“So….your bloodwork looks okay...But it looks like you are low in iron… Could it be fatigue? Have you really been tired?” queried my primary care physician, Dr. Lui?
Duhhhhh, I was thinking. Dr. Lui knows I am a school leader. And COVID is real.
I remembered that I initiated this call with my doctor. Prior to this call, it was taking longer to get to bed by midnight. And it was excruciating to release the comfort of my bed to make it to a 5 am gym session. When I started each day, I experienced a wave of persistent and understated nausea that continued on for months. I didn’t know if the nausea was onset from some bad dietary choices, acid reflux, or something else I couldn’t pinpoint. And I struggled to focus on anything productive. I seem to have endless lists of things to do in multiple notebooks, on Google Keep, in Trello, on my whiteboard, on stickies, and even in reminders on my Google calendar. The groundhog day of this effect was debilitating.
July 2021 marked 16 months of leading a K1-8 community through COVID. 75% of my time was devoted to making sure people were surviving the thrashing of twin pandemics. We did virtual cooking classes, outdoor parking lot parties, and “hang in there” post-it notes for students and staff alike just to keep people coming back. When I wasn’t devoting my time to ensuring my community was okay--I was sheepishly examining the state of academics--which was laughable at times. Don’t get me wrong--my teaching community, social workers, nurse, and administrators kick things up a 1000% every day--going above and beyond to bring Chromebooks and food boxes to our Scholars homes; creating care packages with workbooks, fidgets, and STEM kits for pickup; hosting tik tok video parties & resilience groups; and more. Unfortunately, we weren’t seeing the math and reading uptick that we were accustomed to, academically.
For so many of my colleagues across the nation, we have found ourselves utterly exhausted and burned out from trying to lead our schools bravely through the fire. While we invested so much of ourselves into being present; standing in the gap for those who dropped the baton; and/or for those who were broken by the traumas of an unapologetic virus that has caused millions of deaths across the globe--few if any checked in to see how we were coping with the unfathomable task of keeping a community physically and emotionally safe.
It is inherently important that you pause and place the oxygen mask on yourself and BREATHE!
I am finding mindfulness to be a great asset to combatting the stresses of my days. Mindfulness is the self-actualization of your state of being. You pause and allow all of the thoughts and emotions to surface throughout your body. You may acknowledge their presence in your consciousness but you shouldn’t be too hard on yourself when those thoughts find themselves competing for your attention. For as simple as 60 seconds you can close your eyes and focus on your breathing and good visualizations to you me calm down.
In one of his meditations, Thich Nhat Hanh, author of You Are Here: Discovering the Magic of the Present Moment, has us consider ourselves a tree. As a tree, we envision ourselves rooted in our ancestors who poured their hearts and souls into the world so that we could be. The emotions of the world will vacillate up and down and around us regardless of how rooted we are. It is a mind-shift to be aware of those emotions and anxieties are temporary and anchorless. We are in control of our minds, bodies, and spirits. We should delight in how liberating it can be to acknowledge that the stresses exist and watch them wash away in the coolness of the winds of life.
My mindfulness practices have been on again and off again. However, with 20+ years in the education game, I am finding myself opening up to the promise guided meditation brings to so many lives across the globe. And for the last six months or so, I have HAD to stop and pause and focus on my breathing because the anxiety of a maddening world becomes too loud at times. Devoting mere minutes a day or week to belly breathing has saved me hundreds of dollars in prescription meds and doctor visits.
One of my favorite people on Earth, Rose Pavlov, founder of IVY Child International, has a great guided meditation called Healing through Hope which provides a booster shot in the arm for our “psychological immune systems.” Rose has also partnered with the Sounds True Foundation and Santosha School of Yoga to launch a monthly virtual healing retreat for BIPOC leaders across the globe. This beautiful convening of hearts and souls has afforded me a sacred space to just “be” as I continue to navigate the peaks and valleys of my journey.
On my follow-up video call with Dr. Lui, one balmy September morning, she beamed with delight. “Whatever you are doing--keep doing it. Your bloodwork and all of your tests are coming back pretty good.”
Admittedly, my nausea was gone. I was sleeping more. And I wasn’t experiencing heart palpitations anymore.
“What are you doing? What’s your secret?” she queried.
Resources for those who are on a Mindful Journey:
Join a group of seasoned charter school leaders for a conversation about the challenges, successes, and opportunities facing schools in the middle of a pandemic. Learn how the fluid landscape of remote and hybrid education is impacting the lives of black and brown students and their families in the greater Boston area.
Dr. Angela Allen, Head of School/CEO at Prospect Hill Academy Charter School
Thabiti Brown, Head of School at Codman Academy Charter School
Craig Martin, Executive Director at Bridge Boston Charter School
Kate Scott, Executive Director at Neighborhood House Charter School
Moderator: Kevin Andrews, Special Advisor to Boston Impact and Founding Headmaster at Neighborhood House Charter School
MASCD is continuing our discussions to support schools and educators around the topic of Racial Equity. Our last MASCD session was about ensuring equity in our districts as we were getting ready to open. Now that we are a few months into the year, we want to keep the conversation going AND celebrate what has worked to support others. MASCD president-elect Matthew Joseph and Texas educator Hedreich Nichols will host this event with our past panelists of dedicated leaders and equity advocates.
Environment Matters! Today's scholars are bombarded by media and messaging across print and digital means. Today's teachers want to ensure that classroom walls reach and teach today's 21st-century scholars. Our students are more likely to benefit from the classroom environment if they are empowered to create content that pushes learning beyond the school building.In the classrooms I have observed over the years, I have found the most successful classroom environments to host:
Highlight Student Work Products that Show Growth AND Exemplary Performance: Students enjoy learning from each other. And they are more engaged and motivated if they know their work is "the star of the show." Some of the most formidable student-work samples came from students who worked incredibly hard to grow based upon teacher feedback and held cultural capital in their classroom. Again—some students are more apt to learn from each other before they may learn from us (smile).
Incorporate Interactive Wall Displays that Scream—"Come Learn With Me": Prior to the launch of morning meetings, some of my early-childhood teachers ask survey questions that are posted on easel paper and will connect to integrated studies later. For example, if you are doing a unit of study on traditional literature, a teacher may inquire which building material would serve as the best defense against an angry wolf who wants to blow your house down. Students are able to find materials in their classroom and put them into a collection jar or draw pictures on Post-it notes and add them to the easel chart. Open-ended questions work well because they solicit a wide range of answers. I have seen teachers also incorporated Gallery Walks, Interactive Word Walls, and Carousels.
Student-Friendly and Student-Generated Learning Tools: Today's classroom-learning-community environment must be a hub for independent process and production while also aiding in supportive collaborative student-engagement experiences. In other words, when students are deep in learning, there must be displays of useful tools such as number lines and number charts to support computational accuracy and process; or a wall of annotated poems by poetic device to generate figurative-language genius among student poets; or even a genius bar with QR codes for digital sites students can use to create their next graphic novel, video documentary on the almost extinct snow leopard, or a focus-group talk with kids living with illnesses aided by ancient Chinese medicine that advance learning beyond the classroom teacher. When teachers empower student voice and agency in the teaching and learning process in the form of tools, resources, and exemplars—magic happens!
Read the full article here:
In the Spotlight: Passion is the Priority
Principal, March/April 2019. Volume 9, Number 4.
NAESP MagazineCraig MartinPrincipal
Michael J. Perkins Elementary
Introducing himself to his fellow 2018 NAESP National Distinguished Principals®, Craig Martin wanted more than anything else to share his passion for the principalship. At South Boston’s Michael J. Perkins Elementary, the challenges his students face are the ones he has to address as school leader. “We’re going to grow—together—beyond anything that comes against us,” he says.
On managing the challenges of poverty and trauma
Each scholar we serve joins us with cultural, intellectual, social, and emotional capital we can engage; their circumstance should never dictate our level of service or care toward them. We use the tools, resources, and networks we have to create access and opportunity for every scholar to thrive within the realm of their giftedness. Additionally, our staff members collectively have participated in more than 100 hours of professional development in trauma-informed and trauma-sensitive practices, self-care, and mindfulness, and [we] created classroom “safe spaces” that encourage student self-efficacy in managing their own emotional or behavioral episodes.
On ensuring family engagement in a commuter school
We make a conscious decision not to allow physical space to serve as a barrier to connection. We use social media and digital tools such as Twitter, Flipgrid, and Google Hangout as a bridge to the real-time gap. During our site council meetings, I host Google Hangouts live so that parents, students, community partners, and/or staff members can participate virtually in our conversations and decision-making. Additionally, our parents and guardians receive an electronic news blast from me biweekly.
On the meaning of being a principal
The role of the principal is to ignite passions rooted in purpose, principles, and possibility. Principals serve as the chief agents of change in our school communities. Guided by the lens of equity, cultural responsiveness, inclusivity, and equality, we are called to position the right staff members in front of our youth; embody and promote our core values and vision; galvanize family and community partners who are willing to invest time, talent, and treasure in that vision; and educate, elevate, and empower each young person to their greatest potential.
On principals’ greatest challenge
The greatest challenge principals face in 21st century America is remaining vibrant and visionary when the challenges of race, gender, class, and economic status meet us at the door each day. Many of our scholars enter our spaces disenfranchised by trauma, homelessness, divorce, substance abuse, domestic abuse, and more. And to a certain degree, so do many of the parents and staff members we serve, as well.
On the most rewarding part of his job
The most rewarding part of my job is having those aha! moments with students and staff. Self-discovery is so powerful—especially when someone strongly questions whether they have the grit to persevere through the challenge of learning something new.
Read the full article here: