Thursday, March 24, 2016

7 Blogging Tips for Educators

Blogging for many is a reflective process to their work. It is a concise way to dissect what we do and truly engage our minds into what we have accomplished. For some, blogging is their life's work and their passion. For many educators it is a means to improve our craft.

Over the course of the last two years I have been asked countless times by my peers about my journey with writing. Often times I find myself searching for a reply that supports the path I have been on and also speaks to where I am heading with this art of writing and sharing.

When it comes to blogging I find myself talking about the "why" and the "who" in which I share. Each time, I am clear in that I began this journey for my own gain. However, as I have continued to write and receive feedback, I have also learned that my work, like yours, impacts others.

As you think about your journey into blogging and beyond, consider these 7 Blogging Tips for Educators. And, as always, your comments are encouraged and appreciated.

1. Have purpose. Know why you are writing and what message it is that you are trying to convey. Many bloggers write for reflection while others write to share ideas. Either is fine and both are encouraged. Be clear in your purpose for writing and begin to create your blogging identity. As you define who you are your readers will grow and learn as well.

2. Provide content for growth. Many times we share what has happened in our day and week in the world in which we work. While that is a great for our own personal gain, if we are blogging and sharing, ensure that your blog has points for the reader to take away. Blogging should not only grow you as a learner but also grow your reader. The content is invaluable. Take your life experiences and convey that in your posts. Help others grow through sharing of your own moments.

3. Promote your blog, and yourself. There is a direct correlation between those that blog and those that use twitter and other platforms of social media. If you are blogging, you need to put your fear of "sharing" aside and make sure that your blog is reaching outside of the four walls in which you are writing. You will be amazed at the number of readers you will impact by promoting the work you are doing. Many educators I first met via Twitter are also using Facebook, Voxer and Pinterest to share their passion of writing. Reach all of your audiences by using a variety of platforms. 

4. Grow your connections. Join a Tribe. For many, using various social platforms to connect with others is a significant piece of our daily routine. The most refined educators are those that are connected and also use it as an opportunity to grow professionally. Blogging is one of these platforms. Connect with other bloggers, join a tribe of writers. Personally, I belong to the #CompelledTribe. Check out our group of writers here. They help me grow in many ways. It is essential.

5. It's your story. Tell it. It is often said that if we don't share our story then someone else will. What better way to share the story of your classroom of learners, your school or even the entire district then by writing and posting a blog for your community. In the district in which I work, our superintendent has a blog specifically dedicated to this belief. It works. And, it is powerful.

6. Be daring and take risks. Too many times we ride the fence and play it safe. Much of what I write provides a variety of lenses in which the reader can apply what they have read. Challenge yourself to write posts about the teaching and learning that is taking place around you. Don't assume that others may be doing more or less than you are. The reality, that is exactly what is happening. So take risks when you write and be sure to share all aspects of your work.

7. Believe in yourself. You have to have confidence. Keep writing and keep finding your niche and your passion with what you're writing. I am the first to admit that I am not even on the cusp of being a great writer/blogger. But what I am is many things when it comes to my passion for teaching and learning. I believe that my story is worth telling and I believe in the power of collaboration. If you chose to blog, you have to commit to who you are what where you want to take your growth. 

In the end, my greatest tip is the most simple and that is - get started. Remember that blogging is a commitment. Select your blog site, create your domain name and get your fingers moving and your ideas flowing. You will not regret this journey. You will be a better educator for it and those around you will benefit from the knowledge gained and the ideas shared.

For more ideas about blogging, check out these links:

22 Secrets of Power Bloggers by Jeff Bullas 

How to Get Traffic to Your Blog by Seth Godin

How to Start a Blog by Jessica Knapp

The Compelled Tribe by Jennifer Hogan

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

5 Essentials to Relationships in Education

Relationships are at the core of any successful educational entity and every corporate mogul. If you want to be ahead, you have to understand how to work with others. Countless academic leaders are diving more and more into the notion that it is in fact the strength of relationships in the workplace that directly correlate to the organization's success.

With that in mind, here are 5 Essentials to Relationships in Education:

Be ready to listen. Whether in education or in joys of matrimony, the most successful relationships are fostered on the notion that both parties are engaged in listening to each other. I often hear from educators that when relationships fail it is in large part to someone not being quiet enough to hear what the other person is saying. Even I have been at fault for this. Therefore, I am very aware of my skill of listening and take note of when my lips are moving versus my ears being attuned to the conversation in front of me.

Act on others ideas. All relationships need some sort of action. Going through the motions creates a mundane and stagnant setting for your educational environment. While engaged in the relationships you have with others be prepared to take your ideas and act on them. Greatness happens when you move yourself off the sideline and get into the game. In relationships, act on your colleagues ideas and implement the strategies and suggestions brought to the table.

Stand corrected. For many, we despise the notion that often times we are wrong. In relationships it is painfully difficult to admit when we have fallen from the grace of being accurate. However, the reality is that the entire platform of the educational setting relies on us admitting our faults, owning our mistakes and being informed of when we need to stand corrected. Great leaders (teachers and administrators) know how to embrace the art of failure and use it as a moment to capture growth. Standing corrected embodies the notion of "yet". We learn from doing this simple act of capturing our falls and picking ourselves up. Even if that means we needs others to help us.

Change happens. Not all relationships will remain intact over time. Relationships ebb and flow in every sense of the word. Some relationships will stand the test of time while others fade. If you have invested yourself in the interaction with others then don't consume yourself if things don't stay harmonious. Knowing when to become fully invested versus realizing the reality of your interaction is a craft that you have to work on. Change in relationships is due to happen. That is nothing to be afraid of, yet instead something to be aware of.

Sacrifice. Any successful relationship requires sacrifice. Whether that means putting your own ideas and thoughts on the back burner, stepping back from opportunity or simply allowing others to lead, relationships require us to allow others to be successful in spite of our own ambitions. Sacrifice speaks specifically to leaders. The most talented of leaders know when to allow the spotlight to shine on the relationships they keep. Sacrificing yourself for the good of the organization is essential to success.

As you think through the relationships you keep, I challenge you to think of "we" and not "me". How many times do you jump into a conversation and before you know it the topic has shifted to being about you and not us? It happens, even to the best. Therefore, keep in mind these 5 Essentials to Relationships in Education and apply the spirit and meaning of each. Then, watch those very relationships catapult you and the work of the organization to new heights.

Friday, March 11, 2016

So You Want to be a Principal?

Recently one of my teachers asked me a question I honestly hadn't been asked in a while. I have been asked before but never really dove into the deeper meaning of my answer and how "it" all came to happen. The question was a simple one, "When did you know you wanted to be a Principal?"

For me, my answer was quick to come by as I knew almost as soon as I began my teaching career that being an administrator would be in my future. Teaching is impacting students, parents and your classroom community. For me, going into administration, specifically a principal, would allow me to have an impact on a greater group of learners. Being a principal would allow me to have an educational influence over a larger audience.

So, you want to be a Principal?

With that question potentially floating through your mind, I share with you some things you may want to consider before heading down the path of being a building administrator. Or in the least, this will give you some insight on what most likely lies ahead. For what it's worth, it is the greatest opportunity I have ever been provided outside of being a father.

So, you want to be a Principal? First, consider the following:

1. Lead with passion. If you are going to take the plunge into this position you had better have your A-game on when it comes to leading with not only your mind but also your heart. Your teaches will feed off of the passion you bring each day. This gig is not for the weak at heart. Passion is a must!

2. Build relationships. There is one thing that will begin a day and end a day without missing a beat. Talking to your staff is just a small part of the responsibility of relationships, you need to be ready to lend an ear, listen and build the relationships among your staff. It is a make or break attribute that will determine whether your role will be short term or long term.

3. Accountability. Whether it is students, staff or your community, you expect the best and you demand the best. What that looks like is a work in process. At the end of the day our role is to support teachers to reach their students and their needs. If someone isn't doing their part then there will be a time and place for some tough conversations. Teaching isn't cut out for the faint of heart. If you want to run a successful school, hold people to the expectations of the district and the community.

4. In Demand. Principals will keep multiple objects in the air at any given time. While working through student issues and also being the instructional leader and implementing district initiatives and meeting the needs of your community, make sure you keep those plates spinning too. If you head down the path of Principal then expect to keep many parts moving all of the time. Of course build capacity and share responsibilities. Ensure that others lead. However, in the end you are ultimiatlely where the buck stops.

5. Endless Possibilities. And when I mean anything, I mean anything. We often say in this business of education, "we can't make this stuff up?" Well, as principal, our stories of interactions and happenings are amplified ten-fold. We learn to laugh at ourselves and our mistakes. And we learn from them.We learn through all of our mistakes and we look at failures as a way to show growth. In the end, we are always growing. It's a mindset.

6. 24/7. Educators work long days. As both teachers and principals we don't have "off" buttons when it comes to caring about our community of learners. We are always at work regardless of our location. Moving to the role of principal guarantees that the days and the nights just got longer. Be ready for it. Embrace it. The parents and students expect it.

As you ask yourself the question of whether you want to be a principal, I would encourage you to seek out current building administrators and get their take on what the job truly entails. Bounce ideas off of them, ask tough questions and even spend some time in their shoes. As a building principal myself, we are always looking for educators to join our ranks. We need passionate, purposeful leaders that will guide our school communities to great places.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

My Turn - Be More Dog!

I am ready. I am motivated. I am inspired. It's my time. Time to "Be More Dog"!

If you have seen a common thread with the reference to "Be More Dog" then you are reading the work of The Compelled Tribe. We are writers. More importantly, we are educators. And even more important than that, we are educators that are committed to reflecting about our work through sharing of our experiences and being transparent in our success AND our failures.

So, what does it mean to "Be More Dog"? Well, start with this quick video. Recently I was able to share with this video among other "stuff" along side of Jennifer Hogan, my Compelled Tribe colleague, as we were presenting to educators about the craft of blogging, reflecting and sharing while at the NASSP Ignite Conference back in February.

Now that you have watched the video and had a moment to soak it in, here is how I will "Be More Dog" in the months ahead:
  • I will own my professional development as I continue to support my teachers in their work with their students. As I challenge myself to this growth I will encourage others to come along with me and show them them the amazing results that can be gained by committing to this learning.
  • I will dive deeper into relationships with stakeholders and ensure that I am purposeful in my interactions. I will demonstrate how those relationships support the work that we do. These relationships will catapult us to great things. 
  • I will not allow others to negatively impact my spirit. I will share my work as I proudly talk about my story and my schools story. I will wear my passion on my sleeve and I will demonstrate through my actions what our teachers and students bring to their school every day of every week.
  • I will share my failures with my colleagues as I make them and not after I make them. If I stumble, I will pick myself up. I will learn and I will be better for it. If I ask others to do just that, I will do the same myself. I will model.
  • I will live each day do the fullest with my teachers, my students, my community and my family. I will find balance in what I do. There are 24 hours in a day and 7 days in a week. I will be purposeful and I will be present. I owe that to those that I spend my life with.

To me, "Be More Dog" means to get out of routine. It means that we must explore the paths that we are on and determine if there are opportunities out there that we are missing. Eyes open. Hearts beating. Confidence coming through. Who we are is a great thing to be but imagine if we take the passion of this cat and explore the options of being more dog.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Get Your Mind Right

Over the course of this school year the district in which I serve (Hilliard City Schools) has been very intentional with our conversations about building our culture. Whether it be the whole system, at the building level or all the way down to classroom implementation, we are defining who we are and where we are headed. We have committed to each other that it is our culture that will drive us. And, it is the culture that will support the teaching and learning of all stakeholders along the way.

Growth Mindset is a staple on the landscape of what we do. The power of "YET" has taken over the obstacles we are faced with. Not only do we expect our students to grow, we must embrace the need to do so ourselves as the teachers and administrators in our schools. We must remain committed to growing as learners.

A part of understanding growth mindset is to understand the concept of getting your mind right. To have your mind where it needs to be in teaching and learning we have to understand and agree that the mind controls what we do and how we respond to various situations. If we want and need a specific outcome (therefore we need an above the line response) then it starts with where your mind is. So, as you head into your responsibilities each day, do you have your mind right?

Your mindset is:

As you think about the decisions that you make and the actions and interactions you have with your colleagues and others in your building, challenge yourself to think about your mindset. Ask yourself the tough questions. Questions like:
  • Am I receptive to change? Do I embrace it?
  • Do I have what is needed to be successful in my role? Am I prepared?
  • Have I taken the time to train myself and not relied on being trained? Do I own my professional learning?
  • Are my lessons and my delivery well planned? Am I invested in my teaching?
  • Is best practice at the forefront of my work? Do I implement strategies for success?
  • Do I do what is best for kids, and adults? Always?
If you have answered "yes" to the questions above, you are well on your way to ensuring that you are getting your mind right. You are best for your students and all of those that you serve.