’t want to sound like I’m 100 years old.  I’ve heard those over 50’s (and some younger ones) moaning that no one asks anyone to take pictures anymore. So what? I like selfies. I think they’re fun. They make me laugh, and I love to laugh!

Lisa Neale is a brilliant selfie taker. You can see a lot of them on her Instagram account and she’s even taken some good ones of me! I’ve tried to emulate her, but I got so frustrated with my apparent lack of ability with selfies that I looked up some tips. Most of it seemed to be directed at bloggers or people who want to be Insta-famous. Uh, that’s not me. But I do want friends and family to have fun scrolling through my feed.

On a recent vacation, my partner and I had great fun taking selfies and trying to get them right. I stopped being self conscious in front of other tourists and we took tons until they looked OK.  Me holding the phone, her pressing the button.

We may have finally got it! Teamwork really is better.

Good Leaders Read…A Lot

Educators know that reading is power.  I’ve been reading What Connected Leaders Do Differently by Todd Whitaker, Jeff Zoul, and Jimmy Casas. It’s a solid read with an american focus, and I’ve found some great nuggets.

Here’s one: great leaders read all the time.

Photo Credit: The Fresh Feeling Project* Flickr via Compfight cc

Great leaders also always seek to improve. They want to learn and to get better. They’re never satisfied with good enough. Reading is part of that continuous improvement. How else can you explore new ideas and create new schema?

I read a lot, mostly at night or on the weekends. I have a paper book on the nightstand (no screens before bed!) and spending 15 – 20 minutes winding down helps me on two fronts: I can take my mind away from the whirlwind of the day and read something of interest.

What do you do to amp up your reading?

How Do You Want Families to Feel on the First Day of School?

With thanks to Pernille Ripp for title inspiration.

My nieces and and nephew just started at new schools in Washington, D.C. after a move across the country. They were excited and nervous, as you would expect. And so were my brother and sister-in-law. They didn’t know exactly what to expect either and wanted their kids to have a great first day. As educators, we often forget how parents may feel approaching a new school year.

Photo Credit: baggyjumper via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: baggyjumper via Compfight cc

I’ve recently read some excellent back-to-school posts by amazing educators Jose Vilson, Pernille Ripp and Stephen Hurley about caring for students, planning for the emotional side of the classroom, and co-creating a classroom with students. This stuff is really important!

And yet… we also need to think about families. We might be able to come up with a list of words to describe how we would like them to feel, like welcome, happy, included, or confident. How do our actions actually achieve these?

I was not always the most welcoming teacher or principal. In fact, when I look back over some of the things I did, I cringe. I acted like I knew what was best for students and their families. But I didn’t, a fact that it took me a few years and experiences and the modeling of some really great teacher and principal mentors to realize.

Have you ever done this exercise after a learning session?  “I used to think…. but now I think…” It’s a great way to give yourself permission to leave behind old ways of doing things that were not the best and commit to making a change. So I’ll go: “I used to think that parents should leave me alone and let me do my job, but now I think that if they know how much I value their child and their input, we can do a great job together.”

So what does that mean for the first day of school and welcoming families? How about a big fat smile that stretches your face and no curt or frustrated words? How about having parents bring students to classrooms for the first day (or maybe a first week?) How about free coffee or tea on the playground for adults as they arrive? Expand on these to fit your school and your context.

I’ll let Maya Angelou have the last word with a quote I always need to keep in mind:

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”