What is Your WHY?

It’s easy to give advice, but sometimes it’s hard to take it. Today, we are four weeks into the school year and things are settling down and ramping up, all at the same time. If your an educator you know what I mean. On one hand, it’s exciting to have four weeks under our belts. Routines and procedures are in place and we are mentally and physically into the groove. On the other hand, it’s overwhelming because I expected to be further along. I feel like I am falling behind with the day to day business of running a school. I’m getting caught in the day to day details and finding it hard to breathe. My list continues to grow: Meet with teachers to set goals, schedule pre conferences and evaluations, walk through observations, meet with scholar clubs, prep for site council meeting, review pre test data, audit class lists, staff meeting agenda, 504 prep, review integrated action plan, lighthouse team calendar invites, PBIS lesson plan checklist, and so on.

How can I pause and reset? I was lost in my whirlwind struggling to be the support my teachers, staff and scholars needed. Thanks to Jess Ledbetter for posting Administrators: Be The Support We Need and to Beth Maloney for posting Dear Principal, I was refocused on my WHY. We began this year by sharing WHY we do what we do. Mine is simple – My WHY is to positively impact teaching and learning.

Today I visited 35 classrooms and left thank you notes. Here is what I learned:

8:41 – Teachers need you to just listen, be present and listen.

8:47 – I asked a new fourth grade scholar how things were going. She responded, “It’s just awesome! I can’t place what it is, but it’s awesome here.” Change can be good.

9:09 – A fifth grade teachers shared her new learning and mistakes with scholars creating a safe space for thinking and learning.

9:12 – A smile can make a scholar’s day. Stop and make someone’s day.

9:20 – Fifth grade scholars track their mastery of place value, adding and subtracting decimals and multiplication, while reflecting on their learning using a plus / delta chart. Empower scholars to lead their learning.

9:34 – The moment a scholar realizes his teacher believes in him is priceless. Positive feedback is powerful. Please tell scholars how proud you are of what they do.

9:37 – A fifth grade teacher shared with me how a parent / scholar meeting went and what their next steps are. Love that we are creating partnerships.

9:43 – Sometimes a scholar might need to take a walk down the hall and smell the popcorn filled air to find their happy place. Love it when teachers have built relationships with their scholars and know what they need. I also love Popcorn Friday.

9:54 – A special education teacher shares an academic success with one of her scholars and how important parent involvement was in making it happen. Please reach out to your parents and include them in this process.

10:37 – Some days it is super exciting to have your principal walk through your first grade class. Meanwhile for some scholars a button sewn into their pocket might be too much for them to handle. Please take time to know who your scholars are.

10:50 – Some scholars need a calm space in their class to move and regulate their bodies. Please give them this space.

11:01 – Music and videos give scholars different ways to access learning.

11:25 – Sometimes it’s a big deal for a first grade scholar to use her words and say, “Hi!” Don’t miss out on these opportunities.

11:32 – Flexible seating creates a safe space for scholars to learn.

11:38 – Having the choice to sit under your desk and read might be the best part of your day.

11:48 – The moment a second grade scholar makes a connection with his teacher and he beams with pride when he reads and answers the question. The look in his eyes when she said she was proud of him was priceless.

12:15 – A fifth grade scholar came and found me at lunch duty to say, “Hi, how are you doing today?” I responded, asked how he was and if he was okay. He responded, “Yes, I just wanted to make sure I said hi to you and check in to see how your day was going.”

1:06 – It’s a big deal to go to the prize box in kindergarten. It’s even more fun when you can show your principal which prize you picked.

1:15 – It’s powerful when kindergarten scholars are tracking their WIG (Wildly important Goals) in their leadership binders. Wow!

These are just a few of the moments that grounded me back in my WHY, today. I still have my list, but instead of being overwhelmed with it, I am at peace with it and recognize my energy can impact an entire school. Moving forward I will be more mindful to walk away from my list and reconnect with my WHY in classes with teachers and scholars. I love that I get to do this important work with amazing teachers, staff, scholars and parents.

What is your WHY?



Jen Robinson

Jen Robinson

Maricopa, Arizona

Hello, my name is Jen Robinson. I have been in education for over 20 years. I began teaching in Buffalo, NY in 1992, as a pre-school special education teacher. My experience ranges from primary grades through high school. My husband and I moved to Arizona in 2001, where we were fortunate enough to teach at the same school. In 2004, I achieved National Board Certification and currently support candidates. In 2011 I completed my Ed.D. in Leadership and Innovation. My dissertation research focused on supporting National Board candidates through their certification process. During the 2012-2013 school year, I completed my National Board renewal process. It was humbling and very powerful to step back into a classroom. I am currently an elementary principal. I am excited and hopeful for the new school year. I also serve on the Arizona Teacher Solutions Team where we are solutions focused in an effort to transform and elevate the teaching profession.

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