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Principals face many challenges in leading for the 21st century. Transformations in school systems and communities in the U.S. and around the world have greatly expanded the leadership role of principals. MEMSPA and NAESP advocate for the support principals need to be successful 21st century leaders—to achieve the highest results for children, families, and communities.



Reflecting on #MEMSPA16

By Allyson Apsey

Reflecting on #MEMSPA16

Relaxing after a very busy week at the Michigan Elementary and Middle School Principals Association's annual state conference, I am reflecting on the “big rocks” I took away from the three days of learning. I know I won't do the presenters justice in this post, but I will sure try.

Our conference kicked off with a keynote from Dave Burgess (@daveburgess). I was not expecting that level of energy! It was electric. We all walked away from his passionate presentation inspired to INSPIRE our students through the curriculum. If you have not read Teach Like a Pirate, do it now and then share it with educators you know and love.

Dave asked, “If students didn't have to be there, would you be teaching to an empty classroom?”

I heard, “If teachers didn't have to be at the staff meeting, would you be rambling on to an empty room?”

Watch out Quincy Elementary! We have a Staff Collaboration Time on Tuesday morning. Let me just say–you will want to be there!

Dave also talked about the snowball effect. Don't wait for agreement from all before making changes to improve. Like a snowball, start with a small group of like-minded people. Then, add to the movement little by little until it has momentum of its own.

Dave clearly communicates that curriculum standards are just where we start, they are the bare minimum. Bring your passion into the classroom because the emotional connection that students make to the content is what makes the learning STICKY. I also appreciate his point to deliver KEY content at the peak moment of student engagement.

The first round of break-out sessions came next, and Leading from the Inside Out was included in the line-up. The presenter was ME! I am not sure how the attendees felt, but I thought it was so much fun! Click here is to see my presentation slides.

The next morning started with a keynote address from Nell Duke of the University of Michigan. A conference attendee accurately described Nell as “magical”. She is SO smart and she speaks our language. She shared several essentials from this document with us. Follow her on Twitter (@nellkduke), get to know the document, and see her speak if you have an opportunity. Last year, I made a five-minute video describing the literacy essentials, you can watch it HERE.

Nell talked about Michael Pressley‘s study of exemplary and mediocre teachers. She told us that he found a key difference between exemplary and mediocre teachers. Exemplary teachers are always looking for ways to improve and are overly critical of themselves. Mediocre teachers think they are exemplary and want to maintain status quo. This interesting and important fact needs to be shared with all teachers. My guess? This is also the difference between exemplary and mediocre principals.

I had the honor to attend an awards ceremony where many Michigan principals were recognized. Among them was a colleague that I am proud to call a friend, Jon Wennstrom (@jon_wennstrom). Jon's students and staff clearly think he is a superhero because of all he gives to them and because he is a passionate role model of continuous learning. Earlier that same day, I attended Jon's session about growth mindset where he revealed all he has learned through his failures. He inspired me to embrace my many failures rather than be ashamed of them, focusing on what they taught me.

Nicole Airgood was MEMSPA's Outstanding Practicing Principal for 2015-2016 and she ended her reign with an amazing speech. She shared a quote that I cannot stop thinking about: If you want to change someone's life, hurt them deeply or love them profoundly. -Andy Stanley

The new Outstanding Practicing Principal was announced, and our friend Amy Taranko  (@ataranko11) was awarded this honor. Amy is a wonderful principal and a lovely person, and I cannot imagine a more appropriate recipient of this award.

Case in point: remember the Pressley study identifying a key characteristic of exemplary educators? Well, as Amy and I were standing in line to meet Dave Burgess (oh yeah!), we were talking about my upcoming presentation. I asked Amy if she ever presented at MEMSPA. She said that she thinks most of the things she does people are already doing, that she doesn't do anything special.

WHAT?!? I have visited Amy's school and I can tell you the ways they use data, the interventions they provide, the warm-demander that Amy is…ALL of it is worthy of sharing over and over. Think back to that Pressley study–see why Amy is extra-exemplary?

Our conference culminated with one last keynote. Dr. Adolf Brown (@docspeaks) ended our time together perfectly. There are so many things that he shared that resonated with me, with all of us. His presentation was so much fun, he purposefully added in laughter and music throughout.

He shared that every student has a second backpack, in which they bring all of their struggles. In fact, everyone does. Some struggle because they have a single-parent family…because of poverty…because their parents like their cocktail parties more than parenting… It is our job to find out what is in their second backpack, to understand their struggles, and to help them learn and grow. It is also our job to empty our own backpack before stepping into school.

Dr. Brown also shared something that didn't resonate strongly until I had a conversation with a friend later in the day. He said perfection is a disease. I agree, we are in constant pursuit of perfection, yet it doesn't exist because we are HUMANS. We are flawed, everyone is flawed. Let's accept that, do the best we can every day, learn from our mistakes, and give each other a great gift–grace.

Beyond the keynotes and break-out sessions, one of the best parts of the MEMSPA annual conference is the connections we make. President of MEMSPA, Tom DeGraaf (@thomasldegraaf), is a great example of making connections and the powerful impact they can have on your professional and personal life. The support system we develop extends well beyond the three days of the conference. Through Twitter, Voxer, other PD opportunities throughout the year, we stay connected. I have learned so much from all of them and am blessed to call them friends.

Thanks to Mike Domagalski (@MrDomagalski), we get together every week! Join us on Thursdays at 8:00pm EST for #MEMSPAchat.


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