Positivity + Professionalism = Productivity!
My name is Troy Kasting and I am an Assistant Principal at Creekside High School in St. Johns County, Florida. We are located south of Jacksonville in historic St. Augustine, Florida. I work for St. Johns County School District. For 5 consecutive years we have been the #1 school system in the state of Florida. I am conducting an inservice training for the non-instructional staff for our school system on March 14th. Non-instructional staff are folks like custodians, secretaries, cafeteria workers, paraprofessionals and the like. Our school district requires staff to routinely attend professional development. When I was asked if I would be willing to conduct a training I thought long and hard about it because frankly, I didn’t know what I could add to the usual panoply of educational inservice topics. I started thinking about a book that I think is an important one (or should be) for us as educators. It’s called The Power of Nice by Linda Kaplan. This book is slight, but its message resonates like the ripples a stone creates when thrown in a pond. The more I started planning it around this book the more I started digging to find some sort of film to provide excerpts from. The problem was there really is no such film- that was until I stumbled on David’s film. He generously sent me a copy when I explained my purpose. I will incorporate the concepts within film and book into my training. I will also use our school system’s presentation of the 6 Pillars of Character we value. My goal is to create a growing group of people who understand the power of kindness and its long lasting effects and slowly change the culture of their individual schools.
Ok, so I wrote that a couple weeks ago and it didn’t get posted because I thought it was accidentally deleted. When I logged back in tonight it was there-in draft form still. Instead of deleting it I’m keeping it just to show what my intentions were for my inservice. This past Friday I delivered this inservice to a pretty big group of non-instructional staff. Included among the participants were bookkeepers, parapros, special education assistants, Head Start and pre-k staff, secretaries etc. I mentioned our school system’s accomplishments earlier. I believe this is as a result of a positive culture of inclusion and servant leadership. This message comes from our superintendent down to each school. I’ve been at several school systems before landing here and I can tell you they are not all equal in terms of culture. So I wanted to distill that cultural phenomena into a presentation and share this message with a group that typically doesn’t hear it. Before the inservice I stopped at Panera and dropped $60 on bagels, pastries, coffee, and OJ. This isn’t going to be reimbursed but I don’t care because I wanted to make this professional development experience a great one for them. I started the day off with us sharing where we worked and what we did at our schools. I then asked everyone to write down something positive about their supervisor, school and one other person. I also asked them to write down what the kindest thing anyone has ever done for them was. It was amazing because as we were going through the names and jobs it was pretty standard fare they’d all done countless times. But when we got to the positive comments and especially the kindness stories, there was a tangible change in the room. It was like the scales fell from everyone’s eyes. The defensive walls came down. People wanted to share their kindness stories. I shared. It was quite remarkable. So then I got into the main presentation. It’s a mix of the book, David’s film and my own material on professionalism (being a self starter, proactive etc). I also mixed in random slides of kindness messages I saw on Facebook or elsewhere. I played various snippets of David’s film Kindness is Contagious (totaling around 15 minutes). At the end of the inservice the participants applauded. And it wasn’t because it was over. 😉 Trust me when I tell you that I have been on both sides of these things for a long, long time and never has anyone ever applauded. I believe there is power in kindness and this message deeply resonated with them. It was like a long dormant live wire had been exposed. Afterward many of them waited to speak with me to thank me and ask me if I could present this message to their schools. I am now in the process of honing it, perfecting it more. When I was asked to take one for the team and do a day long inservice I dreaded it but now see this as a calling of sorts.
Photo By UWW ResNet