December 24

Letting go of 2013

2013-Year-in-ReviewI love reading posts about the year- in-review. Almost everyone does it. Whether it is technology, leadership, sports, finance or even weather. It seems every late December news story is filled with the top stories, updates and the most viral videos. Integrated with these stories are the plans and prognostications for 2014.


Through these stories you can learn about the ups and downs, successes and failures, and everything in-between. In addition, these posts reveal how, at the strike of midnight on December 31, it all gets wiped away. This reminds me of the message/lesson of the Buddhist Sand Mandalas.


sand artSand Mandalas have been in the Buddhist culture for thousands of years. The Sand Mandalas are carefully planned and designed. All of the Sand Mandalas start at the center, and then work their way outward. After the planning, it takes weeks or even months of collaboration to “complete.” Then the Sand Mandalas are ritually swept up. All the hard work, concentration and determination gets returned to nature. Each mandala is unique, and even though they seem perfect, all have imperfections that are most observable to the creators of these majestic works of art. Temporary! Sound like your 2013?


mandalaap2505_468x322In planning for 2014, what do you want to learn? Explore? Change? Enhance? Your answers might lie in your 2013. Similar to the Sand Mandalas, you can learn from this past year, or  wipe it all away…. and start again! This is beauty of what is ahead. In fact, if you are brave enough, you write your 2014 year in review right now. Yet, you can’t get too attached to your 2014 because, well, there is always 2015!


Happy New Year! I look forward to collaborating in 2014!


Want to learn more about the Sand Mandala? Check this out:



December 7

Are we there yet? When change takes time



This year we have transitioned from traditional faculty meetings to Professional Learning Communities (PLC). The reason for this shift is twofold. First, our new evaluation tool requires (if you want to get higher rankings) participation and leadership in a PLC. The second, and more important reason, is that we are ready! But this change did not come over night, it took time!


I want to thank not only my PLN, but also those advisers and mentors who encourage me to push the envelope and try new things. In preparation for this change, I was provided so many tools and resources. I was told to “trust the process” and “empower the staff.” I am so thankful to have a network of stakeholders willing to provide guidance!




Based on our needs, we established PLCs for Math, Language Arts, Technology(these take place during the first faculty meeting of the month) and PBIS, Healthy Schools and Family/Community Engagement (which takes place during the second faculty meeting of the month).

Each of the PLCs has a chair and co-chair that was selected this summer. Yet,anyone can choose to present or take on a leadership role based on their interests. The PLCs have an agenda and are required to record their minutes.

At the end of every meeting, the PLC must do  “plus/delta” to conclude their meeting. All minutes are then emailed to me and I send to the entire staff (eventually we will use a tool such as edmodo to chronicle our PLCs but we are not there yet). We are in the infancy of this model but it is clear that we are going in the right direction.

 I had leadership goosebumps



During our most recent PLCs, I found myself in a really great place. Honestly, I had leadership goose bumps. The conversation was thoughtful, and focused on continuous improvement. Teachers laughed, encouraged each other, discussed data, and made connections. I was impressed by the chairs who provided the framework for action research through their thoughtful integration of best practices, peer reviewed research, and technological resources that could be immediately implemented in the classroom. For instance, the Family/Community Engagement PLC used a tool I was not familiar with… Padlet! They used it to take notes and share their learning. I learned something new!  hashtag wow!




Honestly, we could have never engaged like this last year or the year before…. For one, I wasn’t ready! This transition is purposeful and takes a long time to build the capacity needed. As a principal, coordinating meetings in a de-centralized manner requires you to give up the traditional “control.” For some principals out there, it might difficult to up give that control… yet I see it more about giving control to those who matter most… your teachers!


Eventually, I would like to make these (and all PD sessions for that matter) voluntary. I feel that by giving teachers a choice on how they would like to develop professionally is the key to unlock the potential of true professionals! I can see in the future our staff getting beyond PLCs and creating something new based on their person and professional needs. We are not there yet…. yet!


Co-Authored by Celese Nolan (@litcoachmps), Instructional Coach, RM Bacon Elementary