Posted in Admin, Blaugust, MTBoS

Top Takeaways Week 7 – How Jackie Got Her Groove Back

This week I finally felt like I knew what I was doing.  Maybe it is because the first week of school is over.  Whatever the case may be, I am just excited to finally feel like I am living into this new role and liking it.  I knew I really liked this role when it was the first Snowball Tuesday and I only missed the being with the students part of Snowball.  I thought it was going to be harder than this to walk away from being a director as I aspired to role for so long.  However, the role taught me so much before I stepped into this role, I really felt like it prepared me for what would lie ahead.  Without further ado, here are my top takeaways this week.

1.) Single Moms/Dads Are Amazing…and Deserve GRACE

I have said this line 100s of times since my son was born.  Anytime mommin’ gets tough, I get thankful for my husband’s role in my life and can’t imagine the struggle of the single parent who has to go it alone.  The last three weeks have really tested the generosity of my mother, mother-in-law and even good friend as my son’s camp ended in July but school did not start for another three weeks.  So each week on Monday through Thursday I had to arrange care for him while Eric worked.  This would involve either the additional pickup at my parents’ home, my in law’s home in Aurora, or out in Lockport at Shannon’s place.  It made me have to leave work much earlier which usually was not a problem, however, this week already involved a late night.  The agenda for a meeting I was requested to attend said the meeting would end at 5 which would be perfect for getting out to pick up my kids by the 6pm cut off (did I mention the fine is pretty hefty for picking up my daughter late from daycare?).  Anyway, the meeting was still going at 5:15 when I had to leave or I’d be late to the pickup.  I hated leaving.  I don’t like being judged but on the other hand I truly had no choice in the matter.  As I was beating myself up on the way home for leaving when I did, I realized it was a moment to be thankful for the situation I am in to I 1.) have kids 2.) have a husband who loves me 3.) a great daycare to go to 4.) a job.  I am trying to give myself some grace but it is hard.  I just hope to channel the feelings of guilt and badness into giving a single parent grace when they need it.

2.)  Stay In Your Lane

I love to problem solve. Makes sense since I became a math teacher.  When I see problems, I naturally tend to want to help out.  I have discovered the longer I stay in this position sometimes it is best to just stay in your lane.  When I dabble outside of it either I get swatted down for not staying in my lane or the problem I would have attempted to solve comes to a resolution anyway.  This does not mean I should give up helping others.  However, seeking first to understand a problem and whether my services are necessary is a good step to prevent the smack down to my lane or unnecessary  worry on my part for a problem that will come to resolution anyway.

Loved this game for killing 5 minutes in class.   Students have to guess my number between 1-1000.  I love how it gets at place value, factors, and a variety of other “boring topics” but gives students a way to practice those skills in a pseudo-authentic way.

3.) Seek First to Understand

This week we had a problem in a classroom with a substitute.  I was made aware of the problem and talked to the substitute to get a better picture of what exactly happened.  Additionally, I spoke with the teacher upon her return to widen my knowledge of the situation.  Had I acted before talking to either of these individuals, I would have totally made some mis-steps.  However, after the situation came totally into focus by taking into account all of the sides of the story I realized no action was really necessary on my part.  Seeking first to understand and then to be understood is applicable in sooooo many situations.

4.) Seek the Good

I was talking with someone who was pretty pessimistic this week.  Despite the HUGE walls they put up in our conversation, I was absolutely RELENTLESS with my pursuit of seeking the good in any situation and IT WORKED.  Honestly, I was astounded by the result.  As I was chatting with the individual, I had doubts that my positivity would bust through the seemingly brick walls that were created in the conversation.  However, focusing on the good and seeking it out in this person paid off.  I will think back to this situation in the future when I doubt my positivity and will fondly remember how this person TOTALLY changed their tune.  Even in the face of a super challenging conversation, there is good there.

5.) Feeling the Flow

Friday this week was amazing for me.  I had many great conversations with staff members about improving practices at Rich East, a fantastic lesson with my Geometry class where students almost literally felt the headache for which math was the aspirin (separate blog post coming), and I left work a whole hour earlier than normal and didn’t feel guilty at all because the major stuff was basically taken care of.  I finally felt in the groove with this whole administrator job.  I believe this can be accredited to working with teachers.  Since this was the job I was hired to do and it was the majority of the day I honestly feel like this is the reason why I felt in the flow on this day.  I’m hoping for more flow days in the future but will appreciate this one until those ones appear.

This lesson from Desmos on Finding Midpoints totally gave my students the headache for which math is the aspirin.


Posted in Admin, Blaugust, CTE, MTBoS, Sunday Funday

Top Takeaways Week 6

This week was amazing.  Our staff returned last week and this week heralded in the Rocket class of 2022.  2022.  What?!  When did that happen.  I mean I graduated in 1997….how did we get HERE!?  It was awesome to cheer them in :).  I was sidelining and my principal coach, Dr. Brass, goes to me “Jackie, they need your energy”…. and that was my call to action.  It was HOT out and I sweat at least a pound off that day but it was totally WORTH IT!  Check out a post by my fantastic Associate Principal, LaTanza Boarden.

On to my takeaways this week…

1.)  First Division Meeting…Teaching Skills Totally Came In Useful

The original agenda allowed me an hour and 40 minutes with the division teachers.  Due to some great data conversation, and I am totally serious about the quality of the conversation here, coupled with some previous day agenda items moved to this day due to some fantastic collaboration and networking among our staff my time shrunk to about just 35 minutes.  However, as a teacher who ALWAYS over plans for any given day I was able to cut down to the nuts and bolts of the meeting and it went well.  It’s amazing how applicable teacher skills such as flexibility, pedagogical understanding, and communication skills are to other arenas.  Additionally, the activities that I cut (a fun little getting to know you Quizlet and a nice little data activity powered by Desmos activity builder) will be readily accessible for the next meeting.

2.) Seek First To Understand, Then To Be Understood

This theme will probably be a regular occurrence for me.  Some situations I learn from along the way are not appropriate for discussion on a public blog, and this is one of those situations.  However, I can say that this idea of listening and really trying to be in the other person’s frame of mind really helps in almost ANY situation.  I totally saw it come into play in a hostile situation that I dealt with as well as a benign situation at a party.  I just wish that I had learned this lesson way before this point in my life.  I did not realize how powerful it is to understand the other person’s point of view when it comes to making your own point of view.  Additionally, when you understand the other side, sometimes your opinion will change and that is ok.

3.) You Can Do Notice and Wonder EVERYDAY

Finding balance between the administrator life and the teacher life has been a challenge.  Shoooooo balance in general has been a huge struggle for me.  But I digress.  As I began teaching Geometry this week I thought “hmmmm, maybe we can do Notice and Wonder today”, so we did.  Then I read this article for probably the 10th time, Never Say Anything a Kid Can Say, and realized that Notice and Wonder TOTALLY allows students to say what I want to say.  So I am kinda on a mission to do Notice and Wonder EVERYDAY 🙂 well at least the first week of school.  The students have responded sooooo well and I love seeing their insights.  I’m excited to use Notice and Wonder this week as we introduce real curriculum.  I am hoping that I can start to create the headache that math is the only aspirin for (not my idea, but totally stealworthy from Dan Meyer).

4.) CTE is the BOMB

I love the CTE part of my job.  Most of the teachers come out of industry and have awesome stories to share from the real world.   Their passion for their craft is palpable and I am psyched to see what students will be able to learn from these amazing people.  I love our new robotics teacher.  He has some amazing experiences in engineering and has a verve for electronics. In addition to being exposed to amazing people, the students have the opportunity to get dual credit and sometimes certifications that will allow them to get jobs immediately.  I always talk about how my brother uses the CAD skills he learned in high school to do his everyday job now.  I always used to think that college was the answer however working with CTE has opened my eyes to a whole new set of possibilities in which college is an answer but that other options are just as viable if not more so.  It is all a matter of finding out about students’ why and then getting them exposed to opportunities that let them live into that why.

5.) Everyone Needs Feedback

I love doing name tents with feedback and I did it again this year with my students and it has really made me think about feedback in general.  Last year one of my biggest complaints was that administrators would come into my classroom (sometimes a group of up to six at a time) and not give me any feedback (heck, they wouldn’t even say goodbye on their way out).  We are looking to change that narrative.  This year we (administrators) will pop into a teacher’s classroom two times a week each month.  Then on Friday that teacher is invited to a VOLUNTARY meeting with us to receive feedback or ask questions about the feedback they received regarding the pop in visits.  I personally am coupling this with an initiative I was interested in doing last year called #ObserveMe.  I was too afraid to step out of my comfort zone last year but I felt like with this year that if I am going to be going out of my way to provide feedback for my teachers, they might appreciate the opportunity to provide feedback in return to me.  If you would like to give me feedback on my form, I would love a comment below.  Here is the form.  Check out the poster for my classroom and my office.

Observe Me Poster - Made with PosterMyWall (1)



Posted in Admin

Top Takeaways Week 5

Our new choir director BELTING out some amazing Kirk Franklin 🙂 I never knew I could be so HAPPY – at an institute day 🙂


Wow.  Just wow.  Every time I think I have reached a new high or low I have a new experience.  This week totally had both.  We had an ABSOLUTELY amazing first institute day at school.  I have never experienced anything quite like it.  The energy and the enthusiasm was palpable and I absolutely love the place that I am in right now.  We had the awesome experience of witnessing our students partner with a new voice coach to BRING DOWN THE HOUSE at institute day.  That memory will stick with me for a long time to come.  I have never felt so energized after an institute day – and I’ve been doing this for about 17 years.  Dr. Thomas was totally successful in his approach to the kickoff to this new year with defining “your why”.  I loved how my Principal carried that theme throughout the remainder of the day by having the admin team on our campus talk about their “why” and then allowing small groups of staff members talk about their why with each other.  I loved having the opportunity to talk with Joe Durzik.  I’ve worked with him for many years and I know him as “Big Joe” (and yes we have a Lil’ Joe who used to be my custodian in my room) yet I don’t know how to spell Big Joe’s last name –  and that it SHAMEFUL, but I digress.  He’s worked in our district for a number of years and was so proud of his “why” which was to provide a clean, safe environment for our students.  This really spoke to me.  Without having people like him to help make our school a beautiful place, it would be incredibly difficult to work with our students.  I’ve always been grateful to our custodians but was even more so on this day.  I talked with Linda who was so excited to be included in our institute day.  We need more of these interactions and we need to appreciate EVERYONE who goes into the educational process so much more than we do.  Therefore, my first takeaway is the theme from this institute…



Takeaway 2: Finding Balance

I’m always unapologetically honest on this blog.  This week brought me to a highest high and a lowest low.  I really need to seek more balance in my life.  Although I LOVE my highs, the lows are so unbearable.  I really have to work on not taking things soooooo personally initially.  Once I reframed a particular situation in a new way – as JUST feedback and not something personal – it took the negative emotion out of it.  I’m so lucky and blessed and appreciative to be in this supportive environment that even when I make a bad choice I can learn from it and move forward.  I need to provide that same environment for my teachers as well.  I need to afford them the same opportunity that I have had to allow others a moment of GRACE.  Grace, by definition, is an unmerited favor of God.  I am so blessed to have the people in my life right now who will pick me up when I fall apart and who will lovingly correct me when I go astray.  I need to be that for other people as well.  God has done great things by placing Ms. Knox and Ms. Tumbs at Rich East this year.

Our admin team is FILLED with Rockets!




Takeaway 3:  Focus on the moment

I bet when I read my blog a year from now that this theme will play throughout.  Worry only steals the joy from today.  There have been some not so good situations this week – untimely resignations, people who have rejected the contract that they were offered, and other let downs.  However, instead of thinking about all of the negatives of those situations I just have to trust in the FACT that we will overcome.  God didn’t bring me this far to leave me :).  I need to work on reframing situations in the moment.  But at least I am a work in progress and I know what I need to work on.  I hope that one day I can provide the mentorship and guidance that my current administrators have provided to me.  Ms. Boarden and Dr. Brass have been instrumental in moving me forward in this leadership role and I hope that I can one day pay it forward.

My girl Kara ALWAYS has my back!  I love her so much

Takeaway 4: My Wheelhouse

I LOVE LOVE LOVE teambuilding.  I had the opportunity to work together with almost 30 students this week in preparation of freshman first day.  They were SOOOOOO attentive and totally willing to help our new Rockets this week have the best introduction to what Rich East has to offer.  I loved how positive the experience was and I felt comfortable in my administrative role for the first time in a while.  I have a knack for these types of activities and it is just a matter of incorporating more of them into my practice as an administrator that I will be able to really shine.  I am really excited about the upcoming first day with our newest Rockets and am so glad that I took the hour out of my day to help these students show off the best of what Rich East has to offer, RELATIONSHIPS!

Amazing how so many great people can be so close in one place!

Takeaway 5: Let It Go

So much can change so quickly in administration.  For instance, a solution that I have worked on for several hours has changed about four times in the last week and each time has been for a VERY good reason.  May 2018 Jackie would’ve flipped her lid at each one of these changes, but August 2018 Jackie has embraced the idea of doing what is best for students.  You have to sometimes let go of solutions for better solutions in the future.  This is HARD!  When you spend HOURS on something and then realize that there is a better solution for students, you have to just LET IT GO and trust that what is best for students is the best choice.  This theme has come up time and again this week and throughout my experience.  I have to let it go and give up some of these decisions for the greater good.

Have I told you lately how much I respect this man?  He is amazing in all situations.
some #sketchnotes are better than others – this one has so much whitespace because I was so engaged throughout the presentation.  Sidenote: I REALLY need to work on my stickfigures
Posted in Admin, Blaugust

Top Takeaways Week 4

I made it a month! Wow! All I can say is WOW! Each and everyday I have learned, grown, and improved. Additionally, I have had plenty of storms but I am so glad that God has brought me through. I cannot WAIT for teachers to come back next week and students the week after. I am EXCITED to see plans come into fruition and help others reach their potential. Without further ado, here are my takeaways:

1.) be present even as you walk down memory lane

I had the absolute PLEASURE of escorting some Rocket Alumni through the hallowed halls of Rich East. I loved hearing stories; the cookie breaks, the smoking lounge, having teachers like Claudon, Polanczyk(sp), Raftery, etc, time spent in the gym, etc etc etc. I was a last minute addition to the day but it was awesome how everyone was so excited to have me there to be their personal escort 🙂


I typically tend to think way into the future (what am I doing next) or reminisce about the past and this event was truly about being in the moment with these amazing people. It was fantastic to see the school that I have called home since basically 1993 seen through the eyes of these alum. The experience totally jazzed me to do more and learn more about our fantastic school.


2.)  if you’re gonna do a job, do it with your ALL

We did registration this week. I was assigned to a station with the counselors but then got reassigned to the very last station. What could’ve easily turned into “please give me your paper, have a nice day” turned into a fun little party :). Kameelah would call out when we had a new Rocket in our midst and then some of our fantastic students would cheer.


At the end of day 2, our amazing Principal took a moment to recognize all of the staff and students who assisted with the event. Everyone introduced themselves and again, it felt like a family reunion party. I loved the atmosphere and I loved the school spirit and pride. I honestly feel like we are at the beginning of something really memorable. I loved how everyone did their part and did it with such fidelity and enthusiasm. I can’t wait to see what this school year holds.


3.) all things come together for our good

The week before this was STRESSFUL. However, I now truly believe with my whole being that it was a necessary evil. I learned the value of a contract. The experience left me stronger and I feel more empowered for the next time I am in a situation like that. I still need to work on leaning in a trusting God more but I fully believe that I handled this situation with God’s grace so much better than I have in the past.

4.) it is just feedback

I am learning more and more that when I receive criticism that if I frame it as feedback and as an actionable intel then I don’t take things so personally. In the end of the day, it is RARELY personal and I personalize things WAY TOO MUCH. Treating the criticism in this way the last week really helped me to grow personally. The next time you are receiving criticism, you TOTALLY have to give this a try. In your head, just say to yourself, this is just feedback and don’t take it personal. You can thank me later.

5.) look for the good, you will find it

We are searching for a candidate to fill one of our teaching positions. Looking for a candidate in August is TOUGH. However, even in August these are people that we are dealing with and when you look for the good you will find it. Always seek the good, you will find it.