Sunday, May 10, 2015

It's that time of the year again...

The weather is getting warmer...

There is more and more to do outside...

The always exciting standardized testing is either over or coming to a close soon...

You're tired and your patience is wearing thin...

Summer is getting close...
At this juncture you have to make a choice about how you wish to end the year.

This goes the same for teachers and administrators who are equally feeling the tension of the end of the year push.

Are you going to do as you've always done and play it safe?

Are you going to cut a few corners and take the easy route because you know there are only a few weeks left so what's the big deal?

Are you going to lower your expectations for not just yourself, but also for those around you?

Are you going to end this year quietly and uneventfully...?

We all have a choice to make.

We all have these last few weeks to make a bigger or more positive impact.

We all have a choice to make that will determine how our students remember us...

Remember teachers, if you don't want your students to check out early and coast through the end of the year, then you better not get caught doing just that.

This also goes for administrators... don't get caught checking out early if you expect your teachers to push strong through the end of the year.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Summer vacation... myth or reality?

It's the end of the school year for many educators. After a long hard year, the school year is either almost done or will be finished soon.

And with this approaching end, so it begins...

It seems they start earlier every single year, but as the school year approaches its end, the Facebook posts and the tweets celebrating the end of the school year are in full effect.

Things like this are appearing on Facebook walls and Twitter feeds almost daily...

'I now have time to do everything I haven't had time to do during the school year.'

'No more alarm clock for me for the next few months.'

'Every day is a weekend day now during summer vacation.'

'No more grading, parent phone calls, and lesson plans until next year.'

'Finally, time to relax and time to kick my feet up and enjoy the pool and enjoy the summer.'

Now, here's the deal, I know teachers work extremely hard during the school year. I was a teacher once, so I know what it is like. There are long days and long nights and the level of appreciation for what teachers do isn't always on par with the work.

There are also many teachers who work summer school, work on curriculum writing, and/or participate in some form of professional development during the summer months. Though this doesn't consume the entire summer, the reality is, there are many teachers who work on education related tasks during the summer.

Teachers as a whole are a hard working group of people just like most other adults who go to work to support their families and their lives.

However... I wonder how the general public, who doesn't work in education, perceives these Facebook posts and tweets?

I wonder how the average adult who doesn't work in education feels knowing they still have to go to work all summer?

I wonder...

Having said that, we educators play a significant role in how the public views who we are and what we do. The image we paint and the image we portray and share with others can either benefit education as a whole or perpetuate the 'summer vacation' perception.

Just wondering... but should we tone it down a bit when it comes to 'summer vacation' and be a little more cautious in how we celebrate the end of a long year?

Or, should teachers simply admit that having time off in the summer is a perk of the job? Is there anything wrong with saying that time off in the summer is a perk? Many jobs and professions have perks, so why should education be any different?

In closing, I remember what it was like to be a teacher during the summer. Sure, were there things that I did to prepare for the next school year, absolutely! Did I take classes toward my Masters and Doctorate (which led to automatic salary increases), of course I did! Did I sleep in some mornings and did I stay up late some nights without having to worry about work, yes, lots of times! I worked, but I also enjoyed a much slower pace that allowed me to relax, recharge and rebalance myself.

So... how should we be approaching this 'summer vacation' perception?

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

How do you respond to #change?

How about this as a self-reflection activity to do in your head or possibly even with your colleagues…

In regard to change:

Are you a sailboat… do you easily go with the latest trend and go with the flow so to speak? It doesn’t take much to get you moving. You welcome and look forward to change.


Are you a tugboat… do you take things slowly and do you try to be methodical in your approach? You like precision and intentionality and you want to know pretty clearly where you are headed. You want to understand change.


Are you an anchor… it takes quite a lot of time and energy to get you moving. You fear and resist change.

So, which are you? Or, are you something not on this list?

I'd like to thank Steven Shaw for the inspiration behind this post:

Friday, April 24, 2015

Silence can be our worst enemy...

We hear all the time that words can be hurtful and words can be painful. This statement is often quite true...

But, I'd like to push a little and say that for an organization, sometimes the words that aren't said can be just as damaging to the overall culture and climate.

So we are all on the same page in regard to what 'culture' and 'climate' mean, here are two good working definitions from Todd Whitaker's (@toddwhitaker) and Steve Gruenert's (@stevegruenert) new book 'School Culture Rewired:'

School culture is like your personality... very difficult to change and not easily adjusted. 

School climate is like your attitude... very easy to change and susceptible to significant swings back and forth.

I'd like to focus more on culture and how the words we don't say often times are much worse than those actually said.

We've all been to that meeting when someone starts to speak and then continues on a path that really isn't beneficial for anyone else in attendance.

This individual continues speaking unchecked and really takes the conversation to a place where salvaging the time becomes nearly impossible.

The words we didn't speak here allowed those on the sidelines to remain on the sidelines... our silence actually emboldened those who agree with the unchecked speaker... and lastly, those in disagreement with the speaker became paralyzed because they now believe they are in the minority.

Silence in this case caused significant cultural damage that will require lots of time and effort to repair. By being silent, we sent a message that what was being said really wasn't that bad or really wasn't that far from the truth.

Sure, sometimes we need to sit and listen and gather as much information as possible before responding or before saying anything. That's perfectly fine and in fact, should be encouraged. We have two ears and only one mouth for a reason, right? :)

But, there are other times when taking action and speaking will trump getting all the information first. Don't allow silence to be your passive agreement and don't allow others to speak for you when they really don't.

Don't allow silence to be our worst enemy...

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Reinvention is the key to survival...

There are many wonderful things about working in education. I mean seriously, in what other profession can one be charged with influencing and guiding the direction of all youth and ultimately society?

It's a pretty awesome power and pretty amazing responsibility that which we hoist upon our shoulders every single day kids walk through those school doors.

Having said all that, with great responsibility comes even greater expectations.

It's no secret we live during a time of high and increasing levels of accountability. To make things more interesting, no educator can walk 5ft without talking to someone who's experienced the education system. This means we are surrounded by lots of 'experts' who definitely won't shy away from telling us how we can do our jobs better. :)

The key to all this responsibility is the ability to reinvent oneself.

If you're a veteran educator, take a moment to think about how the educational front has evolved and really transformed itself over the years. If you're a mid-career educator, you too have experienced and seen first-hand the fluidity of the educational process. For those brand new to the profession, you might not have seen widespread systemic shifts, but you've no doubt seen smaller shifts that impact your school and your district within your community.

If you've survived a systemic shift it's because you were able to reinvent yourself.

You were able to adapt and you were able to adjust based on the prevailing winds.

Some of your strengths required a retooling while some of your weaknesses were pushed to center stage.

But you survived and you persevered...

You might have even thrived and come out even stronger on the other side...

The beauty is that all these changes we are experiencing in life and society are a direct result of educators reinventing themselves and adapting to quickly moving landscapes that are constantly evolving. The more we educators reinvent ourselves, the more quickly the landscapes outside of education transform. This is quite the double-edged sword conundrum!

So, in closing, don't be afraid of having to reinvent yourself and don't steer away from taking a risk to do something you've never done before. Keep your repertoire sharp and keep it fresh. And remember, sometimes a fresh start or new direction is just what we need...