Sunday, April 27, 2014

Don't Take it Personally

(image courtesy of

As educators we are intrinsically "people pleasers". When we selected this profession of education with that came some "givens". Those givens would be:
  • We knew we would make a difference. 
  • We would guide the next generation into world peace.
  • We would be the teacher of the next great inventor. 
  • The next president would come from our class.
  • All students would learn everything we had to teach them and learn it perfectly.
  • Insert your own here: _________________
We did not plan on, nor specifically prepare for, things such as:
  • Disappointment 
  • Rejection 
  • Fear 
  • Mandates
  • Directives
  • Societal issues 
  • Failure
  • Insert your own here _________________ 
The shift of our perception to our reality has brought with it a change on what was intended to be a picture perfect journey of teaching and learning.

When we took our first classroom and/or transitioned into our first administrative positions, we quickly realized that this natural phenomenon known to many as "disappointment" would also impact the world in which we worked.

It's not that we didn't know what disappointment was, we just hoped to avoid it with students and teachers. Remember that we are, or at least thought to be, in complete control of the environment in which we work. At least that is what the "Guide to Being the World's Greatest Teacher" says. That guide is in the same series as "Parenting 101" and "How to Raise the Perfect Child".

And with that disappointment comes the flood of emotions. And those emotions, those feelings, we take very personally. And most would say, rightfully so. It goes against everything we believed about teaching and making a difference in the lives of others.

When we are faced with failure, rejection and disappointment we take those personally. When we have lost control of the direction in which we intend to head we struggle with accepting that.

It is the very feeling that when we are each asked why we got into education we answered with such passion and conviction becomes more of a distant memory. We talk about making that difference, molding the minds of young children and being a positive influence on learners wherever their needs might be. Our goal is to hold strong to that belief.

In the end how do we separate taking it personally from being considered: growth, progress and accomplishment?

We need to find the balance. We can control what is within our grasps. It is alright to take it personally as long as we are willing to accept that both lists, the givens and the unknowns, are critical in the process of teaching and learning.

You can work towards pleasing people but don't allow that to be all you do. Disappointment can provide some of the greatest lessons in life. We teach our own children to learn from their mistakes. We should do the same. And maybe, just possibly, as we do take events of our day personally, we become better at what we do.

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Power of the #PLN 

I was recently asked my opinion (via a tweet) of how a teacher could move their learning community (a middle school) forward when it comes to instructional technology and improving communication through the use of social media. The problem that was presented, and the purpose of the tweet, was that the person holding the keys to the front doors is "behind the curve".

The issue, according to the teacher, is that the district leadership is not where the teacher believes they should be in their understanding and implementation of basic technology integration in learning. Similarly the building leader is not modeling the relevance of how both simple social media communication can impact parent awareness or how instructional technology is essential to student growth. The school community and the learning environment is not keeping pace with today's technology and therefore academic needs.

So you ask, "What's the big deal?" It's just a question.

I knew that this simple request for input was bigger than me and me alone.

And that is when I turned to the Power of the PLN.

(image courtesy of

With the rather simple approach of asking for one's opinion through reaching out to a group of individuals known as a Professional Learning Network (PLN), the wheels were put into motion. A simple tweet embedded with a question to solicit the thoughts and ideas of a specifically constructed group of professionals to provide insight and guidance is my interpretation of a PLN. Within a PLN the knowledge, experiences and perspectives capture the vast landscape from around the world. The replies would be to the point, less than 140 characters. Imagine a meeting with colleagues when gathered in a conference room or board room in which replies were shorter than a simple sentence or two. With an online twitter based PLN you often find that you get to that point, quickly.

Even though the question posed to the PLN may have appeared to seek out an answer, in this situation that was far from the case. Our goal was to process, discuss options, give feedback and provide our own perspective of expertise. And within a relatively brief period of time, moments at that, professionals collaborated and offered direction. The question that began this exchange had provided more than the teacher could have imagined. It cleared a somewhat muddy river.

As you scroll through your Twitter feed and form your Professional Learning Network ask yourself what your purpose is for participating. Determine how you embed social media into your personal and professional growth.

The Power of the PLN means something different to each individual. Find your purpose and grow through the experiences. As I was wrapping up this blog, this tweet came in. Fittingly, I would say.

Friday, April 11, 2014

The Next Great Idea?

(image courtesy of
There are never enough ideas.

Some of the greatest ideas took time and convincing to become embedded into every day life. With ideas come opportunities. We get better. Change occurs. Improvements happen.

That is the purpose of an idea. To force change so that we look at something in a different light.

What is simply an idea today can become the spirit behind an entire nations future. Ideas sent a man to the moon, created new energy resources and cured illness that once were incurable. 

As we look into the eyes of our students ask yourself if that child will have the next great idea? There was a teacher that stood in front of each of us that often asked that simple question.

In the end it will be the thoughts and ideas of today's youth that will determine our own existence and our own direction. As educators we get to mold, shape and influence where those ideas go.

That is awesome. That is powerful. That is responsible.

Listen to the ideas of those around you both young and old and remember that in order for success to happen in life someone had to think it, believe in it and share it.

Who knows, maybe you will have the next great idea.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

It's not easy, wasn't meant to be.

(courtesy of

Watching students grow in their academic journey is why I got into this business of education. Seeing teachers deliver quality instruction is part of my motivation to stay . In a world of ever evolving requirements placed on the shoulders of educators, I am mesmerized by the dedication that our teachers and administrators have during this transition in academia.  I am in awe of the leadership I see in the classrooms by teachers and in the offices of our school buildings by principals.

The role of the building administrator has changed.  What was once a role of managing and operating has morphed into an instruction based position. This change is for the good however the hours in the day are never enough. They have the responsibility to bring best practices to the forefront of every classroom and provide every teacher with the resources they need to be successful. With the implementation of new evaluation tools, walkthroughs, district initiatives, federal mandates and specific building needs, Instructional Leaders are pulled in more directions than ever before. They do so with a style that is unique to the needs of their staff and their community. Providing what's best is a priority. 

What we ask of our teachers any given year is simply amazing. They are handed a class schedule, a roster of students and simply told, teach. And, if you are fortunate enough, they do it with passion, perseverance and appreciation. They teach knowing that in a little over 160 school days there jobs will be critiqued by the performance of their students on a test they had very little to do with creating. Teachers are leaders. They change their content, they change their delivery based on research of best practices and they evolve into the teachers their students need them to be. Teachers educate themselves while they educate their students. They learn about implementing technology into instruction, they discuss grading practices and assessments and they meet and collaborate to be better. 

Both continue to lead by example. Teachers and administrators continue to teach with passion and both continue to lead by inspiring their communities of learners. Neither rests. 

As I connect with educators within my district and through my Professional Learning Network (PLN) I am often reminded of how we are always being evaluated as educators. Which becomes a constant reminder that the decisions we make, as teachers and administrators, do matter. And the example we set is measured, whether intended or not. 

Continue to fight the good fight. Be the awesome example you are. Our jobs don't get easier but we keep getting better!

To teach. To lead. To be an example. 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Power of Twitter - Revisited

Next month I have the opportunity to share my passion for teaching and learning at the @NLearning Building Communities Conference in Boston. In the spirit of preparing for the conversations I am excited to be engaged in, I thought I would share this post from my early days of blogging. First published on April 14, 2014, my growth and my effectiveness of being a leader has grown exponentially since that time. Thanks to my Professional Learning Network for their constant push towards my own development as a learner and a leader.

Most likely if you are reading this you have undoubtedly found The Power of Twitter. What began a couple years back as a dabbling in social media, has become one of the most intriguing and gratifying forms of professional development in my 20 years in education.

So what have I accomplished with Twitter?  Let's create a list.  I will start and you can add yours in the comment section if you so please.  Here we go:

1. Professional Development. You, like myself, either have or will identify your Professional Learning Network. Your "PLN", as us Twitter savvy techies refer to them, will assist you in a variety of ways each day. Whether affirming a thought or answering a question, the on-the-spot professional development will rival any inservice you have participated in. This PLN, which changes by what my needs are, continues to expand my knowledge of the work that I do.

2. Reflection. A while back I wrote Blogging, Why Bother? and it is still circulating around the twitter-sphere. I am hopeful that it resinated with a couple of novice writers that stumbled across it and maybe even inspired someone else to start posting themselves. Twitter ignited this passion of writing and therefore reflection of my work.

3. Communication. If you have not experienced the power of participating in a twitter chat, then it should be the first item on your twitter "bucket list". My own journey with twitter began like this: 1. Created an account. 2. Followed some people and got followers back. 3. Read what others were saying and tried to throw a thought out there for others to learn from. And then it happened. I found the power of the hashtag! What began as "lurking"- reading a twitter chat without engaging in conversation, has turned into a chat schedule that rivals no other. #Edchat, #ohedchat, #sblchat, #IAedchat and now one inspired by myself and some of my colleages, #hcsdchat, consume too many evenings. Thanks to people like Jerry Blumengarten I can keep up to date on all the days and times of these powerful conversations. The degree of communication is unbelievable.

4. Connections. I am fortunate to have the connections I do in my daily work and be able to collaborate with some amazing people in my building. My teachers rival all others and my administrative team, including those I report to, are passionate and strive for excellence. With that, twitter has amplified not only those connections but also those down the street and those hundreds of miles away. I have made connections with my use of twitter that have strengthened me and made me better. Professionals like Todd Whitaker and Rick Wormeli have become more than authors of great insight and intellect, they have become a reachable resource. And those like Jennifer Hogan, George Couros and Eric Sheninger and their experiences have become immediately accessible as I infuse, share and grow from their knowledge and strengthen my own leadership.

As you think about your use of Twitter consider all of its forms and what power it posses in your work. PLN's, blogging, hashtag conversations and making connections is just the beginning of the power of twitter. Add your thoughts below. Always looking to learn.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Who's Counting?

With spring break behind us and the final quarter of the year officially underway, I strongly encourage you to not count the days left in the school year.

Think of all the great work you have accomplished since you welcomed your students into your building back in August. Recall the conversations, the learning, the sharing of ideas that has spawned the greatness in which you and your students have thrived from. It is simply awesome.

Do the math, there is still twenty-five percent of the year in front of you. 

Each time we teach a concept we hope for mastery of all that we deliver in a lesson from the hours of preparation we put into it, not just parts of the lesson. Looking at from yet another angle, there are countless hours of grading and reflection that go into our work. Picture only giving 75% in your effort toward your grades you assign or the prep you put into the lessons each day. 

Look at it this way. When we assess our students we strive for learning of 100% of the material. We would never find it acceptable if we just did 75% and settled for "C's". Agree?

We strive for learning and growth in all that we present, asses and reflect upon.

If you begin to count, are you suggesting that you would want the school year to come to a close sooner rather than later? 

When we start counting, we send an unintended message. Instead of thinking of the remaining days as an end in time to the current school year, I encourage you to think of the remaining days as the last opportunity to teach the knowledge in this period of time and ensure that our students are given every chance to grasp as much as possible.

Do not count the days away. Instead, look at each day as another day to learn something new for the last time. Keep students and staff engaged 100% of the year.