Ryan Sheehy is the principal of Highlands Elementary School in Concord, CA. He is in charge of executing the school’s vision, building and implementing an instructional framework, and collaboratively working with staff and the community to design a school that is student-focused.
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I was introduced to Ryan Sheehy by Adam Welcome who had a conversation with me earlier [Running Because Kids Deserve It]. I first connected with him on Twitter and it became really apparent how passionate he is about doing whatever he can for kids. Ryan came up with something I just had to share with my audience. Be the One! Below are excerpts from the podcast I had with Ryan. Enjoy!
Can you tell me about you, your family, and your background?
I grew up in San Diego and am the second oldest of eight kids. I had a diverse educational background. I went to public school, got homeschooled for 3-4 years, went to private Catholic school, and then went to public high school. I met my wife in community college a couple of weeks after I turned 18 and have been married for 12 years with 4 beautiful children: Robert (10), Joshua (9), Juliana (7), and Zachary (4). We have a busy household and am currently moving to a new home. School Website
How did you come up with Be the One for your blog? Why is it important for you to write about this?
I met Adam Welcome who was my vice principal in another district, and he encouraged me to start blogging so I took the challenge. I try to put out one or two blog posts a week. This is something I feel very passionate about. I found my voice through blogging. I’ve worked at 14 different schools because I was an elementary physical education teacher working at 3 to 6 schools at a time and every staff room had one thing in common. People were scared to take that step to go outside the box and “Be the One” that changes it.
I’m passionate about the idea that one person can change the life of a child and change education for all. For me, I’ve been the one really pushing the envelope and changing things so now it’s time for me to share my message, my manifesto with the world. It’s been a model I’ve lived my life by. We all have the power to “Be the One.” All educators can live their life by this model because we’re in the business of kids and we need to “Be the One” for them, for each other, for our families, for education, and for life. Website: Be the One
You ask 2 questions in your blog “Who Tells Your Story” to teachers that tell you everything about the climate and culture in their classrooms: How do you connect with your families? How do you tell your classroom story? Why these questions?
When you walk into a classroom, you can instantly get the feeling in the classroom. Is this teacher showcasing everything they are doing in their classroom? These tell you how invested they are in their kids. We as an education profession have a hard time bragging about all the wonderful things that are happening in our classrooms. Most of us are in this for the right reasons, and we really need to showcase that. We need to “Be the One” that tells those stories. Too often we hear about all the negative things that happen in education and rarely hear the positive things. We know that there are negative things that happen and constantly face adversity.
We can “Be the One” that flips the script and tells the positive story. We can flood positivity through social media, newsletters home, and any other ways we connect and communicate to share our successes with everyone. Back to the two questions, I ask these questions when I do presentations with teachers and they tell you how invested they are in it. Too often we are afraid to tell our stories. They just need that extra push. It may feel like bragging, but it is showcasing. As a profession, we have so much power to share. Because I am connected with principals across the country, I’m able to take what they are doing and reshape it for our teachers in Mount Diablo Unified. Blog post Who Tells Your Story.
In a blog you wrote about relationships, you mentioned that you need people that challenge your thinking, not just like-minded folks. Can you share why relationships matter?
Relationships for me are the center of my world. As a teacher who went to different sites one day a week made me dig deeper about my teaching and how to create those relationships with teachers and students. On my first few days of teaching, I was thrown in right away with about 120 kids in each class. At one high poverty school where gangs were on the blacktop, kids were looking for positive role models and connections. Where do you learn about the school? On the blacktop.
That was where I noticed a fourth grader making some bad choices with a group of kids that were not always making the best choices. I brought him over and started talking to him to forge a relationship with him one-on-one. One of the things he told me was that he loved soccer so we started playing soccer together. It was a lot of fun. I continued that bond with him the next year and even taught his sister. When he finished 5th grade, I gave him a soccer ball. Where he lives, families cannot afford that type of stuff. He asked me to sign it for him so I did with a message. I still run into his parents at Costco, and they tell me about how he is doing in college. I also saw him when he was a server at Cheesecake Factory. It’s all about building relationships. No matter where you are or what your role is, you have to take that time to build those relationships with your students. Kids need somebody. We all need to be the one for them. We have the power to make those connections, be there for them, and that will change their lives forever. Check post: Get Connected and Build Relationships
Another post was about Everyone Needs an Advocate. Who was your advocate? Why do our kids need advocates?
Growing up, my advocate was my mom. We didn’t always see eye-to-eye especially during my homeschooling years. She would have broken any barriers for me. Now my wife is my advocate. She’s pushing me to be a better person, a better husband and father, a better educator, and a better writer. I never thought I was a good writer, but now my “Be the One” blog has had over 12,000 people read it. That’s the awesome power about have the advocate who pushes you. I’ve surrounded myself with people who I want to be like. I want to increase the level and rigor in my writing. Adam Welcome has been a huge mentor to me, a close friend, and believes in my message. My mom is still my advocate. My wife is the one who pushes me to be the man I am today. Post Everyone Needs an Advocate
It’s all about building memories and a positive environment. What if educators share their memories (good and bad) with kids? Is that okay to be vulnerable?
Vulnerability and sharing those real-life experiences is huge. That’s going to look completely different in elementary school from high school. That’s what people need to be careful about. We don’t have to always go into the details. I swam and played water polo in college, but when I went to Cal State East Bay, they didn’t have water polo. So I joined the cross-country team. I wanted to be part of a team, and I was horrible. I came in the last place in almost every race, but I did it. I was consistent on it and stayed with it. It is not me gloating when I share these stories. It’s okay to fail. If we can relate our stories back to that it is okay to fail, model that and share our circumstances, then that’s a win. FAIL = First Attempt In Learning.
We need to create a culture at our school where it’s okay to fail. That’s one of my big messages this year to my staff and students. It’s something I started last year. I tell kids that I fail on a daily basis. Kids come up to me and say “Mr. Sheehy, fail harder.” I tell them that it is okay to take those leaps and chances to do that.
If we can model all that as educators through our own personal stories and admitting when we fail, then that speaks volumes to us. It teaches our kids to go out and create those relationships. Kids are going to remember those positive relationships with their teachers. It is the same with teachers. If someone is talking at a staff meeting and you don’t have a positive relationship with them, you tune them out. The same thing happens in your classrooms. We need to do some self-reflection so we can be the ones to sit back, think about it, and challenge it to create those relationships to establish a positive classroom environment where all kids can learn. Read Be the One Who Makes School a Positive Memory
I just saw another new post from you about Keep Them Moving. Why do you feel it is important for kids to keep moving?
It takes me back to my physical education days. It was hard to be at many different sites and not be part of the staff because you are always moving. One of the things I used to do was write for physical education journals and websites. I would write about how we can enhance physical education. Kids need to be moving so I wrote this latest blog for some easy ways to get kids up and moving. Physical education is not an outside class like in secondary schools. Teachers, especially in the elementary level, can get kids moving every day in their classrooms. My latest blog post is about being the one that gets kids moving but not take them away from the content. It is about using physical activity to enhance the classroom experience, enhance the curriculum and enhance relationships. You will see kids more engaged. So Keep Them Moving.
What are you going to be doing this coming year?
I’m going to be continuing blogging this year. I’m on fire right now with a passion for “Be the One.” That’s my manifesto. That’s something we all need to live by. I think there is so much passion in there that we need to invest our time to create relationships, accountability, trust, and elevate our game. I think we more we can get our messages out to people, the more we become better educators for kids. That’s the bottom line. We are at a time in education, that we need to showcase that there are amazing things happen in our schools. We need to celebrate it. We need to grow as individuals and educators to “Be the One.”
Ryan Sheehy is principal of Highlands Elementary School in Concord, CA. It is a TK-5th grade school with approximately 650 students and 75 staff members. He is in charge of executing the school’s vision, building and implementing an instructional framework, and collaboratively working with staff and the community to design a school that is student-focused. Ryan is also an adjunct professor in different credential programs and teaching classes to special education and administrative credential programs.
- School email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Email: email@example.com
- School Website: Highlands Elementary School
- Be the One: http://rsheehy.blogspot.com/
- Twitter: @sheehyrw #BeTheOne
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