Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Who Do You Follow?

(courtesy snowbrains.com)

Almost one year ago I wrote one of my first posts. (Blogging, Why Bother?That was the start of my journey of using writing as a reflection to my work. To this day, and over 100 posts later, I am still writing and better for it.

Now, many months later, there is a new question that I am asking myself: Who Do I Follow?

Twitter has become an amazingly powerful tool when searching for growth in the professional world. It has become a part of my routine, like blogging, in an attempt to gain insight into what others are doing in their respective environments. Twitter has opened doors, created new friendships, fostered old ones and connected me to new ideas. It has brought me a sense of direction.

So I ask: Who Do You Follow?

Many evenings I scroll through my twitter feed and often find myself lost in the intellect of others. It is extremely impressive. For me, reading posts is my attempt at striving to be a better leader myself. It is imperative that I discover who I am, how I lead and how I can be better at it. What people share is a part of this process.

So, again, I ask: Who Do You Follow?

I do know that those that I follow are comprised from all levels of education and from the business world. They are teachers, students, parents, community members, district level personnel and beyond. They each have their own perspective, their own beliefs and their own reasons for being involved with Twitter and sharing what they do.

My answer? The people I follow are people like you. I follow those that inspire me each day. I follow those that challenge me and encourage me. I follow people that are passionate in their teaching and their learning. I follow educators, and alike, that listen and share and provide feedback to my work. I follow those who bring a perspective that I may not have considered. I follow those that have a desire to grow, learn and lead in what they do.

Who Do You Follow? It will be a lesson all in itself.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Human Spirit

(Courtesy mgaresearch.com)

I am rather fortunate where I work. Very fortunate, actually. I have an extremely supportive group of colleagues that I spend each day with. We feed off of each others wisdom. My colleagues have passion.  These people care as much about what they teach as who they teach. They put kids first. They do "what is best for kids" in all aspects of their day. They care for their students. They love to teach.

The same goes for the colleagues that support our work from the district level. They provide guidance, ideas and most importantly, they trust us. They have our backs. And not the surface stuff either. They are the type that get in the trenches, pull back their sleeves and get messy with us. They are engaged leaders of leaders. They understand us. 

This climate, this culture, did not become this way overnight. This environment was not created by one person. In fact, it was a series of events all intertwined together over the course of time that leads us to where we are today. 

I believe in the human spirit and I share that belief with those around me. I am both the teacher and the pupil. I learn as much as I teach. I evolve in who I am and how I serve others. This is what I believe:
Embrace others.
Respect perspectives.
Admire a teachers will. 
Honor a students opinion.

Pay attention to what is happening around you.
Act in a manner that makes you a part of the possibilities of the organization.
Lead. Laugh. Learn.

As you have the opportunity to teach, guide or support others, what is it that will take your organization to this higher state of possibility? What shift needs to occur for your school, business or institution to become one that is filled with trust, encouragement, engagement and hope? 

My advice? Allow yourself and those around you to dream and dream big. Encourage risk taking. Model. Embrace your vision. Have passion. Believe.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Lessons from the Lodge

It is amazing what you can learn while sitting in a ski lodge.

My son and his buddy wanted to hit the slopes so I decided to take them a quick 45 minutes up the road and enjoy the day at an Ohio ski hill. Yes, a hill, it's Ohio. Not much for elevation change in the Central part of the state. None-the-less, the boys were about to have a blast.

Today I decided to sit this one out. They were both boarding and I, well, wanted them to take on the day how they saw best fit. "Next time", I said.

While sitting just inside the snow covered runs, I found myself engrossed in small talk with those around me. Most of us were doing the same thing. We had each decided to allow our kids to take to the lifts and enjoy the day being on their own. We were fostering our children's passion to ski while also allowing them to dive into their independence. This became my lesson for the day.

Giving our children their independence is not easy. For so many years we spread our wings and shelter our young from the "real world" that sitting back and letting them face daily obstacles is challenging to say the least. I gazed out the window frequently hoping to catch a glimpse. It wasn't to be. They were up, and down, the slopes too quick for my eye to see.

As parents, we share similar sentiments when it comes to our hopes and goals for their success. We want them to conquer their fears, take on the challenges that lie in front of them and be strong in their will to improve. The hill became the metaphor to my desire to want them to succeed. To those I conversed with, we each strive for our children to reach the peak of their potential.

We are proud of our children's accomplishments and brag on them endlessly. We each take great pride in what our children can do. When given the opportunity we share with others all that they have done in school, with their interests and their passions. That gives us great satisfaction of our jobs as parents. For every moment of parental challenges, today was an opportunity to reflect on all we have done right.

As you enjoy your winter of spending time with your children or those you impact through your teaching, remember that every day you are making a difference in their lives. No moment is to simple and no conversation just words. Each breathe of each day is a lesson all by itself. So, whether in the classroom or on the slopes, encourage them take risks, overcome obstacles and move beyond the "bunny hill". Great things await them and we as adults can't wait to sit around and brag on them while sitting in the lodge.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Getting Organized. Avoid the Overload

Recently I was having a rather intense conversation with a few colleagues about the amount if information we are each asked to process on any given day. Before I go any farther, let me emphasize it was a very collaborative and positive part of our day.

Each day we have a list of tasks to complete. It doesn't matter who we are or what we do. If we get out of bed and head into an office, school building or job site, we have plenty to keep us busy. In order to complete the day worth of work, there is going to be a multitude of opportunities to offer direction, guidance or even an opinion on how exactly that work should be accomplished.

In today's world we all know that the information comes from a variety of sources. Email, the internet, texts, phone calls and the office door will each be a part of the daily routine. There will not be one minute of any day that there is not information coming toward you, at you and in front of you. We sit at computers, have phones on our hips and we are always a click away.

Therefore, we have to find a way to maintain that information and organize it so that we can ensure we are being most productive. It is essential, if we want to find success, to develop a system to make sure that the information coming in is sorted, filed and becomes a part of our success.

The suggestions are simple, following through on staying organized, not so much. Personally, I like the list method. Archaic at that, it works for me. And now, we can keep electronic lists through all sorts of apps like Evernote and Dropbox. However, don't feel like you need to abandon all the old methods, for some, a pen and post-it works like a charm. And that works too.

If you are the type of person that will most likely head to your smartphone to document thoughts, meetings and must-do's, here are some great suggestions (which many already use) from Appdevice.com to get you started:

For the fifty minutes or so that we had time to converse, I most likely gained hundreds of minutes back in the days, weeks and months ahead with our brainstormed solutions. Taking the minutes on the front end to stay on top of work is essential to maintain a feeling of not being overwhelmed on the back end of the day. Getting organized with all of the information of any given day is essential.

Make sure to visit AppAdvice for a complete list of Apps for getting organized.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Pieces to the Puzzle

Being a building leader, it is essential that I work with my staff and understand their instructional path. One of my focuses this year has been to work with my teachers to discover, define and implement what their passions are in their teaching. The conversations that we are having are imperative to our success. They hold the pieces to this puzzle.

Working with students at the middle level, I also find a it a priority to discuss with them what they strive for in their academic experience. Even though they are in the early stages of their journey, they hold many pieces to the larger puzzle of the teaching and learning experience. Their input is necessary to our growth as an academic institution.

Puzzles, as we know, are challenging. Arranging, turning and guessing where each piece is placed can be a daunting task. The shear number of pieces and their appearance alone can be overwhelming. My task is to take these various pieces and lay them out in front of each other and show how the interlocking sides can become that completed puzzle we seek in eduction.

It is these very pieces - the perspectives, beliefs, passions and experiences of the student and the teacher, that cultivates an environment that pushes the boundaries of education and redefines what best practices truly are. We must bring our ideas together and collectively determine what it is we want from our experiences.

As these conversations take place, each learns that many of their ideas are more similar than they may have first thought. The pieces to this puzzle will fit together nicely.

Teachers and their students share the following beliefs in their teaching and their learning:

Collaborative spaces. A classroom where students can work together to share their ideas and discuss the topics. A space where teachers can move freely about to support the learning process is essential.

Share the teaching. Their is no longer one teacher within the room. Each wants to be responsible for sharing out the content. If we allow for a sharing of instruction, the return is evident in the achievement students are having.

Feedback is essential. Guide us, share with us and push us with critical questions to the learning we are doing as the student. Whether the child or the adult, both seek feedback to the work. Offer it.

Technology supports the learning. Teachers and students agree that technology is essential in todays classroom. Both agree that technology is intended to enhance the teaching, not replace it. It is a shared belief that both students and teachers rely on each other in the learning on how to use technology in instruction.

Accountability. Students want to be held to the highest standard possible. Teachers agree. Not always the easiest of tasks, still a critical one at that. Don't allow "lost homework" and poor attendance to be an excuse for failing grades. Instead, pool resources and find solutions.

Take risks together. We have gone through our lives, young and old, learning from our mistakes. Mistakes happen due to a risk we have taken. In teaching and learning we should be offered the opportunity to take risks and learn along the way. Imagine the possibilities.

The pieces to the puzzle are laid out on the table and we are working together to create a year of success. Student achievement, regardless of how you measure it, will increase. Passions will be evident, impact will occur and best practices will continue to evolve.

Work with and listen to your students and your teachers to determine what their needs and wants are of your environment. Cultivate the great things that are happening and watch the growth continue.

Monday, January 5, 2015

It Starts Today.

After a couple of weeks off, students are going to be walking our halls and be in our classrooms with eagerness and excitement. Yes, they missed school no matter what it may look like on the surface.

Now that we have started the second half of our school year, let's make sure it is the best it possibly can be. No regrets, bring the passion, teach and lead like never before.

Recently I was asked to reflect on why I got into this business of teaching to begin with. For you, like many of us, there is the answer that we have used countless times in conversations. However, as my career has evolved, I begin to think that my answer to that simple question has evolved too.

With that in mind, and as I awoke this morning, I was already thinking about what the week and this semester would bring. There are meetings each day, classrooms to visit, events to attend and other countless principal-like activities that are going to occur. I will stop by the lunchroom, council parents, support teachers and encourage great teaching. That is what I do. 

Now what? How will this semester be different from the last one and the ones before that?

Well, time to get out the door and begin to answer those questions. I hope it will be an amazing second half to the school year. It won't just happen though. I will do as I ask of others. I will model what I expect and I will ensure that my students and my teachers have an experience like no other. It will be all of the reasons I got into this profession to begin with and it will be with all of the effort that I give. The experience will be what I chose to make it. It is up to me, it is up to you.

So therefore, my charge to you, find your reasons, all of them, and do the same. Be the difference maker. It starts today.