Saturday, December 31, 2011

Moving forward...

As I was thinking about ways I could close out 2011 with a #BOOM type blog post, I ended up thinking more about the types of blog posts that I enjoy. I enjoy the blog posts with both a relevant and meaningful message that inspires and motivates me to be not only a better educator, but also a better human. So here is my attempt to sum up the many great thoughts from many great minds in 2011:
Servant leadership is where it's at... by serving others and helping to empower them to be leaders we will all achieve more. Leadership is not about what I do, but rather about what I can help you do and what we can all do together. School leadership is evolving just as fast as our society, and as such school leaders need to move away from the "I and you" mindset to the "we and us" mindset. See @biebert @leadershipfreak @northeagles @ryanbretag @drtroyroddy for more on leadership.

The power of knowledge is only as strong as what you make of it... by being well read and very knowledgeable you are positioning yourself to do great things. But simply having the knowledge doesn't really get you very far if you can't apply it and harness the knowledge in a productive and effective manner. Schools and society want people who can put their knowledge and expertise into practice; they NEED educators who can apply their skills to an increasingly diverse student population to enhance student learning and future success. Being "book smart" is a great start, but we need more and we need to take it up a notch... 2012 has great potential! Check out @mrbernia @azjd @cmcgee200 @plugusin for practical advice on putting knowledge and expertise into practice.

Relationships... if you don't have strong relationships, then nothing else really matters. Make it a point to make this "THE POINT." Check out @mrwejr @henriksent @principalj @pernilleripp for more.

Be inspired! Be motivated to do great things! Give the gift that keeps on giving and help to inspire and motivate those around you! A little encouragement and support go a long way when used appropriately and effectively. And when you find that inspiration or motivation be sure to share it with others! You will probably never know how you affected someone else's day or life, but the ripple effect will be felt much further than you could ever imagine! Check out these superstars who inspire and motivate me: @KTVee @waterthebamboo @mrmatthewray @toddwhitaker @timbuckteeth

Finally, try to be better than you were yesterday every single day of your life. Try to do something new every single day of your life. Try to build a new relationship with someone new every single day of your life. Try to be thankful for something in your life every single day of your life. Try to take a moment to reflect every single day of your life. Try to imagine a world that does not yet exist every single day of your life... Actually, the more I think about it, don't try to do all of these things, DO ALL OF THESE THINGS!

Have a great 2012 friends!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Top 10 questions to ask yourself in 2012

I firmly believe in self-reflection as a means toward growth and development. As such, we all would benefit from an intense session of self-reflection of the first half of the 2011-2012 school year. Additionally, through self-reflection we will better understand who we are as educators, as well as how our actions are aligning with our beliefs. Regardless of your position or role in education, here are my top 10 questions to ask yourself for 2012:

1) - How and what are you doing to build strong and enduring relationships with your students and staff?

2) - What are you doing very well? Where are you seeing a lot of success? Do you know why...?

3) - What are you not doing very well? Where are you not seeing a lot of success? Do you know why...?

4) - What are you doing to improve your craft? How are you ensuring that you will be better able to address your students' needs in 2012 than you were in 2011?

5) - In your absence, can your students and staff continue learning and growing? Do they absolutely need you to continue?

6) - Do your students and staff know the expectations? Do they have a part in establishing those expectations?

7) - Do you give your students and staff enough praise for the great things they are doing? Are you filling the buckets of others?

8) - Do you practice what you preach? Do your actions speak louder than your words?

9) - What is the biggest mistake you made (educationally speaking) in 2011? What did you learn from this experience?

10) - If you never saw your students and staff ever again, what do you think they would say about you?

- What questions would you add for 2012?

Monday, December 19, 2011

School leadership that works...

If you are anything like me, you like to read blog posts. You enjoy reading what educators believe in, as well as the philosophies they are trying to share with others. What I enjoy even more, are the blog posts that provide concrete examples of how educators put their beliefs and philosophies into practice. This is what leads me to this blog post on leadership. As a new administrator, I have spent a great deal of time reflecting upon my leadership qualities, and the impact I am having on Poplar Bluff Junior High School. Here are my concrete examples of school leadership that work:
Being visible and present...

As a teacher this is something that meant so much to me, and now as an administrator I am seeing why. Teachers and students WANT AND NEED administrators to be visible and present. If that means you have to save your paperwork and other managerial duties until after school hours, then that is a sacrifice you need to be willing to make. Administrators talk quite often about being visible and present during passing time, during lunch, and during bus drop off and dismissal; it's time to stop talking about it and get to it. In my opinion, being visible and present are the most effective and powerful ways to change a school culture, so make time for it and make it a top priority.

Providing encouragement, support, and the occasional push...

Every educator has a difficult job, and as a result we all need a little encouragement, support, and the occasional push from time to time. As an administrator, it is absolutely critical that we establish an environment that encourages teachers to take risks, while supporting them in their failures as they grow, and giving the occasional push to keep them moving after a setback. At PBJHS, I set up a professional development blog that shares different beliefs and perspectives. I have also led technology integration sessions to help teachers enhance their classroom environment through technology. These structures provide the initial fuel for trying new things, but alone they are not enough. I also ask to be invited to observe when teachers try new things so as to help the teachers troubleshoot any issues or problems that may arise during the lesson. This helps me to continue learning, while also supporting the teacher in their push to try something new in their classroom. The more teachers who invite you to observe a new activity or lesson the better. If you are not receiving any invites or hearing from teachers who are trying new things, it's a safe bet they aren't trying anything new.

Leading by example...

I don't know everything. In fact, I don't know most things. In fact again, there is a lot about education that I don't know and don't understand. The learning process is a lifelong process, and in order for administrators to keep their staff growing and learning, we need to not only help provide the structures and opportunities for growth, we need to model professional learning and growth ourselves. I regularly attend conferences, I use Twitter, I have a blog, and I collaborate with educators from around the world on ways to improve and enhance my craft as an educator. This is absolutely CRUCIAL if you expect any of your colleagues to put their professional growth as a top priority. I share my growth with my colleagues through weekly emails and casual conversations. I lead a professional studies book club that encourages staff members to reflect and discuss their classroom practices in an effort to improve. Education is not an 8-3 job, and if we want and expect educators to continue growing and improving their craft, we need to lead by both sharing and showing that our learning never stops.

Being appreciative and thankful...

If I hear a positive comment about a teacher, I share it with the teacher. If I see something awesome in a classroom, I share it with the teacher. If I see a student do something nice or polite in the hallways, I recognize it in front of the student's peers. If a teacher or student helps out with organizing or planning something, I let them know how thankful I am for their hard work. I normally spend about 30 minutes 2 nights a week sending out positive emails to staff. Sometimes I receive a response, and other times I do not, but I do know that several staff members per week start their days off right by reading a positive email. As long as your appreciation and thankfulness are sincere, you will never have to worry about giving too much thanks and recognition. We all enjoy the occasional "thank you" email or talk, so make sure this is a priority and start filling the buckets of others!

What's your advice on school leadership that works...?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The 13 habits of experts...

As part of the Poplar Bluff Junior High School book club, we decided to read "Fires in the Mind" by Kathleen Cushman. Though the book was not quite what I expected, it nevertheless had some great takeaways. One of the many takeaways was Cushman's part on "the habits of experts." As educators, we are constantly learning and growing, and I can personally say that most times I do not feel like an expert. The term "expert" is defined as:


A person who has a comprehensive and authoritative knowledge of or skill in a particular area.
Having or involving such knowledge or skill.
noun.  specialist - connoisseur - adept - judge - master
adjective.  skilled - skilful - skillful - proficient - adept

The 13 habits of experts:

1) - Experts ask good questions...

2) - Experts break problems into parts...

3) - Experts rely on evidence...

4) - Experts look for patterns...

5) - Experts consider other perspectives...

6) - Experts follow hunches...

7) - Experts use familiar ideas in new ways...

8) - Experts collaborate...

9) - Experts welcome critique...

10) - Experts revise repeatedly...

11) - Experts persist...

12) - Experts seek out new challenges...

13) - Experts know their own best work styles...

After looking at and reflecting on this list of habits, I realized that Cushman defines expertise not in the traditional way many of us are accustom to. Cushman doesn't focus on what you know or the skills that you might have, but rather as how you use information and approach a particular situation or issue. She focuses on the "growth" mindset rather than the "fixed" mindset. The way Cushman describes the term "expert," makes me much more comfortable than the traditional dictionary defined way. If these are the habits of experts, then I want to be this kind of an expert...

Saturday, December 3, 2011

What are you doing with your "rocks?"

Last week my school district was visited by a team of educators from the Hallsville R-IV School District. Since my district is in year two of implementing Professional Learning Communities, we are interested in hearing from other districts on how they got started and their advice as we move forward.

Though there was a lot of great information and advice shared, there was one particular conversation that really stuck out in my mind. As we talked about moving forward with PLCs, the topic of resistant and unresponsive staff came up. As with any new initiative or process, success or failure ultimately lies with those who are actually implementing and seeing the initiative through.

I think if you have ever worked in a school system, you know that there are those staff members who never seem to be "on board," and wish to view everything in a negative and pessimistic way. These so called "rocks" can derail any initiative well before it even gets started regardless of how good it may be. These "rocks" can become permanent roadblocks to growth in any system, and if not addressed both delicately and appropriately, will slowly eat away at the heart of any organization.

@shannoninottawa wrote a great blog post titled, "If we don't water the rocks..." and she makes a point to focus on trust and finding out why those rocks are resisting. Shannon insists that if we don't "water the rocks," then we are choosing "the easy way out and nobody learns and nobody moves forward."

As part of the #edfocus book club chat that takes place every other Wednesday, we read Anthony Muhammad's "Transforming School Culture: How to Overcome Staff Division." The book categorizes members of an organization into 4 different categories: the believers, the fundamentalists, the tweeners, and the survivors. Muhammad really emphasizes the importance of knowing who you are, as well as who your colleagues are in terms of these 4 categories. Here is a great blog post written by @cmcgee200 that relates to this book and a situation that happenend to him; "Don't forget your place."

What are you doing with those "rocks" at your school? Do you take Shannon's approach and work with them to understand them and their reasons for resisting, or do you move on and use your limited amount of time and resources on those who are more willing? What do you do with those "rock" you only help those who are easily taught, or do you commit the extra time to really find out what's causing the resistance?

Time, energy, and resources are limited... use them wisely. 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Are we ever truly alone...?

A school district of 1,000 students or a school district of 30,000 students is extremely complex. From the simplest procedures all the way to the most complex and intricate procedures, many hands are involved in every decision and ultimately help make sure the "average" school day takes place...if there is such a thing as an average school day.

Before I even wake up on a given morning there are people working to make sure the buses are safe to transport students, there are people doing repairs all throughout the district, there are people coordinating before school programs, there are people arranging subs for sick teachers, and there are people preparing food to feed our students upon arrival to school. My point is simple; as an educator I would not be able to do my job if these often "forgotten and under appreciated rockstars" were not doing their jobs. When you work for a school district it is important to remember that we are all working toward the same goal. We are here to create a safe, positive and encouraging environment, that promotes lifelong learning so as to prepare our students to be successful democratic citizens.  

So, the next time you use your empty trash can in your classroom, you enjoy the nice air conditioned or heated school in which you work, you push the "on" button on your computer and it turns on, and you teach students who arrived at school on time, please remember the people who are responsible for making this happen. A school district is a complex and delicate structure that requires the expertise of several different people to run efficiently and effectively. Be aware, be thankful, and be appreciative of those who help us do our jobs, by doing theirs...

So, in this time of the year when many of us are thankful and cheerful about what has been and what will be, please remember to recognize and appreciate those around you who help make it all possible.

Be sure to pass this message along by showing your appreciation and gratitude!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Decisions, decisions, decisions...
As an assistant principal I am required to make a lot of decisions on a daily basis. Sometimes I am provided all the necessary background information to make the proper decision, other times I am expected to make a decision with very little or limited background information. Sometimes the decision must be made immediately and there is no time to gather further background information, other times I have the opportunity to investigate and give the decision the proper time it deserves. I make a lot of decisions on a daily basis, and no matter what happens, there will always be those who agree with my decisions, and those who disagree with my decisions.

Here's what I've heard:

If everyone agrees with your decision, then it's probably not the best decision...

If everyone disagrees with your decisions, then it's definitely not the best decision...

If some agree and some disagree with your decision, then you've probably made the right decision...

Here's what I've learned:

We will never all agree on what the right decision is...NEVER

What one educator thinks is best for students isn't always what another educator thinks is best...

It's very rare to have all the proper background information and necessary time before making a decision...

Here's what I'm doing:

Trying to listen and ask a lot of questions; the more information I have the better...

Focusing on making decisions that will effect the greatest good for students and colleagues...

Accepting the reality that each decision won't be well received by everyone, nor will it be hated by everyone...

As educators we all make tons of decisions on a daily basis, and as a result we are questioned, judged and evaluated on the basis of our decisions. What's your philosophy on making decisions? What strategies do you employ when making decisions that will affect others? How do you respond to the decisions that directly affect you...especially those you might not agree with?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

“Not finance. Not strategy. Not technology. It is teamwork that remains the ultimate competitive advantage, both because it is so powerful and so rare.”
The Staff
Jeff Shanley – former CEO, now head of business development, a natural networker who was effective at raising money and recruiting talent, but management was a different story.

Michele “Mikey” Bebe – head of marketing, known as a brand building genius, but the least popular person on the Decision Tech team.

Martin Gilmore – head of engineering and the designer of the Decision Tech flagship product. His lack of engagement had become an irritation to the others on the team.

Jeff Rollins (JR) – a prototypical sales person who rarely followed through on commitments.

Carlos Amador – a very engaged, thoughtful contributor. Though his customer support role was not “fully developed,” he took responsibility for product quality.

Jan Mersino – as CFO, she was a key player at DecisionTech – a company with plans to go public.

Nick Farrell – his undefined role didn’t match his impressive title – COO. Given the company’s slow start, he had little meaningful day to day work. He saw himself as the only executive on the team with the ability to take over the CEO role.

Part 1 – Underachievement

- What were the main weaknesses that Kathryn immediately noticed with her new team?  How would you describe a typical meeting at DecisionTech before Kathryn’s arrival?

- What are the characteristics and qualities of a “good” and effective meeting?  How can we make sure we have “good” and effective meetings here at our school?  

- Can you associate yourself or somebody you know with any of the characters presented thus far in the story?

Part 2 – Lighting the Fire

- Pg. 30 – Email versus face-face conversation – when is one okay and not the other?  Are you guilty of this?

- Pg. 44 – “Great teams do not hold back with one another; they are unafraid to air their dirty laundry. They admit their mistakes, their weaknesses, and their concerns without fear of reprisal?”  How do we create an environment where you can voice your concern without fear of reprisal?

- Pg. 65 – “It sounds like your strength and weakness are rooted in the same things.”  Do you agree with this statement, and if so, how can we use this information to our advantage?

- Pg. 79 – Revenue, expenses, new customer acquisition, current customer satisfaction, employee retention, market awareness, product quality were listed as the team’s “scoreboard.”  Is this applicable to education?  How often should we check the “scoreboard?”  Daily, monthly, biannually, annually……?

- Pg. 81 – “Your department cannot be doing well because the company is failing and if the company is failing then we are all failing and there is no way that we can justify the performance of our own department.”  Is this true in education?  Is this true at our school?

- Pg. 84 – “Could you start saying us and we instead of you?”

- Pg. 92 – “It’s the lack of conflict that’s a problem.”  Do we have conflict in our staff meetings?  PLC?

- Pg. 95 – “They just need to be heard, and to know that their input was considered and responded to.” Are your opinions and ideas heard?  How do we establish an open arena to discuss our ideas at our school?

Part 3 – Heavy Lifting

- Pg. 137 – “When a company (school) has a collection of good managers (teachers) who don’t act like a team, it can create a dilemma for them, and for the company (school).”  Do we have this at our school? In your department?

- Pg. 153-159 – What did you think about Mikey’s departure from DecisionTech?  How do we deal with somebody who is obviously good at their job, but detracts from the overall effectiveness of the team?

Part 4 – Traction

- Pg. 175 – At one of the last off-site visits Nick proclaimed that the biggest issue that needed to be addressed was the avoidance of accountability, which ultimately leads to low standards.  How do we prevent avoidance of accountability at our school?  Within our departments?  Within our classrooms? 

- How can we hold our colleagues more accountable without creating conflict?  Is it our job to hold our colleagues accountable?  If we are creating conflict for the betterment of the school is the conflict justified?

- What is your reaction to the idea that the larger the unit, the smaller the leadership team needs to be?  Do we have small leadership teams at our school?  Are these small leadership teams more effective than one overlapping leadership team?  Why or why not and how?

Do you see yourself as any of the characters presented in this book?  Can you still contribute to the success of your team even if you posses less than stellar team qualities? 

- What specific skills and strengths did Kathryn possess in developing the leadership team at DecisionTech?

- How do we develop the skills and strengths that Kathryn demonstrated for her team?……applicable to schools?

- How and why does a book like The Five Dysfunctions of a Team continue to be on the best seller-list after 7 years of being published?

- What were your key take away points from this book and why/how are they significant in your life or work?

Do we have enough time...?

Tick tock goes the clock. Tick tock and the school day is gone. Tick tock and the decision is made and we are moving on. Tick tock and the opportunity is lost. Tick tock and we had our chance to leave an ever-lasting impact...

Time is something we can't ignore. Time is something we can't get more of. Time is the enemy we all must endure. Time can never be defeated, and how you use it makes all the difference...
Regardless of our capacity in a school or a district, time is constantly on our minds and in our sights. Time is the one thing that is for certain. We all have 24 hours in a day, and we all only get 60 minutes per hour. Deciding how we use our time is perhaps the most important decision we make on a daily basis...

- Will you spend the extra time it takes to speak with a child to find out why he/she has been struggling lately? (what will your other students be doing at this time...)

- Will you take the long way just so you can say "thank you" to that colleague who really helped you out by going the extra mile? (will you need to get up earlier than usual for this to happen...)

- Will you read the page/blog post/article that was given to you by a colleague who felt it was relevant to what you are doing? (will you still have ample time to prepare for this week's classes...)

- Will you notify the parent of a student who has shown great improvement recently? (how do you decide which parents to call and which parents not to call...)

- Will you complete all the necessary paperwork/documentation that is being requested of you? (which of your other duties will receive less time while you complete these tasks...)

- Will you put the needs and requests of others before yours? (how will you decide which requests to fulfill and which needs of yours to ignore...)

As educators we all lead busy lives and we all have more on our plates than ever before. As our responsibilities and expectations increase, the only thing that remains constant is the amount of time we have. This post is not meant to be a pity party for educators, but rather a reminder that the choices we make every day on how we utilize our time have an impact much longer than we might realize.

Every time we make the decision on what to do or which task to complete first, we are making a decision that involves time. Guard your time and prioritize your time. Focus your time on what must be done to effect the greatest good, and never take your time for granted. Most importantly, recognize that when you decide how to use your time, you are also deciding what you don't have time for.

How do you prioritize your time? How do you decide what you don't have time for? Are you willing to accept that in order for you to fully devote yourself to a set of tasks, you must also be willing to sacrifice those tasks you don't have time for...?

Do we have enough time...?

Saturday, October 29, 2011

How Full is Your Bucket?

At Poplar Bluff Junior High School we started a professional studies book club that meets on a monthly basis. The second book we chose to read was "How Full is Your Bucket?" by Tom Rath and Donald Clifton. Here are the notes I provided the book club members to help fuel and guide our discussion:

Chapter 1: Negativity kills

- How do you respond to negativity?  What strategies do you employ to keep negativity out of your life?

- Do you ever find yourself being overly negative?  Do people view you as a positive or negative influence?      

Chapter 2: Positivity, negativity, productivity

- “It’s true that most of our negative experiences will not kill us, yet they can slowly but surely erode our well-being and productivity.” Pg. 15

- How often do you receive recognition and praise?  How did you feel afterward?  Do you deserve recognition and praise for doing your job?

- How do we prevent overly negative people from spreading their negativity?  

- “It is possible for just one or two people to poison an entire workplace.” Pg. 25 - Do you believe this?  As a member of an organization, do you feel comfortable giving one or two people that much power?  

Chapter 3: Every moment matters

- Remember a time when you got good news, praise, or recognition that filled your bucket…how long did it take before a negative person emptied your bucket?   

- As educators, do we focus on the strengths or weaknesses of our students?  Do you agree with Rath’s belief that we should concentrate on what people do well, rather than what they do not do well?

- “Positivity must be grounded in reality.” Pg. 45 - Is it possible to give too much praise?  Do we ever give insincere/artificial praise?  Is there a difference between insincere/artificial praise… and lying to avoid confrontation or hurting one’s feelings?

Chapter 4: Tom’s story: An overflowing bucket?

- Is being born a negative person a valid excuse when emptying the buckets of others?  If our natural disposition is to be negative, can we change?

- “I was able to strive for greatness in my area of natural talent.” Pg. 55 - Do we help our students find situations and circumstances where we know they will be successful and excel?

- Do the people you spend a majority of your time with help to fill your bucket?  

Chapter 5: Making it personal

- “Recognition is most appreciated and effective when it is individualized, specific, and deserved.” Pg. 62 - How can we make sure we provide individualized, specific, and deserved recognition for all of our students?

- “The recognition & praise you provide must have meaning that is specific to each individual.” Pg. 66

- How would Rath respond to a teacher of the month award?  Are these awards effectively recognizing and praising teachers in an individualized, specific, and deserving manner?

“You can have everything in life that you want if you will just help enough other people to get what they want.” Zig Ziglar

Chapter 6: Five strategies for increasing positive emotions

1. Prevent bucket dipping: Ask yourself…am I adding to or taking from the bucket?   

2. Shine a light on what is right: Do you concentrate on success or failure (strengths or weaknesses)?

3. Make best friends: Friends help add to and build up your bucket.

4. Give unexpectedly: Small unexpected bucket fillers can have a huge impact.

5. Reverse the golden rule: Put the needs of others before yours…take care of their bucket, and they will take care of yours.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

What Great Teachers do Differently...

Todd Whitaker is a great educational thinker and an experienced Educator. He has written several books, and his thoughts seem to resonate with Educators from all levels in all positions. Here are my book club notes from his book, "What Great Teachers do Differently." Todd is also on Twitter (@toddwhitaker)

1. Why look at great?

- What are the characteristics of “great” teachers? 
- Most administrators believe they would be better teachers if they ever returned to the classroom…why?
- Should we have the opportunity to observe the “great” teachers? – how do we determine who is “great?”

2. It’s people, not programs

- School districts put a lot of emphasis on new programs and initiatives?  Do school districts put the same amount of emphasis on developing teachers into “great” teachers? 
- Can you think of any examples where two identical programs were being led by two different leaders with two different levels of success?  Why was one program more successful than the other?

3. The power of expectations

- Are student expectations clear in your class? 
- Are teacher expectations clear at your school?  Do teachers need clear expectations? 
- What strategies do you use to make sure there is transparency, as well as clear expectations in your class?

4. Prevention versus revenge

- What are the most successful classroom management strategies you use?  Why are they the most successful?
- Do all teachers really have the same “bag of tricks?”

5. High expectations – for whom?

- Are your expectations higher for your students than for yourself? (think about the lens and mirror principles from Maxwell’s Winning with People)
- How do you know if your expectations are too high or too low?  Is it possible they can be too high? 

6. Who is the variable?

- When something goes wrong in your class (behavior, homework completion, quiz scores) who do you blame?
- Passing blame also passes power… are you prepared to give your power away?

7. Ten days out of ten

- How can we make sure we treat all students and colleagues with respect and care?
- How do you cope with a bad day in the classroom?  How do you hide your true feelings from the students?

8. The teacher is the filter

- How do you set the tone in your classroom?  Do you realize how powerful your attitude is?
- “When the teacher sneezes, the whole class catches a cold.” Pg. 56 Do you agree with this?
- Do you agree with Whitaker’s take on the teacher’s lounge?

9. Don’t need to repair – always do repair

- Building strong relationships with staff and students is essential to being a “great” teacher. 
- Is the “highway patrol example” applicable in the education setting? 
- Do we always reinforce appropriate student behavior in our classrooms?

10. Ability to ignore

- How do you determine which comments or behaviors to ignore, or not to ignore?
- Is it appropriate to ignore one student and recognize the behavior of other students to teach what behaviors are acceptable?

11. Random or plandom?

- Do you plan to use all 50 minutes of class every single day?  Does this require more work on your part?
- What strategies do you use to be proactive instead of reactive in terms of classroom management?
- What did you think about the faculty meeting example?  Do you see this at your school?  Positive/negative effect?

12. Base every decision on the best people

- “Great” teachers worry about what their best students think.  Should we only worry about our best students? - Are you guilty of using blanket statements with your students? 
- Why do most teachers/students/administrators use blanket statements? 

13. In every situation, ask who is the most comfortable and who is least comfortable?

- When dealing with students and staff members do you consider the ramifications of your words on others?
- Do you feel comfortable in your current position?  Do the “great” teachers at your school feel comfortable?
- Do your great students feel comfortable when you are addressing an issue with your class?

14. What about these darn standardized tests?

- Whitaker sees some value in standardized testing… how can we use standardized testing as a tool in our classrooms?
- In your particular class, do you feel that standardized testing is emphasized more than actual learning?

15. Make it cool to care

-  “Great” teachers teach all students to care, and as long as the teachers are acting in the best interests of the students, they can do no wrong… how can we make this applicable in the classroom setting?
- “The heroes are not the contract negotiating team that got the teachers a raise, but rather the teachers that had an impact on the lives of their students.” Pg. 119

16. Clarifying your core

- “Every teacher has an impact.  Great teachers make a positive difference.” Pg. 126
- Are you prepared to accept the responsibility of making your school a “great” school?

 “Students care about great teachers because they know great teachers care about them” Pg. 122

Sunday, October 23, 2011

What I've learned...

Last Friday marked the last day of the 1st quarter of the 2011-2012 school year at Poplar Bluff Junior High School. It also marked the end of the first quarter of my career as an administrator. The past 9 weeks have been quite an experience to say the least. I have helped get some great things started and I have also made several mistakes, but most importantly, I have learned a tremendous amount about relationships, leadership, support, and what it takes to keep a school moving forward.

Here are some of the main things I have learned so far...

- There is nothing that is not my job or part of my responsibilities...absolutely nothing...

- The student who you hammer hard with a punishment will most likely forgive you and not hold a grudge; taking time to rebuild that relationship is key to creating a positive school culture...  

- It's impossible to be an administrator without upsetting someone or making a mistake on a daily basis...

- Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing; don't overwhelm your staff by breaking off too much to chew at one time, even if it is great and will help students...

- If a teacher is doing something awesome in their class and they invite you to participate or witness the event, stop whatever you are doing and make time to stop by. It doesn't need to be the whole class period, but a few moments of an administrator's time can go a long way...

- The life of an administrator is a life of interruptions and putting out fires. The joys of an administrator are helping others to solve their problems while enabling staff members to do their jobs more efficiently and effectively...

- Building and establishing strong and enduring relationships is absolutely crucial to the success of a school...

- Communicating expectations and procedures is easier said than done; some staff members don't want or need it laid out for them, while others need every single step with a justification. Either way, creativity, autonomy, and freedom are jeopardized by too many procedures and steps...

- Trying to learn the names of all 750 students at PBJHS is difficult, but it can be done and it is definitely worth the time and effort...

- There is not enough time in the day to keep up with my Google Reader and blogging while still doing my job...

- I have definitely chosen the right job and profession...

What have you learned so far this school year...?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Providing support...
Whether you are a teacher, a building administrator, or a central office administrator, we all require various amounts of support to effectively do our jobs. Just as we need support to do our jobs, we are also all responsible for providing various levels of support to those with whom we work so they can complete their jobs. A teacher provides support to his/her students, a building administrator provides support to his/her staff, and a central office administrator provides support to an entire district.

Here are a few thoughts on providing and receiving support:

- If you are receiving adequate support from your colleagues, then you are able to do your job without hesitation and without having to navigate through crippling roadblocks...

- We can all power through periods of time without a lot of support, but a lack of support for an extended period of time will guarantee a decline in results and overall success... 

- Support for one is not support for all. We all require a personalized level of support that helps us meet the demands of our responsibilities...

- The moment you feel you are not receiving the level of support you require or want, is the moment you should increase the level of support you are providing for those around you; a culture of support breads more support...

- Support must permeate throughout the entire organization on all levels; a lack of support on any level can and will jeopardize the efficacy of the entire organization...

- How one responds to the support he/she receives or doesn't receive will ultimately dictate the level of support given or not given in the future...

- Not acknowledging and appreciating the work of others is the most dangerous form of lack of support; those passionate and driven want and need to know they are serving the greater good of the organization...

- You don't always have to act to show your support; sometimes it just takes listening and considering the thoughts and beliefs of those around you to show your support...

- Support is one of the most important steps in establishing an organization that thrives on trust and relationships; without support you will never have trust or strong relationships...

- The truest level of support will only shine in times of despair and struggle; it's easy to show and provide support when things are going well, the true test is when things are going poorly...

What are your thoughts on support? How does your school or organization provide support?

Sunday, October 2, 2011

What do you see...?

If you do bus duty in the morning do you see it as an opportunity to greet each and every student with a smile to ensure their day at school starts off right, or do you see it as just another short straw that you have drawn...?

If you know a colleague who is struggling do you see it as a chance to help him/her with their struggles because we work as a team, or do you turn your back on them and ignore their struggles while being thankful it's not your problem...?
If you have a conversation with a colleague and you disagree, do you see it as an opportunity to learn about another perspective or do you concentrate all your energy on proving that your perspective is correct...?

If you make a mistake do you see your failure as a chance to learn and grow or do you see your failure as a defining characteristic that will always follow and haunt you...?

If you experience success in your classroom with a particular activity do you see it as your professional responsibility to share it with your colleagues or do you see the activity as something you must protect and hide from others...?

If you get stuck doing something that isn't your job, do you see it as an opportunity to learn about another role in education or do you see it as a burden that shouldn't fall on your shoulders...?

If you are selected to do lunch supervision do you see it as an opportunity to build and strengthen student relationships or do you see it as wasted time that comes with the job...?

If you have a student who is unmotivated in your class do you see it as a chance to help the student find the root cause of the issue or do you see the student as another lazy and unmotivated kid...? 

If you are assigning work to be completed outside of school, do you see the other time commitments and constraints your students may have or do you see homework as more important than family and/or interests and hobbies...?

If you discover that a student is passionate about something that is not related to your content, do you see it as an opportunity to connect and relate your content to his/her passion or do you see his/her passion as something that is getting in the way of his/her learning...?

Does what you really see match up with what you really want to see? Does what you really see match up with what's best for your students?

Every day before you go to work think about what set of lenses you are wearing, and remember that from time to time it's not necessarily a bad idea to throw out your old lenses for a set of new ones...

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Administrator to administrator...

My building principal and I will be leading an administrator training session this week for the administrators in my district. We will be covering some of the ways we are using technology, some of the ways we are being proactive about our building's image in the community, and some of the ways we are providing timely and relevant professional development opportunities for our staff.

Using iPads:

We created a walk-through form using Google Form to gather data on our building. Google Form allows us to use our iPads to conduct short informal walk-throughs while also compiling all of the data into usable charts. Here is the link to our walk-through form: PBJHS walk-through form.

Additionally, we have been using our iPads to take pictures while doing class walk-throughs to help archive and share some of the great things going on at PBJHS. We have also used iMovie on the iPad to create these two videos that we shared with our staff and community.

Public relations:

We also decided we wanted to be proactive when it comes to informing our community about things going on at PBJHS. Consequently, we created a Facebook page as an avenue for getting news and information out to our community. Additionally, we started a Twitter account that is linked to our Facebook page so any new Facebook posts go directly to our Twitter account as well.

Professional development for staff:

Lastly, we started a professional development blog to share links and useful information that could help our teachers. Each Tuesday we share 5 different blog posts on our PD blog. These posts cover anything and everything related to education. It is our hope to embrace a more collaborative culture that thrives on self-reflection and sharing among staff members.

Additionally, we started a professional studies book club that focuses on both professional and personal growth. We are meeting this Wednesday to discuss Jon Gordon's, "The Energy Bus," and up next we will be reading Tom Rath's, "How Full is your Bucket?" We are looking to read Kathleen Cushman's new book, "Fires in the Mind," and Daniel Pink's book "Drive" late this semester.

We also recently surveyed our staff and determined that many teachers would be interested in attending after school PD sessions that are led by both teachers and administrators. We are still in the process of developing this while aligning our focus with our building's needs.

As an administrator or teacher, how are you using technology to improve your school's image while also providing professional development for your staff? 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

5 inspirational leaders

As I continue my journey as a first year administrator, I continually find myself on the lookout for both great tweeps and great leadership blogs. Here are a few that I would like to share with you:

Jeff Delp (@azjd) - K-12 Principal: Jeff has been on fire lately when it comes to his blogging. The thing that most impresses me with Jeff's writing is that he is constantly writing about the real issues we are facing in education. He does not just write about the bigger philosophical approaches to education, but rather the real world scenarios we are facing in schools. Here are a few of my favorite most recent posts by Jeff: Chasing homeworkRe-engaging the disengaged: 5 strategies, and Challenge your assumptions.

Chris Wejr (@mrwejr) - Elementary Principal: Chris has been a major player in the "what motivates students" debate. Also, he has pushed the envelope when it comes to rewards and extrinsic motivators in schools. Lately, Chris has been bouncing around with this blog posts, but he has definitely been a huge influence on me and many others. In particular, I have really enjoyed these latest posts by Chris: One day events don't solve everyday problemsThey need teaching...not punishment, and Parent communication: TO vs. WITH.

Dan Rockwell (@leadershipfreak) - Leadership Guru: Dan writes a new post on leadership on an almost daily basis. Though his posts aren't specific to education, he does an excellent job of making his posts relevant across many professions. I also find a lot of relevancy to what he says when dealing with colleagues and even our students. Dan's posts are 300 words or less, and his blog most definitely deserves to be in your RSS feed as a daily dose of inspirational leadership. Here are a few of my favorite posts of late: Great leaders are great hatersThe leadership secret, and Polite meetings are a waste of time.

Aaron Biebert (@biebert) - Leadership Guru: Aaron like Dan does not write specifically for educators, but I find a lot of his posts to be quite inspirational and motivating nonetheless. I have been following Aaron for the shortest amount of time when comparing these 5 leaders, but I am constantly impressed and encouraged by his words. Here are 3 posts that have really got me interested in reading more of what Aaron has to write: The magic of user friendly leadership6 reasons why "conflicted" is good for your life and organization, and Leadership: Here there be dragons.

Krissy Venosdale (@KTVee) - 3-6 Gifted Teacher: Though Krissy might not blog or tweet directly about "leadership" trends or perspectives, she is without doubt a leader in her own right. Krissy provides a constant stream of great ideas and even better perspectives that both inspire and motivate me. If you are looking for a boost of inspiration or energy, then you need to look no further than Krissy. Here are 3 great posts Krissy has written of late: Letting go of rulesWhere are you going?, and Making mountains into molehills.

Check out a blog post I did back in May about 5 other educational leadership superstars: Educational superstars