My Struggle With Wait Time

slowd

Wait time was something I tried to practice regularly as a classroom teacher. It is always in our nature as teachers to want to jump in and solve a student’s problem, help them when they are stuck,  respond immediately to a question they ask or problem they have. It took a lot of focused and conscious effort on my part to “unlearn” this.  Wait time allowed for several things to happen. One, the student had the opportunity to think longer, which usually allowed for deeper thinking as well. Two, it allowed me as a teacher time to think about my response and consider what might I say to guide that student toward more critical thinking or problem solving. Wait time was something I struggled to develop but tried really hard to do. Now I’m an Assistant Principal.  There are so many times throughout my days when I’m faced with a problem that needs solving, a question that needs an answer, or an action that needs a response. I’m not referring to emergency situations in this post, just the general day-to-day things I am experiencing.

In my first three months, I have found that my natural tendency to lunge into immediate action in response to, well basically anything, is still present in this new role.  I want to respond to things in a timely manner. If a problem presents itself, if a concern or question is brought to me, or even if we as a campus are seeking ideas for this or that, I want to immediately offer them up–I am in full brainstorming mode and sometimes, or a lot of times, I am the first one to say, “Well, what about this…”. It’s not that I think I have all the answers. I have so much to learn and I definitely do not want to present myself as some kind of expert.  I do all this with good intentions, just like when I was a teacher. I want to help. I want to do a good job. I want to fix or contribute or move things along. The problem is, “timely manner” to me often means right now. It was the same way when I was in the classroom. I thought about this a while back. How this is so familiar to me, how this mirrors my struggle with wait time in the classroom.

Some may ask, “Well, what’s wrong with that? You are efficient.  Johnny on the Spot”.  Well, a lot of things are wrong with that, I am learning. Here are a few examples:

  •  I don’t always have all the facts. I may only hear one side of something and my immediate response is not the best idea when I hear the rest of the story.
  • Waiting a bit and mulling over a situation allows me time to push past “immediate idea” and I have time to think a little more creatively.
  • If I wait and think about my immediate idea or “gut instinct”, I then have time to think of what would be on the other side of that decision. This often allows me to see how a new or different problem might arise based on my response. I am now thinking broader.
  • Situations that may have one or more parties in strong emotional states have time to cool off if I wait. This helps everyone go from “venting” to “conversing”.
  • In response to, “How might we facilitate _____ on our campus” type of conversations, my immediate idea might be a good one but the timing may be off, or the steps I offer up may be better done in a different order. If I exercise wait time, I might have a better chance of realizing that, laying out a different set of action steps.
  • Giving myself wait time allows me to get input from others who have more experience than me. Who may have done the same thing I am thinking of and can share their experiences. Who may have a much better idea that I have not thought of. Who may pose questions that I have not thought of, that allow me to clarify my own thoughts.
  • Waiting gives me time to see things that I may be overlooking.

Today I happened to wake up very early and I dropped into #satchat. The question that came through my feed was about what traits are usually seen in highly effective leaders. Questions like this really jump off the screen and hold my attention as I watch the responses flow in from everyone. As a new AP, I really want to hear this! Here is a  response that came in which really jumped out at me:

Wait time!  I may be effective in my normal state of immediately attending to things.  But am I highly effective when I do that? Probably not. I know I’m not. Who would be?

Later today, I was co-moderating #nt2t (New Teachers To Twitter) chat and somewhere during the conversation I posted this Tweet:

Sometimes it seems like things just sort of start popping up…little reminders to ourselves that we might miss if we are not paying attention to them. As I think about my first three months in this role, I think about the principal who shared that advice with me a while back. I think about my current principal and how she does such a good job of modeling “wait time” for me. I am reflecting on how my natural tendency to rush and act may be something that hinders my ability to be highly effective. How my struggle with wait time still exists and seems continues to be an area in which I need to grow.

I need to remember that while trying to do a good job in my new role, wait time is still important. There are things that require immediate action, but there are other things, things that make up the majority of my time, that really would benefit from some wait time from me. Which brings me to a final reminder. This was shared at the end of a chat today, and the idea of “courage” written in it really hit home:

What do I fear, that causes me to fail to wait? Do I fear that I might seem unsure? Do I fear being “uncertain”?  Why do I fear that? For some of us, for the “Johnny On The Spot”s like me, courage doesn’t necessarily mean act.  Sometimes, it takes courage to wait.

I am working on this.

 

Connecting In Your Own Building

chains

In a previous post I wrote about a way I am using the web tool S’More to invest in the professional growth of the teachers and staff in my building. In one of my S’mores I shared with our staff the why and how of being a connected educator. I have done these S’Mores weekly since school started, each time covering a different idea or topic.  But I have been thinking for a while that it missing something.

Teacher voice.

As important as it is to me to be connected through Twitter, we need to remember how important it is to connect in our own buildings. The weekly S’More is great but it would be even better if it were teacher-driven; I think that would be a great way to get conversations started and ideas flowing from teacher to teacher, classroom to classroom….rather than admin to teacher. So last week, I approached a teacher and asked if he would like to decide the topic and write the mini-blog for the upcoming S’More. I shared my reasons for wanting to make this change. I offered a few ideas related to topics that I know he would be great at discussing, his strengths which I have seen each time I am in his room. He’s a quiet member of the staff and I was really not sure how he would react to this invitation. I sent the email at about 2pm on a Friday.  At 3:30 I received this reply:

“How about this?”  Attached was the following blog he wrote: (Or click the link in next paragraph for the actual S’More).

clay

I set out to find links to resources, both print and video, to correspond with the “theme” of his blog and package the S’More. I forwarded it to my principal, who then sent me her “Principal Ponders” section of the S’More (which was a feature added about 4 weeks ago),  written to correspond with his chosen topic.  The end result was great and you can view it here.

Feeling pretty excited, I recently emailed another teacher and asked her if she would like to be the next “Teacher Guest Blogger” for next Friday’s S’More. She replied that she would love to! She is currently thinking about her topic and developing her blog post for it. It was always my hope that this S’More would morph into a kind of self-driven “teacher blog”, one that would generate chatter, build connections, give teachers a chance to hear from peers whom they might not have many daily dealings with, and give our teachers a “voice”.  I also secretly hope that this is sort of a “safe” entryway into a full blow staff blog site one day….

I will continue to solicit for guest bloggers and after a few weeks, I will create a sign up genius for teachers who want to volunteer so that they can go in and choose a week that they wish to contribute. For these early stages, it seems to be working best to personally ask.  It is also my plan to eventually (maybe after the first of the year) add student guest-bloggers to our S’More. I think that would really add another dimension to this school community collaboration tool. I would also love to have students appear on the staff blog that we (I hope) one day start!

I guess the main thing I’m learning is that there are many ways to be a connected educator. We focus a lot on connections globally, but I think it is also really important to focus our efforts on building and supporting connections within our own buildings.  

Here is a sidenote to those members of my PLN who are following, supporting and mentoring me in my first year as an AP. The funny thing about this is, this weekly S’More was originally my little way of impacting and supporting teacher growth as a new Assistant Principal. Pretty soon my principal had a section, and now I have teacher guest bloggers….  I think it is one of the best things that could have happened because, all this time that I have been preparing to become an A.P., going to administrator chats and learning from all of you,  I have been told by so many that “Great leaders do not seek the limelight, great leaders build capacity and enhance leadership in others“. So, I think “my” S’More is going in the exact right direction and I am actually excited that it is not just “mine” anymore! So thank you for the wisdom…I was (and still am) listening!

Keep Driving

what

 

This is for all those who are facing uphill battles.

For all those who are facing challenges beyond what many of us face.

For all those who love someone who wakes up every day and overcomes.

This is for all those who teach someone who doesn’t learn the same as the others.

For all those who wonder if what they do will ever be enough.

For all those who spend time designing a different kind of way, for a different kind of kid.

This is for all those who say it can’t be done.

For those who give up on the ones who take too much time.

For those who believe that everyone has to take the same route to reach a certain destination.

Five years ago, my daughter and I listened as her therapist explained the challenges she would have in learning to drive. How those who are on the autism spectrum can have great difficulty with spatial awareness, timing, and reaction speed. How if she really wanted to learn, it would likely take more time, effort, and creative instruction than one might normally require. That it wasn’t impossible, but it would require patience, small chunks of learning, and much simulated practice.

Living in our town means no public transportation. Driving means independence. We didn’t see a choice. If there were any possibility of it being done, we had to try. We put on our toughest tough, or grittiest grit, our most determined determine. We began….

I first signed my daughter up for lessons at a local place where most students completed their driver education. She went to every lesson. She split time as a passenger, then driver, during the one hour lessons. At the end of the two months, she wasn’t ready and needed more instruction. The instructor agreed to take her on individually for extended time, and said he would meet us on the weekends for an hour lesson (at hourly rate of $80). We agreed. Some weekends, he would be there waiting in the parking lot of the High School, and she would have her lesson. Other weekends, he didn’t show up, and we would drive back home — she a little dejected. The last time we did that, she said, “He doesn’t come because he doesn’t think I can”. That was the last time we went.

I called many companies who offer drivers education to youth. I called companies who offer it to adults. Finally, one of them seemed interested in this challenge. The person on the other end of the line said, “We have an instructor who’s day job is working in an independent living center for adults with autism. He might be perfect for you”. And so, our drivers ed journey, finally, began.

He said she might be able to learn, and she might not. That some have that capacity. That others, simply, don’t. That he would need to spend time with her to make that determination, and that if it was not something he felt she could do, that I needed to be okay with hearing that.

The next weekend, we met this instructor in the McDonalds parking lot. I rode in the back seat and for two hours, she drove in and out of cones in a parking lot, pulled into slots, backed out, turned, and signaled. They talked, he asked questions, she made jokes. Getting to know each other. She was still terrified of driving, but wanting to learn at the same time. Our two hour parking lot lesson ended in an hour and a half with these words:

She Can Learn.

He said she would need two hour chunks of time, behind the wheel, weekly. He said he would start out in parking lots, then move to side streets, then busy neighborhoods, then freeways. He said she had good skills, good instincts, and good judgement. He said she lacked confidence. He said she would need to be put into situations that would require her to make decisions quickly, to reroute, to anticipate others, and to stay calm. He said she needed confidence. He also said it would cost $100 per lesson. We said, “Where do we sign up”.

Every Sunday for the next two years, we met him in that McDonalds parking lot. He never missed a session. Then one day, he said the words we had often thought really might never be said:

She’s ready to take her test.

The following week, she passed her driving test. The same week, she moved into a dorm to begin classes at a junior college. She mapped out routes to her most necessary places: Wal Mart for groceries, the gas station, the pharmacy, and her favorite clothing store. She has spent the last year doing that local driving and I have never been so proud. Until two days ago:

Over the past year, I have made the two hour round trip to her dorm to pick her up for the weekends. Because it is so far. Because it’s almost all highway. Busy highway. And then on Sundays, deliver her back to the dorm. Until two days ago.

I came home from work on a normal Thursday. As I pulled onto my street, I noticed a car that looked a lot like hers. I assumed my son’s new girlfriend must drive the same car. I pulled in, got out, and came inside. And then I saw my daughter, sitting in the living room watching TV and eating a pizza she had ordered.

“How did you get here”?

“I drove mom. Like everyone else does“.

I can’t begin to describe the feeling inside me as I listened to her explain the past two hours of her life:

I don’t like having to wait for you to transport me every weekend. I have thought about this for a while. This morning, I got up and decided it was time for me to drive home. I drove to McDonalds to get a drink, and then I pulled into a parking space.  I sat there for a long time, maybe thirty minutes, trying to decide if I could do it. Trying to tell myself I could. Thinking of all the things that might go wrong. I was just about to turn around and go home, and then I decided, no. I’m going to do it. I’m going to drive home. So I did.

I want you to know, I could literally picture her sitting in that parking lot, wrestling with the fears, the thoughts, the second-guessing that has pretty much defined her entire life. The same things she felt in that other McDonalds back when she first began this journey several years ago. I imagined her sitting there, talking to herself, and coming to a fork in the road. This decision was one that I think she somehow knew would define things for her, going forward.  It was her that wanted to do it. And it would be up to her whether to bravely take that step, or drive back to the dorm.  She decided that she just didn’t want to be “unable” anymore. Just like she did three years ago. And so, with shaky hands but conviction, she pulled onto the road, turned left instead of right, and drove home.

Had I known she was doing this, I’d of had a heart attack! Sometimes maybe it’s better to not know.

The confidence in her since this simple act of driving home happened is incredible. Friday, I got home from work and she was not here. She arrived about an  hour later, saying she called a friend back at the dorm and invited her to go hang out. She drove back to the dorm, picked up her friend, and the two went and got nails done, haircuts, and a lip piercing (that one I’m not so fond of). After dropping off her friend at the end of this full day, she drove back home, again. No worries. No fears. Well, maybe a little.

I think we have just turned a corner. Again. She keeps doing that, this girl of mine. Turning corners. Taking back roads to get to her destination. Taking her time. Going over overpasses, and under freeways, on her way to her destination. Success. Sometimes it’s a straight shot. Other times, the road is blocked, and she has to find another route. But she always does.

So to all of you, Keep Driving.

road2