Attitude is Key

05/30/2018  |  With Dr. Joni Samples
Leadership
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I retired a few years ago for about for 20 minutes. I knew that was all I was going to be able to stand of sitting on my back porch. It’s a lovely porch with a creek and everything, but I wasn’t ready for it yet. It was time to go do other things, the things I knew worked in education. After having served as everything from a teacher’s aide  in college to a Superintendent of Schools, I figured there were a few things in the field of education that I had experienced that really worked. Those were the things I wanted to do. I’m sure there are many of you reading this who have a similar urge.

Some of my friends who were leaving the field about the same time I was, were headed for the more lucrative pieces — assessment, data collection, educational consulting companies and publishing. Several of them did extremely well financially and I commend them for their efforts. I might even be able to give you some tips they followed for their consulting careers.

What I’ve come to understand is that schools, like people, have a personality. Some are open with, what Carol Dweck might call, a growth mindset.

However, I didn’t go there — into consulting. I had the background certainly, but what I wanted was to go into areas where I could really make a difference in people’s lives. After having spent a number of years in special education and seeing what a difference working with the whole family made in the lives of, not just the student, but the whole family, I knew where I wanted to be. 

I opened a business called EdSuccess and eventually I bought Family Friendly Schools which also included a publishing house by the name of Engage Press. Needless to say, I’ve had my hands full. I thought I knew about education, but consulting and publishing are whole different sides to the world of learning. It’s not good or bad, it’s just different. And believe me, I’ve done a lot of learning in the past few years.

What I’ve come to understand is that schools, like people, have a personality. Some are open with, what Carol Dweck might call, a growth mindset. Others are fixed in their ways and new ideas/concepts are viewed with distrust. It makes the job of a consultant flexible if nothing else. Even those schools that are open, are bound by board and superintendent direction as well as budget constraints. So, what do I often deal with first and foremost? Attitude.

For me, attitude is key. If there is an openness to learning new information and a willingness to try something new, then it may not be my topic of Family Engagement that kicks off the spark of interest. It may be assessment or a book study or mindfulness or any other number of topics, but because there is an interest in knowing more, being more, being more for the students, these topics are what I’m looking to learn about more. Eventually a school or district may come to what I do, but in the meantime, they’re learning, seeking more, and wanting their students to do the same. They are modeling what they believe and teach.

That’s what I look for when I’m consulting and facilitating. When that happens, I know that school or district is going to find the right consultant, maybe you, who will give them the next piece of their puzzle, then they will go looking for another idea and another concept to help them. Eventually they will find me and once they have what I have they will go on to the next thing. They’re like the Hungry Thing, eating everything in the village yet in this case they are eating with the purpose of nourishing the students they teach. They’re the ones I enjoy. They are the ones you as a consultant can’t help but enjoy. They are the ones who will make the differences in the lives of their students, the student’s families and in their community.

Deciding what you want to do as a consultant is not so much going through all the things you can do. If you’ve taught for any length of time, there are a lot of things you can do. It’s more about letting the decision come to you, people come to you because you have what they want. They will find you. If you have the skills and they know you have them, they will find you even if you’re sitting on your back porch!

Dr. Joni Samples is the Chief Academic Officer at Family Friendly Schools and trains school teams in finding creative solutions to problems at their school by building strong relationships among school staff, parents, and the larger community. She spent 12 years as County Superintendent in Glenn County, CA.Connect with her at FamilyFriendlySchools.com
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