Chip Heath & Dan Heath THE POWER OF MOMENTS—6 Vital Practices for Thriving and Responsive Schools
Moments. A life is built on the continuation of many moments. The ones that are often the most important to us stay with us for a long time if not forever. The Power of Moments authors Chip Heath and Dan Health state “a defining moment is a short experience that is both memorable and meaningful” (p. 12). The term short being relative in the span of one’s life, but based on Heath & Heath’s findings, defining moments are created from one or a combination of elements of elevation, insight, pride, and connection. These unforgettable moments “rise above the every day,” helps us to “realize the truth,” “capture us at our best,” can be “shared with others,” and often “shape our path” (p. 13-14). The key according to Heath and Heath is not to wait for them, but purposefully create them to make a meaningful life.
I inevitably thought about our students and their experiences at school. The first day and the last day of school are often filled with multiple ongoing “peaks” of memorable moments. The challenge becomes filling the in-between moments referenced by the authors as the “pits.” Now I have to say most teachers put forth a lot of effort to make the moments in between the first day of school and the last day of school pretty darn fabulous for our students. Teachers are famous for planning memorable moments including field trips to OMSI or the Zoo, celebrating achievements of student meeting individual goals, and wearing the best silly hat for their students on Hat Day.
The question I continued to ask myself is, "What can I do as the building principal to create those memorable moments for teachers?" How can I elevate a teacher’s school experiences, provide insight to their possibilities, instill pride in their accomplishments and growth as educators, and help them make connections with their on-going efforts towards their professional goals? The first answer that came to mind was to nourish our teachers who work tirelessly every day for their students. Heath & Heath had a multitude of suggestions that could be applied in a school setting. Here are some of my plans to build meaningful peaks for teachers and fill in their in-between times from the first day back to work until their much-deserved summer break. Many of the ideas could then be modified for teachers to do the same with their students in their classrooms.
- “First Day Experience” “Thinking in moments” use the short time staff has all together before students arrive to define our “why” and shared purpose collaboratively. Goal: Thinking in moments plan “First Day Experiences” including team building activities with all staff. Message: “If we recognize how important these natural defining moments are, we can shape them--make them more memorable and meaningful.” (Chapter 2)
- “Tailored Gifts” Throughout the year randomly recognize teachers that simply go above and beyond expectations. More than once, well after the end of a teacher workday, I have observed them still in their classrooms with colleagues, coffee and/or diet Coke in hand planning purposeful lessons for their students. Goal: Create tailored “authentic” recognition to be given out in staff meetings. For example, awarding these teachers with an ice cold six pack of diet coke, or a Starbucks coffee card in their confiscated well-used coffee cup. Message: “I saw what you did, and I appreciate it.” (Chapter 7)
- “Multiply Milestones” Our teachers are required to develop two student academic goals and one professional learning goal each year. Waiting to celebrate their achievement at the end of the year is a long time period. Goal: Collaboratively create “intermediate milestones” with teachers to provide moments of pride as they stretch towards their professional goals. Celebrating both attainment of their intermittent goals and “normalizing failure” as a jumping off point for leaning in towards their progress. Message: “Milestones deserves peaks.” (Chapter 6 and 8).
- “Deepen Ties” Ask, “What matters to you?” Facilitating learning for a diverse group of students can be a difficult job for many teachers. Struggling alone can heighten that challenge. Goal: Continue to connect with our teachers and not only ask the question, “What matters to you?” but listen to understand, validate, and care about their responses as we reconnect with our why. Message: “You are special.” (Chapter 11).
“What if we did not just remember the defining moments of our lives but made them?” (Chapter 12). What if we redefined the school experience for our teachers by purposefully multiplying milestones to deepen our connections, and tailor their experiences throughout the school year? What if we created more moments to message they matter? Heath and Heath said it best,