Big Rocks First

First things first, welcome to a new school year!  As I’ve said many times in the last few weeks, I am extremely optimistic as we head into this new year.  There are so many wonderful things happening in our district, and I can’t wait to start sharing your stories with everyone in the Cariboo-Chilcotin.

It would be impossible not to be optimistic if you were in attendance at last week’s “Gearing Up for a Mindfull Year”.  The professional development conference, organized by members of our Primary Teachers Association, was attended by one hundred educators.  With keynotes led by visiting experts Adrienne Gear and Carole Fullerton and breakout sessions led by local experts from our very own district, everyone came away rejuvenated and anxious to put some new ideas into practice.

Special thanks to the conference’s organizing committee of Lori Kelly, Tanis Stewart, Frances Bisaro, Tammi Varney, Sandra Stokes, and Tracy Walton.  Darlene Belziuk, Executive Assistant in the Education Department, also took care of all of the registrations.

“Gearing Up for a Mindfull Year” – Frances McCoubrey (left), Maria Lepetich, Jacqui Ferguson, and Erin Pederson took part in a breakaway session on manipulating by Brian Hatcher on Tuesday, August 28th at Williams Lake Secondary. Hatcher is the numeracy coordinator for School District 57 (Prince George). – Photo courtesy of Sean Glanville, Cariboo Advisor

I was reminded at the conference last week that good teaching practices cross over into all subject areas and other walks of life.  As Adrienne Gear and Carole Fullerton spoke about “asking good questions”, “sorting out the important things” and “determining big ideas”, I reflected on what those phrases mean for someone like me who is heading from the classroom into a district leadership position.

It brought to mind a story I first read about a number of years ago:

One day an expert in time management was speaking to a group of business students and to drive home a point, used an illustration those students will never forget. As he stood in front of the group of high-powered overachievers, he said, “Okay, time for a quiz.”

He pulled out a one-gallon, wide-mouth mason jar and set it on the table in front of him. Then he produced about a dozen fist-sized rocks and carefully placed them, one at a time, into the jar. When the jar was filled to the top and no more rocks would fit inside, he asked, “Is this jar full?”

Big Rocks First

Everyone in the class said, “Yes.”

“Really?” he said. He reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. He dumped some gravel in and shook the jar, causing pieces of gravel to work them­selves down into the space between the big rocks.

He asked the group once more, “Is the jar full?” By this time, the class was on to him. “Probably not,” one of them answered.

“Good,” he replied. He reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand. He started dumping the sand into the jar and it went into all the spaces left be­tween the rocks and the gravel. Once more he asked the question, “Is the jar full?”

“No,” the class shouted. Once again he said, “Good.” he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it in until the jar was filled to the brim.

Then he looked at the class and asked, “What is the point of this illustration?” One eager beaver raised his hand and said, “The point is, no matter how full your schedule is, if you try re­ally hard you can always fit some more things into it!”

“No,” the speaker replied, “that is not the point. The truth this illustration teaches us is that if you don’t put the big rocks in first, you’ll never get them in at all.”

Source: Covey, S. (1996). First things first. New York: Simon and Schuster.

As I head into this new school year, I want to ensure that the big rocks of my personal life (my faith and my family) are still given top billing.

In my professional life as the Superintendent of Schools, the big rocks are to ensure that all of our students continue to have meaningful learning experiences (our mission statement), that all students and staff are part of an encouraging and understanding learning environment (our vision), and that the leadership team with which I work models respect, responsibility, kindness and caring, and acceptance (our core values) in everything that we do.

What are the big rocks in your life?  If you’re a student, you want to make sure that your family and your school work come before mountain biking, video games, or Facebook.  If you’re a parent, you want to make sure that your schedule doesn’t become so booked up with “good” activities that you never get a chance to actually talk to your kids or eat a meal together.  If you’re a teacher, you want to get to know your students and understand what their greatest educational needs are so that you’re actually teaching students and not just teaching curriculum.

I hope everyone has a wonderful year, and remember to put the big rocks first!

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

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6 thoughts on “Big Rocks First

  1. Ohhh, that’s a good one, Mark. Just poignant enough to get some mileage but not so cheesy that I’m reaching for the barf bag. I think I will recreate that one for my geography class… I have a few students who are having a hard time balancing full time course loads with the rest of their commitments. Kate enjoyed meeting you today at the thing. I had no idea you were the Supe down in WL — this is making me feel old somehow! Great start to the blog… as you keep it up, keep placing authentic observations, challenges, and questions before yourself and your district, you’ll be surprised what seeds get planted. For starters it levels some of the conversations you will have (reduces politics and pressure to impress), and gives a chance for philosophic assumptions (yours and others) to get air and settle in before the conversations take place. Hey, you know that now you’re the Supe they’ll let you have any subdomain you want on the district server. You can set up Just saying. Looking forward to following your blog.

  2. Isabella MacQuarrie

    Great analogy, Mark! Looking forward to following your blog.
    Isabella MacQuarrie

  3. Shelley - SD27 Parent

    Love the Blog – I look forward to reading it all year long:)

  4. Congratulations Mark! Your blog reminds me of Barry Sale’s newsletters that many of us looked forward to reading. It’s nice to feel that we can connect and be entertained too. Looking forward to more posts!

  5. mccsiz

    Nice analogy. My “Big Rocks” are humanity and democracy.

    Csiz (Loyd Csizmadia)

  6. Lori Kelly

    Hi Mark
    I just want to thank you again for making time to attend the Summer Institute and for welcoming all of the teachers each day with some opening remarks.

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