Sunday, February 28, 2016

The #NASSP16 Experience. 5 Essentials for Leaders

The NASSP Ignite 16' Conference has come to an end. With that, there are takeaways that will go with each of us as we resume our roles over the next day. For me, conferences such as these are an opportunity to grow in my teaching and learning. In fact, I am better because I was there.

As I prepared to head home I decided to take a moment and jot down a few of my takeaways, my essentials, for leaders from Ignite 16'. Feel free to share your takeaways in the comment section below.

Be Connected. Having the platforms that we do through social media the conversations in education began long before I arrived and will continue well after I leave. Using Twitter to learn and grow from my fellow global educators has made me better. Having the opportunity to learn side-by-side has been invaluable and reinforces my desire to be connected.

Keep the Conversations Going. I have worked hand-in-hand with Jennifer Hogan on countless projects for over two years. We started The Compelled Tribe which is a group of bloggers who write and share their reflections each month. The work has been awesome. Well, we finally exchanged our first handshake and a hug Thursday morning. From there we went on to present for two days to our colleagues. Our encounter was priceless and had a feel as if we had met in person hundreds of times before. We were inseparable for the entire conference. For her and I to sit together and share what is typically in a tweet, through Voxer or through Google, only reinforced our passion for teaching and learning and how we support each other.

Share Your Voice. Whether a formal presenter or simply someone who has paid their registration, everyone attending Ignite 16' has had an opportunity to share their knowledge and their leadership. Ask questions, engage with others, stay after a presentation and dig deeper with a topic/presenter with whom you listened. This allows us to process what we've heard and share our voice with passion.

Push Yourself. Whether you have traveled 50 miles or 500 miles to get to Ignite 16', hopefully you found a session that challenged you in your thinking and in your leading. The amount of educational talent (you included) at this conference is what will drive us to do what is best for kids and for our teachers and our communities as we head back. Learn from all of it. Meet new people, connect with more and grind through the long days of learning.

Apply it. (But don't overwhelm your staff.) If you have invested the time to listen, learn and absorb the content, then make it applicable where you work. Make sure to think through what you have heard and see what works in your current role. At the same time, don't just implement to implement. Remember your schools vision, your direction and your goals. Be creative in how you can apply what you learned.

I appreciated my time at NASSP's Ignite 16'. I am a better leader tomorrow for what I have learned today. Thank you fellow educators from near and far for embracing my perspectives in education. I look forward to Philly in 2017!

Monday, February 22, 2016

Join The Compelled Tribe

For many, blogging has been a great tool for reflection. For the past two years Jennifer Hogan and I have been pushing fellow educators to take a deeper look at the craft in which we have all chosen. Our Tribe is comprised of educators. For us, it has been school administration with the hope of improving our own work when supporting our teachers and students. Our process is simple in nature and the return on the investment is intense. Simply, we commit ourselves to monthly posts on our websites and then comment on each others posts to offer that essential feedback to assist with the growth that we seek. We also use Twitter, Voxer and other platforms to share our work but that is not "required". Our "Tribe" is comprised of people like yourself. People that take the time and effort to truly dissect the work they do. We want to move from being good at what we do to being great at what we do. We also know, it can't be done alone.

Check out Jennifer's blog here to read even more: The Compelled Educator

The great news is The Compelled Tribe is growing! With our recent twitter conversation #Satchat and the growing recognition of our hashtag, #Compelledtribe, we have many educators wanting to join our passion of reflecting through blogging. Therefore, we are excited to announce that we have asked Jon Wennstrom to join as one of our Tribe leaders. His group will be known as "Fueled by Wennstrom". Like you, Jon brings with him a passion for teaching and learning and growing through reflection.

Here is our invitation you. Would you care to join us on this journey? If so, complete the link below and send us some basic information to get things started! We will collect the information and then follow up with an email in the coming week or two.

Join the Tribe!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Walls Are Talking

Walking through my school building this year I am noticing more than ever that the walls are talking. What they are saying is inspiring, validating and rewarding to the work that is taking place. Like you, I have been listening carefully and then responding to what I hear. This post is my opportunity to share what is being said. We know that if we don't tell our story, someone else will. With that, here is my opportunity to share what my walls are saying.

Teachers are Invested in Relationships. Listening to the work of my colleagues, dialogue is non-stop and happening in every corner of our school building. Not only are they talking content, but they are talking about students and the successes and failures of instruction and the next steps to support them and each other. Teachers are constantly striving to dive deeper into their relationships with each other and with their students. The walls are capturing that relationships come first.

Passion is Alive and Well. Listening to Dave Burgess 18 months ago and then bringing his work to my teachers, I knew that they would embrace and apply his message. He gets passion in teaching and learning and therefore we get it too. Our classrooms are alive with passion. Teachers are embedding personal and professional passions into their work and even more so, they are working to embed students passions into the lessons they teach. When passion for teaching and learning is at its highest point, that is when the walls speak the loudest.

Leaders Encourage others to Lead. Your school, like mine, has many teachers that not only deliver quality instruction to their students but they also take on roles within their teams, departments or the district with leadership. Our halls are full of leaders. Not all of them have come naturally.
Recently many on my staff read Above the Line by Ohio State Football Coach Urban Meyer. In that book he talks about "10-80-10". The first 10, those are the ones that strive for excellence in all that they do. They go to the weight room on their own. They lead without pause. The 80, well that is the majority. We do lots of great things and we work hard and we embrace the daily grind. We lead, but typically need to be asked. The bottom 10, well, those are the underachievers, the passive, the unmotivated. They struggle with even following. 
What my walls are saying is that my top 10% are pulling more and more of the 80% to follow where they are going. Leaders are cultivating more leaders. Progress is being made. Impacts of this are felt. 
Culture Drives Everything. If your walls could talk about the culture they would have plenty to say. The walls in which I work would say a few specific things when it comes to our culture. They would share that:
  • We are a family more than anything else.
  • We do what is best for kids. Always.
  • When we struggle or fail we lean on each other and we strive to improve.
  • Being held accountable is something we ask of others and ourselves.
  • Time is our enemy, not our excuse.
  • Celebrating our success is essential.
Walls talk. We listen. These are just a few of things I hear as I walk through Hilliard Weaver Middle School with over 1000 students and staff each day. My walls are alive. It is not always positive and it is not always easy. There are stumbles and we make mistakes. We learn from them, we grow and we listen. Share your story and share what your walls are saying.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Find Your Tribe

We come together in Professional Learning Communities, Data Teams and PLN's to plan and prepare for instruction. We do this both face-to-face and in an online setting. Encouraging and supporting educators in a collaborative process along with ongoing applicable professional development has been essential to our field. These components make us better.

Innovators are an essential. Researchers in the field of education have shaped the way in which we teach and learn and how we drive instruction. It is the work of John Hattie and his research on Effect Size along with the beliefs of Malcolm Gladwell in his work with the Tipping Point coupled with the studies of Growth Mindset by Carol Dweck, that provide educators with an unlimited supply of knowledge, best practice and insight into how to best deliver education.

With that, we also know that teaching and learning does not happen in a vacuum. There are no isolated moments. Reaching each individual learner can not be done within a silo. To be effective and to make academic progress, we must be able and willing to come together in the spirit of the tribe.

As you forge ahead through these months of teaching and learning, keep the following in mind:
  • Tribes are there to support the work that you do and the work you need to do. 
  • Tribes model that asking for help does not indicate a weakness, rather your desire to develop an undiscovered strength.
  • Tribes drive collaboration. And, it is intended to keep you and those you work with moving towards both individual and collective success. 
  • Tribes cultivate innovators. You are an innovator because you strive to refine your craft. You chose to be the best.
  • Tribes keep you accountable. Be both the teacher and the student. 
  • To lead we have to learn. Tribes foster both.
Find your tribe and work toward the goals in which you have established. Know that it is a journey, as the research says, and it will take time. Remember your purpose. Stay true to what's best for students, for teachers and for the learning process. We are better together.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

6 Essentials for Educators

As educators, we are well versed in what works, and does not, in education. Day-in and day-out we get a fresh take at new opportunities. And, each day I get an opportunity to improve on the day before. We are, as the saying goes, a work in progress.

Spending my days and weeks with middle level students (and their teachers) can provide great examples of what progress does look like. And, after hours of classroom visits, teacher observations and self-reflection, I can also speak to where the work currently is and where we should should continue to offer our support for educators. We are also asking each day, "Where can we grow?"

And, throughout each of these days in education we talk about essentials to our teaching and our learning. Here is my list of suggestions on striving to support the work in progress of both teachers and administrators in education. Please feel free to add yours in the comment section below.
  • Teachers (and Administrators) need and want ongoing embedded professional development. There is a balance between what teachers want and what they need to improve in their instruction. The essential key to this is ensuring that the PD they receive supports not only the now but also what lies ahead. It is important that we stay current in our PD. And to do so, at times you have to get ahead.
  • Educators require feedback to their instruction on an ongoing basis. And, this feedback needs to be both validating of what is working but also critical of what is not. The best conversations with colleagues are the ones that end with a question and not a statement. Leave the room wanting to learn more not feeling like you have everything answered. Great conversations lead to more great conversations.
  • Collaborative time for educators is essential. As we refine our craft and look to improve in our instruction, there must be time set aside for teachers to share ideas, discuss obstacles and brainstorm next steps. Progress comes from both successes and failures. We must talk about both and schedule time for this to happen. We know the enemy for reflection is time. Let's be proactive.
  • Data drives instruction. We know what the standards are and what needs to be taught. We have the instinctive ability to create lesson plans that support those. However, when all is said and done, it is the assessments that we use and the data in the results that will make us better teachers and help students in their learning. Use the data to drive what you teach and what your goals are in learning each day.
  • Personalize with a purpose and differentiate as to support the work. Words are just that. Applying them is the challenge and the charge. As more is shared about what personalization is and the potential to impact teaching and learning, we will continue our efforts to meet our learners where they are and embed best practice. Our students are unique learners and as educators it is our role and responsibility to meet them where they are and grow them. 
  • Relationships are essential and drive everything. As we think about our exchanges with others in a school day (and beyond) it is the way we carry ourselves with our community that defines us and helps us progress in our success. Whether working with students, teachers or our community, we must cultivate our relationships to maximize the experience. It is at the core of what we do and can be the foundation to our efforts.
As you reflect on your work and determine what is needed to support your own learning and those around you, think of how you embed these qualities into what you do. Feedback, collaboration and relationships are just a slice of what we inherently strive to improve on. Embrace being a work in progress. It is what makes us better.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Collective Journey

Collectively we are better. I have yet to work in a school where success happens in a silo. A community of learners is undeniably one of the strongest forces known in education. And with that, it is the ride that motivates me most of all.

Teachers are impactful in ways that we can not always measure. There is no test, or assessment, or survey that can capture all of the greatness that occurs within their walls each day. Often times it is the simple take-aways, the confidence and the desire to come back day in and day out that is the best measurement of a students, and a teachers, journey and their passion for what they do.

Today is one day on the road to success. Each day adds to that. Mile by mile our journey becomes more identifiable and more attainable. There is a journey that I am on that inspires me and intrigues me and motivates me to be present for my teachers and my community. I am embracing the ride.

I am intrigued by the opportunities. And remember, the road to success is a collective journey.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Timeout, Coach

Timeouts. Just about every sport has them. They are used in a variety of ways. Whether to slow down the pace of play, allow players to regroup, to get another player into the game or even to freeze the opponent, timeouts are a crucial part of competition. Timeouts will always be a part of the game.

In fact, they have been known to win, or lose, some of the most amazing sporting moments (movies included) of all times. Here is one of the classic timeouts (speeches) in sports movie history. Please forgive a few moments of language. The message though, is coaching (and use of a timeout) at its finest.

Our work in education needs timeouts as well. We work tirelessly as teachers and administrators. Each of us are constantly on our game in the hopes of achieving all that we can day in and day out. Granted we are not in a game that we are trying to "win", we are however, trying to ensure some of the greatest teaching and learning of all time. Consider it our own victory of sorts.

Therefore, take a timeout when the situation calls for one. Whether you are working with your students, supporting your teachers in professional development or leading a district, there are times that you need the same opportunities as the athletes are provided on the court or on the field.

Timeouts are great for:
  • Reflection of a situation that needs thought before responding.
  • Regrouping from a lesson gone awry.
  • Supporting others in time of confusion and loss of clarity.
  • When you simply believe that life in general is moving too fast.
The writing of this blog is my own personal timeout. I afforded myself a few moments to take a break and step back. My work and aspects of it have been moving at lightning speed. I was losing my ability to think clearly and guide unconditionally. And, I do not see this timeout as a sign of weakness or fear of losing. Just the opposite in fact. Instead, I will go back into the game ready to finish what I started. Even though there is no clock that will read "zeros" or a score that shows winners or losers, it is my hope that those that I work with will be able to see and feel the energy and passion I come back with after taking pause and reflection in what I do.

My timeout was only a few moments. But the impact will last well beyond. Game on.