Each year my in my mailbox at home I would receive a welcome back letter from the principal. Receiving this letter would usually signify that summer was about to be over and I needed to put two weeks of fun into one. Somehow I managed to do that! The letter usually contained nuts and bolts about meeting days and other pertinent information. However, what I appreciated most about the letter was the small message of thanks for the job we were doing at the school. Sometimes it was a story. Sometimes it was a quote and an explanation to our work. Other times it was a personal anecdote. Regardless of what it was, it always produced a smile and made me glad I worked where I did.
I have tried to do the same thing with my welcome back letter. This year I came across a message that greeted all employees at Apple when they were hired. The Apple message was clear. You are joining a team that cares deeply about greatness and the fulfillment of life’s work. A team that is willing to sacrifice and do big things. I saw a number of parallels to the Apple message and the work we do everyday in our schools. I shared the message in my letter and will use it throughout the year as a reminder of our the work we do.
Here is what I sent:
August 13, 2013
Dear Laker Staff:
“There’s work and there’s your life’s work. The kind of work that has your fingerprints all over it. The kind of work that you’d never compromise on. That you’d sacrifice a weekend for. You can do that kind of work at Apple. People don’t come here to play it safe. They come here to swim in the deep end. They want their work to add up to something. Something big. Something that couldn’t happen anywhere else.” – Welcome to Apple
WOW! This is the first thing that greets every new employee at Apple. Many of us were lucky to get a key to the front door of the school when we were hired, let alone an inspirational message that inspires and motivates.
As I read the statement, I couldn’t help but think about the work you do for the students and community of Nine Mile. Your daily actions indicate this is your life’s work. You freely give of your time and sacrifice countless hours to have your work count and make an impact on each of your students. It is evident that you want your work to add up to something that will be lasting and meaningful. Something that will serve our students well as they progress through life. Something that each student can take with them. Something that allows them to be thankful for their time in your class and our school. Something that says this is Nine Mile Falls Elementary and that is something to be proud of. I am extremely proud to be a part of something great at Nine Mile and watching you do things that Apple says couldn’t happen anywhere else.
Now for the updates:
For the past few years our primary focus has been on increasing our expertise through effective collaboration. This will be the case for the coming year as well. It is comforting to me to know that our work will continue to be around a process that has shown great success for us as a school and district. The specifics of the work might look different, but as we discussed at the end of the year the intentional examination of standards, instruction, and assessment won’t change. This focus will help guide the work we have already started and will allow us to continue to grow and learn together. The work will be tough and involve continuous reflection, respectful and courageous conversations, vulnerability, and failure. However, in the end we will all be better equipped to meet the demands of our work and create something we can be proud of.
Here are a few dates where our collaborative work will begin:
Tuesday, August 21st at 8:00 am – Common Core math training continues at the high school. The work will focus on curriculum, pacing, and assessments. Plan on bringing your own lunch and the work will conclude at 2:00. Clock hours will be available for your participation.
Thursday, August 29th at 9:30 am – We will meet in room 10 and our work will revolve around achievement data, goals (school and individual), summer learning, and the instructional framework. Our time will end at 3:30, which gives an hour of down time until the 4:30 – 6:30 supply drop off. I will have some snacks, but lunch will be on your own. This is an optional day for certificated employees. Classified staff are encouraged to attend and will be able to receive comp time that can be used during student conferences.
Tuesday, September 3rd at 8:00 am – This is the all-district (certificated and classified) opening and will be at the high school this year. Breakfast will be provided. We should be done at LHS around 10:30. The rest of the day will be a continuation of our work from Thursday the 29th and some nuts and bolts stuff we need to complete.
The building is in great shape thanks to Ron and his work. Everything from the floors to the windows has been taken care of. There are still a few things to be completed, but nothing major. Should you need something or are in need of help with something in your room, Ron will be around to help. Be sure to thank him for a job well done.
As of this time there hasn’t been a whole lot of changes with our enrollment. Classes are still close to full, but there is a little wiggle room. Should new students register or we receive a records request for someone leaving, I’ll work with the grade level staff to find a suitable placement for the student.
Finally, I wanted to share with all of you some of the things I learned this summer. I spent time reflecting, reading, and watching videos. As I reflect on my learning, I sit in awe of the amazing thinkers we can access with the click of a mouse or a simple web search. With that in mind, I wanted to share with you some of what I viewed or read. I created a webpage with links to some of the things I read and/or watched this summer. I encourage you to take a look at the page and watch one of the short video clips or read one of the articles I have linked. The website can be found here:
I am looking forward to seeing everyone again!