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.