Saturday, January 19, 2019

The Key to Unlocking Student Engagement

Engagement means something different to just about everyone. What engages one student fails to engage the next student, and one teacher’s idea about optimal engagement varies from the teacher next door. So how do we know if we are truly engaging our students?

Before we get to that answer, I’d like to analyze engagement through the lens of student outcomes, and for learning that means retention. Engagement should lead to retention, and if students aren’t retaining what they’re exposed to, then can we say that they’re authentically engaged?  

Exam the graphic of learning retention by The Active Learners Institute. What’s interesting about this graphic is what happens when students start leading themselves in their learning.  Students retain 50% of the information through discussion with others.  Their retention increases to 75% when students practice by doing the work themselves, but they retain a whopping 90% of what they learn when students teach one another.  When we expect students to take more ownership of the work, learning retention increases exponentially.

As we reflect on our efforts to increase student engagement, let’s answer the following questions:
  • What are the predominant retention rate activities that students undertake in our classrooms?  
  • What activities are dependent on me and which ones push students to do the work?
  • How can I provide students more access to higher retention activities?  
  • How do I gauge students retention to determine the actual engagement in my classroom?
We learn best by doing, and we retain more information when we are more cognitively engaged in the learning. The key to student engagement is not busyness, and it’s not about flashy, aesthetically pleasing activities either.  Optimized engagement guarantees that all students retain as much as possible, and that happens when we evaluate the result of our efforts rather than intent of them. 

Saturday, January 12, 2019

3 Ways Leaders Slow Down to Do More

In this fast-paced world, we have this constant urge to get more done. Complete more work, add more tasks, ensure more value is added to the organization.  This problem is this. All these things require one more thing, time that we don’t have. So In our effort to get more done, we sacrifice more and in turn do we achieve our intended results?

In the short term, we do, but in the long term we run the risk of burning out. So how do high-performers same to always succeed? The answer is that they slow down.

If we want to achieve more each and every day, then how do we slow down in order to get more done?

Three ways to slow down so you can get more done

The most productive people build in time to rest.  Creativity and productivity can only flourish when you are rested. Ensure that every week has one day that you break away from work.

Cell phones are the best example of recharging. They work very well until they run out of battery. That’s why we re-charge them. Your body is no different than your cell phone. It must be recharged, and that can only happen when you stop working.

It’s very important to re-focus on a regular basis. Part of the reason you get so overwhelmed is because you lose your focus and add more things to your workload that honestly don’t have much to do with making you better and more efficient at what you do. Each week take time to refocus by protecting the most important things you do and eliminating tasks that have nothing to do with your primary objective.

If we want to be our best, we have to rest. Slowing down does not lead to less productivity. It actually leads to more productivity. Taking a break on a weekly basis from work relaxes our minds, and it gives us a newly focused drive to accomplish even greater things that we had planned for in the first place. The key to accomplishing more is by doing less and getting rest. 

Friday, January 4, 2019

4 Steps Away from Transformational Leadership

Rick Warren‘s Daily Hope podcast is a powerful force in my life.  Each and every time I listen to it, I identify more things about myself that I can improve on both in my personal life and in my life as a leader.  The other day I listened to his podcast called “How to get Closer to God”, and in the podcast he referenced  the story of the prodigal son who transformed his life once he made the decision to come home to his father.  Click here if you would like to listen to this podcast.

In order to transform your life, Rick identified four steps each person must take. Today I would like to share his four steps, but I would like to link it to transformational leadership. Since that is something that everyone in a leadership position aspires to become, I thought I would take Rick’s four steps and apply them to leadership.

1.  Get fed up
In order to be a transformational leader, you first have to be tired of the way things are. Transformation can’t occur if you’re happy with the status quo. You must yearn for a better life before you can make it better.

2. Own up
In order to be transformational leader, you have to first own up to the fact that you’re part of the reason the status quo exists. Transformational leaders don’t blame others until they have owned up to the part that they play in the organization’s current reality. No sustainable transformation can occur until the leader takes ownership of his role in making the organization what it is today

3. Offer up
In order to transform an organization, it is not enough to own up to the current reality. You must offer a viable solutions for change. Transformational leaders not only offer up their strengths but their shortcomings so that they can seek support from others to make the organization a better place for everyone.

4. Lift up
Finally, transformational leaders lift others up instead of themselves. They are selfless in their dedication to others, and they don’t seek the spotlight. They seek to put shine the light on other leaders and leaders in the making. Their moral imperative is to elevate, celebrate, and motivate others to become leaders as well.

Five or six years ago I wrote this piece called 7 Traits of a Transformational Leader. Click here for link. As I ponder the seven traits of transformational leadership and the four steps to transformational leadership, there is one thought that  I believe permeates in the mind of a transformational leader.

Am I making this place a good place or a better place?

If leaders are making this a good place then they're just trying to establish a new status quo for the organization.  Conversely, if the leader is trying to make this place better, then he will never reach his goal. He will never find a permanent destination or even establish a new status quo because transformational leaders do not desire titles or accolades but a journey down the path of self-discovery, self-actualization, and continuous improvement.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Add Less to your Resolution this Year!

Over the past few years, I have written about New Year’s resolution and even one word resolutions. See Here, Here, and Here. Each year I identify things about my current work and in my personal life that I want to improve and rather than adopt a long resolution that stands little chance of attaining, let alone remembering, I resolve myself to commit to one word.

The reason is simple. First, it’s easy to remember and second it encompasses all that I want to achieve in my health, work, relationships, and most importantly faith.   So this year, I am proud to announce my one word resolution for 2019. 

The reason for the word, less, is because I want to add more  meaning to my life. Here are just a few examples of what I mean 
  • I want to say less, but communicate more effectively. 
  • I want to worry less about problems, and focus more on solutions. 
  • I want to be less connected, so I can be more connected to my family. 
  • I want less tasks and more meaningful work. 
  • I want to eat less, and exercise more. 
  • I want to read less mindless mess on social media, so I can read more of God’s word. 
  • I want to engage less in low-impact work, so I can be more dedicated to thought about things that are high-impact. 
These are just a few things that I hope to accomplish in 2019. Chances are that I won’t accomplish them all, but I truly believe that my life will inch closer to less unproductive time-wasters and more efficacy. As you head into 2019, reflect on your work-life balance. Identify the waste, redundancy, and monotony in your life.  Set your sights on a better you, and find that one word that’ll keep you committed to reaching your goal of continuous improvement. 

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Removing the Waste from our Work

Thanksgiving break gave me week off from work and nothing to do. No work, no trips, no responsibilities, and it was nice to have nothing on my agenda to get accomplished for the day. As I walked into my closet, I thought to myself, “I need to clean this closet out”, so I got started.

First step, I removed old clothes and stuff I threw in there because I didn’t have a place to put it. In a matter of minutes my closet had all that it needed in it, and nothing that I didn’t need any more. Next I moved to the garage. I did the same thing, curating and organizing the items that I needed and discarding the items that were no longer useful but were doing a great job taking up space. 

So let's process this strategy through the lens of our work.  What if we applied this analogy to our work.  How much clutter is in your closet?  Take some time to reflect and identify the things that inhibit you from being more efficient and effective. Here’s what I mean by that. 
  • What unproductive practices are causing your work to wear on you?  
  • What initiatives did you start a year or two ago that are just hanging around because you haven’t thrown them out yet?  
  • What time-killers are taking up space and preventing you from getting your job done? 
  • What needs to go, so you can make room for something new?
By answering these questions you should be able to identify practices that work for you and practices that are just killing time. Once you identify unproductivity, ban it from your work, so you can build in more time for productivity.  Often times we keep adding things to our work, yet we fail to remove things that simply don’t work. This is ultimately why people get overwhelmed so easily.  They don’t eliminate wasteful practices from their life. 

When you get your next 3 day break, take one day to do nothing but relax. Sit there and do very little. On the second day, audit your work and find what works well and what is a waste of time, and on the third day, get to cleaning. Get rid of everything that holds you back and file away everything that you used to use but don’t use anymore. By removing the clutter from your closets, your work will grow by leaps and bounds, and your stress level will thank you for it.  

Friday, November 30, 2018

The 15 Days of Christmas

December is the perfect time to show teachers just how much they mean to you. With Christmas around the corner, teachers deserve to see, hear, and feel the Christmas spirit each and every day that they come to work. For the past few years, I have incorporated the 12 Days of Christmas into our daily work. CLICK HERE

How many days will your teachers come to school in December?  This year, our teachers will come
to school 15 days during December, and so that means we won’t celebrate the 12 days, but  the 15 Days of Christmas. It only makes sense. They give everything they have to kids everyday. The least we can do is give them everything we can during the season of giving. 

Each and every day of December teachers will receive big gifts, small gifts, yummy gifts or comfy gifts. The fact of the matter is this. Teachers have been giving their all for the first semester of school. They don’t need us to give them new initiatives, more stress, and less time to get their work done. They deserve appreciation everyday, but in December they deserve an abundance of it. 

December is here.  How many days will you use to show all teachers just how much they mean to you, the students and the school?  Your answer will reveal the value you place on the people who are adding the most value to your students. 

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Let's Thank Teachers for More than Teaching Kids

Teachers are the backbone of our democracy. Without them and their impact, students would not develop the knowledge and skills necessary to realize their God-given right to become productive contributors and ultimately protectors of the greatest republic in the history of mankind. Heck, you wouldn't be able to read this post if it weren't for them. If you consider the history of our nation, each generation has experienced an increasingly better life, and that in large part is due to the constantly improving education that our students receive from amazing teachers.
With that being said, the future of our nation is sitting in our classrooms today, and we possess an immense responsibility to meet the ever changing and sadly increasing needs of today’s students. Make no mistake, educators continue to create a more prepared workforce each and every year, but coming behind them are students who need teachers more than the generation that preceded them. Students depend on teachers more than ever to guarantee their future success. 
Today’s teachers are not just teachers. They counsel as well as console students with difficulties from home. They serve as mentors and occasionally parents to students who lack the proper training, manners, and etiquette to succeed as model citizens. They provide a shoulder to cry on and a high five to celebrate big and small wins each and every day. They share food when students are hungry and provide money out of their own pockets to buy clothes and school supplies for students in need. Yes, teachers do a whole lot more than teach.
Even though state and national mandates demand better results, higher scores, and more prepared students, the best in the profession shrug off the narrative and ignore the rhetoric. They know that what they do matters, and what they do is making a difference not only for a student’s present, but also for their future.  They understand that teaching is not about the work or even the recognition.  The only thing that matters is the impact they make on every student, every day.
Sure we should thank our teachers for all that they do to teach all kids, but we should give them a whole lot more thanks for the things they do for kids aside from teaching.  They instruct our students, and they inspire them to aspire for more.  They love our students, and they never give up on them.  The future of our country is in good hands thanks to teachers who go above and beyond each and every day for all kids, and we owe them our admiration and appreciation.