Thursday, September 29, 2016

In 1 Word, Define your PLC of Excellence

Excellence is a goal that all schools aspire to achieve, and when schools approach their quest for excellence by operating as a PLC at Work, excellence can be attained.  So what does it take to be a high-functioning professional learning community that works and learns interdependently to achieve this common yet illusive goal we refer to as "Excellence for All"?

Well, it depends on 1-word.  In one word, define what a PLC of Excellence look like.  What does it sound like? Feel like? Work like? Think like?

Go to my Menti to give your Input.
A PLC at Work is a group of people working interdependently to achieve a common goal for which they hold one another mutually accountable.  The team of excellence demands that its members work differently, think deeply, respond with precision, and demand excellence from themselves, as well as from their colleagues.  Excellence will only become a reality when every member of a team identifies their one word and then treats that word as the missing piece of the puzzle that will lead the team and ultimately every teacher to excellence.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Are you Finding the Fix or the Fault?

Today's world conditions us to find something wrong with virtually everything, and finding fault is easy. Point out the problem; blame someone for it, and you're done. Status quo solidified.

Organizations on the grow, however, fix their eyes beyond the problem and even the people responsible for it. They go one step further and find the fix. Now this one step is much bigger than you might think. It requires analysis, and it demands reserved patience in order to discover a solution that resolves the issue permanently.

What are Fault Finders?
  • Fault finders point out problems without finding a solution. 
  • They are quick to place blame on others. 
  • They pride themselves on being the first to illuminate problems and the people who may create them. 
  • They create a culture of fear and inhibit risk-taking. 

What are Fix Finders?
  • Fix finders identify the problem and its causal factors. 
  • They identify supports that need to be in place to prevent the problem from reoccurring again. 
  • They take ownership of the problem and engage others in order to learn from the problem so that it can be eradicated. 
  • They protect and reassure people who may have caused or are associated with the problem. 
  • They nurture a culture of experimentation and exploration.

The Fix and the Fault: It's a Matter of Excellence
Mediocre leaders find faults because it justifies their role and gives them a sense relevance. Excellent leaders, however, quickly look past the fault to the fix simply because they know that an overemphasis on the problem stalls organizational momentum. Faults don't improve the organization. They stifle them. Only resolution can build organizational efficacy.  

Are you fixed on the problem or the solution?  The answer to that question possesses greater implications than you know. 

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Does your Attire Inspire?

There's nothing I like more than dressing comfortably. I'll take cargo shorts and flip flops any day over a suit and tie.  Yes, dressing up can appear to be a trivial or even an unimportant part of any job, but it is important to remember why the way you dress is essential to your performance and your influence.

Does your Attire Inspire?

When deciding what to wear, the decision shouldn't be about you or even your comfort.  It should be about the role that your attire plays in motivating kids to learn, inviting your parents to be a powerful partner, and inspiring your colleagues to strive for excellence.  Think of your dress as your secret weapon.  It is your tool of influence.  It matters to kids and parents, and it matters an awful lot.  If you don't believe me, ask those around you if an educator's attire can raise the bar for students.

Here is a little poll that I did the other night to prove my point, and out of 67 random responses, the answer was pretty clear.

Whether you like it or not, your attire can elevate the expectations for your students. It can inspire kids to aspire for more.  It can influence parents to be your partner in learning.  Impressions matter and for some kids they matter more than you know.  For your struggling students, the way you present yourself may just be the one thing that convinces kids to stay in the game, and isn't that worth it.

Your influence starts with your appearance.  The better you look, the better you feel.  And the better you feel, the better you can appeal to your clients.  And when we appeal to our clients, they will buy the learning that we are selling each and every day.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

6 Tricks to Build Confidence in your Kids before School Starts

School is almost here, and that means one thing.  Kids are excited and stressed all at the same time.  They're excited about the newness that school has to offer and anxious about making sure they find the place where they fit in.  For new students, the stress, many times, outweighs the excitement.  For struggling kids, stress evolves into apathy, so we mustn't overlook students who seem disinterested in our school.  It may be just a front.

If we want all kids to learn at high levels, then we must remember that a sense of belonging precedes a desire to learn.

Before kids can find relevance and eventually rigor, they must have the right relationships with their teachers as well as their peers.  In order to do that, we must create schools and learning environments where they can leave behind their baggage of insecurities.  The statistics of adolescent stress point to a sad reality that learning and growth will always inhibited by insecurity.

This SoulPancake video illustrates what I mean.

6 Tricks to Build Confidence in your Students before School Starts
In order to help your kids learn at high levels, we must know students as people first and learners second.  Here are 6 things you can research to help your kids find their sense of belonging before school begins.
  1. Find out what strengths they have.
  2. Identify their areas for growth. (Weaknesses are areas for growth)
  3. Discover strategies that helped kids learn or behave last year.
  4. Avoid triggers that shut individual students down.
  5. Engage parents to determine the level of home support students will have.
  6. Verify which adults have significant relationships with individual students

If you took time to truly research your students in this way, there is a strong chance that you would have the information you need to start their year off with a sense of belonging but more importantly a sense of hope about their future.  If we want kids to grow in their learning, they must know, see, hear and feel that they matter.  We are the catalyst for that to occur.  Let's make the extra effort to build confidence in every kid this year, and let's start this process before the kids return to school.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

8 Ideas to Bring Teacher Joy "Back to School"

If you haven't hear Dean Shareski speak, you are missing probably one of the most powerful experiences in your life. Not only is he hilarious, but he surpasses the educational warm fuzzies with a practical ideas and a meaningful challenge to all educators to bring Joy back to school.

Bringing joy to kids begins with bringing joy to the adults in the building. 

Here are a few questions to make you think about bringing joy to the adults in your school?

  • How important is joy to the learning process?
  • What are you doing to bring joy to your staff?  
  • What are you doing to model joy as an essential part of professional development and adult learning?  
  • Does your "back to school" message start with joy or even include it at all?

Joy Accelerates Learning! 
If we want students to grow, it starts with making learning a joyful process for our teachers first. If teachers don't view their learning as a fun, interactive and exhilarating experience, there is a strong chance that the kids won't either. It is important to remember that student growth will only come with teacher growth; thus student joy comes with teacher joy. Furthermore we must always remember the following.

No teacher joy = No student joy. 
No teacher learning = No student learning. 

Bring Joy back to your "Back to School"
Here are a few suggestions to bring fun back into your "back to school" routine. 

  • Spice up your staff development with goofy competitions
  • Roll out the Red Carpet at Registration and get lots of pictures of teachers interacting with parents and students. 
  • Make music a part of your school. Pick positive and uplifting music and play it in the classrooms and in the hallways. 
  • Make an effort to give every teacher several fist bumps every day. 
  • Tweet out pictures of your teachers working together. 
  • Periscope professional learning and collaboration. 
  • Celebrate teachers who have gone above and beyond in their learning this summer. 
  • Lift up educators who have overcome obstacles or difficult situations. 
If we want learning to be a joyful experience for our kids, then it starts by making learning and working together a joyful experience for our teachers and staff.  Let's do it for them and in turn we will do it for the kids when they come back in the following weeks.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The 2 Approaches to Failure

The most embarrassing events in my life have been those that involved failure. Failure to pass. Failure to win. Failure to achieve. Failure to "you name it".

Let's face it. Everyone fails, but how you mentally approach and process the idea of failure is the ultimate reason why excellent people overcome it and mediocre people succumb to it. Talent doesn't beat failure. Tenacity does.

To beat failure you don't need to be great. You must have grit. 

We Always Have 2 Choices:
in how we approach and ultimately respond to failure.

We Can
With a Fix Mindset
With a Growth Mindset
Use it to
Define Us
Refine Us
View failure as a
Permanent Result
Opportunity for Growth
From It
Through It

Failure is not about what happens now.  It's about what happens NEXT.  What happens next will determine if we let failure limit us or if we will allow it to lead us.  Ultimately it is our attitude and our passion for personal growth that will tell us whether or not we will grow through our failures.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The Alignment of Competence

When you think about alignment in schools, what do you think of?  Most people think of curriculum. Now while curriculum alignment is important, I would strongly contend that it's not necessarily the most important. The reason why is quite simple.

Teachers deserve to work in schools where clarity is not only valued but developed with passion. And that makes sense. When teachers work in schools where clarity is defined and continuously refined, teachers thrive and students excel in learning.

How do We get Clarity?
The only pathway to clarity is alignment. In fact when leaders focus on systemic alignment of understanding from teacher to teacher and department to department, schools increase in effectiveness. Aligned understanding is the purest definition of clarity. 

What should Schools Align?
Schools must align everything that teachers have in common. To get started, here are just a few things that leaders should ask teams of teachers to align in order to create the most effective school for all kids. 

  • Knowledge in the Use of School Resources
  • Expectations for Learning and Behavior
  • Responses to Appropriate and Inappropriate Behavior
  • Common Language for Instruction and Expectations
  • Relationship Building Strategies
  • Engagement Strategies for Active Student Learning
  • Rigorous Questioning 
  • Response to Student Failure
  • Celebration of Success

If leaders provide teams of teachers the time and the structure to collaborate about the universal topics and actions essential to student success, there is a strong chance that all students and teachers will grow closer toward excellence. In the absence of a regular opportunity to collaborate around the actions that lead to systemic excellence, leader muddy the water with the ambiguous rhetoric of "high expectations" and ultimately frustrate teachers with inconsistent actions and structures.

Kids Deserve an Alignment of Excellence
Students deserve a classroom where competence is universal, and teachers deserve a school where clarity is valued and sought so that systemic competence is attained. Alignment and the time to align are the most powerful priorities for schools, and leaders will create a highly consistent as well as high performing school that will ultimately guarantee excellence for every child from every teacher in every classroom every day in every way.