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Taking a left turn.

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For the last two weeks, the idea for this page was to write about a bus ride I had at work. This week I am not going to write about the bus ride. I didn’t bring home the material from the class I am taking. The course is called Taking Charge. I want to be able to compose a piece about the bus ride. In the article, I want to be able to use the material from the course, so the work isn’t just a summary, but it fits in as a reflection. Even though I don’t have the course material, I do have the ability to remember one of the key concepts from the course.

Instead, I will share about a project I am currently doing at work. I am a school administrator. Being able to improvise and change course quickly is a vital part of running a school. You need to make a schedule, but you also have to prepare to be interrupted. You need to be both rigid and flexible. In the spirit of improvisation, I will be writing about how creating a work project taught me one of the Taking Charge principals. The principal of being an observer of your own behavior.

I have always wanted to do a year-long project that involves the entire school, and I wanted to build it in collaboration with the teaching staff. School Principals working directly sounds good on paper, but when you try to implement it, it is  frowned upon. I have lost many battles with upper management over my career as A Principal/Vice-Principal. In the past few years, I have begun to win some of them.

Over the summer, the teaching staff said that they wanted to focus more on academics, and have access to more technology. All the students who attend the school I work at have extreme behavior problems; for instance, many have been arrested or hospitalized for violence against others or themselves. The teaching staff spends a great deal of the day dealing with student breakdowns and working students into a position where they can learn.

To accomplish this, I did several things. First, in our training over the summer, I put up chart paper around the room and had the staff write down suggestions for monthly themes we could use for an academic purpose.

I organized the themes and came up with a list to use from September- May. With the topics set, I created WOW. WOW stands for Word of the Week. It is a school-wide activity that I do each week with the students. It is a one-page sheet that has a vocabulary word for each grade level, a writing challenge, and a project idea. September was poetry month.

During the month of September for  WOW I introduced a new poet each week, For example, one week I introduced the students to Maya Angelou, the next week, it was Langston Hughes. It went very well during September. I have rewards for the students who participate. I have a classroom competition and individual competition. I used Vistaprint to create punch cards for a student incentive program.

October is Art Month. I decided to implement a Seth Godin idea called a purple cow. Basically, the purple cow idea is a method of delivery you use to get people to talk about your product. The example Seth used in The Marketing Seminar, was that he delivered one of his books in a milk carton. The people were curious as to what was in the milk carton, and when they opened it, they saw his book and remembered him because of it. So for art month, I decided to change how I delivered the WOW activity, and I would incorporate it into Art month.

I give out WOW each Monday. The children arrive at school either from public transportation or from our bus service. Due to the fact they have special needs, the school district they come from pays for their transportation. When the students exit the bus, I hand them the activity. This past week I put the WOW activity into a brown paper bag, I put a dot on the bag, and inside I put one crayon, one cue-tip, and one fuzzy pom-pon. I used these materials to introduce them to the artist Yayoi Kusama. This week I am going to introduce them to Andy Warhol. I am going to give them the WOW activity in a paper cup.

Here is one thing that I have learned. It is important to me in my career to have the flexibility to create and implement my own projects, but my projects are tied to the mission and purpose of the organization. When you make a career choice or a job move, take into consideration what you will be allowed to do, and what you won’t be allowed to do. WOW is a project that isn’t listed in my job responsibilities, no one expects me to do it. In fact, I have several projects running that aren’t in my job responsibilities. I also built an online course for High School students. Implementing projects is a way that I am able to challenge and push myself. I create an organizational structure that allows me to accomplish my assigned job duties, and my personal projects and the benefit is that I don’t create more stress. I actually create more joy and satisfaction.

One of the tenents of the Taking Charge course is that you need to become an observer. Of your students but also an observer of your own behavior and language. I have observed that in my career, the ability to create and implement my personal projects is valuable to me. Even though I didn’t discuss the bus ride, I still got to talk about some lessons learned from Taking Charge. Ask yourself, what is important to you in your career?

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