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?

How To Weave Growth Mindset Into School Culture

This is a great post from Katrina Schwartz via Mind Shift.

I enjoyed this post because it discusses a real world scenario.  It highlights Adilene Rodriguez who is a senior at Arroyo High School in San Lorenzo, California.  She highlights and talks about her time in high school and how one of her teachers, Jim Clark, educated her on the growth mindset and helped her to grow and believe in herself.

This story is one that could be shared with students all around the world so that they can see the power of the growth mindset.  This is one of my favorite topics in education to discuss so if your interested in more, check out my posts on the growth mindset.

Happy reading!!

Featured image is borrowed from the article.

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

What is the experience our students tell others about their time in school?

George Couros poses a great question in one of his recent posts: What is the experience our students tell others about their time in school?

George pulls an excerpt from Jeff Bezos, CE) and founder of Amazon, where he talks about Day 1 vs Day 2 and a “true customer obsession” focus.  It is interesting to read his perspective as he runs, what could be, one of the most popular brands in the country.

He then turns and asks how it can relate to education.  I love the “obsessive customer focus” that Bezo’s references because this is something that we all need to think about.  Our community (parents and students) are our customers and we HAVE to always have their best interest at heart.  Often, as teachers/administrators, we find ourselves more worried about what would be or what is best for us while we let the kids adapt.  That is certainly the wrong approach.  We have to be willing to put ourselves out, try new things, and go above and beyond to make our students happy and successful.

George often talk about, and asks again in this post, “Would you want to be a learner in your own classroom?”

So take a few minutes to read Georges post and then as your self that question.  If the answer is no then what can you do tomorrow, Day 1, to make those changes and then avoid Day 2?

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!

 

Why Educators Need to Promote Themselves

Love this post by Anne O’Brian via Edutopia that highlights “Why Educators Need to Promote Themselves“.

This one line – the start of her post caught my attention right away… “Back when I was a classroom teacher, my principal — to whom I rarely spoke — came by one day to tell me that one of my math students had gotten the highest score in the school on a standardized math test.”

Whaaaaaat!?!?! Rarely spoke – that just sounds depressing and the fact that they didn’t throw the kid a party, recognize him/her, or even a high five!?  I find odd.  I realize I am making assumptions here but the post leads us to believe that the purpose of the visit was just that – to tell the teacher of the students accomplishment.

In the post she highlights ways to “bragg” and tips to help you do it.  In today age Twitter is a powerful tool when it comes to education.  There are several chats daily, #BookSnaps, book studys like #IMMOOC, all occuring using social media.  It has changed my life and I LOVE interacting with everyone.  The one beautiful think about educators (the majority I guess I should add) is that they are collaborative and nice, beautiful people at heart!

 

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

The Power of Family

How many of you have been blessed with the opportunity to be a part of a “family”?  I use the quotations here because the term “family” has MANY variations.  Websters defines a family as: a group of individuals living under one roof and usually under one head.  In school this would have a different meaning.  As educators, I believe that if we lead our students as we would lead our own family, relationships will blossom!  James Comer summarizes how the power of relationships will impact learning.

Isn’t this worth investing time in!? I recently had a revelation about the power of family and how it has influenced me.

I am the oldest/2nd oldest, on either side of my family and growing up was taught to provide a great example for my younger family members.  On my dad’s side of the family we have “family dinner” at my grandmother’s house EVERY Sunday.  People miss here and for different reasons but the beauty of this was talking with them about how my week was, what’s new, having a group to support me, etc.

It was here, in these moments, where I always wanted to have something great to say that would make me look good, feel good, but most importantly not disappoint anyone.  I was pretty good at being a role model, I believe, up until I started to disconnect myself from my family.  After college I got married which quickly turned into a divorce.  Suddenly I was no longer confident in my answers to how was your week, what’s new, etc.  I fell into a dark place for almost two years and always found salvation in teaching and my classroom family but was uncomfortable to share with my real family.

Then I met my wife, reconnected with family, created a family of my own (we have 3 beautiful girls), and have a job that I am passionate about.  It has completely restored my drive and desire to be a role model, leader, father, and husband.  I feel like I did when I was 18 but now have weathered some storms and feel stronger in my own skin that I ever have before.  I rediscovered who I am.

“Sooooooooo Justin, great story of redemption but what does this have to do with education?”

I believe that if we build families at school then our students will grow and behave similar to how I do with my own family.  If we want to significantly help our students grow and learn, this occurs with significant relationships.  As teachers, we have the ability to develop a family within our classrooms.  My goal as a teacher was to create an environment where my kids felt safe, appreciated, and most importantly, loved.  In Episode 1 of my podcast Perspectives in Education, I talk with a former student of mine and she reflects on what it was like to be a part of my “family” at school.   It takes time but the benefits are priceless.

I found that my students started to act like me when I was around my family.  They knew that each day I was there to greet them, be there for them, support them, but at the end of the day I was going to ask them how their day was.  They did not want to disappoint me so slowly I started to see growing as they learned more about themselves.  They were taking control of their lives in school, I feel, because of the power of family.  They wanted to share positive stories, try new things, and grow into someone that I and their classmates respected.

This is the power of family.  It is developing a group of people that support, love, believe, and listen to you.  Through these powerful relationships, your students can change, evolve, and grow.  Think back to a teacher that influenced you the most.  What did you love about them?  Did you ever want to disappoint them with behavior, not completing homework, or failing tests?  Odds are you did the best in those classes because of the relationship you built with them.  Don’t you want to be the one that your students still talk about 10, 20, 50 years from now?

Bottom Line

This is your chance!  Cultivate and plant family atmosphere with your students, water them daily with love, empathy, grace, and understanding, provide them a voice, and most importantly LISTEN, and watch your family grow!  It will change your life and the life of your students.  I am confident in it because of seen in first hand and also because family changed mine.

 

 

3 Tips to Use Your Master Schedule to Embark Change in Your District

schedule-embark

I LOVE the scheduling process.  It is a challenge and a fun puzzle that I enjoyed being a part of during my time in education.  We had the old school “whiteboard” mentality when it came for building the master schedule, and then we scheduled students 1 at a time, by hand!  We had a small population but we did not trust the scheduler to customize the schedule with the best interest of the school, students, AND teachers in mind.

I recently read an article by Katrina Schwartz that sparked my interest in how a school’s master schedule can foster growth and change.  The power of the master schedule cannot be underestimated and it is often overlooked.  I see this ALL the time in demonstrations where people quickly point the finger to those who are responsible!  You know what I mean.  It is similar to when someone brings up state regulatory reporting and everyone defers to the few people who deal with it on a daily basis!  The master schedule is much more than a laboring, tedious project.

“The master schedule is to a school, what grading policies are to teachers and classrooms.  It reveals the true beliefs, attitudes, values, and priorities of the school.  The school’s master schedule is looking at an MRI of the inner workings of a school.  It is the window to the soul of the school.”

“The Master Schedule: A Culture Indicator.” – NASSP

Chew on that thought for a moment.  (No really, think about it for a minute or two!)  The quote takes all that finger pointing that I described above and turns the finger to yourself.  Yes, a few people might lay the master schedule out, but it takes all stakeholders involved to fulfill it and satisfy the main objective: giving students every opportunity to discover their love, passion for learning while providing them all the experiences they need to prepare them for their future.

3 Tips to Prepare Yourself for Scheduling Season:

  1. Decide what your vision as a district/building/campus is and what skills you want them to possess when they leave. This is the start and honestly, you cannot go to 2 and 3 before ironing this out.  I know it is late in the year to start drastic changes, but it is not too late to take baby steps.  The other positive is that now you know where you want to be in a year so you can analyze this schedule process for 2017 and really start to iron out where you want to be in 2018.  Rome was not built in a day and neither will your scheduling masterpiece! 
  1. Analyze your course catalog and consider revising their names and descriptions. It is all about the foundation and your course catalog is just that: The foundation of all learning that will occur in your school.  I have talked with many districts who are in love with the idea of change, personalized learning, flipped learning, 1 to 1 technology, BYOD, etc. BUT have had issues with getting others to buy in.  While reviewing your course catalog, take time to ask yourself if the course titles, descriptions, objectives match your district vision.  If yes, move right on to number 3!  If not, this is your chance to foster change and encourage growth!  Take time to rewrite the course titles and descriptions to match your vision and encourage your teachers to provide their input.  You may discover that teachers are already meeting the standard and would welcome a chance to define their own course.
  1. Find a product that supports your scheduling needs, goals, and objectives. This is a crucial part because if you hand schedule like me for 150 kids it takes about 2 ½ days, but if you are doing it for thousands, well, get some coffee and buck up!  Finding a program that will allow you to customize how your schedule is run is crucial so that you can be sure that you can break the pedagogical model and re-define the process.  (Contact SunGard K-12 to see how we can aid you in this journey)

So who is ready to embark on a journey for change at your school, district, or campus?  Remember, this cannot happen overnight and that this is a project that can easily take a year or more, but why not start now!?

Get your group of advisors together, discuss your vision, analyze your course catalog, find advocates for change in your district, get your messaging straight, and find a program that fits your scheduling needs and let’s rediscover (Insert your district name here)!  Good luck and best wishes!

Here is a video that highlights how Henry County School in Georgia is doing this very thing.