Everyone loves summer, right? The weather is nice, things slow down a bit, and you get more time to spend with family and friends. One piece I love about summer is that it provides me more time for reflection, recharging, and learning. This past week I was fortunate to attend and present at the Massachusetts Secondary School Administrators Association (MSSAA) summer conference. Over the course of the year I attend various workshops and conferences, but nothing quite compares in my mind to the power of the MSSAA Conference and its organization as a whole.
With the unification of MESPA and MSSAA to MSAA, I see even greater things happening!
If I were to sum up the conference in a few words, it would be Relationships, Risks and Laughter. Here are some of my big takeaways from this conference, which emphasize what makes it so special.
- Celebrate your Colleagues. In every session, the presenters took time to share how they have grown and become better educators because of their colleagues. Setting the stage, John Clements, the high school principal of the year, expressed gratitude to the many educational mentors and colleagues that have encouraged and supported him over the years. Brian McCann, in his presentation on social media noted the date he and co-presenter Marty Geoghegan entered the world of Twitter in 2011 because of their colleague Bill Burkhead’s presentation. Henry Turner shared how he started using positive signs outside of school after attending a presentation the year before by Brian McCann. The list goes on and on, as every presenter gave credit to the previous sharing of their colleagues. MSSAA has created a culture of celebrating others through recognizing outstanding leadership, and by encouraging collegial sharing.
Questions to Think About: Do you have a culture of celebrating your colleagues in your own schools and districts? Do you openly celebrate your colleagues’ success and what you have learned from them?
2. Take Risks. The majority of the sessions I attended had one common theme, as a lead learner, you need to take some risks because the rewards can often surpass your expectations. Some of my favorite ideas shared included Positive Sign Thursdays, and how a simple act can have such a powerful impact on making students feel welcome and excited to come to school.
Another idea, which was presented last year, but brought up again this year was the positive impact of #shadowastudent. It was awesome to see the increase from last year of how many school leaders participated in shadowing a student. It began with a few trying it and sharing their success to the majority of the school leaders taking part this past year. I know from my experience the last few years in different grade levels and schools, it was truly transformative. At the conference, we discussed how we can expand this opportunity to teachers and to district leadership in our districts.
Questions to Think About: What is the one area you are going to take a risk in for this coming school year? What will you do to truly engage with your students?
3. The smartest person in the room, is the room. This is one of my favorite quotes and how I can sum up the type of conversations that took place at this conference. Because of the strong relationships, open minds, and willingness to share successes, participants are able to walk away with a toolkit for continuous improvement for the next school year. No better examples of this collaboration, then what I saw at the Disrupt presentation with representatives across multiple districts sharing one leadership experience that has shaped them, positive impacted their schools, and is a takeaway for others.
John Clements and Mary Anne Moran’s presentation on Practical Strategies to Reimagine School, Redesign Education, and Reinvent Learning was a big hit because of the various opportunities participants had to share their own beliefs about learning, assumptions about school, and discuss hacks they can bring back to start the conversation with the communities about the larger shifts that need to take place to support our student learners. Through post-its, conversations, and online polling, they really captured the collective wisdom of the room.
In the lead-up to our presentation on leadership, Paul Vieira and I reached out to some colleagues to share what the title of their book about leadership might be and within about a 24 hour turnaround we had a wealth of engaging titles and take-aways. Check out these great answers and please add to the mix.
Questions to Think About: Does the culture in your own districts, schools, and classroom place an emphasis on the collective wisdom of the group? Do you provide ample opportunities for discussions, engagement, and sharing?
4. Laugh A LOT. The outgoing President of MSSAA George Ferro emphasized the importance of laughing as we learn together and you did not have to go far to find our top MA educational leaders laughing and learning. When you are in the business of being the chief child advocate for kids, you need to have fun. That excitement is contagious, influential, and creates positive cultures for learning.
Questions to Think About: In your school, how much do you laugh….really laugh? Do you have a culture that allows you to get silly with the students and make school a fun place to be?
Want more updates and reflections about the conference, check the following out: