March 30, 2014

Learning With Your Mistakes

Yeah......I did it.  I goofed.  I pulled a Dufus move. No, it's not the first time (that number wouldn't fit in this post) but it was a mistake I should have known not to make. Granted, it was made out of zeal and innocence, but mostly it was made because I focused on my goals and not the goals of my teachers.

So each week I try to send out a Weekly Update to my staff.  The goal is to reduce the need for staff meetings, or at least reduce the amount of housekeeping that takes place in staff meetings.  There are notes about upcoming events or deadlines, changes to plans, and a calendar of events. These pieces seem to cause little stress sometimes a little confusion, if my calendar is off from theirs, but little stress.

However, in the past few years, I have added a professional development/growth piece to my updates. I found myself collecting some incredible resources, thanks to my Twitter PLN, and thought it may be helpful to share some of the blog posts, videos, websites and apps that I have discovered thanks to those connections.  I have added in some great infographics as well. All of this was just meant to be a piece that was there for them to check out at their own pace. If they get to it great, if they don't, well that's fine too. I have started to add more and more links, posts and graphics lately, and that has created an issues I should have seen coming.

My hope was that I was providing them with some new perspectives, some new information, and even some inspiration, that they wouldn't have to go looking for.  What I didn't consider was......maybe there was a reason they weren't looking for it.  Maybe they didn't have time to go looking for it.  Maybe they were busy creating newly aligned lesson plans, finding resources to add to their curriculum maps, digging through Teacher Pay Teacher for Common Core aligned activities, correcting papers, quizzes and tests. Maybe they were looking through their students data to see if it was time to adjust flexible learning groups, possibly working on progress reports, report cards or just contacting the parents of a troubled student, and maybe they were preparing their budgets for next year. This is more of a probably than a maybe.

Somehow, I forgot to recognize and realize all that my staff was already doing, to see how stretched they already were. I goofed.....I forgot to be empathetic in all that I do. I was actually trying to add a little fun to the weekly updates and see how well they were being read.  So, a couple of weeks ago I decided to add a little note that said, "if you have read this far send me an e-mail with the word 'Surprise' in the subject box."  If I received that e-mail I went into the staff workroom and put a Ferraro Rocher Chocolate Truffle in their mailbox. A simple treat. Meant to be fun and be a small thanks for reading the update. 

What I didn't realize, was that this little treat, this little hidden surprise within the weekly update I share out, would actually create stress. A couple of my teachers (and maybe more, or even all) felt like this hidden treat was actually a check in, or a test to see if they were reading the update.  Were they doing their "homework" that I unknowingly assigned each week. I, being new to my staff this year, hadn't heard this yet. Yes, they are still figuring me out and they were afraid to share that thought with me.....So, unknowingly, I kicked it up a notch in the next week's update. I share 2 or 3 blog posts with my staff each week and next to one of them I added a note, "make sure to check out the comments after the post." Yep, I decided it would be fun to leave a comment on this Edu Leader's blog that told my staff members to come and say surprise to me face to face and then I would give them a free scoop of the day from a local ice cream place. What a Dufus!! 

By "kicking it up" I mistakenly added even more stress to the "fun" idea I had. When I heard that this was causing stress I apologized and have promised them that I would not be leaving surprises in the updates any longer. If I want to treat my staff, I will just buy pizza for lunch, have an ice cream sundae party in a staff meeting or provide Soup & Salad during conferences. I do try to be intentional in all that I do, but I also have to be empathetic, put myself in their shoes and see their perspective on things. I guess it is just more proof that sometimes we learn with our mistakes......


  1. Very thoughtful, Tom. If your staff reads this blog post, they may understand your perspective and reasoning as well. You are trying to share your learning and there is nothing wrong with that.
    Keep sharing that which is important to you with your staff. They appreciate it.

  2. Even though you feel it was a "D-oh" maybe it awaken someone that might not have never tried those great snip-its and now they are totally loving them and learning far more than they ever did before. Some of us do need prodding.

  3. I'm the person on my staff who posts the things I'm reading and finding interesting, and it has taken me a while t realize that if no one responds to them, that's totally okay. People will or will not get to them, and since I'm not an administrator, the evaluative piece is taken away. Sometimes, it feels lonely, though. Thanks for sharing the "doh" moment.