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.  

Monday, November 19, 2018

Give Thanks for Complaints

Thanksgiving is a time to give thanks for all of your blessings. It’s time to express how much you appreciate all that has been bestowed upon you. Did you notice that I didn’t say some of your blessings or some of the things you’ve received.

I said ALL!!!

All means all, and that includes things that maybe you aren't so thankful for, such as complaints.

It is tough to hear complaints.  They make you feel defensive.  Sometimes they hurt your  feelings, but the reason that they do that is because we all want to believe that we are giving our best.  In most cases, we are giving our best, but if we're honest, we're giving our best with the information or feedback that we currently have.

Complaints are feedback, nothing more, nothing less.  They don't represent the information we have, but the information we need.  They may come at us in hurtful manner, but the power within a complaint is that they reveal what we haven't seen yet, what we didn't know until now, or what we missed in our communication to those we serve.

What if instead of getting defensive at the emotion of the complaint, we actually heard the spirit of the complaint.  We would approach complaints with the mindset of "I still have more to learn", and then maybe we wouldn't be so resentful.  We wouldn't be so quick to provide a rebuttal, and we wouldn't be so annoyed.  We would in turn be appreciative.  We would grow.  We would make this world a better place, and we would build confidence in the people who felt compelled to tell us how they felt.  Maybe, just maybe, we would stop calling them complaints in the first place, and give thanks for the feedback.  

In everything give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Happy Thanksgiving

Saturday, November 10, 2018

4 Tips to Turn Negativity into Positive Change

Griping is inevitable in any organization. Complaints are a natural part of the daily work, and frustration abounds anytime organizations try to get better. Some leaders hate negativity so much that they demonize negativity and those who spew it. Here’s the cold hard truth. If leaders want things to get better, it won’t happen without negativity. Positivity affirms the present, but negativity yearns for an improved future.

Sadly, the elements of negativity are rarely leveraged to make things better for all.  Gripers don’t want to be ostracized with the label of being a whiner. Complainers stay silent out of fear of correction, and frustrated folks quietly accept their current reality as the status quo. When negativity is negated by the leader, the result is obvious, a toxic culture where no one has value, a voice, or a reason to commit to something besides their own survival. 

So how do Great Leaders Leverage Negativity?
First, great leaders don’t view negativity as a negative. They embrace negativity as an opportunity for constructive feedback, and they leverage it as a powerful tool to make things better for everyone. They don’t run from it; they run to it. 
  • When a frustration is identified, leaders determine how that feeling can be used to simplify a process. 
  • When a complaint surfaces, leaders look for a lack of communication, or a better way to improve systems of communication. 
  • When griping emerges, leaders explore opportunities to simplify the work and give a clearer purpose behind the work. 
  • When overwhelmingness overcomes, leaders analyze the volume of work that followers are assigned and determine which tasks must continue, which tasks must be improved, and which tasks must be removed. 
Negativity negatively impacts the organization when it decreases the value of the people in the organization. The solution to leveraging negativity is to bring it to light, to allow it to improve processes and systems, and to leverage it to make everyone more efficient and effective. When negativity is optimized, positive growth is unavoidable. 

Saturday, November 3, 2018

The Painful Truth about Meaningful Change

This past weekend, we had our 2nd Annual Fall Festival, and boy was it a great event.  We had 2 gyms and a parking lot full of fun and games all in an effort to bring our community together.  It was awesome seeing our school and community united in partnership as a result of several people coming together and sacrificing of themselves to offer a truly meaningful event for the entire community.

One of the events we had was a 3 on 3 basketball tournament, and just like a mid-40's man that still thinks that he's still in his 30's, I joined the tournament.  Now I haven't played competitive sports in 10 years, and on Sunday morning, my aching back and legs reminded me of that.  While I had a great time participating, my body still reaped the consequences of that change.  All choices have consequences, and physical choices have even more painful consequences.

So What Does this Have to Do with Change?
Both of these events have one thing in common.  They both require work, which requires sacrifice, discomfort, and in some cases pain.  Without work, nothing changes, and therefore the status quo remains.  Change can't occur without some level of pain.

The Painful Secret about Meaningful Change
If we aspire to bring about meaningful change to our organizations then we must realize that it requires shaking things up a bit.  You'll have to do things in ways that haven't been done before.  It'll push resisters to whine a little more, and it may cause headaches that you had no idea you would create.

But isn't that what meaningful change does?  It elicits discomfort, albeit temporary, and many times the discomfort exists to ask you just how much the change really means to you.  If it means a lot, you'll push against the pushback, and you'll weather the whining.  If it doesn't mean a lot, then the safety of the status quo will temper your resolve, and soften your commitment.

The painful truth about meaningful change is that it causes pain, no doubt about it, but if you are committed to improving the organization as a whole, then you've already calculated the pain that it'll cause, and you've already set your course for change.  There may be frustration on the front end and blowback on the back end, but the secret to successful change is being steady and strong, for that is what'll ensure the change you bring about means the most to those who, in the end, matter the most.

Friday, October 19, 2018

5 Gifts of a Graceful Leader

Have you ever worked for a graceful leader, someone who is forgiving, dignified and inspirational?  What makes a leader graceful?  How does she develop the qualities that make her outstanding? In this post, I would like to offer my ideas on 5 gifts that all graceful leaders possess, but more importantly share with their followers. 

5 Gifts of a Graceful Leader

Graceful leaders are generous with their time, their talents, their assets, and most importantly their
understanding. The reason is simple. They are paying forward the generosity that was given to them and forgiveness that was granted by those who cared for them.

In order to be a graceful leader, you must be authentic and approachable. Graceful leaders are abnormally human, and reveal their grace in how they accept and welcome all, especially those who are often overlooked or neglected. 

Graceful leaders hold themselves to a high standard and they  openly display their accountability to that standard. With this  philosophy of supernatural honesty, they are able to inspire followers to hold themselves also to a higher standard. 

A leader’s work is based on results, but a graceful leader’s work is unwavering discipline and commitment to continuous improvement. Graceful leaders commit to the journey, as well as the people who are a part of the trip, and celebrate progress along the way, while the ungrateful leader focuses on results is uncommitted to the people who achieve them.  

Ordinary leaders give up when the going gets today.   Great leaders stop when the goal is accomplished, however the graceful leader is endless in support, constant in communication, persistent in their pursuit for the pinnacle of excellence, and always affirming everyone in the organization. The reason for their eternal effort as a leader is due to their selflessness as a person. 

The Graceful Leader's Super-Secret Gift - Purpose
Average leaders act out of selfishness. Great leaders act in order to see tangible results. The graceful leader however has no purpose to acquire earthly accolades or superficial results.  They realize that these trophies disappear in time, and the awards fade the minute they are bestowed. The graceful leader is in pursuit of something much more important than results, and that is fulfilling his or her God-given purpose and leveraging their talents in order to help everyone discover the purpose for which they have been created.   The graceful leader's legacy is found in the number of people that he has led to accept the grace that is waiting for them to accept.

The graceful leader is in pursuit of not what can be seen 
but that which cannot be seen. 

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Your Education Association is your Lifeline

How has the medical profession made tremendous gains in health care over the last 100 years?  It’s simple. The medical profession has excelled thanks to medical associations that serve one purpose, improving the medical profession in order to improve the quality of life for the patients it serves. Without medical associations working in conjunction with practicing physicians who are constantly raising the bar, healthcare would not be anywhere close to where it is today.

So let’s apply this to school. Education organizations exist for one purpose and that is to improve the learning outcomes for all students by improving the effectiveness of the educators who work toward those outcomes.  In essence, they exist to improve the quality of life for the students it serves. 

Administrator organizations exist to teach administrators how to improve in their abilities to lead schools. Teacher organizations exist to support teachers and provide them new and improved ideas to strengthen instruction, and school board organzaitons exist to teach board members how to provide better oversight to the schools they’re responsible for.   

At the end of the day education organizations are lifelines for educators. They improve education, and they grow educators. The fact of the matter is this. If we care about being a lifeline for all kids, then we as educators must have our own personal lifeline. That personal lifeline is the education organization. We must not only join an organization, but we should be an active part of that organization. If you’re involved in learning from your organization, it’ll make you better at what you do, which in turn makes you better for the kids you serve. And that’ll make that organization a stronger lifeline for educators because you’re breathing life into the organization. 

Friday, September 21, 2018

The Secret Weapon All Excellent Leaders Possess

What’s the secret to  becoming an excellent leader?  Some think it’s organization. Others think it’s communication, and some could even argue that it’s how you serve. While those are critical skills leaders need to excel, there is a secret weapon that the very best leaders possess. Can you guess what it is?

Here are a few clues. 

What you Learn - So often we think that being a great leader is about what you know, and sure
there’s some truth to that, but there’s something better than knowledge and that is the desire to grow as both a person and a leader. 

Ingest - Great leaders protect their mind like a healthy person would protect their diet. They ingest truth, and they do that by protecting their minds from mind pollution. In other words, they don’t get pulled into the trap of fake news, rumors, gossip, and trash that basically exist to prevent them from getting better.  

Simplicity - Great leaders want their organization to be lean in the work they do; therefore, they seek to simplify all of complexities within their organization. They eradicate ambiguity by always looking for a better way to make the system more efficient and effective. 

Discipline - Great leaders don’t do everything. In fact they control what they do by only doing things that are essential, and they protect their time by not wasting it on useless actions and unproductive conversations.

Own the Truth - The truth is often a bitter pill to swallow, but excellent leaders own it no matter what. Even if it costs them friends or political capital, standing up for what’s morally and ethically right is more important than acquiescing to what’s convenient or easy. 

Model Humility - The best leaders are humble, and they model their humility by listening, asking questions in order to learn, and accept feedback, for they recognize the fact that they will never reach their optimal performance.  They constantly learn from others so they can get closer to it however. 

Have you figured it out?

Excellence leaders possess wisdom. 

Wisdom is not intellect, it is a selfless ambition to be your best self for the people you serve. It is a relentless commitment to the truth, and a tireless hunger for continuous improvement. Finally wisdom is not revealed by what you know. It is however it displayed how you show it. 

Friday, September 14, 2018

Is your School’s College and Career Initiative a Dream or a Reality?

In schools and all over social media, the emphasis grows more and more everyday for college and career. The big push for tech integration, #FutureReady, collaboration, individualized learning is all in an effort to inspire every student to pursue education beyond high school, and it makes sense. We have to prepare every student for a college and career ready future. Without it, students are almost guaranteed a challenging life with greater chances for poverty and improsonment.

The reality is that our schools should have an authentic emphasis on College and Career, and the reason is obvious.    The more education you get, the higher wage that you can earn, and the lower employment rate you will find.  Check out this graphic from of data collected by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.  A picture is worth a thousand words, and this graphic can be summed up in 1 tweet.

Your Education is Your Future!!!


Is College and Career a Priority?
If we want our kids to believe in college and career, we must first recognize that over 50% of our students are kids of poverty, and many of them don’t see college as an attainable option.  Schools that excel the most in preparing all kids for college go far beyond the superficial college day of wearing college shirts and take purposeful steps to acquaint students with all of the options at their disposal. 

They talk to their students often about college, take entire grade levels of students on college tours, and prepare all students for college entrance exams. Furthermore, they show their students the financial benefits of performing well on ACT and SAT tests, and inspire them to believe that academic excellence is their proverbial lottery ticket. 

Is college and career a dream in your school, or is it your school’s reality?  The answer to that question is not in your head. It’s in the heads of the students you hope will pursue college after graduation.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Give Feedback that'll have your Teacher’s Back

Feedback can challenge leaders, and frankly it is something that many leaders can struggle with depending on the people that are needing feedback. How do you know just how much feedback to give?  How do you know when to push?  How do you know when to affirm?  There's so many directions feedback can take you, and some of those places aren't that good.

Here is the reason why feedback perplexes leaders. When a leader tells an employee something from a position of unilateral leadership, that’s not feedback. That’s advice. That’s an opinion. That’s a directive. That’s actually one person‘s perspective, but it’s not feedback because feedback is the result of collaborative teamwork not a leader’s job description.

So what is feedback?
Think of feedback is something you give back. It’s something you come back with to help someone get better. In other words feedback is act based on a relationship with a solid foundation, and it can’t occur with out something very important first. The prerequisite that I am referring to is growth goal based on trust and mutual understanding. 

Think of it in this way.  Feedback is essentially food for thought. It brings people to the table as opposed to pushing them away. It fills their confidence, but it also makes them hungry for growth.  It quenches their thirst while simultaneously causing them to develop a new thirst for knowledge.

In order for feedback to work we must have a common goal that both the leader and a follower agree is necessary to work toward. Without it, feedback will be perceived as a blindsided comment or judgment. It’ll be what the leader perceived as helpful advice but for the receiver it’ll came out of left field which could lead the receiver to have fear and resentment rather than trust and teamwork. Feedback without a goal that both people share actually prevents feedback from working.  

Feedback feeds growth, and leaders who care about the health of their employees don’t start with feedback. They start with a goal and feed the employee with strategies, questions, and suggestions to reach the goal.  In its purest form feedback feeds not only the follower but the leader and his skill set in helping or better yet feeding the follower as he works to reach that goal.

Feedback always has the teachers back, and that’s a fact. 

Thursday, August 30, 2018

5 Alternatives to Asking New Teachers How They’re Doing

How are you?  How are you doing?  How’s it going?  How’s the job?  How are you liking the job?  These questions don’t help new teachers. The reason is simple. They don’t convey that you sincerely want to know how they’re doing, and they really don’t make teachers feel safe enough to tell you their cold, hard truth.  In short, we'll always be told, "I'm fine", and that's not what we need to hear.

The fact is this. Every new teacher in your building, even veterans in the profession, are struggling with something whether they want to admit it or not. The reason you don’t know what they’re struggling with is because they don’t know you well enough to tell you what holds them back, and perhaps, we may not really want to know the truth.

So what can leaders do that will identify our teachers' needs, and let them know they can trust us.

Instead, ask these 5 Questions.
  1. What is one thing that is really hard for you to get accomplished right now?
  2. What words, acronyms, or catch phrases do we use in our school that you need more information, clarification, or explanation?
  3. What is one thing that is elevating your stress level right now?
  4. What is one thing you wish we had prepared you for in our new teacher orientation?
  5. What is a support you had in your old school or that you’ve seen before that you wish we had here?
#DoubleDogDare Question 
What is one thing I do or say that is really confusing you or even frustrating to you?

New teachers aren’t always "doing good". They are struggling with something that returning teachers aren't necessarily struggling with. Our job as leaders is to close their gap as fast as possible and remember that superficial “how’s it going” questions just wont cut it. If our number one priority is to ensure that every teacher finds their excellence, then we must move transform the helplessness of “how are you” into the service of “how can I better help you”.

Drop a comment with a question that you ask your new teachers.

Friday, August 24, 2018

4 Questions to Reflect on the First Week of School

The first week of school is always so much fun and so exhausting at the same time. Think about it. So many names, so many needs, so much new, and so little time to get it all in. What do great teachers do to leverage the first week of school so the second week is set up for success.

4 Questions to Reflect on the First Week of School

  • RESOURCES FOR LEARNING - How effective did I introduce C4B4Me with my classes and most specifically for my most struggling students?  Where are they resourceful learners or were they more dependent on me?
  • ROUTINES & PROCEDURES - How consistent and independent were my routines and procedures?  Where will I need to tighten up next week?
  • RELATIONSHIPS FOR LEARNING - How well did I build relationships with all kids, and how well did I get them interested in my content, and interested in learning with and from their classmates?
  • ENGAGEMENT IN LEARNING - How engaged were my students?  Did they instantly chase learning through the activities I provided or did they wait for me to prompt them to participate in the lesson?

The first week of school provides a powerful foundation for success, but in order to solidify that foundation, reflection is critical. The best teachers reflect on their organization, their preparation, and their delivery, but the one thing that great teachers reflect on is their students’ response to all of their hard work. That reflection provides teachers the vital information that will help them make key adjustments to their plan for the next week, and in the end it will make the 2nd week of school 10 times more impactful than it would have been without reflection. 

Sunday, August 19, 2018

What Breaks You?

Nick Saban spoke to his players in summer workouts on the ESPN special, “Training Camp” with the University of Alabama, and one of the most impactful parts of the show was the question he posed to his players about mental toughness.

What Breaks You?

As he persistently asked this question, he referenced everything that prevents players from making “The Play” or the obstacles that present themselves in the forms of disappointment,  mistakes, and failure. Those mental barriers to a football player’s excellence would include. 
  • Pain, 
  • Injury,
  • Frustration,
  • Missed Blocks,
  • Fumbled balls,
  • Missed steps,
  • Mistakes
His point was that mental toughness is the most critical component to excellent execution, and the best players have more mental toughness than their opponents. In fact he said that mental toughness is the ability to forget the past, focus on the present and aspire for growth in the future. Without mental toughness, you will always fall short because you’ll be mentally preoccupied by something that is already said and done. In short, you won’t move because you haven’t mentally moved on first. 

So let’s apply this concept to our role as educators. 

What breaks you from finding excellence in every student?  Some examples include:
  • Student misbehavior,
  • Preconceived beliefs about kids,
  • Learning labels on kids,
  • Challenging questions,
  • Unmotivated students,
  • Major gaps in student learning,
  • Difficult content,
  • Huge workloads,
  • Personal attacks.
What Breaks You?
If you want to find excellence in your craft and excellence in every student, you must first realize that the real barrier is found between your ears. It’s you and your mind, and you must first break what breaks you. Being unbreakable means never relenting when trials and tribulations attempt to detract you from your quest for continuous improvement. More specifically, it means ignoring yesterday’s failure, pushing through today’s pain of growth, and letting your work confront the negative naysayers and critics chirping in the background. All of these roadblocks exist for one reason and one reason only, to break your focus  away from your moral imperative, finding the pinnacle of your success. 

To ensure that you never break, let’s commit to the here and now. Reach out to your support system for help, for encouragement, and for the brutal truth. When you have people who care for you and your success, you can and must lean on them when you’re about to break. If you’re isolated, giving up is inevitable. 

The best never rest. The best never relent, and the best never break before the rest. In the end what breaks you is your choice, and if you want to discover your best, you will need to make the choice to never ever give up. 

Saturday, August 11, 2018

The Invisible Backpacks in our Classrooms

On the first day of school there are lots of backpacks walking in the school. Some are full of the newest school supplies, while others have the basic essentials for learning. Some backpacks are brand new, while others are the same ones from last year. Students are bringing the best of what they have to your class.

But do you see their invisible backpacks?
Some kids walk in your classroom door and won’t have any backpack except for the backpack we don’t see. It’s not full of school supplies or even a pencil to write with. The backpacks I’m referring to are the ones that are full of the emotional baggage that they carry with them every single day. I’m talking about things like stress, anxiety, abuse, neglect, disappointment, frustration.  Some kids can fit a few of those unseen supplies in a small nap sack while others need a moving truck to carry the baggage that weighs on them every single day.

As we begin school, don’t forget that kids are bringing more with him then you will ever imagine. They will put on a brave face and hide that baggage from you all year long. Others will show you immediately how much baggage they have in their backpack with their behavior and raw emotion. In order to take kids from where they are to where they need to be, we must put on our eyeglasses of empathy, understanding, and respect because kids have no one to turn to but us. They are searching for hope. They are searching for belongingness, and we are the only ones that some of them can count on to help them unpack their suitcases of isolation and desperation.

The start of school is all about having a fresh start. It’s about believing that this year kids will be able to find their ultimate purpose of being on this earth. Never forget that kids need to know how much you care and how much you accept them, for those are the things that will inspire and invite kids to unpack their negativity and aspire for a new beginning.

Monday, August 6, 2018

The First Rule of Excellence in Every Classroom

Teaching is the most complex profession there is.  We have this massive goal, but there are 20 to 140 variables throughout the day that affect this goal.  They’re called kids in every class period or subject that we teach, and with all of these variables, there’s a smorgasbord of instructional strategies, resources, products, and nuances for teachers to choose from that could potentially have a positive impact on each and every situation that teachers encounter in the course of a day.  So it’s no surprise when educators become overwhelmed. There are simply so many things to address and just not enough time to address them all.
But that’s not all that teachers have to consider.  Teachers then couple their ideas with ideas that they get from their teams, and then teachers are presented with campus and district initiatives that are designed to make teachers’ lives more efficient and more effective.  And before students even darken the doors for the first day of school, our teachers' plates are overflowing to the point that they can’t even begin the arduous journey toward excellence in every student. Simply put, their proverbial wagons are overloaded with too many things to get done and not enough time to do them.
In order to end the insanity of “too much to do” we leaders should rethink how we can support teachers in reaching this goal of providing every student with the most effective instruction.  This new goal, bringing out the excellence in every student, can only be attained if we own the first rule of excellence:

    That means we will have to allow the theme song of Disney’s movie, “Frozen”, to permeate throughout our soul.  Yes, we must “Let it go”. We will need to let go of practices that we know are nothing more than going through the motions.  We will need to evaluate and identify practices and activities that do not lead to our goal, instruction working for all kids all the time, and we will have to redirect our focus on actions, practices, and behaviors that grow students.  If it doesn’t grow students, we will need question ourselves as to why we are using those ineffective practices in the first place.
     As you head into the beginning of the school year, ask yourself this question.  What am I doing to ensure that teachers do less things more effectively?  After all doing less always leads to more productivity, and the better we do at fewer things, the more students will ultimately grow in the end.  Focus on less and watch more excellence come your way.

Monday, July 30, 2018

The Right Start to School

New shoes, school supplies, folders with brads, folders with no brads.  Yep, the start of school is almost here. The stores are packed. The malls are buzzing with excitement as kids pick out their fresh new duds to  begin the year. The start of a new school year brings out the very best in every one of us, and why shouldn't it.  The beginning of a new year is every kid's new opportunity to realize why he was placed on this earth.

What Makes a Strong Start?

How you start the race will put you either in the lead or behind the pack, but we must remember that strong starts are not in the clothes we buy or the supplies we are able to find (folders with brads). Sure these things make us feel excited and prepared for the possibilities of a new year, but they won't help us finish strong.   Strong starts begin with strong preparation.

To start the year strong, we must locate the behaviors, attitudes and effort needed to tackle the work and it is successfully tackled with the grit and perseverance.  All the "clothes" in the world will not help kids overcome the difficulties they will find in their first period Algebra class. Those students who possess tenacity or learn it quickly will overcome their deficits. 

All the school supplies in the world will not help a teacher respond to a class that doesn't connect to him or his content. Organization and commitment to that structure (as well as the kids who will benefit from that structure) will also be critical supplies teachers will need to lead their students to excellence. Furthermore, the ability to build, maintain, and sustain strong student relationships will be the best tool to keep kids in this year-long marathon we call learning. 

As you get ready to start the year, what intangible supplies will you need to begin your race to excellence. After it’s all the intangibles that excellence educators possess that push all kids to excellence, not the tangible supplies on the list. Good luck and have a great beginning of the year. 

Friday, July 13, 2018

7 School Culture Lessons from Japan

Culture says everything about your school because it reflects the values, goals, and aspirations of the community at large. While some cultures possess values that are selfless, others take on a “me first” mindset. Other cultures value winning at all costs while a few value the reputation of their collective character above the results that the culture strives for. 

Take for instance, the Japanese fans at the World Cup whose culture created a viral impact on the world. No matter the result, the Japanese fans supported their team to the very end and then the did the unspeakable.  They cleaned up the stadium after the game. Yes, they cleaned the stadium.  Have you ever done that after a game or better yet at the visitor’s home?   The video below illustrates why they do this abnormal activity. 

So what lessons can we take from the Japanese?
Here are a few take-aways that I believe can benefit all schools and the people inside those schools.

  1. Your character is the most important thing that grows your culture.  Protect it.
  2. Your culture will have wins and losses, and how the people in that culture act in both situations says everything about you and your culture.
  3. Be joyful in everything. 
  4. Appreciate everyone in your culture for that is how your culture is developed.
  5. Celebration is the fuel that keeps your culture growing.
  6. Respect everyone especially those you disagree with.
  7. Leave your school, stadium and every place you go better than you found it.

I was truly inspired to be a better person by what the Japanese displayed, but more than that I was challenged to build a culture that emulates the Japanese spirit.  They could have been cocky when they won or bitter when they lost, but their culture was never either of those selfish postures.  That's because their culture not a ‘winner’ culture.  It is a ‘winning’ culture, and they spread their winning spirit by showing reverence, displaying respect and most importantly demonstrating unbelievable selflessness.  

I think in this time of rudeness, divisiveness, and at times downright hatefulness, our country could use a few plays from their playbook.  Our schools can be the catalyst that actually changes this nastiness that does little more than tear people down.  I say we give it a try.  You never know.  It might definitely make our schools better for all kids, and it could even make our country better for its citizens.