Your Teaching Career May Be Defined By Who You Hang With

I recently came across this quote from Chris Emdin and I could not agree more with this perspective.  It comes from his book “For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood… and the Rest of Y’all Too: Reality Pedagogy and Urban Education“.

Take a second to read the featured image again…

I cannot agree more with this view.  For me when I reflect on this quote I never had more fun teaching when I was working with a team who was invested, dedicated, and having a blast.  The positive energy that I felt, even through the tough times, kept us all strong and we never lost sight of the end goals.

Think about the time when you were on the other side.  You worked with that teacher who did their job, but teaching was just that… a JOB.  How about the colleague who is a BLAST to be around outside of work but when within the walls of the school they have a negative attitude, no patience for their students, and always seem to provide a negative comment about something that is happening in the school.  Another personality is someone else on the team loved teaching, kids, and was a solid educator but they resisted change and transforming their classroom.

This type of behavior is addicting.  At first you might roll your eyes, shake your head, laugh with them because they are being funny.  The danger here is that this is addictive and WORDS HAVE POWER.  More power than most of us will ever give them credit for and eventually you will go from shaking your head to participating in the act.

Once you start down the path of negativity it can be hard to control and maintain.  It is unfair to expect that we all can avoid tripping up and needing an opportunity to vent, share disappointments, and just clear our minds of frustration.  It is how you move forward form that moment that counts.  Does this becoming a daily occurrence?  Do you start to take your frustrations home with you?  Do you take some of these frustrations to social media?

Some of you might be reading this and thinking that the teachers you hang with do not influence your impact.  I can appreciate that, you want to defend the people you hang with.  If this is you then my first thought is that this quote might be more true for you than you think.  Maybe one or a couple of the teachers on your team have the potential to be cancerous to the entire group OR maybe you can just see and feel that this might be happening at your campus.  What do you do?  Well if your career depends on it, and according to the quote from Chris it might, please take a second to think and reflect on what is best for your mindset.  This is crucial because your mindset will directly effect your students mindset and being anything but positive, kind, and empathetic, to me, is unacceptable.  If you are not then you might just miss out on a chance to “Flip a Kid”.  

 

Building Leaders

The National Association of Elementary School Principals recently published a great post from Sandra A. Trach on building leaders and investing in leadership.

The article, “Building Leaders“, highlights the role of the assistant principal and does a great job discussing how much they support the principal, staff, and the overall foundation of the school.  I love this quote that they highlighted:

“Assistant principals “lead from the middle” of the school, which allows them to work at a meaningful intersection of administration and leadership, and among faculty, staff, students, and parents. Assistant principals are key relationship-builders, becoming a bridge between the principal and faculty and staff, and aiding in the trust and transparency necessary for a successful school culture.” – Christopher Colwell in Impact: How Assistant Principals Can Be High Performing Leaders.

This is so true!  Often in this process I believe then their skill sets may not continue to grow in order for them to make the shift from the Assistant Principal to the Principal.  The post goes on to highlight the right strategy to bring principals along, tools for growth,  and highlights why investing in assistant principals is definitely worth it!

Reading this article I just LOVE the emphasis on leadership and investing in our people.  So much in education revolves around investing in our students (which obviously is a worthwhile investment) we also have to think about everyone else on the campus.  Investing in our staff to ensure that their voice is heard, they are supported, satisfied, have the resources that they need to be successful are all part of establishing strong school culture.

If your not sure, put out a survey to assess your leadership.  One of my favorite people to follow on twitter in the blogging world, Amber Teamann, did and was surprised by the results. (“MyBad” Podcast by Jon Harper has the story here)  Now she had two options, you know what they are, but she took the high road and now she has transformed her leadership.

So what if you are feeling like you do not do the best job?  I would instantly turn my attention to Lead Like a Pirate by Shelley Burgess and Beth Houf.  Not only is it a fun themed book that can easily transfer to your school, they provide real life examples of how to turn your school around.  You will be able to take lessons form their book and instantly start insert them into your leadership tomorrow.  They also joined my podcast Perspectives in Education (listen here) to discuss leadership and their book.  “We want to create schools where kids are knocking down the doors to get in but we also need to create schools where staff are knocking down the doors to get in.” – Shelley Burgess.

Well how do we do that?  I love this quote from Beth Houf that came from the podcast,  “We throw around the phrase whats best for kids a lot, we (Shelley and I) feel like our influence on doing whats best for kids relies solely on how we inspire and motivate and support the adults in our buildings.  If we do that, then the teachers and other educators can truly make an impact.”  She hits the nail on the head.

So back to my question from before, do you support your staff, encourage them, listen to their needs, and provide them all the resources they need to grow?

Your Guide to Running a School Like Disney World

LOVE LOVE LOVE this post from Lynn Colon via Edsurge!!

George Couros poses a question in the Innovators Mindset: Would you want to be a student in your class?  You can change that to would you want to be a teacher/student in your building?

Beth Houf and Shelley Burgess, in Lead Like a Pirate, talk about how you want to develop your campus to be one that teachers and students run to vs run away from.  (Hear more about this on our podcast: Perspectives in Education)

Well what better way to say YES to George’s question while also getting everyone to want to be a part of our schools than do run them like Disney World!

“You can design and create, and build the most wonderful place in the world. But it takes people to make the dream a reality. ” —Walt Disney

 

In her post called “Your Guide to Running a School Like Disney World”, Lynn highlights 3 ways to do this:

  1. Focus on customer service
  2. Create magic through tech and relationships
  3. Parents: They are both guests and stakeholders

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