How are you making students feel?

As an attempt to change up how I am blogging and am starting to record videos on my thoughts.  I usually have plenty of time to record a 4-5 minute video while I am driving to and from the school.  I figured this would give me a more authentic posting and more frequent posting as well.  I rarely have time to sit down and write a long post about what I am learning or struggles that I am going through to share with other educators.  So for 2018, it is my hope that this will inspire you and help you along your way to being a successful educator.  You can find a link to my YouTube Channel on the sidebar.

Remember, what will you do with the time that you have been given? (#WWYDWTTTYHBG)

You will run out of tomorrows….. What will you do today, for those that need you?

I recently read a tweet (pic below) from Danny Steele (@SteeleThoughts) that had me thinking more about the power of relationships. While every leader in the world would stress the importance of relationships, some do not practice this life skill or have the passion to do so. I have been so blessed to have many good examples of relationship builders in my life.

With the recent passing of my father-in-law, I have spent more time in reflection than I normally have in the past.  Most of my reflection has been centered on the importance of relationships and how they are so crucial in all aspects of life.

My father-in-law Dave was a teacher at a small school middle in Oregon for 21 years.  During his 21-year tenure, he had many impacts on students, parents, and community members like many teachers do.

This morning I overheard my mother-in-law reading a message to my wife that she received from a lady that was connected to the school.  In her message, she said that she did not get to know Dave well other than the few interactions that she had with him during his time at the school.  She said that all of the kids that left that school to head on to high school have been hit very hard by the loss.

This is just one story of the students and parents that have been hit with this loss.  There have been hundreds of others.  Phone calls, cards, trains, planes, and cars have come from all areas of the country to be with him in his final days, and after, just because he put them first before himself.  A prime example of servant leadership.

But, did he realize the impact that relationship had on them?  Did he know that the relationship that he had with them would impact their lives forever?  Do any of us know this?  Whether we know or not, the relationships that we have with others will set their path along with ours on a different course forever.  What course do you want the relationship to go?

Today, you have a choice in each relationship that you have.  Whether at work, home, church, or the community.  How do you want that relationship to move forward?

  1. Listen twice as much as we talk.  This is why we have two ears and only one mouth.  Use them in that proportion.
  2. Let your yes be yes and your no is no.
  3. Do unto others as we would have them do unto us.
  4. Never let the sun set on our anger.  We are not guaranteed tomorrow.  We only have today to make a difference.

We were designed to be a people that crave and need relationships within our daily lives.  Without these relationships, we are nothing but an empty shell riding this rock until the end of our days.

We are all in this together.  You will run out of tomorrows, so what will you do today, for those that need you?  Dave would say “We cannot change who we are, but we can change who we are going to be.”

I am in your corner…

This weekend, as I was reflecting on my week, I ran across an article by Daniel Steele entitled “Letter to a Discouraged Student“.  This was a very profound letter.  Beautifully written from a principal to student perspective.  While I have no idea if this was actually written for a specific student or for the general masses.  One thing is for sure, it applies to every student who struggles with school and every student who did struggle with school.  I can relate to this letter.

We as educators always put ourselves in the place to make things better for kids.  I am not the type of person that likes to be at the front of attention, especially in large crowds.  Being in a leadership position at times does put you at the forefront.  Remembering my first year as an Athletic Director being put in the position of heading one of the largest departments in the district was a real growing moment in my professional/personal life.  At the end of each year, we held an athletic awards banquet.  Of course, the MC?  Me.  This was a nerve-racking situation for me all year.  I started working out what I was going to say months before it was time.  In the end, it was fine.  I was nervous, to say the least.  The next year I repeated the event and pushed through.

While I know that this was a weakness of mine, it didn’t stop me from doing what was important, being there for kids.  Most recently I was in a similar position where our student-body was looking for people to be part of a fundraiser that in the end, the winner would get a pie in the face in front of the whole school.  There were some pretty popular teachers as well as the Principal that all signed up.  I figured I would be way down the list before getting picked.  Nope!  I was in the top three.  So that meant pie in the face!  Now, this is something that put me in front of everybody again.  I did it because it was important to kids.

Kids, I know my weaknesses and I know my strengths.  Being part of the attention is not one of them.  But know that even if it means being front and center with the spotlight on me, if that is what you need, I will do it.  Know that I am in your corner.

 

Isolation eliminates success in education

I was recently reading on Leadershipfreak.com about three types of people you should surround yourself with as a leader.

The post was very interesting. Starting out with the statement “The enemy of success is isolation.” Now, this for sure applies to leaders but how about teachers in the classroom? Most teachers are in isolation. Rarely do they leave their room and they stay there for most of their career.

Are these teachers unsuccessful? I do not believe that they are totally but as cliche, as it sounds, it does take a village to raise a child. Teachers need to be getting out of their rooms as much as they can in order to network with other teachers from other disciplines. In order to be successful in the classroom, we must network together learning from one another.

Five characteristics of successful leaders/entrepreneurs

  • Showing up – Rosabeth quotes Woody Allen’s famous saying that 90% of success in life comes from just showing up, and I agree.  In the context of leaders and entrepreneurs that means getting started on things and being visible, and that includes when things are difficult/might not work.  In fact, not putting off the difficult things is what separates effective people from the rest.
  • Speaking up – we all know that great leaders make great speeches, and often those speeches come to define the period of leadership – think about Martin Luther King and you quickly think about his famous “I have a dream” speech.  It is still inspiring nearly 50 years later (if you haven’t heard it recently listen here – 9mins in is a good place to start).  More prosaically CEOs and founders are most effective when they are vocal within their companies shaping the debate and articulating the conclusions at team meetings.  I recently asked a former employee of successful UK SEO/SEM agency The Search Works why the company had prevailed over its competitors and his answer was that Nick Hynes, the CEO, had a special talent for articulating the vision and direction of the business and getting everyone at the company believing and pulling in the same direction.  Think about that for a moment.
  • Teaming up – great companies aren’t built by individuals, they are built by teams.  Usually that is a team of co-founders and in just about every case there is a team of executives who have real power and operate as a team.  Delegation is a pre-requisite for success.
  • Looking up – I’m going to quote directly from Rosabeth’s post here, as she nails it “Looking up: the power of values. Higher principles help people transcend the conflicts and concerns of the moment. Standing for something larger than mere self-interest gives leaders moral grounding and provides a basis for inspiring and motivating the work. Those who are honored as great leaders are not merely good at getting results efficiently, they are able to find grander goals that help people look up to see the big picture and set their sights higher.”
  • Not giving up – much has been written about the importance of persistence, and for good reason.  It is something that is easy to forget when the going gets tough and reminders are useful.  As Rosabeth says “everything can look like failure in the middle”.
Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

10 Ways To Make Each Day A Leadership Masterpiece

10 Ways To Make Each Day A Leadership Masterpiece – Forbes

  1. Excel in the moment.
  2. Invest in a relationship and build trust.
  3. Help someone else achieve and grow.
  4. Listen.
  5. Connect someone to your vision, mission, and priorities.
  6. Thank someone.
  7. Prepare for the known and study for the unknown.
  8. Prepare for an important decision.
  9. Leverage white space. Avoid the trap of filling every minute of your calendar.  Better to commit to less and deliver more than to promise and not come through.
  10. Grow physically, mentally, spiritually.

The Best 1:1 Device is a Good Teacher

Self-Paced Professional Development

Here are some options for self-paced, learn-when-you-can professional development. Your district will not hand you these options, but I encourage you to seek them out.

iTunesU

iTunesU is an iPad-based repository of courses, lectures, and resources for teachers and students. The content can be accessed exclusively on the iPad, and the material is all vetted for accuracy and copyright. Courses can be accessed or created by individuals or teachers through iTunesU Course Manager. Course manager is only available on the Apple platform and when using the Safari browser.
Coursera
Coursera is a free online course catalog that allows anyone in the world to take courses from some of the best instructors on the planet. Coursera does not offer accreditation for teachers yet, but they are advocating for this issue. Regardless, this site is chock full of courses that anyone can take at any time.
Google+
Google+ is emerging as a credible venue for professional development and anytime learning. It’s a free platform, and if you work in an organization that employs Google Apps for Education, you already have an account. Google+ offers Google “Hangouts” as the venue for presenting professional development sessions. The best part about this option is that Hangouts are archived on the YouTube account of the author or group.
Twitter
Everyone in education loves Twitter. Twitter can be a great venue for learning if you organize it and filter it (I recommend TweetDeck). Jumping headfirst into something like #edchat will only confuse and overwhelm you. My recommendation is to use Twitter sparsely at first. Find a few educators to follow, and spend a good amount of time listening, reading and processing. Follow Steve Anderson, Kristen Swanson, Alec Couros, John Spencer, Lyn Hilt, Rich Kiker, Dean Shareski, Joyce Valenza, Kyle Pace and Edutopia — to start. But start simple and listen to what the aforementioned educators have to say.
EdCamps
EdCamp is the standard professional development for education. I’ve attended and organized several EdCamps and find them to be the most rewarding experiences that I’ve had in education. I’ve made great connections and friends as a result of this format, and it is a professional development that allows everyone to participate and have a voice.

Visionary Leaders

I love what @Leadershipfreak writes on a regular basis.  His leadership insight is that cannot be matched and is perfect for any industry, especially education.
This below is taken from his website.  Vision is important for any leader.  Without vision, execution is a hallucination.  It is extremely important for educational leaders to have a clear vision.  I believe that many schools have leaders that have execution but lack the vision.  So essentially things get done but with no large goal in mind.  So, how do those leaders ever know when they have broken through a barrier and accomplished something?  Are those schools just aimlessly doing the day by day hoping that they are doing right by the children that are in their halls?
If you ever feel that you are just doing the day-by-day and not making any headway to achieving a goal, what vision have you laid out for yourself lately?  Always remember that work without vision is drudgery.  Vision without work is just dreaming.  But when you combine work with a vision you will achieve your destiny.

The Seven Qualities of Visionary Leaders | Leadership Freak:
Vision:

  • Creates vitality.
  • Focuses energy.
  • Explains purpose.

Apart from clear vision:

  • Distraction directs.
  • Desperation disrupts.
  • Despair discourages.

Seven qualities of visionary leaders:

  1. Optimistic about the future.
  2. Focused on the best in their people. They focus on the unique strengths of every employee.
  3. Never satisfied but always content. They seem happy where they are but refuse to stay there.
  4. Consumed with making tomorrow better than today. Hopeful leaders never settle.
  5. Accepting of change.
  6. Inclusive, not exclusive. Hopeful leaders invite others into their vision.
  7. Personally bought in. Vision is inside them.”

Three Qualities Traditional Leaders Reject

Three Qualities Traditional Leaders Reject | Leadership Freak:

Emptiness is opportunity.

The downside of curiosity:

  1. People want to know what you know as well as what you don’t.
  2. Questions feel pushy and threatening when filled with expectation.
  3. Constant curiosity spirals inward and downward.
  4. Creating options causes confusion.

Failure is NOT an option! Or is it?

We put a great deal of emphasis on that our schools are failing and that our kids are not learning in schools today. It is true, the American education system is in a triage situation and needs to have attention placed the critical needs. Many parents and teachers are concerned with the fact that students are failing classes, even I am. But take a moment and look at what failing truly is. Does a child learn something by failing? In my opinion, they do. They learn how not to accomplish something. Failing does not mean unsuccessful, but we place great emphasis on the fact that failing is unacceptable. Let’s take a look at some famous failures.

Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team. Failure!

At 30 years old, Steve Jobs was forced to leave the company he build from the ground up. Failure!

Walt Disney was fired from a newspaper because he lacked “imagination” and “original ideas”. Failure!

Oprah Winfery was demoted from being a news anchor because she was “not fit enough for television”. Failure!

Albert Einstein could not speak until the age of 4 and teachers told him that he would not amount to much in life. Failure!

It is important for us as educators to let every student know that failure is just a rehearsal for success.  Kids are worried about failing, and they should be, but when they do, and they will, they need to know that they are not failures as a person.

Traditional testing has become very degrading to those students who see a number that is not considered passing.  But those same students could go out and fix my truck without much hesitation and go to work as a mechanic and make twice what I do.  So which one is the failure, the student who has volumes more knowledge than I about mechanics of machines or me, the guys with two college degrees, two masters degrees, and an almost completed Ed.S?

This reminds me of a Big Bang Theory episode where all four guys were driving and something happened to Leonard’s car.  He asked, ” Does anyone here know anything about the internal combustion engine?”  Every one of them said, “Yes, tons.”  “Does anyone here know how to work on the internal combustion engine?”  Their reply, “Absolutely not!”  That was three guys who all had terminal degrees and Wolowitz of course (BBT fans will know why that is funny) who had immense knowledge of many things in this world but could not even fix their car.  Are they failures?  I would say at that moment for that circumstance they were.  Again, being a failure at some things is not bad.  Failure is just a rehearsal for success.  I fail regularly at taking out the trash and helping with the laundry, just ask my wife.

The Myth of the Super Teacher

The Myth of the Super Teacher on Vimeo

Roxanna Elden is a great speaker.  The message that she sends forth in this video is stellar.  I have not read her book as of yet but I intend to.  She is 100% correct when she says that all teachers need honesty, humor, and practical advice.  The only problem I see is that a lot of leaders forget that teachers need this and that they view us as lazy if we are not getting 3 hours of sleep a night in order to create that amazing lesson plan.  We are human.  Nobody works with teenagers on 3 hours of sleep.  Did you before becoming an administrator?

Here is a touching story that is good for everyone to remember:

The Mayonnaise Jar

When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day is not enough, remember the mayonnaise jar and two cups of coffee.
A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him.
When the class began, wordlessly, he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and fills it with golf balls.
He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured it into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls.
He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else.

He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous “YES”.

The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

“Now,” said the professor, as the laughter subsided, “I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things – God, family,
children, health, friends, and favorite passions. Things, that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the things that matter like your job, house, and car. The sand is everything else — the small stuff.” he said.
“If you put the sand into the jar first,” he continued, “There is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are
important to you…” he told them.
“So… pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Worship with your family. Play with your children. Take your partner out to dinner. Spend time with good friends. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the dripping tap. Take care of the golf balls first — the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.”
One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the coffee represented.

The professor smiled and said, “I’m glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend.”

Many administrators have forgotten this over the years of not being in the classroom.  They have forgotten this story for their teachers, but they have not forgotten this for themselves.  Most want us to fill the jar with the sand first and they call us lazy when we don’t.  We are all people, not robots.  It is important to remember that we all have lives outside of those walls, including students, and sometimes situations take place that impacts what goes on in those walls.

This year our superintendent in his opening address wanted to work with various positions around the district as a way to stay connected on what we do day in and day out with children.  This was a huge inspiration for me as a teacher.  Here is someone who quite frankly has a very busy schedule and wants to come in and work with teachers, secretaries, custodians, and bus drivers for a day to get a sense of the “trenches”.  This is a leader.  Not many superintendents would be able to invest, not sacrifice, the much needed time in order to do get the first-hand view of the classroom after so many years being out.

In my talks that I have had with many people I have worked with over the years, many of stressed upon me that whenever I do step into that position of the administration, to not lose sight of what it is like in the classroom.  My intention is to always keep that very close to my heart.  The true battleground is the classroom, not the office.

iPad is King in Education

Today I was reading the blog of Steven Anderson, District Instructional Technologist with Winston-Salem Schools in Winston-Salem NC, where he was discussing “Taking a Step Back and Thinking Critically About Technology“.  Take a moment to read the article to understand my standpoint below.
So why is iPad King in Education?  Apps!  When you have a center store filled with over 500,000 apps, with 25 billion downloads, and countless developers always creating new things, then selecting the iPad for your classroom seems obvious.  Now with the creation of the iBooks Author, Apple has just added another tid-bit to entice educators more than they already do.
I agree with Steven that there are a lot of schools and districts buying iPads just to say that they have them. (Points to myself.)  While I did support the purchase of the iPads for our main curriculum tool now looking back I would go another way.  I am one of those educators that believes that “I” am the curriculum in my room, everything else is just a tool that I use.  So why would I go with something else rather than the just sticking with the iPad?  Simple, Google.  The collaboration that comes with Google Docs, Calendar, Blogger, and other various tools is ULTIMATE.  In a profession where collaboration works, Google needs to be used in schools more often than it currently is.  While the iPad does work with Google, it does not tap into Google’s collaborative features.  This is why I personally would go with the Chromebook.  I like those collaborative features and students need to learn to collaborate more than they currently are.