Archive for April, 2015

Saying No

Posted: April 24, 2015 in Uncategorized
flickr photo by Horia Varlan shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

flickr photo by Horia Varlan shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

So, I’ve been thinking about saying no. I’m not good at it. I described myself the other day as a recovering oldest child, and I think that says a lot. I’m the oldest of my siblings, the only girl. I have a hard time saying no to requests to do things. I want everyone to be happy. When I had my first kid, I got better at asking for help, which isn’t the same thing exactly, but it’s related.

Now that my kids are older, and I have a job that is not all about being in the classroom, I’m finding the requests are coming in fast and furious. When you are a classroom teacher, people, administrative people, ask you to do things. And, you and they know that most of your day is already spoken for, without any meeting requests being accepted or even suggested. Now that my schedule is not pre-populated with teaching it might appear to be open. Emphasis here is on appear.

Back to the requests. Some of them are great opportunities, like being on search committees. Searches may be time consuming, but they are also super interesting. I love it. Then there are the requests that seem interesting or flattering, and later you realize later you just got the wool pulled over your eyes. It’s a thankless task that the most recent victim doer-of just got out of doing and now someone needs to do it.

However, sometimes the reason to say yes to a task is not the task itself but the company you will keep in doing it. Sounds like more saying yes.

Then, sometimes it’s an opportunity to do something new or different. More yes.

So, I am wondering, when should I say no?

So, I’ve been thinking about Annie Lennox. A FB friend of mine posted after the Grammy Awards “I wanna be Annie Lennox when I grow up.” I would totally agree. The comments all agreed as well. Here she is at the Grammy Awards.

However, since it is unlikely that I will in fact turn into Annie Lennox for any number of reasons, I started thinking. What is the essence of her awesomeness? What would that look like in my position at school? It is a fact that I have a terrible singing voice. So, we have to think very theoretically here.

So first, Annie. My friend commented on her great hair, performance skills, voice, and confidence.  Part of what I appreciate about her is that she is unmistakable. I never think who is that sining if I hear her voice. And at the same time, I never think, sounds like all her songs. She is consistently recognizable, yet not old or stale. It seems to me, again I am so not musical, that she has found that sweet spot of having “her thing” yet not being so stuck that it is all rehashing.

Also, I love that big, all-out voice. No shrillness, just power. If she’s phoning it in, she’g got me fooled. When I started to look at other images and recordings as I wrote this, I noticed she also aligns her outfits with her costars. So, at the recent Grammy awards she was in basic black, as was Hozier. She added some sparkles. When she sang with David Bowie at the Freddie Mercury Tribute in 2006, out came a more dramatic outfit. If it works for that collaboration why not wear a big tule skirt and a superhero mask out of eye make-up?  Attitude and confidence, she’s got them both. (Don’t even get me started on the tyranny of long hair. I’ve had long hair; it’s good. But, what I don’t appreciate is that it is so universal for girls, and virtually all women under a certain age.)  For me, rocking a great, short haircut also goes in the plus category. She’s of an age, now, that short hair is probably the norm, but she’s done the short thing since forever, as far as I know.

So, what would that look like in a suburban, independent school in a competitive market? I think the eye make-up superhero mask is out; I’m not good at eye make-up. I’ve got the unusual haircut/color all set. On to the more substantial characteristics.

What would that unmistakableness and power (of voice) look like and sound like? I know there are people who probably think I sound like a broken record sometimes, even though I try to mix it up. Yet, I hope that people do hear a consistent message from me that the educational goals, the learning goals, should drive instruction. I push effective use of technology because of what it can add to the learning or organizing or assessing, how it can help teachers and students. The fact that it can make things more interesting is an added bonus, not the main event. I do try to have a “big voice” by having examples, information, willingness to do the leg work, and research at the ready. At the same time, my goal is the duet. I am not going to, nor am I qualified to, take over teaching any and all classes.

When I break out the big voice, I need to be aware of the potential to overpower. I’m really not an overpowering person at all. I’m energetic, and if something interests me, I’m all in, but steamroller or bully probably do not come to mind when my name comes up. I am aiming to be Annie the collaborator, not necessarily Annie the solo artist.  Being a tech coach is really about being collaborator extraordinaire–a collaborator with a vision that can transform and reframe. A vision that references where we are and connects to the familiar while at the same time plots a bold new course. If I can do it well, it should seem like when we get there, we all thought that was the plan all along.

So, to review–recognizable, not repetitive; powerful voice, not overpowering; a bold look/vision that may be unusual, but that is within sight of something familiar. I will probably keep my tule skirt at home–unless a teacher version of David Bowie is my collaborator. In that case, there will also be hats.