Todd Whitaker certainly led his session with passion reminding principals about what they signed up for; to lead with integrity and courage and passionately do what is right for his or her school, students, staff, and community. That passion means NOT overlooking the status-quo, but dealing with the rocks on staff, you know who I am talking about, those who wear the “Is it June Yet?” tee-shirt the first day of school!
Todd reminded us how we need to “Shift the Monkey” off of our high achievers, our Superstars as he likes to say and hold accountable the whiners, and naysayers, reduce their power and do it by remembering to treat everyone as if they are good. Never argue, never yell, or never use sarcasm! Principals need to passionately get ALL their teachers to be like their BEST teachers! As Todd said, “The best principals can get their teachers to do anything, the worst principals can’t get their teachers to do anything.” On leadership, Todd shared, “The key to leadership is how you lead your high achieving teachers! The principals job is to help our high achieving teachers be more excited about teaching tomorrow than they are today!”
Talk about growing and learning! We learned not only from Todd but from Mike Domalgaski , East China Elementary School principal, about the power of Twitter as a professional learning tool and powerful communication tool. This conference was one of the first that utilized the power of Twitter via hashtags to communicate virtually! Mike has shown leadership by hosting MEMSPA’s Thursday evening #MEMSPAchat at 8pm! Don’t know how to chat via Twitter? Contact MacKenzie Feldpausch and she will help you learn today!
Our afternoon was spent with two passionate educators. First, our Executive Director, Paul Liabenow sharing a powerful moving story about his son’s service as a pilot in Afghanistan. Paul was reading about an heroic mission made by two pilots in Afghanistan and as he is reading learns that one of them was his son. When Paul asked Brandon why he didn’t tell him about the mission, he replied, “I was just doing my job dad.” His focus on the mission, humbly thanking and recognizing those supporting him on the ground and behind the scenes was analogous to our mission work as educators. Not saying that principals can come close to the work our service men and women do to defend our country and honor, but principals are the seed, the hope, the beginning of life so to speak that ensures equity in education for all!
We honored the dedication and effort of Superintendent Mike Flanagan. His openness, honesty, and effort to bring about equity and education for ALL students in the State of Michigan continued to be apparent. One may disagree with his views and efforts, but never his integrity and character. Job well done Mike! As he leaves his current work and figures out what is next in his life, he told us that “it is time for him to be more of a “human being” and less of a “human doing.”
Friday morning brought about an epiphany of sorts for those who thought they would hear a rehashing of Response to Intervention initiatives. Instead, we heard from passionate and spunky Kathleen Lane about how principals need to universally screen for behavior just like is done for academics. She provided some wonderful resources and sparked conversation about how to help principals become less of a disciplinarian and more of an interventionist.
There were so many great learning opportunities at sessions provided by principals and vendors, resources provided at the Exhibit Show, and as always one could see small groups of principals congregating all over networking and having some fun to help relieve the stress of this very difficult work. We have to extend our gratitude and thanks to the MEMSPA staff for organizing such a wonderful learning opportunity as well as Jeff Drewno, 2014 Conference Planning Committee Chair and his committee! Thanks also to room chairs, SCHECH stamper people, and our MEMSPA board members for your passionate and dedicated service! I hope many new principals felt the call to get involved and participate in region activities and begin the journey of leadership within the organization.
The Leadership Banquet on Thursday night allowed us to passionately find out about the dedicated principals who serve their regions and MEMSPA via beautiful video tributes. Thanks for your service all! AND, we were introduced to MEMSPA’s Outstanding Practicing Principal for 2014- Jeremey Whan! Congratulations Jeremy, all I can say is that you are in for the ride of your life! My suggestion is like a roller coaster ride, to keep your hands up all the way! Gratitude to Jeremy Sutton, MEMSPA’s Outstanding Practicing Principal for 2013! You represented us with graciousness, class, and motivated us by sharing your insights via articles in the MEMSPA news.
We honored our dedicated, inspiring life long learner, teacher, and mentor, Dr. Nancy Colflesh with a scholarship to the Outstanding Practicing Principal to receive automatic membership in the Leadership Matters class taught by Dr. Debbie McFalone and me! A few years ago when Nancy was honored in Kalamazoo for her service to MEMSPA, then Executive Director, Bob Howe asked those who have ever been in a session or learned from Nancy to stand up. Yes, it was a standing ovation. Nancy’s passion for educators and principals has been and will continue to be inspirational and life changing!
Lifetouch was honored by MEMSPA for their dedication and service to the organization and as always provided a wonderful opportunity to connect, network, and DANCE at the Thursday evening Afterglow! Remember, what happens on the dance floor, stays on the dance floor!
The conference ended with a passionate story of hardship, hope, faith, love, and forgiveness as Chad Varga told about his difficult childhood, his tenacity in achieving life goals despite unspeakable conditions at home. He reminded us about the educators in his life who cared for him, believed in him, and saved him from what he was dealing with at home, yet ensured he was a learner. It reminds me of a quote that Jonn Wennstrom shared in his session on Lessons from Captain Kirk! “The principalship is not just a career, it is a calling!”
It is what keeps each principal doing this very intense and difficult work, isn’t it? That you have an opportunity each day to make a difference in the life of a child!
“There are people we meet who have but little roles to play in our lives, who happen to be no more than a special appearance to our story. People, who influence, who possess the drift, the force whose implication leads us forward in our course of life. We might have never come across them until today and probably not hear from them tomorrow or ever after, for all that exists is this moment, a moment enough for them to fulfil their purpose, that being to help us find our way and enough for us to fulfil ours, that being to actually find it, reach it, accomplish it. They are the ones who bring meaning to our lives, who happen to inspire, who spark a fire that we carry with us for the rest of our days, who are but pillars of hope and sometimes sacrifice, life-changers, life-savers, catalysts.”
― Chirag Tulsiani
Thank you dedicated, passionate principals! You lifechangers, you life-savers, you catalysts of hope and love! The work is exhausting, as all mission work is, but when you lay your head on the pillow at night, know that you have done something meaningful for this world-you changed a child’s life and you may never even know that you saved a child’s life.