Sunday, September 30, 2018

Feeding Your Emotional Intelligence

Connecting Beyond the Four Walls

The sound of nails on a chalkboard sends shock waves to my soul, just as much as a statement I heard recently as I attended my first session of a state-wide principal academy – You all know, when you’re an administrator, it’s lonely at the top. As I looked around the room of principals I wondered if anyone could hear me screaming because on the inside I sure was. I will admit, I too believed in that age-old adage once upon a time, but I can truly attest to the fact that being “lonely at the top” is a choice. Today, there is no reason for educators to work in silos. We are better together and it is up to us to reach out, and connect beyond our four walls. When we do, everyone we serve benefits from the relationships formed and knowledge acquired.

I recently shared the beginning of the year staff survey results with our campus leadership team. Five weeks into my 6th year as a campus leader and I must admit it has been the best start to a school year for me and the staff sentiments were the same. When I think of the WHY that is, I truly credit it to my personal and professional growth as a leader. As a reflective practitioner, I am always looking back while forging ahead. So much of what I have shared with the staff was not anything that I invented. It was a compilation of thoughts, ideas, and advice shared by so many educators that I connect with across the country.

My commitment to being a connected educator took me cross country last summer; the highlight was my journey to Chicago to collaborate with a team of dynamic educators on an annual project while attending the National Principals Conference. #EdWriteNow, in its second year of collaboration, brings ten educators from around the country together to focus on a current topic in the ever evolving world of education. In less than three days, I marveled as the group engaged in meaningful dialog leading to a published book, where all proceeds go to benefit the Will To Live Foundation. Let me be clear, I was absolutely humbled to be included with the rock star educators who came together to produce Education Write Now – Volume II -  Jeff ZoulRandy ZiegenfussRosa IsiahElizabeth Bostwick, Laura Gilchrist, Sanee Bell,  Winston SakuraiSean Gaillard, and Danny “Sunshine” Bauer.

While writing my chapter Connecting Beyond the Four Walls challenged me as a rookie author, my appetite for personal and professional growth was satisfied beyond measure. Ironically, I was tapped to work on this project because of connections that I made with co-author and editor of Education Write Now: Volume I, Joe Mazza. Almost all of the educators I connect with on Twitter, Voxer, or Facebook, I have never met face-to-face, yet they have impacted my daily work, resulting in positive impacts on the more than 100 adults I serve with daily, and the thousands of students I will serve throughout my career. While I have never met Mandy Ellis, author of Lead with Literacy in person, I connected with her through social media and combined her ideas as well as those shared by Eugene Park, a principal in New Jersey and member of  our #PrincipalsInAction Voxer group, to bring a Book Tasting experience to kick-off our staff’s Personalized Learning Development. By connecting with other leaders, I am motivated to try new ideas which support the growth of those I serve. While social media connections are at your fingertips, face-to-face connections are invaluable. Time is a scare commodity in our world, but mark your calendar and go out to visit another campus or department to see what they are doing…you can always tweak or toss ideas that you find along the way. Last year I ventured to another campus in our district which has resulted in us embarking on a new journey this year, bringing Genius Hour to our students. #Priceless

In Education Write Now: Volume II (to be released, December 2018,) I share why I am so passionate about connecting with others in the field, and how it has transformed the work that I do.

Feeding Your Emotional Intelligence

After connecting with Moms as Principals on Twitter, I asked to be a member of their Voxer group. I recall driving to work that first morning after joining the group. I listened to a few voxes, caught the rhythm of how others shared and responded, and mustered the courage to send my first vox. And I know what you’re thinking, “You were hesitant about speaking into a phone with people who had no idea who you were?” Yes...although I spoke with hundreds of students daily and more than 120 staff members, fear of that unknown had me unsettled. In education, we often hear failure is not an option. What if we changed that mindset to failure is an option? What if we believed failure is the only option? By being willing to fail, we are demonstrating a willingness to learn and grow, and isn’t that what we ultimately want from students?

So eventually I pressed the orange Voxer button, “Good morning MAPS. This is Onica Mayers from Houston checking in. I’m the principal of a PK - 5th grade campus in Houston, Texas.” I shared a few details about my campus, thanked them for allowing me to be a part of their learning network and shared that I was looking forward to learning and growing from and with them. I kept my introductory message short and sweet, cognizant of the established norms which included keeping your vox under a minute. That was the genesis of it all. To begin, begin. I cannot even imagine my professional and personal life now without this tribe.

The Institute of Health and Human Potential defines emotional intelligence as an awareness that emotions can drive our behavior which has both a positive and negative impact on people. In education, we are in the people business, be it the little people (students) or the big people (adult learners).  If you want to consider yourself emotionally intelligent then you have to work consciously on your emotional skills if you are going to have the positive impact on either targeted audience. In my very first educational leadership class, we read If You Don’t Feed the Teachers They Eat the Students.  What happens if you don’t feed the leaders? Who do they eat? Feeding one’s emotional intelligence as a leader is essential to the success of whomever you serve. If you are a teacher, you are a leader of students, if you are a campus leader, well, it goes without saying that you are leading students, staff, parents and community members. If you are an instructional coach, you are leading teachers. When your emotional intelligence is not fed, how can you feed others?

Undoubtedly, students learn better in safe and supportive learning environments, and the same can be said for adults. By connecting with a group of like-minded individuals, I found myself better equipped to handle the day-to-day situations and struggles as a leader. By having a support system, a network to reach out to with those who “get it,” I found myself better able to navigate the current educational terrain. This connection is not just to help with the struggles but also to celebrate the successes. We call them #EduWins and in order to elevate your class, campus, department or district towards whatever your desired outcomes are, genuine connections are a prerequisite, and that requires a high emotional intelligence. You must put yourself first on this emotional intelligence journey.

My experience working with the #EdWriteNow team resulted in the formation of lifelong relationships. Our time together led to the tagline – Relationships Matter People. While it was spoken in jest during one of the times where the atmosphere needed to be lightened as we were knee-deep in writing and approaching crunch time, it is what making connections is all about. The relationships and bonds formed by connecting with others, allow you to pay it forward in the work you do with others. I have kept up with each of the co-authors through their weekly blog posts, as we continue to be each other’s cheerleaders. In the upcoming weeks, I look forward to re-connecting with Winston, Sean and Danny “Sunshine” Brewer as they bring it home and share the excerpts from their respective chapters.

This December, in addition to getting Education Write Now: Top Strategies for Improving Relationships and Culture Volume II to support your professional growth and development, pick up an additional copy and gift it to someone in your PLN, and continue connecting the dots so that you are not lonely, no matter the capacity in which you serve.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Practice What You Preach
Walk the Talk

All year I’ve been tapping teachers on the shoulder when I see them doing things I consider #WorthSharing. They’d look at me puzzled when I’d ask, “Why aren’t you sharing this with your colleagues?” I pushed many of them out of their comfort zones leading them to present at our #EachOneTeachOne professional development monthly series on our campus. Having staff members step up and share best practices, based on what they were doing in their classrooms, ideas they may have learned at a conference or from twitter chats, or sharing things they may have been trying out because of our push to be risk-takers, created a sense of empowerment among the staff. We embraced the Culture of Yes and our teachers knew that as long as it was good for kids, they could try anything if it led to student success.  It was the cultural shift we have been working towards for the past four years. But was I practicing what I was preaching?

It wasn’t until I sat with a principal colleague one day that I realized that I was talking the talk, but not walking the talk when she asked, “Are you planning to present at RRR (our annual leadership conference) this year with all these ideas you’re always sharing?” I looked at her just like our teachers look at me! I immediately fired back, “I don’t mind sharing when people ask me, I’m happy to do that, but present, as in at a conference, to my colleagues from across the state?” In reflecting, I realized that if I was truly going to live my established hashtag this year, #BeTheModel, I needed to do just what I was encouraging our teachers to do – step out of my comfort zone, take a risk, do what I know I was capable of doing but just haven’t taken that leap to do it. And what was holding me back? Fear of what ifs.... 

So I did….and I loved every minute of it! Last week, I presented at my first face-to-face conference. I did a virtual presentation first, videotaped myself to self-reflect on what I needed to tweak, and then went for the gusto. Yes, I had two sleepless nights prior to the presentation because I am my own worst critic, but the response to the presentation was so worth it. In a filled room I shared my why and my passion for why I believe it is so important for leaders to be intentional with everything they do –the way they greet students and staff, how students, staff and parents are celebrated, branding the campus, in essence being the model for what you expect from those you serve with and lead. In the end, I felt good knowing that when I say, “Don’t ask those you lead to do anything you aren’t willing to do yourself,” I am actually living it.

One presentation down, and several more to go. 
I’m already working on another presentation for July - in October and one next February…now others are tapping me on the shoulder, just like I’ve been tapping on our teachers’. The positive feedback I received has fueled the fire for me to continue to #BeTheModel, but more importantly, the experience reminds me of another mantra I preach – no risk, no reward. Take that risk and do what’s needed to ignite your flame. What do you know you need to model more often for those you serve and lead?

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Instructional Leadership - A Mentor Principal Must #BeTheModel

Challenges bring with them the opportunity to self-reflect. When recently asked to mentor a new principal, I readily accepted the challenge and knew this was an opportunity for me to pay forward all the mentorship and support I received in my rookie year. Why would I consider mentoring a new principal a challenge? Because as I end my fifth year as a principal, I can look in the rearview mirror and clearly see that I didn’t know what I didn’t know in my first and even second year. So tasked with helping to be that cheerleader, listening ear, collaborator, sounding board, problem-solver and mentor to a new principal is indeed a challenge. Unlike any other profession, there is no amount of training, schooling, professional development or reading that will truly prepare you for being responsible for shaping students’ lives and futures, supporting adult learners, accepting responsibility for ant bites when you are certainly not the one in charge of maintenance of the school grounds, social media posts gone awry, increasing test scores, safety and security and I could go on indefinitely. Having sat in the assistant principal’s seat for 8 years, upon becoming a principal, it was evident that the principalship requires job-embedded learning. In essence, you learn every day, because no two days are ever the same. So given this charge, to help with the responsibility of supporting a new principal, the question, “What would you have wanted someone to tell you your first year?” came to mind.

As I prepared to meet with my protégé, I knew I wanted to meaningfully welcome her to the profession. I listed out the five things that I wish I knew five years ago:

  • Be true to who you are. Know your why. Know your core beliefs and let all those you serve know what they are. Without them knowing what you stand for and believe in, others will not follow your lead. Sharing your core beliefs, being transparent and telling your story, can’t be shared once at a meeting. Whether you know it or not, you do it every day in your interactions, and it should shine through in every conversation you have. Don’t forget to be reflective. – Journal
  • You have to show up and bring the magic with you every day if you intend to build fond, lifelong memories for all stakeholders. No matter what you have going on, wave the magic wand once you step into the building because every day you will build memories; it’s up to you to make them momentous ones. – M and M’s
  • The reality is this is a stressful job. One must be mindful and intentional in taking care of oneself. I would use the analogy of putting on your own oxygen mask before trying to put it on others to save them. I’ll be honest…five years in, I’m still working on this, but I wish someone explicitly expressed the need to be intentional with my own health from day one. – Book of Mindfulness
  • Show gratitude. Take note of not just the big things; it’s the small things that those around you do that help to lighten your load and you need to show appreciation for it. Get to know the love languages of those who support you and let them know often what you appreciate about them. People who feel appreciated will always go the extra mile for you. – Note cards
  • Everyone refers to you as the boss; for me, personally, I prefer #LeadLearner. While I have a sign on my desk that says that I’m the boss, it says Mom Boss…that’s who I tell what to do…my kids. This role is not about power, or bossing people around. That is a recipe for failure. As a principal you are called to serve and lead both adult and student learners, and to be successful you have to be conscious about leading with grace and heart. – Boss Desk Sign

I filled the goodie bag with treats related to the five things I wish I knew and I added a few extras:
  • ·       Popcorn – when things get off and popping, just breathe and stay calm.
  • ·       Heart-shaped Post-it Notes – remember to lead with a servant’s heart.
  • ·       Orbit Gum – there are just some days you’ll ask yourself if you’re on another planet.
  • ·     Pens – go with your gut; you are the “right” one for the job, although there are days you will doubt yourself.
  • ·       Nuts – you guessed it; there are days when you will think you are going nuts, but that too shall pass.
  • ·       Rice Rollers – there are days you’ll just have to roll with the punches but you will get through it.
  • ·     Paper Weight – Positive Vibes Only – energy vampires will weigh you down; do not allow them to take you off course.
  • ·      Coke (happens to be my protégé’s drink of choice in stressful times) – keeping it real – when you’ve reached your frustration level, before you lose your cool, because, YES, it will happen, we’re human too…close your door, “have a drink” then get up and right back at it.

The goodie bag was filled with treats I knew she would enjoy and appreciate, but it felt incomplete. What object in the bag allowed me to share with my protégé that the most important role of a #LeadLearner is to #BeTheModel as an instructional leader? None. As a mentor, you have to be grounded in current educational leadership trends. I knew that I had to share the importance of developing and studying professional practices. How could we want students to show up every day ready to learn, and encourage teachers to commit to lifelong learning if we weren’t going to do so ourselves as leaders? I added the two most important “treats” to the bag – The Innovator's Mindset by George Couros and Start.Right.Now by Todd Whitaker, Jeffrey Zoul and Jimmy Casas.

Five years ago I knew that I education was ever changing, but the pace in which it is growing can be overwhelming. We sometimes get lost with the “newness” of best practices, technology tools, etc., but   The Innovator's Mindset was a great reminder for me that when we as educators think about innovating, we have to be cognizant that it’s a way of thinking; it’s not about changing everything. It’s about creating something new and better. More importantly, Couros helps you to understand that you must learn first if you want to lead well. In Start.Right.Now the #EduRockStars share the first steps toward excellence – Know the Way, Show the Way, Go the Way and Grow Each Day. Hearing or reading from those established in the field is so critical to a principal’s success. It helps to cement your beliefs and steer you back on course when you veer off. As an effective mentor, I would be remiss if I did not share the importance of staying current and these are two texts that I recommend that mentors share with their protégés to deepen their pedagogy in being an instructional leader.

The Innovator's Mindset
So yes, my protégé enjoyed every single one of the treats in her goodie back, but when all the snacks are eaten, and the cutesy items are no longer on display, it’s the books shared that will help to sustain her ability to deepen her practice for years to come.

For those mentoring new principals, being an effective mentor indeed requires you to model active instructional leadership. How do you stay current? What organizations do you belong to? How do you seek out learning opportunities? What books are you reading that are worth sharing with your protégé?

Start. Right. Now.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Just Ask

Just Ask

It sounds simple enough, yet it’s something that many of us in leadership positions struggle to do. A recent experience highlighted why it is important to practice what I preach. In leading a campus of almost 120 staff members each day, I am always telling someone, “Just ask for help when you need it. That’s why we’re here.” Or I’ll preach the mantra, #TeamworkMakestheDreamWork. But how often do I internalize those same sentiments and apply them personally? Rarely.
Rewind the clock to last spring. In my quest to model the art of failing forward aka taking risks, I found myself drawn to introducing an Edcamp to our district. After reading about Edcamps and visiting several to enhance my learning as a leader, I wondered why one was not done in my district. After studying the mission and purpose through the Edcamp Foundation, I thought, “I could do that! For sure, I can organize an Edcamp for my district to come together and learn from each other’s best practices.” As the lead learner of a blended learning campus, I am committed to fostering an environment that also differentiates the learning opportunities for our adult learners as well as our students, and this is in essence what Edcamps are all about…giving educators a voice in deciding what they want to learn about.

As the thought bubbles popped up and the wheels started turning, I quickly realized that although I could organize this event in a district of my size (the 4th largest district in Texas), it would not be as successful without support. In thinking about the different tasks that would need to be done (nailing down a location, setting up registration, getting sponsors, publicizing the event, food…you can’t have an event for educators without food, etc.), I knew that it was important to have a diverse team. After all, I have never designed or built a website, and that was a requirement. The easy way out would have been to simply throw in the towel before the match even began. I am so glad I did what was right, not what was easy. I simply asked for help…it was the right thing to do, and as a result, almost two hundred educators came together last Saturday, to listen, learn and share best practices, all to the benefit of thousands of students; and if I do say so myself, they had fun along the way.

At the Inaugural Edcamp Cy-fair educators came not only from my district, but from seven surrounding districts and private schools, and spent four hours on a 70-degree Saturday morning, building their Professional Learning Network (PLN) and deepening their pedagogy.

Asking for help is truly a sign of strength and not weakness, and knowing who to ask is just as important as the actual asking. I asked 16 other educators for help; based on the relationships I had previously established with them, I knew their strengths, and every single one jumped on board, feet first…2 other principals, 4 assistant principals, 2 digital coaches, 3 instructional specialists, 1 classroom teacher, 3 members of our district’s technology department and our director of communication. With only one face-to-face meeting, shared Google docs, a Voxer group for the team, and a Zoom virtual meeting, we bonded and had an epic event. I am truly indebted to each one of them, because they are difference evidenced by this sweet note by left by our associate superintendent.

I walk the halls of a campus each day and encourage students, staff and even parents to reach out and “just ask.” While those who attended the event had amazing takeaways as noted in Meredith Akers' post, my learning was priceless…it’s okay to “just ask.”

When asking for help:
·       Know who to ask. Building relationships is the key to knowing people’s strengths and how they can complement yours.
·       After asking, step back and allow others to lead. There was a reason why you called upon them; no need to micromanage. In asking, learn to trust.
·       Fear not; people actually love helping. Be specific in your asking and be able to articulate the desired outcome.

Many of us shy away from asking for help, and ironically, we’re not alone. My #OneWord2018 is WHY. So WHY am I sharing this story? There are so many of us, no matter what our role or profession, who are reticent about asking for help when we most need it. Is it fear that gets in the way? Fear of appearing not to have it all together? Well, I have learned to fear no more. When you “just ask” the result is rewarding not just for you, but for the others who are choosing to serve as well. We are better together, so the next time you are hesitant to step out and ask for help, remember the impact that asking for help had on the almost 200 educators who attended #EdcampCyfair, an event that may never have happened.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Know Your Why

I’ll be honest. With the busyness of bringing the fall semester to a close, all I had on my mind was doing nothing during the winter holiday. Can you actually do nothing? After all, do is a verb – an action word. How was I going to accomplish doing nothing? I knew that a mental break was needed in order to re-energize and come back ready to push through for the spring semester.  

I was successful for a few days…doing nothing…and as someone who is always doing something, the art of doing nothing felt awkward, but pretty good. That doesn’t mean that the laundry list of things to do on my Google Keep was not still at the forefront of my thinking. It sure was, but when the thoughts surfaced, I consciously chose to dismiss them. I felt so compelled to do nothing, that I didn’t even want to exert my thinking about my #OneWord2018. Yes, PRAY, kept me focused in 2016, and HEALTH reminded me of the need to take better care of myself in 2017, but I was fine with 2018 ringing in without putting that all too often pressure I place on my shoulders with identifying that word that I would commit to.

COMMIT – in decorating my son’s room on one of my do nothing days, I posted a series of positive sports affirmations on the walls. One read – When you feel like quitting remember why you started. Something drew me back to the room and back to that sign several times, and I thought of the word COMMIT. My friends and family and certainly my staff would probably say that COMMIT is not something I need to work on. Indeed, I’m a pretty committed person; but the problem actually lies in over-committing. I over-commit to work and career, but fail to commit to what satisfies the person, not the principal. 

I don’t commit to family, stay connected to loved ones, make time for my physical, spiritual and emotional health, and I could keep going. So do I need to COMMIT in 2018? Something about the word stings; I already feel the pressure, for once I say I’ll commit to something, and for one reason or another it doesn’t get done, then the word that I perseverate on is failure. When you feel like you’ve failed, you’re usually not even willing to continue trying. Been there; done that!

There was the sign again…this time, what drew me into it was When you feel like quitting remember WHY you started. WHY – knowing your why impacts your what and your how. It's not the why as in why me, but the why that makes you think about every decision that you make, no matter how great or small, and ensure that you are making decisions that fulfill your purpose and feeds your soul. So while I am not committing to going to church every week, on those Sundays I am contemplating whether to go to church or not, I am going to remind myself WHY I need to feed myself spiritually, and regularly. While I am not committing to going to the gym X number of days per week, on the days when I think I can go tomorrow, I am going to think about WHY I need to be more physically active to model good habits for my kids and let that drive the what I do and the how I do it. While I am not committing to spending a certain number of hours with my kids and husband each week, I am going to pay attention to WHY a work-life healthy ratio will help to build relationships with those who matter most in my life. 

A recent visit to my old stomping ground in Brooklyn, NY, highlighted WHY staying connected to your loved ones is important, despite the busyness that comes with everyday life. By not paying attention to the WHY, you do not live with intentionality and purpose. Small moments lead to big memories but only when you live your WHY. As the hum drum of everyday life sets in, and the novelty of a new year fades, I am going to continually let my WHY guide my thoughts and actions.

So here I am, not committing to anything in 2018 but looking forward to letting my WHY lead the way. I hope yours does as well.

I encourage you to begin your journey of knowing your why by perusing Start With Why.

Friday, September 1, 2017


All of my adult life, I have lived by the mantra…every situation that you’re experiencing…the good and the ones that demand keeping a growth mindset…is somehow preparing you for an experience yet to come. Never has that belief been truer than life right now.

#WhoKnew that when I sat this summer, after reading Option B by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant, and reflected on what happens when Option A doesn’t work (you kick the heck out of Option B), that the focus on your #WHY would fuel my work with our staff. Today, exactly a week after ending our week-long professional development, where the staff painted and shared their #WHYs, we will need to lean on those WHYs, as we prepare to embrace our students whose trauma of being evacuated and losing not only their worldly possessions but their sense of belonging, will haunt them indefinitely. Their loss, their pain, their need for adults who will shower them with all the love they need will be our #WHY and we’re ready to kick the heck out of Option B.

Positive Energy Filled the Room
#WhoKnew that when my district offered me the opportunity to become a nationally certified principal coach through NAESP, that one simple activity I did this past June – The Energy Stick – would be the final activity I did with our staff before heading out to face the uncertainty of Hurricane Harvey. We stood around our PE Room, all 104 of us, and watched as the energy we transmitted to each other by holding hands, helped to light up an energy stick. We observed that if one person lets go, it has an impact on that energy stick, and shared how important it was for us to “stick” together – leave no man behind. Now, we are prepared to transmit that energy to our students and school families as only positive vibes will get us through the unknowns that we will face as a school community.

#WhoKnew that when one member of our team reached out, on behalf of another staff member who was being evacuated, and had nowhere to go…that another team member would leave the comfort of her home, and try for three hours to get to her. When that didn’t work, another team member stepped up and offered her home…all this for a staff member brand new to our campus…leave no man behind, even our #Rookies.

#WhoKnew that when our school was adopted by our business partner EagleBurgmann, three years ago, that we would have the opportunity to pay it forward and support one of their employees. For three years, our liaison worked tirelessly to support our campus, leading to a partnership unlike any other. They gifted us $250,000 to support an initiative, mentor our students, teach Junior Achievement classes, provide monthly treats for our staff, and the list could go on. So when our liaison reached out and shared that she was trapped with rising water and two little ones, I felt helpless being physically unable to get to her…but then I called upon our team…one simple Remind message asking for help, and within two minutes, more than a dozen people wanted to know where she was. The smiles on her kids’ faces after one our staff members got them out is simply priceless…#WhoKnew

#WhoKnew that when one of our staff members left her home because she was in the flood zone and relocated to an area she thought would be safe…only later to leave due to a mandatory evacuation of the relocation site…that it would put her 9 minutes away from a parent (more than 45 minutes away from our local community) who reached out to say that she was out of food and gas with two little ones. Her two relocations put her in the right place to support a family in need…#WhoKnew

#WhoKnew that when I read Kids Deserve It two summers ago and learned about Voxer, my professional life would never be the same. Almost one year ago to date, I stumbled upon #MomsAsPrincipals (MAPS) and soon after #PrincipalsInAction (PIA) and found a tribe that I would lean on daily…lean on indefinitely. These principals, (more than 200 strong between both groups) are my daily dose of coffee in the morning (and I don’t drink coffee) and my Dr. Pepper in the evening (and I don’t drink Dr. Pepper). I connect with them via Voxer…I listen, I learn, I share…we laugh together, cry together, pray for each other, sympathize with situations that only we understand, build each other up and #Reframe situations to help maintain a positive outlook, no matter the situation. I am a better leader because of them…all of whom I have never physically met, but can identify them by voices. So this summer, when someone in MAPS mentioned #WorthItBoxes…more than a dozen of us made trips to Michael’s all over the country, buying out all boxes we could find. So as the staff left one week ago…before this life altering event that will forever be etched in our memories, they found each other’s Worth It boxes, and told each other why they are #WorthIt. As our students return, it’s our turn to fill their Worth It boxes and share with them why they’re worth it…why they are worth every ounce of energy we will exert to create a new normal for them…a normal post Hurricane Harvey.

#WhoKnew that when I shared with MAPS and PIA that I had students who were displaced, students who would have needs beyond measure, that the side voxes would come in faster than I could keep up, with dozens of principals praying for the safety of our school (which miraculously did not have a stitch of damage despite the surrounding neighborhoods being completely submerged in water) and committing to adopting our campus. #Connectedness  No one asked about our students’ socio-economic or immigration status. It is confirmation that there are good people in the world…that despite the political images that flood our daily lives, we are a country more united than divided, and despite all the negatives that are shared about social media, it is social media that has provided the avenue for support that we will undoubtedly need to get through the road ahead. Yes, miracles still happen!

So what I know for sure is that when given lemons, you make the most refreshing lemonade that you can…because despite the doubt and despair, unknowingly, life is preparing you for the next experience. Not that I need another Hurricane Harvey experience, but I know that this experience, is somehow preparing me for one that I will face in the future…or perhaps, I will be able to pay it forward and support another leader or campus…and when it comes, because I know my WHY, I will be ready…so thank you Hurricane Harvey for preparing me for what is yet to come. My hope is that everyone reading this will dig deep and think about their WHY, because knowing your WHY matters.