Wednesday, August 27, 2014

8 Traits of Rocking PLCs!

I love Fridays because every so often I receive a #FF from John Gunnell (CLICK HERE), Wisconsin principal and moderator of #wischat (click here) (Sundays at 8p CST). What's unique about his tweets is that he always says that his PLN rocks like a specific song from the cool band. So it got me to thinking,

"What band does your PLC rock like?"

For me there lots of bands to choose from.  I could consider bands that had awesome one-hit wonders like the Violent Femmes, but that would be like a PLC that had one good result. I could pick a band that had a platinum selling album or two like Whitesnake, but that would be like a PLC that was good until the band changed lead singers. 

I Wanna Rock!!! (Shameless Twisted Sister Plug)

I want my PLC to rock like a band that never quit rocking as long as it was focused on making music together. For example take Chicago (25 or 6 to 4). That band put out over 20 albums (Hard to Say I'm Sorry/Get Away) and had multiple people in and out of the band over the three plus decades that it was together. Another great band to consider being like would be Van Halen (Jump Video).  They rocked the mic from the day their music hit the air. Frontman, David Lee Roth left the band and pretty much told them that they would be nothing without him. Sadly, he underestimated the power of the band's mission and vision when a new frontman, Sammy Hagar, took his helm.  Van Halen (sans Roth) (Love comes Walking In) climbed to even greater head-banging heights because the band's success was its SMART Goal, not the members' individual accolades. 

I want to rock like that.

If you want your band to rock like Van Halen or Chicago, you must commit to building and more importantly maintaining the focus of your band. 

Here's 8 Traits of a Rocking PLC!

  1. Purpose - PLCs always have a focused purpose for working and learning together. 
  2. Product - Members leave with a product directly tied to that focus. 
  3. Goal - All kids, high levels of learning.
  4. Norms - Rules for how to become and stay cohesive. 
  5. Interdependence - Deep-rooted understanding that there are no frontmen. Everyone's an expert, and everyone's a star. 
  6. Celebration - The regular nourishment teams need to keep them moving forward through difficult times. 
  7. Failure embracement - The understanding that from time to time the team will fail because that is where real learning occurs. 
  8. Continuous Learning - The goal of high-performing teams is growth not results. 

I Love Rock & Roll!!!

If you can get your PLC to function like the band, Chicago, the work that you will do will be like "Saturday in the Park".  If you can commit to kids and one another at the deepest and highest levels, your PLC will rock like Van Halen and attain results beyond your wildest "Dreams"


Thursday, August 21, 2014

20 Things All Teachers Need to Hear from All Parents at the Beginningof the Year.

Well school is cranking up, and parents are bringing school supplies and their children to school to meet their new teachers. Anxiety is mounting as parents wonder how good their child's teachers will be. Teachers are nervous about making a good first impression with every parent. Building trust is definitely a difficult task at the beginning of the year. 

As I drop my kids off this year to a complete stranger that deserves my respect, I ask myself what are some things all teachers deserve to hear from me, the parent. Well I reflected on my days as a teacher, and I thought about some of the most powerful things that I have ever been told by a parent. 

Here are 20 things every teacher deserves to hear from every parent at the beginning of the year. 

1.  I trust you with my most prized possession.

2. Here is my cell number. Call or text me if you need me. I will always answer your call. 

3.  My child is not perfect, and I know he will make mistakes. 

4.  I won't believe half of what my child says about you if you won't believe half of what he says about me. 

5.  I want you to make my child work hard. 

6.  I want you to teach my child how to struggle. 

7.  I expect my child to learn the skill of perseverance. 

8. When my child is mad at you, I will talk to you about it first because his anger is based on his perception. 

9.  I will assume the best in you. 

10.  If I'm frustrated with you, I will remember that you have the hardest job in America that few are willing to take on. 

11.  I understand that just like me, you will have bad days. 

12.  If my child makes a mistake, I will support you in helping him correct it. 

13.  If my child is struggling in your class, I will help you help him improve. 

14.  I will encourage my child to reach out to you when he needs help. 

15.  I will teach my child the importance of completing assignments and tasks in a timely fashion. 

16.  I will remind my child that you are preparing him for life not a test. 

17. I will look to you as the expert to make the best decisions that will help my child learn at higher levels. 

18. I know you may not have all the answers for every question that I ask, but I always ask you first. 

19. Please tell me if I need to do more at home to help my child do better in your class. 

20.  You are an American hero and what you do is changing our world. Thank you.

What else would you add?

Drop a comment and share this post with parents. Remind them that teachers are nervous just like parents, but everyone has the same goal. We all want every child to have an awesome school year, and if we will all work together and trust one another, surely they will. 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Most Powerful Mission - Leverage our Today to Change their Tomorrow

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure being in Kirbyville, Texas to work with some outstanding teachers on building a strong and vibrant learning community. One of the first things that we discussed was the consequences kids would experience if we failed to commit to the school's mission of guaranteeing that all students learn at high levels every day. After synthesizing the statistics of generational poverty, prison rates which are directly related to the dropout rate, and the need for every child to earn more than a high school diploma, the campus developed this mission statement.

Kirbyville Elementary School
Mission Statement

This is a Powerful Statement should be in Every School in America!

 Let's take a second and break down each piece of this mission statement as it should apply to every school in America. 

Whatever It Takes
In thinking about this simple phrase, I recognize that so many people recklessly use this statement. This clich├ęd catchphrase is often used with little understanding of its definition. 'Whatever it Takes' requires every single employee to understand that they are part of the Whatever. They must commit to truly synthesize their role as the ultimate saver of lives. 'Whatever it Takes' is selfless action. It is a commitment to the school's guarantee for every child. 

With Whatever We Have
This powerful prepositional phrase requires all educators to remove their natural tendencies to gravitate toward excuses when positive results do not occur instantly. School cultures with this mentality don't rely on the quantity of resources but the quality of how they use them. 'Whatever We Have' starts with recognizing ourselves as the first resource and digging deep within our own ability to grow and get better at what we do. 'With Whatever We Have' is about leveraging every asset in the entire building to ensure that every kid learns from every educator every day. 

Today Changes Tomorrow
This is the campus' moral imperative. If all educators believe that today changes tomorrow, they believe that what they do not only changes a child's learning tomorrow but also the trajectory of their future. Today changes lives. Today has the potential to change the world. 

Today has the potential for a profound impact on our world. This mission statement blew me away because it is the ultimate mission statement. It truly defines why we are in this business. We're not here to improve test scores or make sure the school meets accountability. These things should be by-products of capitalizing on the present. Today must remind each and everyone of us that when we walk into the building, we have the potential to be a game changer in the life of a child. It means we can eradicate poverty all together.  We can end the cycle of generational dependence. We can change our country's future. We can change THEIR tomorrow...

If your school does not have a mission statement, I strongly urge you to use this one as a model for what your school's mission should be. I've been in this business for a long time and have seen lots of mission statements, but this one gave me pause. It made me check myself and ask myself this question.  Am I focused simply on changing today, or leveraging today to change their tomorrow?

I'm pretty sure that if we all fully invested in today, tomorrow would yield a result far beyond our wildest dreams. 

Today...  What will you do with your todays this year?  Be a #gamechanger!!!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Pursuit of Excellence

Teams aspire for excellence. Businesses thrive on excellence. Leaders seek it. People want it, but here's the quandary.  What the heck does excellence actually mean and how do we reach it?

I have discussed this topic with so many people this past summer, and one thing is certain. Nailing down a common definition of excellence is like nailing jello to the wall.


After discussing it in length so many people and reflecting on various responses, I have learned one thing about excellence.  I know what it is not when it comes to education.

Here's what excellence is not. 

1. Every kid hitting the same level of performance. 
2. Every kid behaving in the same way. 
3. Every student passing a standardized test. 
4. Banners of student achievement
5. Trophies and accolades. 

Excellence is not tangible.

So What Is Excellence?

Well, if we can synthesize these antonyms of excellence at a little deeper level, I think we will find that excellence could possibly mean this. 

1. A mindset of constant improvement
2. A relentless pursuit of superiority
3. A passion for greatness 
4. A thirst for personal fulfillment 
5. A hunger for something beyond our wildest dreams 

So How Do We Reach Excellence?

Well if we can agree on the descriptors of excellence, then how can we reach it. 

1. Start thinking in terms of quality and improvement.
2. Search for examples of excellence
3. Constantly follow and learn from others who do great things.
4. Keep a to-do/project list and stick to it.
5. Celebrate progress.
6. Set goals, reach them and repeat.
7. Embrace failure and learn from it.
8. Share ideas with others.
9. Consume feedback daily.
10. Make the pursuit of excellence your lifestyle not your latest fad.

Excellence Quotes

I find much meaning through quotes. Years ago I came across the leadership work of Vince Lombardi, the great Packer coach of the 1960's. He created the first NFL football dynasty through his constant pursuit of greatness. He described excellence with these two quotes.

Excellence must be pursued.  It must be wooed with all of one's heart and all of one's might.

Perfection can never be attained, but if we chase perfection, we will catch excellence.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Are your SMART Goals actually DUMB???

Schools are in the business of making all kids smarter, so how SMART do you think your school is?  Is it SMARTer than a 5th grader?  Finding the answer to the question is simple. How SMART are your school's goals?  After all, the SMARTer goals are, the more focused and more responsive your campus will be. 

The idea of SMART goals isn't a new concept. They have been around for some time now. Businesses use them, and campuses write their improvement plans around them, yet some schools seems much smarter than others.  Results seems to improve in one school while results appear to flatline in the school next door.  All schools have the same goals in common, but struggling schools have DUMB goals while the best schools have SMARTest goals. 

What is a SMART Goal?

Specific & Strategic
It is the one thing that the school must focus on that will make the biggest impact on all kids. 

It is a goal that can be measured with targeted data over time. 

It can be reached in a short period of time. 

It is tied to specific data points that can measure the goal's progress. 

It is monitored and reviewed at regular intervals throughout the year. 

What makes a SMART Goal become DUMB?

When a goal is created that doesn't have a thing to do with the daily work of the school, it is dumb. When the goal is largely ignored or not reviewed, SMART goals are referred to as stupid by the people within the school.

If a SMART goal is never checked for growth or progress, or worse other things are measured in its place, the goal loses its measurement component; thus making it an ignorant goal. 

Goals can't change with the initiative "du jour" or the leader's opinion of the day, otherwise they lose their power. SMART goals should be developed with much thought and followed with even greater commitment. 

Goals, that are too broad or that cover too many areas of emphasis, kill the collective efficacy that a school needs for improvement. Broad goals are like saying, "We're going to move forward", but nobody knows what forward actually looks like. Furthermore, broad goals send people running in different directions, which in turn creates a lack of focus. 

How do We Keep SMART Goals SMART???

1.  KISS - Keep It Simple Stupid:  
Pick a goal or two that everyone can commit to. Too many goals or overly complex goals frustrate followers. 

2. Schedule RegularTimes to Measure:  
You schedule your dentist appointment 6 months in advance, right? Schedule your times in advance to check the progress of your SMART Goals at 6 or 9 week intervals and you'll never lose sight of them. 

3. Share the Leadership:  
If you want your SMART Goal to make the campus smarter, you have to include all the intelligence in the building and give others leadership responsibilities. SMART Goals are owned by all. 

4.  Celebrate Growth:  
There will be times where you won't make as much growth as you'd like. Find the successes and celebrate every time you review. If you're making negative growth, find the contributing factor and celebrate the fact that you found it.


5.  Stick with It:  
Excellence is not an act, but a habit. Commit to your goal and work your plan every day to reach that goal. You'll be amazed at what will happen over time. 


Successful organizations aren't smarter. They're more focused and more efficient. The best quote that embodies the spirit of SMART Goals is this: 

It's not that I'm so smart. 
It's that I stay with the problem longer. 
-Albert Einstein-