Leadership…The Biggest Issue in Education?

The featured image is borrowed from jimmycasas.com

This is a really power piece written by Jimmy Casas where he discusses “Leadership…The Biggest Issue in Education?”.

Jimmy talks about how he frequently poses a question to the audience: “What do you believe to be the biggest issue facing us today in public education that is resulting in many of our schools to be labeled as low performing?

He lists those most commonly heard responses and I want you to take a second to do the same.

He talks about how those are all valid responses but in the end, it all comes down to leadership.  I could not agree more with him.  You probably thought of standardized testing, poverty, lack of resources, state rules, etc. but through all of those, if you have a strong leader guiding the school, you will be successful.

Think about this.

How many of our have worked for a great leader?  Do you feel like you dwell on the shortcomings of education when you are being led effectively?

Conversely think of a bad leader that you have worked for.  Did the shortcomings of education then impact your growth, abilities, etc?

For me the answer is clear which is why I loved this post so much.  When I worked under strong leadership there was always a sense of love, trust, and empowerment in the building.  Teachers felt good about being there and students felt loved, respected, and heard.  I did not get caught up dwelling on the issues surrounding education because I was confident in my leader and felt that my leader was confident in me.

Working for poor leaders brings a sense of anxiety that is easily felt and seen.  You are worried about your job, meeting test scores, your next teacher review, etc because you do not believe in or feel supported by your leader.  You do not feel safe and comfortable.  If you are feeling this way, what do you think the students are feeling?  They certainly are aware of this and can feel it as well.

Leadership is crucial and I believe, the key to a successful classroom, school, and district.  I agree with Jimmy that it is a major weakness in education today because far too many are not leading effectively.  What do you think?

How school districts are leveraging Twitter to become rock stars

Love, love, love this post by Amy Jenkins via eSchool News!!  In this day in age districts should be 100% engaged with there community.  They are their customers, consumers, and spend countless hours supporting the district.  This post highlights 4 ways that districts are using Twitter to revolutionize how the share, collaborate, and learn.

  1. By Hash(tag)ing Out Ideas
  2. Jump Into Larger Covos
  3. Meet Your Work Spose
  4. Get a Little Informal

If your wondering why or dont believe in the power.  I challenge you to open a twitter account and then look up a few hashtags from districts where I have friends working: #yoursalisbury (Salisbury SD, PA) #Engage109 (Deerfield, IL) #katyISD (Katy, TX) and there are tons more!  Check them out and see what all is being shared.  It’s an amazing way to connect and grow your district’s culture.

Don’t forget…relationships should include parents too! What do parents want from a principal?

I recently participated in #IMMOOC (Innovators Mindset Massive Online Book Course with hundreds of ed enthusiasts.  Today my featured post comes from one of the educators that I had to privilege to encounter.   Her name is Amber Teaman and she is principal of Whitt Elementary in Wylie ISD in Wylie, Texas.

Her post is fantastic and one of my all-time favorites!

In it she discusses what she would want her parents to know about her, her passion for education, and her passion to help their students be successful.  Before she releases these 5 heartfelt ideas she has one of her parents highlight the parent perspective.  What a parent would want from their principal.   Before I give away the details-take 10 minutes and read it now.  You will not be disappointed!


Should high school be more like the real world? These innovators think so

The USA Today recently shared a great post called “Should high school be more like the real world? These innovators think so“.  It highlights the work of Powderhouse Studios.

Here is part of the introduction:

“The high school, set to open in a repurposed former school building in Somerville, Mass., next year, won’t have grade levels or traditional classes. Instead, students will be immersed in interdisciplinary projects that tap into their interests and ambitions. They’ll divide their days between seminars and project-based work, meeting with faculty for guidance regularly. And students will go to school year-round from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m., taking vacations based on their families’ schedules. Classrooms, lectures and lesson plans – the things traditional schools are built on – won’t be a big part of daily life at Powderhouse.

In short, Powderhouse will look more like a workplace than a high school.”

This piece is so powerful that it is a MUST READ.  These educators are taking innovation to the next step and taking a HUGE risk.   They are taking #placebaseded and #makerspaces to the next level.  I can’t wait to read about and see how successful this school is.  I believe they are on an amazing track for success.

Five Guidelines to Make School Innovation Successful.

Here is the introduction to the article written by Katrina Schwartz via Mind/Shift.

“Eleven years ago Chris Lehmann and a committed team of educators started Science Leadership Academy (SLA), a public magnet school in Philadelphia that focuses on student inquiry through projects in a community that cultivates a culture of care. The school has been so successful over the last decade that the district has tapped Lehmann to help other schools get started or transform themselves.”

I love the post because it highlights the basics of being a successful innovator and the first guideline is the most important to me.

Simplicity Matters

So many educators, when they decide to take the leap and try something new, attempt to develop the best lesson plan OF ALL TIME.  They want to showcase their new found pedagogy and they forget that doing too much the first time through might set them up for failure.  This is just part of the learning process (and a valuable one at that) because they will learn from their mistakes and it will make them better.  Change is not easy and it is not easy for your students either.  Keep it simple and make sure you provide not only your students to succeed but yourself as well.

The 6th guideline – my addition – is TALK ABOUT THE CHANGE WITH YOUR KIDS.  Prepare them for the change, let them know why your doing it, and sell them on the change!  Why not invest in some time to sell them on the idea first?  If they buy into the process then the chances of it being successful are even better.  I did this frequently as an educator and I found that: my students appreciated it, I was more successful, and most importantly is fostered a strong relationship between my students and myself.  They appreciated me treating them like adults, talking through things, and being a FAMILY.

The #1 Leadership Trait

Great leaders see the value in relationships, innovation, taking risks, supporting others, accountability, honesty, communication, the list goes on.   These traits can be debated over and over again but when you look at each trait, I feel that there is a larger trait that connects them all, humility.

“Humility is the number 1 trait that all leaders should strive to achieve.”

Think of a leader that you work(ed) with that was humble.  Answer these questions about that person (I’ll do the same):

  1. Were they trustworthy? (Me-yes)
  2. Were they good at building relationships? (Me-yes)
  3. Were they empathetic? (Me-yes)
  4. Were they open to others opinions? (Me-yes)
  5. Were they able to reflect? (Me-yes)
  6. Were they micro-managers? (Me-no)

This is an ideal leader!  If one is humble; they are empathetic, honest, and open-minded while also able to reflect, let people do their jobs, and accept ambiguity.  Who doesn’t want to work for a humble leader who:

  • Supports you in taking risks
  • Trusts your judgement
  • Accepts when you make mistakes
  • Admits when they make mistates
  • Listens and shows empathy
  • Encourages you to grow
  • Inspires you through modeling all of these

Not me!  Give me a leader who is humble all day because I know that they are that and more!



Leaders of 2017

One of my favorite things that Education Week does is it created the Education Week Leaders to Learn From.  It highlights Ed Leaders and then puts ALL of their success stories in 1 location!  Honestely it was part of the inspiration for me to start my website and my newsletter.  There are SO many resources available, and I value my time, so I wanted to find easy ways to share information with my peers that I found valuable.

The purpose of this post is to simply share the link to the Leaders of 2017!  This year has a list of 13 amazing educators and this link will provide you access to their amazing stories.

Image is borrowed from Education Week Leaders to Learn From

How to Be a Leader When You Are Not the Leader

Alex Budak discusses what micro-leadership looks like in his article via the Huffington Post.

“Leadership, then, is not a single act, but rather a continuous mindset to serve others. And it is therefore egalitarian — there is no requirement to wait until being anointed a leader, in order to be a leader. Rather, it is something each of us can choose to do every day through our own actions, whether we are an intern or a CEO; a parent or a child; a contractor or a client.”

He highlights 9 examples of how to lead when you are not the leader.  Check them out!


TEDx Talk – I’m 17

“A world of creative collaboration between adults and students” – Kate Simonds

Have you ever sat down with a student and they express some very powerful feelings and you respond with, “Your only _____ (a kid, 17, a child, in high school, middle school, etc.) , you don’t understand”

I know I have and the funny thing is I remember being told that when I was young and I did not take to it nicely, yet still, I did it to my students.  “Treat others as you wish to be treated” applies to not just current, real world scenarios but also to experiences that we have already gone through.

Take 13 minutes and 38 seconds to watch Kate Simonds provide a TEDx talk in Boise, Idaho and it might change your perspective.  She blew me away.  You can feel her passion, the anxiety of being a teenager on such a big stage, and she absolutely kills it!!

Hats off to you Kate!  I hope to get you on my podcast, Perspectives in Education soon because your perspective is important and needs to be recycled through the ed world!

Featured image is borrowed from Idaho News

Leadership is a Choice

Eric Sheninger has an amazing blog called A Principal’s Reflections.  One of this posts resonated with me and I am just getting to share it with out all now, “Leadership is a Choice“.

Throughout my career as a child, teenager, student, athlete I was looked at as being a “leader” or having the characteristics of one.  The best part about this post is how Eric highlights that just because you have the characteristics to be a leader, you still have to CHOOSE to do so!

“Everyone has the ability to lead and our schools need more educators to embrace this challenge. Never underestimate your own unique talents and abilities that can help shape the future of our schools to create a better learning culture that students deserve. Some of our best leaders are right under our nose – our teachers and students.  Great leaders not only understand this, but also help these key stakeholders make the choice to lead. ”