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Children learn in different ways and at their own pace. It is important for our children to get the best learning experiences that will shape their young lives. Many schools have developed project based learning techniques that help children grasp the concepts being taught. It also allows them to be creative while they are learning. It is important to shape the minds of our children in a fashion that will stay with them forever.

The Draw

Drawing our children in to the project based learning concept is relatively easy. Many of our children are more open when they are creating something they can be proud of. When a child feels that sense of accomplishment and pride, it opens them up for future projects. Many children today have short attention spans and when their interests are piqued they learn better. Children learn from what they are taught on a daily basis. However, some children learn better with visual aids and hands on approach. When a child is given the opportunity to participate on a project, it gives them a sense of accomplishment. If you have ever watched a child at play, it is easy to see that they can be very creative. When a child is able to see their work it lets them know that they can do anything.

Pros

It is important for our children to have the learning experiences that will stay with them for a long time to come. Some experts may say that project based learning will help children of any age communicate better.

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Although by now almost everyone is back to school, summer really isn’t quite over yet.  Summer is a time to add personal reading to our regular professional reading and we all have until at least Labor Day to finish up our summer books!

In anticipation of the Robert Redford movie “A Walk in the Woods”, I decided to go back and re-read the Bill Bryson classic about his trek on the Appalachian Trail.  This book was published in 1998 so if you read it when it came out, its been enough time that I encourage you to read it again to relive Bryson’s humorous and yet very informative narration of his hike.

I think the beauty of this book is that Bryson educates as well as entertains the reader.  Of course, I’m very amused by the characters he meets along the trail as well as the interaction between Bryson and his co-hiker and old friend Katz, but its the description of the history of the trail and the depth of description of the hiking experience that make it worth the read.   For those of us who don’t have the inclination to attempt a “thru-hike”, Bryson’s descriptions may be the next best thing.  In fact, his descriptions my persuade a day hike rather than a hike of the entire trail.

Perhaps there are also  leadership lessons in “A Walk in the Woods”.  Sometimes we have to take ourselves completely out of our element and immerse ourselves in something so completely different in order to gain an unparalleled level of self understanding.  Perhaps Bryson is also telling us that solitude is good for the heart, mind and soul.  Even on the days when Bryson and Katz hike “together” they are not usually walking at the same pace.  Finally, I wonder if a little self deprivation helps us to truly appreciate our blessings.  In our busy lives we can easily lose track of what is important.  What if I didn’t see my family for a few months?  I would surely appreciate them more after we were reunited. What if I had to eat what I could carry for a month?  I would absolutely appreciate the taste and convenience of a meal in even the most mediocre restaurant.

In the end, perhaps re-reading “A Walk in the Woods” was not only just a fun summer read, but also a leadership and personal lesson in appreciating some of the things that we so easily take for granted.  The movie comes out on September 2, so if you hurry up, you can still read before you see it!

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Success is not the key to happiness.  

Happiness is the key to success.

If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.

Albert Schweitzer

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If you are looking for a great opportunity to network with prominent women in school leadership, don’t miss the 2015 AASA/ACSA Women in School Leadership Forum.  This year the forum will be held on October 1-2 at the Coronado Island Marriott Resort and Spa in Coronado, California.

I have attended and presented at this conference in past years and in my experience it is well worth the time to attend both in terms of professional learning and networking opportunities.  The 2015 conference promises to be great.  The presentation strands are:

  • Leading Equity and Accesibility
  • Coaching/Mentoring
  • Balancing Work and Life
  • Instructional Leadership

One tip about this conference – the years that I have been able to bring a team of women from my district were the most productive.  As a group, we were able to ensure that at least one person was in all of the relevant presentations and could share the material with everyone.  We also took the time to de-brief as a group and discuss the most interesting aspects of the presentations we attended.  Finally, we were able to set aside time for district planning time.

Save the dates!  The program is not available yet, but its sure to be another great conference.  Check aasa.org for updates and the full program in late summer or early fall.

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Developing strong relationships with other female leaders is of the utmost importance for those who already hold administrative positions and as well as for aspiring leaders.  Women can be a support network for each other and can easily learn from one another, which makes the development of professional relationships with your colleagues and those who work for you is essential.  It’s a mistake to believe that you need to only seek and develop relationships with those in the positions you aspire to.  Good relationships at all levels of a school or district are always helpful.  Make it clear to your colleagues that one of the most essential parts of your relationship is their feedback and pushback on your ideas.  You will perfect the art of leadership if you accept the feedback of those you trust.  Similarly, thoughts and ideas can develop if you are willing to share them with others and accept their feedback.

In addition to the professional relationships that we develop, having good relationships with your colleagues often produces a few lifelong friendships.  The long hours you spend at your job and then the further responsibilities you have at home can make it difficult to develop friendships with women outside the field of education.  When we befriend each other, we start with an already established common interest and a passion for teaching and learning.  I’m proud that some of my best friends are former colleagues.  Developing these types of friendships takes the willingness to take a risk and ask someone to do something with you during their precious free time.  I’m a better person professionally and personally because of my close relationships with several of my former colleagues.

Because women are so significantly underrepresented in educational leadership, the development of mentoring relationships is also extremely important.  Remember, a mentor can be a man or a woman and if we are lucky, we have multiple mentors throughout our careers.  I’ve often heard the advice to find someone you admire and to ask him or her to be your mentor.  I have to admit that I’ve never thought that it works in that way.  My mentoring relationships have always grown naturally with colleagues in my school or district.  I’m quite fortunate that my closest mentor is an amazing female superintendent and while she certainly knows that she fills this role in my life,  I have never asked her pointblank to be my mentor.

Several of my colleagues asked how I developed this mentoring relationship and when I reflect on it, I think it was by being extremely supportive of her leadership.  I took her advice, I implemented the things she requested, and I was her biggest fan with the board of education, teachers and other administrators.  I pushed back on a few of her ideas in private, but not in public.  We discussed personal issues and well as professional, and developed trust over time.

I also can’t stress the importance of giving back by mentoring others.  I have made it clear to the administrators on my team that I am personally invested in their careers and that they can consider me a mentor both while we work together and after.  I feel fortunate to have had several mentors throughout my career and feel that it is my obligation to try and help others succeed as well.  When my mentees experience success, it is also a win for me.

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