What does it mean to be a Servant Leader? How can I help?

Martin Luther King, Jr. a true Servant Leader

I love when someone asks, “How can I help you?” I think people who pose this question have an understanding of the power of service. For me, leadership has been about service to others. Robert Greenleaf identified the “servant as leader” in 1970’s as a way to explain the leadership paradigm that has been used for thousands of years. The book Servant Leadership, (Greenleaf, 2002) provided a framework for ordinary people to accomplish extraordinary goals through serving others.

 

Since then, various authors and researchers have used the tenets of servant leadership to assist leaders in answering the call. Servant leaders create a vision, and once the vision is clear, the leader becomes a servant in order to implement the vision (Blanchard, 2007). Servant leaders want to make a difference in the lives of those they lead and create a motivating environment (Greenleaf, 2002).

 

Helping others completes the puzzle

Servant leadership has been the building block for my leadership platform. I operate as a servant leader because I feel a responsibility to those I lead. Servant leaders assist those they lead by ultimately making them leaders. This can be accomplished by building trusting relationships, providing an opportunity for personal and professional growth, and a promoting a collaborative environment in which everyone becomes a stakeholder (Greenleaf, 2002).

 

Another way that I integrate my servant leadership as a principal is to “roll up my sleeves” and help out to get things accomplished. Throughout my brief tenure as a principal I have made sure to help clean up the cafeteria, vacuum the steps in the gym, pail water out of a flooded area, and assist people with carrying things up and down the stairs. Kouses and Posner (2006) would refer to this as ‘modeling the way’. When you want others to follow your lead, you need to be the model. If I want everyone to pitch in and help, then I need to lead by that example. And guess what? I just received an email from a colleague who said, “Many of your students also reflect your service leadership in their daily actions by holding the door for the little ones or teachers bogged down with bags. Every day I am in your building, at least one student will ask if there is anything they can help me with.”

So, how can I help you?

More information on Servant Leadership and Modeling the Way?

http://www.greenleaf.org

http://www.4ulr.com/products/humanres/lpi/fivepractices.html

Blanchard, K. (2007). The heart of a leader: Insights on the art of influence. Colorado Springs, CO. David C Cook

Greenleaf, R. (2002). Servant leadership: A journey into the nature of legitimate power and greatness. (25th anniversary ed.). New York: Paulist Press.

Kouzes, J. & Posner, B. (2006). A leader’s legacy. San Franscico: Jossey Bass.

An excellent resource for leadership

Another great resource for leadership

Reflective Practice: Looking into the mirror

Every Principal needs to look into the Reflective Mirror

The concept of Reflective Practice (Osterman & Kottkamp, 2004) has helped me balance my leadership as a new principal. The use of reflective practice provides me with the basis of how to become an effective principal by constantly asking questions and spending time reflecting. My natural tendency is to jump from one project to another without much thought. I used to ask myself, “What is the next thing for me to get involved with?” Now I ask myself, “What am I doing now?” and more importantly, “Why?”

One aspect of the reflective practice process has been the ability to value the input of others in decision making. I used to ask myself why I always need to seek input from others. Perhaps there have been decisions that could have been made on my own, but if I truly wanted to create a reflective environment for my school, I must have the trust that, even if I reveal myself as vulnerable, my staff would provide feedback. If someone betrays my trust, I have to believe it reflects more about them, not me.

One of the most influential books in my library

As a principal I have a vision of what my school should be. Whether I am at PTA function, Back to School Night, Faculty Meeting, or just casual conversation I see the school as the top performing elementary school in the county within five years. As a new principal, I have been forced to remain steadfast in this vision. Every day I am faced with a thousand reasons why we will not be the top performing school. Along the way, however, I have had to ask myself tough, reflective questions such as how does this problem reveal an opportunity? Knowing I cannot do this myself, who can I enlist to help? It is through these questions that I reflect and gain perspective.

I take a reflective approach when analyzing my leadership practices and it has made such a difference in my work products. In fact this blog serves as my reflective diary about my insights into learning. By taking the time to write about my experiences, I am implementing the reflective process technique. I know how I want to be viewed as a principal, but I also need to be able to articulate this to students, teachers, parents and other key stakeholders. Using reflective practice and asking myself tough questions forces me to confront my leadership as a mirror that reflects who I am and who I want to be. That is why the theme “Your Image is Our Image” is so fitting.

Want more information on Reflective Practice? Check out these links:

http://www.amazon.com/Reflective-Practice-Educators-Professional-Development/dp/0803968019

http://jte.sagepub.com/content/53/1/33.short

http://bul.sagepub.com/content/84/617/23.short

Osterman, K., & Kottkamp, R. (2004). Reflective practice for educators: Professional development to improve student learning (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

What is it like being a principal? Are you in meetings all day?

RM Bacon a long, long time ago

One of my best friends, Dan, recently asked me those questions via text. I have known Dan since high school. I have always admired him because he is a risk taker. When most of our friends went off to colleges and universities, Dan went to Africa to plant trees. Then he moved to Montana and got into a bagel business which required him to go to work very, very early. After his stint in Montana, he moved to Lake Charles, Louisiana to work on a boat in the gambling world which required him to work nights. When he was finished with that, he and I went on a cross country camping excursion and were able to see much of this beautiful country.

 

What do I really do at work?

I think it was on that trip that Dan decided he was going to devote himself to becoming a chef and one day opening his own business. He moved back to Philly and enrolled in restaurant school and started his journey into the business. About 12 or 13 years ago he moved up to NYC. He has remained there working in all different capacities, and types of places. He often tells me how tough the business is, and he works when everyone else is off and vice versa.

So when I texted him back this is what I wrote: “It depends on the day. My main goal is to be out in the classrooms with the teachers and students. There is also a lot of management stuff I have to take care of. I do have a lot of meetings, and I try to have fun.” I let him know I had this blog, and he checked it out and said he was going to follow it.

I thought more about his questions and reflected on my position as a 21st century elementary principal. Well, if he is reading this, I would like to add a few things to my text.

Dear Dan, here is what I do:

Meetings help us solve problems

Meetings

  • Meet with other administrators
  • My mentor
  • Literacy coach (who is my new life coach)
  • Consultants
  • Parents
  • Guidance counselors
  • Teachers
  • Custodians
  • Cafeteria workers
  • Bus drivers
  • Secretaries
  • Security guards
  • Students
  • Parent Teacher Association
  • DYFS workers
  • Community organizations
  • New initiatives

Management stuff:

  • Monitor hallways
  • Manage budget
  • Make sure lunches are running smooth
  • Supervise Arrival
  • Read, write and respond to about 50 emails a day
  • Supervise dismissal
  • Complete cleanliness evaluations on rooms, offices, etc.
  • Ride school buses
  • Drive the streets after dismissal making sure kids are behaving
  • Visit houses
  • Visit other schools
  • Phone calls/conferences
  • Write

    Always watching Classroom Instruction at Work!

  • Read articles
  • Collect data
  • Analyze data
  • Organize paper work
  • Sign for various trips, professional development days, approvals, etc.

Leadership stuff:

  • Present information at faculty meetings
  • Train staff on best practices
  • Make suggestions on improving classroom instruction
  • Listen to suggestions on improving the school
  • Follow through on requests
  • Analyze problems, seek solutions, implement programs
  • Hopefully inspire staff
  • Speak at events, assemblies

There are other things as well that I will call “Other category”:

  • Announcements, ‘Goooooood Morning Bacon Elementary School”
  • Play kickball
  • Get lots of cupcakes for birthdays
  • Play floor hockey
  • Clean up syrup at breakfast
  • Play basketball
  • Run
  • Jump rope

    Lots of cupcakes

  • Attempt to get in on Double Dutch
  • Read with kids
  • Solve math problems that kids give me
  • Mentor
  • Counsel
  • Mediate
  • Make my secretaries laugh (that is starting to wear off, just like it has with everyone who knows me long enough)
  • Dance with the most awesome Postal Worker, Jenna
  • Rap with Jenna, the most awesome Postal Worker
  • Show people Karate moves
  • Sit down at breakfast/lunch with kids
  • Ask teachers for help
  • Eat at Moe’s (Please don’t share that with my wife)
  • Get tons of hugs from great kids
  • Give out lots of high fives
  • Listen to kids who cry or are upset
  • Make kids cry and be upset (well, usually that is because of their behavior)
  • Call the superintendent, assistant superintendent, other principals,supervisors, and friends in other districts and ask “How do I…”
  • Philosophize over educational problems, solutions
  • Listen to music
  • Check twitter
  • Jam a minute everyday at 2:30 PM
  • Blog
  • Take pictures
  • Capture cool things on video
  • Entertain visitors
  • Read the local newspaper
  • Cut out articles from the paper and post

OK, Dan, I think I got it all. As you can see, a lot has changed since the last time you were in school.  I encourage you to check back on the comments. Some people may either make additions, or tell you I flat out don’t do what was listed above. I think you know me well enough.

My first grade teachers dressed up as Dr. + Spike + Cook

As I Walkthrough RM Bacon

Panda teacing a lesson on movie making through kerpoof.com

One of the important initiatives administrators have in Millville is the McRel Walkthroughs. Using the McRel technology and armed with the ipod touch, we collect data, analyze classroom practices, and ensure the systemic practices of Classroom Instruction That Works are being implemented.

 

Non Linguistic Representation of the phases of the moon - Yummy Oreos

As of today (January 24, 2012) I have 381 walkthroughs. In reflecting on those walkthroughs it means that I have watched 381 lessons (about 1,143 minutes), talked to 381 students, and probably walked 3,810 steps (just a guess).

 

 

Venn Diagram - Boys vs. Girls

This practice keeps me engaged in the classroom and active in the learning process at my school. Here are a few images I have collected along the way. Thanks teachers!

 

Here are some posts from my previous blog (Jan 2012)

Following that twitter bird

January 17 – 20

We had a four day week because of the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday on Monday. I love MLK day because this holiday always requires me to reflect on the type of human being I am. My son had his buddy over that day, and I feel that MLK would have been proud of both of them because they are from different cultures and have different tones of skin color, but ultimately they are just 7 year old boys.

 The highlight for me this week was joining Mrs. Sutton’s class on Thursday afternoon. I was called to the class because of typical 5th grade drama, but we all walked away ready for a change. The students took time to deeply reflect on how they treated each other, their teacher, and their families. On Friday, they all said that for the first time, they really understood the no bullying pledge. I rewarded them with a friendly floor hockey game on Friday afternoon. We may have lost that game, but we won in so many other ways. Then, Now, Always Family!

January 9 -13

Twitter has opened up my professional world! I am hoping to get teachers, other administrators and parents involved in this vital piece of social media. Get started at twitter.com – its free!

I spent almost 2 full days away from the school this week (and another pretty much in my office with meetings) so today was my day for walkthroughs and reconnecting with everybody. I saw some awesome things today, but I have to say I got “stuck” in 3rd grade. Mrs. Woodman had a legendary lesson for martin Luther King Jr. Day. She taught the students sign language (she herself learned it the day before on her ipad) and they read the book One Love by Cedella Marley (Bob’s daughter). As they read the story they learned sign language. At the conclusion of the lesson, she played Bob’s One Love and they danced and signed to the song. Then I went next door and Mrs. DiGiogio’s class organized and performed an anti-bullying play. I was so impressed with the team effort (not to mention acting abilities of these 3rd graders). Mrs. DiGiorgio plans to help them expand the play and maybe share with a larger audience. Way to go 3rd grade! We ARE World Class!

January 3 – 6

The students seemed very relaxed this week. Not sure if it was because they had so many days off from us or they are just ready to start the New Year! We had our first snow of the year. As I was talking to someone in the office, a safety came in to tell me that there were kids throwing snowballs at each other on the playground. I knew we only got a dusting, so I doubted that actual snowballs. I went out and yelled for them to line up. Within 20 seconds I had a straight line with kids waiting for me to speak. I told them that I was young once and I also loved to play in the snow, but we do not throw snow or run around on the playground because someone could get hurt. The snow melted by the end of the day.

 I had the opportunity to work with Mrs. Gandy’s class on multiplication. As they were working on the slate boards, I asked them what they were learning. Working in pairs, the students were giving each other two and three digit problems to solve. Eventually, I sat down and the students were giving me problems to solve. My hardest was when one student wrote 5555 X 5. I showed them a trick to solving the problem. They got the calculator out and sure enough I was correct: 27, 775!

Martial Arts and Leadership

When I was interviewing for the Principal position at RM Bacon I was asked this question, “Do you have any hobbies?” I thought for a minute and said, “Yes, I am pursuing my black belt in Kenpo Karate at Champions Martial Arts in Turnersville.” I was then asked a follow up question about how it helps me in my daily life. I told the committee that it has taught me a lot about goal setting, being involved in something bigger than yourself, and most of all discipline.

I remember my first martial arts class. I was the only adult in the class, and most of the teenagers had black belts. We started off with basic warm up drill, and I thought I was going to pass out. I just kept  thinking to myself that I needed to stay focused and that one day I too would have a black belt (and be in better shape).

Eventually more adults showed up at the classes I was attending and I began to talk with them about the process. My mentor, Matt, has been very patient with my development. He too joined when he was much older and in a few years has risen to a brown belt.  He has taught me about the true “art” of martial arts and how it is a scientific process.

One of my goals in joining  karate was to lose weight. So three days a week (at least) I am sparring, doing push ups/sit ups, kicks, punches, etc. and burning a lot of calories. More importantly, I have begun to make better decisions about what I eat. I believe this is a result of the martial arts discipline that teaches students to be patient .

I have only been studying about 10 months and have already earned my purple belt. I know I have a few more years to attain a black belt, and I am enjoying the learning process. This experience allows me to be the student instead of the principal.

Your Image is Our Image

A few years ago there was an advertisement campaign that placed a great deal of emphasis on image. Statements such as “Image is everything” or “This will improve my image” impacted thousands of people. Yet, my exposure to the “image” concept goes back to 1996 when I first worked the Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF) summer program at Rowan University. The EOF program is designed to help at-risk college students succeed through a summer program and intensive support. I had gone through the program myself in 1992.

The Residential Supervisor I worked for was known for his ideas. One day I helped him place a 6 by 4 foot mirror in the front of the residential hall for all EOF students to see as they came and left each day. I asked him what would be the purpose of this big mirror? He told me that he was going to put a quote on the mirror to have the students recognize the importance of their appearance, and also and more importantly, that they represented the EOF program by what they did, said, dressed, etc. This concept stuck with me.

Fast forward to 2011. When I arrived at RM Bacon I was impressed by the appearance of the historic building.  I loved the marble entrance and wanted to make sure visitors could see and appreciate it as well. During the summer we moved some things around and I pondered what to do with the big open space where Mrs. Bacon’s picture used to hang. It was then that I thought of the Residential Supervisor from the EOF program, and since we are located in Millville, home of the glass industry, I ordered the mirror.

And just like my former supervisor, when someone asks why we needed a big mirror at our entrance and exit I say, “Because your image is our image.”

The Polar Express and other holiday goodies

December 23, 2011 – Last post of 2011

Now ya got hot chocolate

Today was one of the busiest days of this year. I was up early getting prepared for the staff meeting (holiday celebration). My gift to the staff was a relaxed meeting with a hearty breakfast. We also exchanged gifts and had a lot of laughs!

 The school day began with a definite buzz. The kids and teachers had their pajamas on ready for the Polar Express Themed Day. After morning announcements, we began to call each grade down to the gym. Every student had their ticket punched by one of the 1st grade teachers. 5th grade student leaders handed out popcorn. Once we were all assembled in the gym, we set our objective of the day and made sure everyone knew our expectations.

 Mrs. Simpson organized the Chorus for an amazing encore performance from the Winter Concert. Then Coach put in a DVD for us to sing along. Somehow I was left with the microphone for the sing along. I made sure that I wasn’t the only one with the microphone. Thankfully, Mrs. Gandy, Mrs. Summers, random kindergarteners and the 8 students selected for all city chorus assisted. After the sing along we started the movie, The Polar Express. Mrs. Sutton, Mrs. Muhlbaier, Mrs. Taylor, Miss Spiels and Mrs. Ayars made hot chocolate and filled 300 cups with lids donated by the WaWa on 49. Our head custodian Mr. Wayne was very happy that WaWa donated the cups with lids. We only had 2 spills and they were caused by teachers. The students were so well behaved during the movie.

 When the movie was over, we had everyone return to their classroom. And to their surprise, each student had a bell and a candy cane on their desk. I announced to the students that the bell was given to them so that they can believe – believe in themselves, their family, and their school! Each classroom had a party and before we all knew it we were dismissing the students. Even though I was so exhausted from the day, I was truly impressed with the students as they left for the winter break. Everyone was smiling and giving well wishes. I even joked with the parents that we sugared them up! I am so thankful to be a Bacon Bear! Happy New Year! Love – Dr. Cook

 

The Real Bacon Bear is in your heart

The infamous sign at night

December 12 – 16

Our new electronic sign was installed this week. I have had a lot of positive responses from parents, community members and teachers since it went up. One day, as I was standing out near it during dismissal, I had a student comment about the new Bear logo. He said it wasn’t “tough enough” and how could he wear the logo on a shirt and compete at Olympic Day. I thought about it after he left and then later on that evening it hit me. The next day I went back to the student and I told him this, “We have a new bear which was designed for our new image. And as for this bear not being viewed as ‘tough enough’ you have to remember that the real Bacon Bear is in your heart, not on a shirt or a sign.”

 

 

Full moons

December 5 – 9

Full moon witching hour? Does a full moon impact kids? Friday was just one of those days. I had issue after issue after issue. Every teacher I talked with said the same thing. I called another principal and asked her how things were going at her school. The first thing she asked me was, “Do you know it is a full moon tomorrow?” So, I googled “kids and the full moon.” There were about 75 million results. I found out that the”Lunar Effect” theory has been around for centuries and continues today.  Most researchers say that there is a correlation, but it is not a causation. All in all we had a very good week at RM Bacon. We have some very entrepreneurial

5th graders who are making paper trees and poinsettias to raise money for their field trip. They told me that they want to “leave their mark” on Bacon before they head off to middle school. We have really great kids!