Wednesday, October 30, 2019

The Key to Success in #NoExcuseNovember

No Excuse November is upon us. (click here for original post). It is a time to reflect on goals that we are committed to reaching and reaffirm our commitment to not let anything get in our path so we can accomplish our goal.   

Why do we have #NoExcuseNovember?  Excuses are the enemy of excellence. They lower our expectations, and therefore, detract our determination and commitment. So how do we ensure that our commitment to excellence does not fall to the almighty excuse during the month of November?

Love Tough
We have been taught that our children need tough love if we want them to grow into their potential.  We don't accept excuses, and that definitely falls in line with #NoExcuseNovember.   But in Jon Gordon‘s book, “The Power of Positive Leadership“, he challenged us to reframe  the concept of Tough Love into a more powerful concept,  Love Tough. When it comes to Tough Love, our primary focus is to be tough while our secondary consideration is to care about the individual, but if we Love Tough, we are the exact opposite. We care about our people first and foremost, and because we care about them so much, we hold them to a higher standard with our care, support, and attention.

As we kick off #NoExcuseNovember (post about kids), it is important that we commit to not accept any excuses that hold us back (by the way most of them do), but we make that commitment by understanding more about excuses, where they come from, and what they actually mean to the person making them.  We must be thankful that the person felt comfortable enough with us in the first place to make their excuse, and then we must leverage our relationship with the person in such a way that lets them know the following things:

  1. We, first, care about them, 
  2. We care about them enough to not allow their excuse to be the reason they fail, and
  3. We are committed to helping them overcome the barrier to their success.
November is here.  Excuses are everywhere, and all of them exist to hold our organization and the people within it back.  What will you do this month to love your people through their excuses, and push them to new heights?  You hold the key to success in #NoExcuseNovember.  The question is will you have the courage to unlock the door?

Saturday, October 19, 2019

5 Facts about the Happiest Leaders

Abraham Lincoln said it best when he said, "Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be." If that's the case, then why are some leaders always happy while others seem to never be.  The secret may lie not in their ability to choose happiness, but in the mindset they have before they even have to make a choice. There are 5 powerful characteristics that the happiest leaders possess.

5 Facts about the Happiest Leaders 
Humility - Leaders who are the happiest are the most humble and never put themselves above others.
Attention - The happiest leaders pay the bulk of their attention to others, while the most unhappy want all of the attention to be on themselves. 
Pride - Happy people take pride in promoting everyone and everything in the organization, while unhappy leaders are prideful in their actions and interactions. 
Patience - Happy leaders know when to wait, while unhappy leaders are frustrated anytime they have to wait. 
Yet - Happy leaders know they’re a work in progress and believe in the power of growing closer to what they can’t do yet.  Unhappy leaders are perpetually disappointed because they’re never satisfied with their current status and why they’re not there yet. 

The difference between unhappy and happy leaders is their self-perspective. Happy leaders seek out, while unhappy leaders base their outlook on their own feelings, priorities, and needs.  When it comes right down to it, if you seek what's best for yourself first, you will be unhappy some if not most of the time because the world doesn't exist to serve you.  But if you choose to be happy, you will rarely put yourself first, and focus on putting others first.  

Choose to be a happy leader.  Your attitude and those impacted by your attitude will thank you for it. 

Friday, October 11, 2019

A Million Thanks for You!

 This past week my blog reached its one millionth view. I can’t even begin to describe the feelings that I have. There was some excitement, a sense of satisfaction, and a whole lot of humility. I can’t thank you enough for taking an interest in my thoughts over the past 7 years.

 I vividly remember the fear that I had the first time I pressed publish on my first post. Would it be interesting? Would it be even read? What people think I’m an idiot? Those thoughts raced through my mind as I completed and shared my first post. 

Then there was a moment when you convinced me that I was a writer. It was this post, 7 Traits of a Transformational Leader, where you convinced me that I possessed the ability to write appealing thoughts.  To date, it is still one of the most read posts on my blog.  Your response to that post caused me to reveal my confidence as a writer, and reveal my abilities as well as my ignorance, and as a result, you pushed me to create a movement to inspire every to love their schools and the people in them with #LoveMySchoolDay.

With your encouragement, you once again inspired me to grow as a writer. My first published work, "A Leader’s Guide to Excellence in Every Classroom", was something that I never dreamed I would do, let alone write a follow up book that was specifically designed to help teachers lead all students and all teachers to excellence.  Each week you inspired me to share another thought rambling in my head.  Sometimes it was the result of something I was very proud of, sometimes it was something very painful, and other times it was an epiphany from a powerful interaction who was influenced by more work.

Nonetheless, I can't thank you enough.  With every read, comment, and share, you developed me into the writer I am today, and for that I give a million thanks for you.

Monday, September 23, 2019

3 Steps to Every Student’s Excellence

Student success is an aspiration for everyone of us educators. In some cases students reach excellence, while in other cases they do not. How do we ensure that more students find excellence and fewer students fall through the cracks?

 The answer is simple. It is a support system that guarantees all students succeed. So how do we develop a support system that ensures that all students learn, grow, and excel?  

The Student Excellence Support System
 In my new book, “A Teacher’s Guide to Excellence in Every  Classroom” (click here), I developed an Excellent Support System that teachers can use to support all students. This support system marries the collaborative concepts of a PLC at Work (professional learning community) with the responsive work in RTI (Response to intervention).  This system is a three-step approach to supporting all kids. 
  1. Teacher Team Supports - Teacher teams collaborate about the supports necessary to help every child close their gaps by asking all teachers to develop the knowledge and skills to help every student succeed. 
  2. Class-Wide Supports - Teachers personalize the team supports to match both their teaching style and learning needs of their students. 
  3. Individual Student Supports - Students will struggle in spite of teacher team and class-wide supports, and in these cases, Tier 1 interventions are specifically developed to meet the child’s greatest area of need.

How many steps are currently in place for all aspects of student support in your school?  How many steps are left to be taken? If you focus on everything, you focus on nothing, and great teachers take the necessary step to close learning gaps for all kids by taking them one step at at time, one day at a time. Excellence in every child is within your reach, and when you and your teammates commit to taking 3 very important steps, a strong system of supports will be guarantee success for all kids in every classroom every day. 

Sunday, September 1, 2019

6 Tricks to Get Rid of Your Old Dog Syndrome

Entering my 25th year in education, I’m pretty proud of this tremendous milestone. As I reflect, I can’t help but think of all the initiatives I’ve experienced or been a part of, how many changes I have witnessed personally, and how many new things I’ve been asked to undertake. With all that I’ve experienced in my career, it could have been easy to use my age, experience, lack of knowledge, or my personal comfort as the reason why I couldn’t take part in a change initiative.

The benefit of age and experience is that they allow us have a plethora of knowledge that we can draw upon to grow as educators. The downside of age and experience is that they cause us to develop the “Old Dog Syndrome”.  My abilities allow me to be strong in areas, but also play tricks on my mind that I’m not smart enough to make a change, this another symptom of “Old Dog Syndrome”.  Finally, our “Old Dog Syndrome” is reinforced every day by our comfort levels. 


Young adults and even students can become affected by “Old Dog Syndrome”, it’s easy to spot symptoms of Old Dog Syndrome, which include but are not limited to the following statements:
  • I can’t learn this. 
  • I’m too old to learn this stuff,
  • I’m not tech savvy enough,
  • I’ve done it this way so long that I’ll never be able to change,
  • I’m not as good as (insert name or group of people to wrongly compare yourself),
  • This is too difficult,
  • I’ll never be able to (insert task). 

To combat Old Dog Syndrome, we can take on the following  actions. 
  • Ask for help from others,
  • Tell leaders where the challenge is within the change,
  • Accept the fact that change is part of every facet in our world,
  • Make a daily commitment to learn one new thing each day,
  • Never use age as the barrier to growth. 
  • Never accept difficulties as a reason to stop growing and learning. 
“Old Dog Syndrome” does not apply to older people. It applies everyone of us when we believe that we can’t learn new things. It essentially petrifies the mind into its current state, thus new learning fails to take root. If we aim to end “Old Dog Syndrome”, we must recognize and reinforce that learning is not based on the age. It’s based on a deep desire for continuous improvement.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Are You Busy Sowing or Saying

Leaders say a lot of things. Followers hear motivational messages, instructional ideas, strategic speeches, and at time directive diatribes. But the minute a leader’s statement is made, followers know if what is stated will bear fruit. The reason is not because of what is said or how it is said.  The reason comes down to a simple proverb. 

You reap what you sow. 

Notice it does not say “you reap what you say”.  Followers learn pretty quickly if their leader is a sayer or a sower. Leaders who are sayers make greet speeches, but followers know there’s no follow through, thus, nothing is sown, and therefore nothing is reaped. Their talk is always bigger than their walk. Their bark is much bigger than their bite, and followers know that the sayer has no plans to ensure that what he or she dreams will be supported with leadership through a purposeful plan of action.  Other times, leaders plant their ideas in the ground, but fail to tend to their plans with actions of monitoring and accountability; therefore, their crop is strangled by weeds of neglect and lack of oversight. 

On the other hand, followers know when their leader is a sower because the leader always tends to the statements that he has sown.  Before the idea has been professed to the organization, a process has been developed to ensure that the seed turns into a bountiful crop.  The seeds are tended to and protected by action steps, accountability protocols, and monitoring plans. The sower does his or her absolute best to grow ideas into realities. 

Are You a Sayer or a Sower?
All leaders have something to say, but the best have a plan to make it happen. They all want the best for their organization, but it is the sower who possesses the integrity, grit, and tenacity to guarantee that powerful words sprout into purposeful work. He invests time, effort, and patience to guarantee that the seed grows into a success story.  Finally, it is the sower who sees the potential in every seed and commits to those seeds in order to transform the entire organization from a desolate desert into a bountiful garden of excellence. 

If you say it, then sow it, and your folks will be inspired to sow their seeds of excellence with you. 

Monday, August 12, 2019

E, The Only Letter that Matters in your A-F Rating

With the start of the school year, schools will be receiving their accountability ratings, and in many states schools will receive an A-F rating.  Sadly, winners will be lauded, and losers will labeled based on one simple letter derived from complex and difficult to explain formulas. Basically, this one little letter will be used to rate the entire body of work in a school, much of which has no bearing on the school's rating.

That being said, some leaders will use the letter grade to promote how they will move up in performance to the next letter grade.  C's will aspire for B's, and B's will strive for the all important A's.  While aspiring for improvement is critically important, I would like to challenge  you not to push anyone to chase any of the letters in A-F rating system.  Instead I would like to push you to set your sights on a higher standard, the letter missing in the A-F system, E.

If you want to set your sights on a rating that matters, then choose the letter, E.  Here is what E can and should stand for when developing your plans to move to the next level.

Earn the E Rating

Excellence - We should aspire to be excellent in every thing from how we answer the phone to how we take the trash, to how we win games, and yes, how we create the very best learning environments in every classroom that guarantee learning for all kids.

Effective - School leaders should strive to create schools that are always finding exemplars of high effectiveness  and replicate those effective processes and actions throughout the entire school.  When we chase effectiveness, the letter in the rating system will come.

Efficient - We should identify practices that waste people's time and eliminate them.  We must develop more efficient processes that accelerate productivity and push everyone in the organization to become lean and efficient with their work flow.  Efficiency is the pathway to excellence.

Everyday - Bottom line is this.  The best schools chase excellence every day, and they constantly find ways to be more effective and efficient, and they do that by eliminating anything that prevents the schools and its people from getting the best out of its students.

E is a more Meaningful Goal.
As you start the school year, I challenge you not to make a big deal out of your rating.  Schools are so much more than a grade, and when we focus on evaluating ourselves based on the letter E, we become the schools we aspire to be for all kids and all staff.  Finally, we become the kind of schools that our communities believe in and rally to support as we reach for the most important goal, excellence for all students and all adults.