Publish a book? Really? I didn't know how and never took the time....
When This summer was not been like I had ever expected, no one expected it to be as it is. I realized I had taken for granted that I could always go visit family or travel on a whim. Now I know I need to appreciate every opportunity we get, not assume or take anything for granted. Those lessons are obvious to most of us now. I am so grateful for FaceTime, more than ever, and so grateful for my family to take the time to turn the video chat on my toddler niece as she eats breakfast most mornings while I am eating dinner. FaceTime is the lifeline to my family who are a continent away.
The lesson that has taken longer to come into view was that we can "turn lemons into lemonade". I was very sad that I wasn't going home to see my niece this summer and spend some family time in nature's crisp cool air of northern California and hike in mountains of Colorado. My husband and I were destined to spend the summer in Doha, Qatar as borders tightened to slow the spread of COVID-19. The hot weather demanded that we spend days inside. These obstacles turned into an opportunity. With more inside time then ever before, I started writing little stories for my niece about our dogs, who she loved to watch on FaceTime. My family was so supportive and encouraging. My small writing project turned in to "doing it the RIGHT way" and I learned how to publish picture books. My husband was excited to illustrate using his passion of filtering photos and our picture book baby was born. We are now moments (9 days exactly) away from publishing our first picture book for the world on Amazon. We have two more in process and plan to continue writing stories for our niece. My small thought of sharing stories with my nice has actualized in to publishing a book for her and allowed us to share a love of reading with the world.
As an educator who loves picture books who has been granted the gifts of time and an air conditioned apartment in Doha, Qatar. The obstacles the global pandemic created also created the opportunity for my passion project to turn into a reality. I had always thought of writing a picture book and now was the time to learn and publish!
I am still sad to miss my niece in person, but I have so much to be grateful for. We will celebrate our book, Apartment Adventures with Amora and Yalla, being released with a Zoom Book Release party on August 1st, 2020 and we will keep moving forward learning, growing and celebrating along the way. I think the biggest lesson that I have learned is that when many the passions come together (dogs, books, family) and have time to "germinate", then anything is possible.
When I arrive to the school that is new to me, I will have a steep learning curve, as Lower School Principal. First and foremost, I am excited to meet the students, teachers and parents. With humility, curiosity, and a positive outlook, I have been getting some ideas together for the first interactions with all three groups. It seems that everyone wants to know who the new principal is so having a plan to meet the community is important. My overall goal is to have a positive school culture to benefit the students and I believe the principal has a major influence in creating the culture. The bulk of this blog post is focused on my rough draft plans for in-service week with teachers setting a positive vibe with the staff will impact students’ learning. Happy teachers = happy students = happy parents= positive school culture!
This is the “why” we do what we do...the students! What are they excited about? Why do they love their school? I need to find out the school’s traditions (if any) for the first day of school. See my blog post Kicking the Year Off Right (link here). I want to ensure the first day of school is fun! I hope to have an assembly to introduce all the staff in a fun and silly way. As the school year continues, I will be at the front to meet and greet the students daily and start to learn their names. I also plan to read a book to each classroom within the first month of the school year. This will be very fun for me, as I love reading books with kids, and make myself an approachable friendly face!
When thinking about the parents, I need to gain their trust and introduce myself. After all, they are entrusting the school and I with what they cherish the most, their children! I plan to host a parent coffee with three parts. First, I will formally introduce myself. Second, ask the parents what they would fight to keep about the school and what they would like to change or improve. I will ask the parents to record their thoughts on flip chart paper. Third, I will also plan time for questions they have of me. The questions will provide a platform for me to get to know what is on their mind. I am sure I won’t be able to answer all of them so I will take note and get back to them with an email or phone call. I can then design my work based on the feedback I collect. I will close by thanking them for their feedback and letting the parents know my methods and expectations for communication.
When planning to introduce myself to the teachers, I am searching for the right balance of leading and learning. I want to express respect for the work they have done in the past years and find out what they wish to continue to develop while setting a positive tone for the school year focused on learning together. To plan in-service, with the “new to me school” staff, is a challenge. Also, some teachers will be new to the school and some will be returning. It always seems all the teachers want to know about the principal and how she/he will work. The first few meetings will make a lasting impression. My goals in the first week will be to support the learning community, build teams and have open communication. I want to make sure the teacher talk more than I do! I also want to model the use of protocols and building community, as they might in their classrooms. I have drafted out a few ideas to get started. Once I arrive and work with the school’s director, Upper School principal and Lower School vice principal, we will refine the plan collaboratively.
Here is a list of initial ideas:
Respecting teacher’s time in the first week of in-service is important too...we know they all want in their classrooms to set up and work with their teams to plan for students. Hopefully these plans will meet the goals of supporting the learning communities and open communication. If you have any feedback or would like to share your thoughts, please comment below.
Coyle, D. (2018). The culture code: The secrets of highly successful groups. New York: Bantam Books.
Fay, J. (2011). Creating a love and logic school culture. Golden, CO: Love and Logic Institute.
Boudett, K., & Lockwood, M. (2019). Power of Creating Norms. Educational Leadership, 76(9), 12-17.
*Credit for this idea goes to Homa Sabet Tavanger at AASSA 2019 Conference. You can learn more about her on Twitter @growingupglobal.