March Madness

It’s finally March, by far my favorite month of the year…it’s March Madness!!  For those of you who aren’t sure about what that means, it’s the end of the college basketball season in USA.  As the season finishes there are league tournaments and then the big end of the year tournament to determine the National Champion.  For basketball fans it doesn’t get any better than this, the unpredictability of the tournaments creates a sense of ‘madness’ and hence the name…it’s awesome!  What does that have to do with education though??

This season my team, the University of Wisconsin Badgers, were off to a rough start.  Last year the played in the championship game (they lost unfortunately) and lost a lot of players to graduation and leaving to play in the NBA.  This season started off poorly, they lost to teams they had no business losing too.  Then, out of the blue, right in the middle of the season their legendary coach decided to retire.  He left a team who was already struggling to his long-time assistant coach and said ‘good luck’.  It was a recipe for disaster in almost everyone’s eyes.

Except there was one person in particular who believed that success was still possible…the new head coach.  The season isn’t over yet but at this point we’ve already seen an incredible turn around.  The team who started out by losing most of it’s early games has won 11 of their last 12 games and is set to finish in the top three in their league…simply amazing!  So how did they do it?

It all started with their new coach.  He went back to basics, he literally went back to the foundation.  Stories came out about how the coach brought bricks into the locker room.  Each player took one and wrote a word or phrase about what they could do to help the team.  Words like “selfless”, “heart”, and “leader” were shared.  These bricks were then placed in the locker room, a sign of the foundation that this team would stand on for their renewed effort for the season ahead.  The idea was that you can’t build anything with just one brick and if you try to build with missing pieces then your results won’t stand.  Basketball is a team game and the brick foundation is as true an analogy as any…no one can do it alone, we all need to work together.

At the end of the first semester I wrote about how it takes a village to raise a child, it couldn’t be more true.  I think the brick foundation analogy works well with that African proverb.  Together we can achieve our goals, as a department team, as a division, as a school…team work is the key to achieving our biggest goals.

We have an amazing team here at AC.  The amount of experience, knowledge, and energy that we’ve pulled together to guide our students toward success is absolutely astonishing.  Every student at this school can benefit from the collective effort of the amazing faculty and staff.  To ensure this success we need to come together to form an indestructible team.  Maybe the 80’s were just filled with so much teamwork brainwash material (Voltron, Thundercats, Ghostbusters) that I can’t help but feel that coming together as a team is the solution to all the world’s problems…perhaps it’s just my optimistic attitude 🙂  Either way, I’m confident that teamwork is the way to go.

I know many of you work closely with your department teams and other colleagues.  It’s a busy and stressful time of year for all of us.  Take care of yourself, find your balance, and ensure that your teammates are well cared for as well.  Success for the remainder of the year lies in us coming together as the dynamic and talented team that we are.  It’s never too late to stop and reevaluate the foundation…what word would you write on your brick?

Strengths Quest Professional Development

Happy American Thanksgiving everyone!  It would be remiss of me not to at least give a moment of thanks to each and every one of you for all that you do for our kids, “Thank you!”  Being the “communicator” that I am, I wanted to make sure I said that before I got off and rambling on something else…

The last couple days have been a wonderful opportunity for us to look a little deeper at ourselves and think about how we can use what is already within us to be better teachers.  Going through the Strengths Finder activities yesterday really helped me to begin thinking about how my strengths can be maximized to make me a better educator and leader.  Another aspect that was pointed out a few times are the dynamics of how different people and teams work together based on the combinations of strengths within the group.  Understanding the 34 different strength themes is a very important step toward building a strong collaborative environment.  Also, so is knowing each others strengths.  To that end, I’ve followed the example of a friend of mine from SAS (Singapore) and added my five strongest themes to my email signature.  In so doing, I’m hoping to inspire some of you to do the same.  Now that we all have this common context, it seems only logical that we use it to maximize the strengths of the whole team, not just ourselves!  Feel free to stop and modify your signature now 🙂

The work that we do together on a daily basis is far too important to do alone.  Looking around the stage yesterday and contemplating all of the different strengths we have as a collective group is astonishing.  The sheer wealth of knowledge and experience we had in that room could, combined, be strong enough to move mountains.  As a school we already do a very good job of collaborating and working together.  Deliberately focusing on our strengths will only lead to better things down the road!!  I’m a big sports fan and I love sports analogies despite the fact that so many of them sound cliché.  However, I’m going to use one…even the best players in the history of team sports couldn’t do it alone…Michael Jordan, Pele, Mia Hamm, Jerry Rice, or Wayne Gretzky wouldn’t have stood a chance without the help and support of their teammates.  Take a second and close your eyes, think about the stage on Thursday afternoon…there were a lot of amazing minds up there, feel free to engage with as many of those as possible!!

It’s very inspiring to sit along side all of you and think about how much collective intelligence is in the room, thank you!  It’s also inspiring to think about all the potential in the world…you futurists know what I’m talking about…so take a few minutes to play with this super cool toy from the BBC.  It’s a customizable look at how the Earth has changed since you were born and a fun way to think about all that has happened around you so far during your life.  I’m only 17 years old on Mars, my heart has beat 1 billion times already in my life, there have been 385 major earthquakes since I was born, and the average life expectancy in the world has increased 7.5 years (Earth years) in my life time…what about you?