In recent weeks, I have been contemplating the idea of listening. An aspect of listening that I frequently find myself drawn to is empathy. How well do I understand a topic from another person's perspective rather than my own?
Many years ago, I had the opportunity to attend a lecture given by Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Although not directly about listening, Bishop Tutu described life in South Africa before and during the transition between Apartheid and a new democratic system of inclusion for all peoples of the “new” South Africa. Bishop Tutu explained that leaders of the new government were influenced by a South African philosophy about the connection between individuals--ubuntu. Bishop Tutu contextualized ubuntu with a simple statement, “I am because you are”. He explained that this philosophy helps us understand our own humanity by understanding the humanity of others. Ubuntu was especially important as new leaders in South Africa considered the ways in which leaders of the deposed South African government might be treated, and ubuntu influenced the Truth and Reconciliation movement that assisted South Africans as they healed their country.
In many ways, I think the philosophy of ubuntu describes the concept of empathy. As educators, if we consider this idea of connectedness we begin to understand that we have great influence on families, colleagues, and students with whom we interact. Equally, these individuals have a great deal of influence on us and who we are. By listening and acting with empathy, we can come to a better understanding of the needs of others.
We are defined by how we respond and relate to people, and people are defined by how they respond and relate to us. How does this impact the way we listen to each other? Do we listen for the opportunity to speak our mind? Do we listen to compete and win? Do we listen to understand?
With the beginning of a new calendar year and the school year's second semester comes change. Students get new classes, teachers meet new students, performing arts groups shift to concert season, and there is a marked shift in the athletics season. Men's and women's basketball takes center stage by opening district play and men's and women's soccer warms up for their full seasons.
The main office at CTJ is also experiencing our share of changes. With Mrs. Shore's transition into the principal's role at Hill Middle School, everyone in the main office has worked together to continue to serve our community at a high level.
During this transition period, I fell upon the TED Talk embedded below. In his 2008, talk Benjamin Zander discusses his--and by extension--our passion for classical music. While lulling his audience with a lovely prelude by Chopin, Zander touches on the concept of visionary leadership. As the maestro explains playing by impulses he demonstrates how to play in one single impulse or seeing the value of the whole piece of music.
Leaders are not altogether different. Having a holistic view of an organization is required to fully steward and communicate the vision for the organization. In this period of change it would be extremely easy to lead with many impulses rather than one single, clear impulse. The music is nice too. Happy New Year!
Autumn is here! With the change to more mild weather the mood in the halls at CTJ is shifting too. Johnson Homecoming week begins on October 5, and culminates with the annual homecoming football game against Roosevelt 7:30 p.m. at Comalander Stadium on Friday, October 9, and the Dancing Through the Decades Homecoming Dance at CTJ on Saturday, October 10, from 8:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.
Homecoming is also marked by unique dress up days. Here are the themes:
...since I have visited this space. I was reminded today that promised myself that I would be more dedicated to keeping track of my thoughts within these posts this year. One might guess that the lack of posts suggests that there may not be a lot happening in A115F at Johnson High School. Decidedly, the exact opposite tends to be true. CTJ has kept its reputation as the "school that never sleeps", and we continue to welcome and host a growing diverse collection of students and community members daily. Thankfully for today's reminder I have a renewed desire to keep begin again posting in this space. As the year, continues check back at this space for ruminations from Magadance's Desk.
...are an integral part of how we perceive and interpret the world around us. Stories may also serve to narrowly define and stereotype our understanding of things if we only know a few stories. This intriguing TED Talk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie describes how a "single story" can inform us incompletely. How many stories define you in your world?
The second week of school has concluded. On Friday, the electricity in the halls was unmistakably palatable. There was an in San Antonio varsity football game on the schedule, and participants in all of the game related festivities were dressed in full regalia.
It is no secret that humans are social animals. Being and feeling connected to a place or a group enriches our experience as humans, and when we participate in a group to achieve a common outcome amazing things happen. Research also suggests that participation in extra-curricular activities can have have a positive impact on student achievement at school.
Being connected can provide the necessary motivation go to school, learn social dynamics, and practice the social skills necessary to become a successful adult.
Organizations that are open and inviting to new members in the community serve an individual's need for connection and server the organization's desire for longevity. This is a win-win prospect for both parties.
Here at Johnson there are several opportunities for students to get involved. Check out the Clubs & Organizations at Johnson and contact the organization sponsor if you are interested in attending meetings and events.
Have a great week!
What a week we had a Johnson. By most accounts the first week of school was a pretty routine. However, upon closer review there are a lot of things happening that help the week go smoothly.
Week one is all about stamina building. Teachers and staff work at standing and talking for extended periods and learning the names of a new group of students. Students spent time learning their schedules and locations of each classroom and reconnecting with friends from last year. Counselors spent much of their time working with our students to craft the "perfect" schedule.
Me and my administrative teammates spent nearly every minute of each passing period helping students find their classrooms, checking out textbooks, and climbing stairs. I have to say the E, F, and G wings are a snap but it may take me the entire year to figure out the A wing's room numbering system.
Repeat after me, "Odd numbers are on the outside and evens are on the inside of the circles."
I'll have it down this week.
By mid-week most classes got down to the important business of learning, and this is a really good sign of things to come given all of the other beginning of school tasks that take place early in the first week. At Johnson this week, we also introduced the FLEX day schedule.
FLEX periods will meet every Tuesday and Wednesday and will develop into a space dedicated towards student learning and enrichment. FLEX periods will allow students to prepare for national achievement tests, receive remediated instruction in preparation for the STAAR EOC exams, and to pursue other areas of interest each nine weeks. One particular area of focus this nine weeks is the 7 Habits for teens in which all of our ninth-grade students are participating. Students are working with trained members of the Johnson faculty to prepare themselves for productive, self-actualized high school careers and post-secondary pursuits.
A long time ago, a commencement speaker I heard described the nervous feeling he would always get when there was something new happening in his life. He characterized the connection between new and anxious as a reason to celebrate that what he was doing in his life, and perhaps more importantly how he was doing it, was still important to him. Basically, if he explained that if things weren't important anymore or if the results of an action no longer mattered it was time to move on.
As my family and I step onto the threshold of the next chapter of life and the newness of Johnson continues to seep in, I am happy to report that it all still matters very much to me. My desire to do well by the students, parents, and teachers of the Johnson community is healthily keeping me on my toes. Yes, I am nervous.
All said however, I am also confident that we are ready to receive students tomorrow morning.
Let the butterflies flurry.
Today the halls at Johnson High School were filled with the shouts, echoes, and excitement often heard from those who have not seen each other for some time.
Questions about summer fun, family news, and curiosity about new faces dominated conversations all throughout the day. It would have been easy to mistake these sounds for those of students returning from their summer hiatus, but today was the first day back for teachers!
It was refreshing to hear the joyful noise of summer's end and feel the surge of energy that accompanies the preparation for a new school year. This is not to say that the day was spent idly listening to and observing the commotion of the day. My day came with lots of introductions, questions, and errands as the dedicated educators at Johnson began the process of setting up classrooms with posters, technology, and colored bulletin boards in anticipation of the arrival of our students next Monday.
Thank you to everyone I met today for your welcoming words and your patience as I continue to learn about what it means to be a Jaguar!
This past Monday, July 30, I began a new chapter in my educational career. As I look forward to all of the new learning I will experience as an assistant principal at Claudia Taylor "Lady Bird" Johnson High School, I knew I needed space to reflect upon my learning at Lee/ISA/NESA/STEM.
It is difficult to adequately describe all of the amazing things that I have been privileged to participate in during the last thirteen years as a member of the Lee/ISA/NESA/STEM community. Growing up from teaching infancy to administration, co-facilitating a CFG with my former teachers and my former students, traveling all over the country with students, lip-syncing in an insanely funny video about our new STAAR assessments, and dancing at ISA opening ceremony for the last three years, each of these memories and everything in between have had a profound impact on me as a learner and a leader.
Even now the memories of such serious fun cause the sadness to well up in me.
As I begin to look forward to my first year as a Johnson Jaguar, I feel the nervous excitement that will accompany my first day of school in a new community. My excitement is focuses upon three things:
1. The possibilities,
2. The unknown place(s) from which possibility will present itself, and
3. The thought that I bring with me a wealth of learning and experience that I hope will continue all of the great work going on at Johnson.