Leadership Lessons – March 2018

Sometimes being a leader isn’t really all it’s cracked up to be.  There’s a lot of responsibility that comes with it. And quite honestly, there are some days where I awaken so preoccupied with life that I do not want to lead.  Thankfully, I have a wonderful support system that helps me balance it all, because not leading is really NOT an option.  An entire team of people looks to me for direction & guidance, leadership & understanding, support & solutions.   There are 46,000+ students who are depending on me to make informed decisions that will positively impact their academic careers.  There are campus specialists what depend on me to communicate changes, updates, and next steps so that they can be productive in their roles.

None of these people care if my son had a rough morning or if I spilled hot tea all over myself 2 minutes before it was time to walk out the door. I don’t know how many of them will forgive my delayed responses because I was too overwhelmed by the sheer number of unread emails in my inbox.  They don’t keep track of how many times I’m interrupted to “answer a quick question” or “help think through something” in an hour.

They DO care about whether or not I am firing on all cylinders. They have a vested interest in whether or not I continue to learn, grow, & stay up-to-date on technology trends and practices. Their careers, both current and future, are directly connected to my ability to not sweat the small stuff and to stay focused on the tasks that will have meaningful impact on the classrooms that students enter each day.

That is a LOT of pressure and a pretty high bar that is set.  So how do I handle it?? That question has been at the forefront of my mind since I was confirmed at the board meeting on the evening of June 20, 2017.  There have been many lessons that I have learned since then.

  1. You can’t do it all. – Due to some pretty unfortunate and unforeseen circumstances (which I outline in this blog post), I lost two key team members within the first two months of school. Things still had to get done, and with not a lot of assistance available, I was determined to not let any of the spinning plates hit the ground.  Newsflash: I failed miserably AND I almost burned out in the process.  I had to learn that if you can’t delegate a task, you have to decide whether or not it should be on the priority list. And while somethings are non-negotiable, there are many others that can wait. Being honest with myself about what can actually wait has been the key to remaining healthy and keeping my sanity in the new year.
  2. You get what you get, and you don’t have a fit!  – This is a mantra that I have taught to all of my children, especially my presently 4 year old son.  Mommy is doing the best she can.  I can only cook one dinner, and you have to eat what is cooked.  Similarly, as coordinator I can only do the best that I can.  People with have to learn to be satisfied with my best.  There are many things that people would like to see change in my department, but I have to remind people that change does not happen overnight. Considering my first lesson learned was not to try to do it all, it was only fitting that this was my second lesson.  People will have to be satisfied with my best. As I pledge to continue to learn and grow, our mutual experiences can only get better.
  3. You can’t pour from an empty cup. – This one is a lesson that I’ve been living personally and professionally.  You have to take care of yourself. If you’ve ever been on a flight, you have heard the flight attendants tell you that if/when the oxygen masks fall from the ceiling, you should put on your mask first and then assist anyone near you who may need help.  This is so true. How can you take care of anyone or anything else if you are falling apart?  You can’t!  One of my 2018 goals is related to self-care. Knowing and understanding what helps me to relax, unwind, and recharge is a huge component of self-care. As such, I have committed to prioritizing activities that will help me be the best version of Ashley that I can be.

One of my colleagues shared a graphic with me last week that I promptly printed out and hung in the direct line of sight on the wall in my office. It reminds me to only focus on the things that matter and that I can control in the present moment, whatever that may be. I’ve included it below just in case it can help you.

Things That Matter & Things You Can Control

I hope that as you read this blog you can learn from my missteps and mistakes.  Even those of us with the best intentions will sometimes fall, but what matters most is that we get back up each and every time.  Get up, reflect, learn a lesson, share, and keep going.  As we learn and grow as leaders, we share our lessons learned with others.  If we continue to help each other grow as a community, we will have the tools that we need to transform education and change the world (which is really what we all signed up for with our first teaching assignment anyway, right?).

What are some of your lessons learned? Please share in the comments below so that I can learn from you. Remember we are stronger together!!

Spring Reflections

Hey there! It’s been a while. What can I say…life comes at you fast, and you just have to roll with it. Despite experiencing several personal challenges, I’m happy to report that my professional experiences have been the highlight  of my journey.  It’s always nice to experience success at work.  Yet sometimes, the personal professional successes are what keep us motivated and moving forward.  I have had several in the last few weeks, and today I’m finally making time to reflect upon my experiences.


Let’s start in early March, when I delivered my first keynote address.  You read that right…it says KEYNOTE!! I know that to many it may seem a bit odd to celebrate something like that, but it has been a personal goal of mine since I made the decision to step out as an ed. tech. consultant.  And do you know what made it successful??  Well, in my opinion, it was the fact that even through that experience I still remained the same honest and transparent person that I am everyday. I didn’t speak to my audience about hypothetical solutions to the problems that we face as educators everyday. I spoke about my own personal experiences, both as an educator and as a parent.  I shared real examples of work my children have produced in response to the academic expectations that they have from school. I spoke from the heart about how leveraging technology has allowed my 9 year old son to take ownership of his learning. He even made a cameo during the presentation. We recorded an interview where he spoke candidly about how & why technology helps him as a learner.   It was a very humbling experience to say the least. I continue to be inspired by the reactions on twitter and the personal emails that were sent in response to my keynote session. I can only hope that I continue to to be an influence that positively impacts the classroom practices of educators everywhere.


Keynote Bio

Dreams, Goals, & First Steps

When you take the time to write out your goals, and you truly map out your path to achieve them, I am a living witness that there is little that can get in your way.  Here’s my story:

As recently as 3 years ago, I felt completely stuck and completely lost in my career. I knew exactly where I wanted to go, but I couldn’t figure out how to get there.  Like many of my peers in education, I dreamed of the day that I would become a consultant and see my name in “lights” at conferences, events, etc. but I felt a little more than stumped as to how to begin down that path. Don’t get me wrong — I did not expect any of this to happen overnight. I knew that I would have to work hard, buckle down, and get my hands dirty.  I was actually excited by the process.  But I also knew that I would have to put myself out there; I would have to be vulnerable and possibly even face rejection.  That’s something most people aren’t willing to do, and that it what separates many people from the rest of the crowd.

Instead of giving up, I decided I would plan for what I knew how to do: write articles, attend conferences, present at conferences, and actually TALK to other people at conferences.  Believe it or not, that last step was the most difficult.  I took my plan, and I worked it. I submitted articles and proposals everywhere. I expanded my world outside of the bubble of my school district and southwest Houston. And lo and behold…I connected with so many other like-minded people.  It was amazing.  It took some work, but it was definitely worth it.  As I type this reflection, I am smiling.  I was at a conference yesterday, and I knew so many people there on a first name basis. That is something that I NEVER thought I would say about myself in any situation. But it’s the truth. I knew people and they knew me. We hugged, laughed, had lunch, and reconnected. It felt great.  The connections that I have made with others in my field are literally changing my professional life.

What does that have to do with goals, you ask? Well I wrote my goals, worked the little part of the plan that I could see, and I had faith that the rest would fall into place.  AND IT DID!!  Guess who just accepted their first invitation to be the Keynote speaker at a conference?? And it wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t (1) written out my goals and (2) mapped out a plan to get there.  One of my favorite quotes that I share with anyone who is planning (life, career, etc.) is this:

“You don’t have to see the whole staircase; you just have to take the first step.” ~Martin Luther King, Jr.

I definitely do not see the entire staircase, and when I started down this path I could really only see the first step.  But I started climbing anyway, and now I’m determined to keep climbing to see where this path will take me.

I encourage you today to write out your goals. You may not know how you will achieve them, but take the first step and watch what happens for you. I guarantee that you will be amazed.