Archive for category Compelled Tribe

Are You a Hem, a Haw, a Sniff, or a Scurry?


These past few weeks have been a whirlwind in our neck of the woods.  To say change has come to our building and district is an understatement.  Sometimes, I have a hard time keeping up with it, but what we are doing is really going to be great for our kids and our future.

We are in a process of changing the configuration of our district to consolidate our elementary building to one building, move our middle school to another building, and have our high school as a one high school, not a combined Jr.-Sr High.  This has been the vision of our Board of Education and our superintendent, to consolidate our needs, work together in tandem as grade levels, to bring the best for our students of our district.

As we all know, with any type of change, it gets scary.  To make this vision happen, we had to be creative and adjust our buildings next year so we can get the project started.  With delays at the NYSED department, (are you surprised?) and finally getting our project approved, we had to change our configuration so that the building I serve will house all the PreK-2 student populations.

As we all know, lots of speculation and angst can occur during any type of change.  Usually, it is harder for the adults to process the change than it is our children.  They always seem to have no problem with it.  But, in moving forward with this project, it has always brought me back to Spencer Johnson’s great book, Who Moved My Cheese?

With the announcement of movements in our elementary buildings, a flurry of emotions came forward from the adults.  Although the staff knew that a change was occurring, they did not have the details because we were and are literally at the mercy of the State Education Department and a timeline.  What was announced was not predicted, and even may change with a construction timeline that may change too.

With that, some of my staff that I have worked with for over 12 years will be moved.  Some were fine with it because they knew they had jobs.  Some were a bit shocked, but overcame it because again, they knew they had jobs.  Some lined up to ask for transfers in open positions for change.  Some are fine to stay put.

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Yet again, it brought me back to Who Moved My Cheese?  The book is a fable about Hem and Haw (terms for indecisiveness) who live in a maze and look for cheese.  They stumble on Cheese Station C along with another pair, Sniff and Scurry.  What happens is that Hem and Haw are satisfied with Cheese Station C and start to become arrogant in the process of finding cheese and stop and become complacent, thinking that the cheese in Cheese Station C will last forever.  In the end, Haw finds his way out of a situation, but Hem is complacent with his old ways of not changing to find new cheese.  (You can read a synopsis here.)

In the End:

Change happens, and for this change, it is happening for what is best for our kids.  In the book, the character, Haw, writes “The Handwriting on the Wall” of his thinking and “aha” moments.  Here they are:

Change Happens:  They Keep Moving The Cheese

Anticipate Change:  Get Ready For The Cheese To Move

Monitor Change:  Smell The Cheese Often So You Know When It Is Getting Old

Adapt To Change Quickly:  The Quicker You Let Go Of Old Cheese, The Sooner You Can Enjoy New Cheese

Change:  Move With The Cheese

Enjoy Change! :  Savor The Adventure And Enjoy The Tase Of New Cheese

Be Ready To Change Quickly And Enjoy It Again:  They Keep Moving The Cheese

So, which one are you?


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An Ode to Lisa #CompelledTribe


I am a member of the Compelled Tribe, a group of educators who write about public school education and all the good in it for our kids.   We want to get better at what we do, we want to be a part of a community, and we find value in collaboration. Our topic this month is to compose and write a tribute about a person in our school, one who lives out the mission of our school and values each of us as humans.

My tribute goes to my secretary, Lisa Sheen.

Never a day goes by that Lisa doesn’t come in with a smile on her face ready to tackle the day.  We have worked together for the past 11 years, and I say to her, she is the reason why I put in a transfer to our school.  She is the rock, the glue that holds our building together.  Lisa is the ultimate service provider, meaning she serves her “customers” with care, patience, kindness, respect.  I am really spoiled with the talent that she brings to our office.  She makes me “look good!”  Lisa problem solves and looks ahead to make processes and products that much better and professional.  Even in tough times, and let me tell you, over the 11 years we have had some times, we manage to get through it and hold each other up, the more she holding me up than me.

I am not sure if others have a Lisa Sheen, but let me tell you, I am blessed and spoiled to the core.  I literally get on the floor and kneel to her because she is that good. I told her I was going to write this and in her usual way, she graciously told me how honored she was to be even considered.

No Lisa, I am honored to have you in my life and work side-by-side with you.  Thank you for all you do for all of us.  Your are the best of the best!  Hands down!



The Lucky Quarter #compelledtribe

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Albania – The Land of Eagles or as we Albanians are called, Shqiptar’s, which means, “EAGLE”.  My sisters and I crack up because we say, “Can you speak Shqip?”  Basically, can you speak eagle, but really can you speak Albanian.  Actually, I know the language pretty well since I am  a second generation child born to first generation parents on both paternal and maternal sides and shared a home with my grandmother, Victoria, yes, my namesake, who couldn’t speak a word of English.  Full blooded Shqiptar!

Growing up in an ethnic culture brought about many traditions.  We grew up in the Eastern Orthodox faith and yes, just like the movie, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”, I got married at my Albanian church, we spit over our kids’ heads three times to ward off the evil spirits, we are loud and proud, we eat lamb, drink Raki, but most of all, we have a passion for life.

The traditions have been passed down and have stayed with our family.  One of the best traditions I fondly remember is the Lucky Quarter!  New Years for me growing up was a hectic time because my father celebrated his Name Day, St Vasil or St. Basil on New Year’s Day.  In our religious tradition, this was an open house for all our relatives and Albanian friends from church.  It was crazy!  My grandmothers and mom would be slaves to the kitchen cooking throughout the holidays all the wonderful Albanian fair – Lakor, Byrek, Brushtull, Baklava, feta cheese and black olives galore and whiskey shots for the old men with their cigars.  My sisters and I would bring the jelly dish around with glasses of water and the guests would say some congratulatory saying in Albanian with “Gezuar” at the end.  (Good Luck, God Speed, etc.!)

The best tradition, I think, that we celebrated was to have our New Year’s family meal with a nice hot bryrek pie (spinach or leek pie in a filo dough) with a wrapped quarter in it.  My grandmother would hide the quarter in the pie, and the lucky person who got the quarter had the best of luck for the year.  After my father passed away, we continued to carry on this tradition and we would swap, my sisters and my mom, putting the quarter in the pie so we could have a go at getting the lucky quarter for the year.

To this day, we continue to have our New Year’s Day Byrek with the lucky quarter.  We have passed the tradition along to our  nephews.  They look forward to it every year and we wonder, who is going to get that lucky year?  I feel that I was a lucky kid to have these unique family traditions.  I wonder if some of my students have something unique to share?  I am sure they do.  But I also wonder if there are some who do not have that special tradition.  Those are the students I always worry about during these months and school may be their only salvation.  I wonder….. can we make it better for our kids?  I am sure we can!


Byrek Hot Out of the Oven!


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