Who Is Waiting on Me?

The legacy of a leader is not in what they do, but what the people they serve do because of their leadership.

– George Couros

My colleague Jeff Nelson (@jeffnelsonTLI) tweeted this out a while back:

Contemplating his first question, reminded me of a video I wrote a post about back in August of pop singer Jessie J’s interaction with a young fan who she brought up on stage to sing with her at a concert in Romania (click here to view the video). There are a ton of these types of moments between a singer/band and a fan posted online but this one really stuck out to me. Really good teaching looks like what we see Jessie J doing throughout this exchange!

In the clip we not only see many parallels of a master teacher and a student as I shared in my original blog post, we can also see examples of what effective support looks like and what great instructional leadership looks, feels, and sounds like!

I decided to share the video with my colleagues on our Teaching, Learning, and Innovation team. Before viewing the video I asked the team, “What does really good support of the staff we serve look like?” Click here to view our answers! After viewing the video we added a few more things to that list.

I repeated the same activity with our building principals with the essential question being, “What does really good instructional leadership look, sound, and feel like?” Here are their perspectives on that question. They also had new things to add after watching that video and we engaged in a wonderful conversation around how Jessie J surveyed the crowd looking for the fan that she would be bringing up on the stage. What was she looking for? What caused the timing to be just right for this moment for that young fan? What steps did Jessie J take to ensure success and be there in the small moments of failure that caused the fan to have the courage to carry on? How did she masterfully build relationship with her “student” so that she KNEW she could succeed? How does the example we fall connect with our roles within a teacher’s inquiry cycle?

…and that brings me back to the George Couros quote at the beginning of this post. “The legacy of a leader is not in what they do, but what the people they serve do because of their leadership.” Whether we’re teachers, support staff, or instructional leaders how is our leadership serving others in such a way that they take on new & courageous journeys. Who are our next “superstars” just waiting for us to recognize something within them and encourage them to take a new leap?

Who is out there waiting on me?

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mirrors vs windows

Do you look into a mirror or through a window?

Brad Brown –
PSESD’s Executive Director, Learning, Teaching and Family Support

Brad Brown (@onebbrown), is a professional colleague I’ve only recently met and yet who challenges my thinking each and every time we are together. Don’t you just love relationships like that?!

At a recent regional learning and teaching network meeting he challenged those in the room to tackle racial equity…by looking into a mirror and not through a window. Let that sink in for a moment.

How much stronger would all of our systems be if we took this approach towards any issues before us? Looking through a mirror causes me to examine my own role within a system so that I can create change from that which is within my control. I can play a role to help expand the capacity for change and solutions. I can ask questions such as, “How can I play a role in a solution?” “Am I a part of creating the barriers or issues within the system?” “Where can I lead?” How much more productive are those questions versus passively looking out through a window and only seeing dead ends such as, “If only we had…” “I wish so and so would do something…” “Our system is broken.”

Thank you Brad for this simple but profound question.

Looking through the mirror via Brad’s phone and seeing many possibilities
to continue to lead on behalf of all students in our wonderful district!

…plot twists are fun ways of creating power moments.

After reading The Power of Moments by Chip Heath & Dan Heath earlier this year, I have been looking for opportunities to create powerful moments within the teams I work with.

One such opportunity occurred this week.

Our Teaching, Learning, and Innovation (TLI) team meets formally once a month to connect. Although we like to have fun mixing things up at each meeting – using different sharing protocols – our routine is pretty consistent with each member sharing their current work projects with the group.

As I began preparing for our meeting I was struck by how much each team member has been giving of themselves lately. There’s a lot going on in our small district at the moment and we’ve all been going a million miles an hour in our support roles.

It was the perfect moment for a “plot twist” – striking the normal routine of sharing and creating what the Heath brothers refer to as a moment of “Elevation.”

Hmmmm…what could we do that would “rise above the routine” and “make us feel engaged, joyful, surprised, motivated?”

I came up with this simple idea: Let’s take time to be creative and encourage one another!

I set the room up with blank paper and several different types of drawing materials. Fun music was playing as the TLI team arrived. This change of scenery already had everyone intrigued. Some were excited as they entered the space and others were skeptical but this plot twist caught their attention immediately!

The room is set!

After a bit of introduction and acknowledgement of the hard work being done, each team member drew a name out of a box. The task was to create a picture of the team member whose name was drawn using any materials of our choosing. A time limit of five minutes was given and at the end of our creation time the next task was to write a word or phrase to describe the teammate drawn. We then passed the posters around the table – each adding our own word or phrase to describe each of our teammates.

Our final step was to share our original drawing and read the wonderful encouragement left to our team member.

We laughed, cheered, and literally clapped after each poster was shared. Within a thirty minute period our bodies had relaxed, encouragement was given & received, and a new sense of energy filled the room.

A powerful moment was made. Can’t wait to build the next one!

The Fife Public School Teaching, Learning, & Innovation Team!
Continue reading …plot twists are fun ways of creating power moments.

…sometimes are not as fun as others.

Last week I sent an email I had been dreading to send letting staff know that we wouldn’t be able to host a summer school for elementary students this year.

I knew this news would cause sadness and disappointment as our teachers care so much for their students and have loved this opportunity to serve them in this extended learning opportunity – and thus it was hard being the one to have to share the news.

Sometimes leadership can be lonely; sometimes you have to make tough decisions and share hard things. Sometimes you know you will be causing disappointment and sometimes you wish you could ‘pass the buck’ to someone else.

…and sometimes hard & courageous choices lead to powerful moments. Within one minute of clicking “send,” I received this reply from one of our fabulous first grade teachers:

Thank you for all you do!!!

The power of well-timed, heartfelt words. They matter all the time.

So grateful to work in such a place.

…don’t let the moment pass!

We are currently experiencing snow in our forecast and it reminded me of a valuable lesson a third grader taught me several years ago.


The day had started out like any other school day and we were going about our morning literacy routine. Students were reading to themselves, reading with a partner, working on words, working on writing, or meeting in a small group or one-on-one conference with me. Lots of activity and focus with a room full of 8-9 year olds busy about the room.

I looked up at the end of conferring with a student and saw what I thought were a couple of snowflakes outside. I walked toward the window to get a closer look. The sky literally appeared to have opened up a giant cloud of snow right over our school. It was a giant surprise – nothing had been forecasted – and yet big, powdery drops were falling outside our classroom. Without even giving it a thought I said, “Grab your coats. We’re going outside!”

It took my students a moment to realize what was happening but when they did a screech came out of several mouths and jackets were adorned in record time.

We had a little plaza-type area outside of our room and that’s where we gathered – faces up towards the sky, waiting for snowflakes to dance on our tongues.

Ever on the watch for a great photo, I ran around snapping the pics above when I ran into one of my students with huge tears in her eyes. “There’s no crying during spontaneous snow breaks!” I loudly said to her while smiling and giving her a squeeze. “What’s going on?”

“Teacher, I’ve never seen snow before. It’s so beautiful.”

…and now her teacher was crying along with her. You see this student was new to our country having arrived just a few weeks prior from Chile. What an honor it was to watch her beautiful face tear up as she experienced snow for the first time.


She taught me something so valuable that day. Don’t let the moment pass. If I had been so caught up in making sure I stuck to my lesson plan, if I had not taken the time to glance outside, if I had not gone with what my heart led me to do, if I had not been afforded the freedom as a teacher to take these moments when we are given them – the moment would have been lost; both for me and for this precious girl.

Let’s remember to take them as they come. We may not get another chance.

Stay warm everyone and here’s to #Snowmageddon2019! Make sure to stop and catch a snowflake or two!!

Let me introduce you…

I’d like to introduce you to my friend Osteen. Osteen is a fifth grader and is one of over 600 bilingual students in our district. He speaks Swahili and is working hard to become proficient in English.


Several weeks ago our elementary ELL (English Language Learner) program hosted an evening for families to come and get project support for our upcoming District Science and Technology Showcase. Kent Ross, one of our middle school science teachers, prepared a wonderful evening of hands-on scientific exploration which then included all the directions needed to create a tri-fold for the showcase. ELL teachers Cathy Ramirez, Cheryl Ton, and Deborah Reece invited families and hosted this amazing opportunity – complete with snacks and all the supplies needed to construct the tri-fold display.

Osteen and his mom were one of the families in attendance that night and that’s where we first met, which leads me to last night’s 10th Annual District Science and Technology Showcase.


As I was wandering around snapping pictures of all the incredible things students and staff had on display, I ran into Osteen – proudly standing next to his display just like hundreds of other students – excited to articulate to me all he had learned during his science investigation. His mom was BEAMING and with a tear in her eye she said, “Thank you. Thank you for helping my son. Thank you for helping me.” Those thanks go out to three ELL teachers who have hearts of gold for their students/families and to a middle school science teacher going above and beyond to support students who aren’t even in his building.¬†

This is truly a snapshot of the MANY things that occur in our district each and every day. Relationships matter here. My heart is full to be in such a place!


Here’s the moment that will stay with me for quite some time – the proud scientist, his mama, and his little brother proudly standing by his work!

what would you gift?

At a recent gathering of our Teaching Learning & Innovation team we posed the question above to one another. 

Here are our replies:
– a Native Artist in Residence in each of our schools.
– robust ELL support in each building.
– elimination of fear. The fear that keeps us from doing things, the fear that keeps kids from being successful (internally and externally).
– courage, trust, energy & enthusiasm for all!
– more social/emotional support for kids.
– a full-time SEL/Behavior specialist to support students and staff at each building.
– vertical collaboration time K-12.
РEquity for all kids throughout our district 
– a permanent home for all of our students; no more need for MV.

How would you answer? If barriers didn’t exist, what’s one thing you would gift our district – or the district nearest to your heart – this holiday season? Click on the Padlet below to share your gift!

Made with Padlet

What would it take to make these gifts a reality? Let’s keep dreaming and see what we can do. We may surprise ourselves at what possibilities lie ahead!

Happy Holidays –
Elaine