Monday, May 21, 2018

Let's Turn the Last Week of School into Student Appreciation Week

The last week of school has always been about wrapping up the year. Final exams, class parties, end of year assemblies, and don’t forget the piles of stuff for kids to take home. Yes, the last week of school is our last chance to finish the year with a bang.

When I think about my end of year tasks, appreciating students was always one of those “fitting it in” tasks.   I always appreciated my kids, and thanked them for being a part of my year, but it was always my second priority.

But what if it was our first priority?
  • Students could hear words of true adulation and praise as they head off for summer. 
  • Students would transition from one building to the next knowing that they mattered in their last building. 
  • Students who are moving to new town would have the confidence needed to make new friends or put on a brave face when making new friends. 
  • Struggling students would know that their effort was good enough to have a strong start next year. 
  • Students with poor discipline would know that they have a chance for a new start next year. 

Think of it this way. 
The last week of school is our last chance to fill every student with love, appreciation, and praise that will serve as a springboard for next school year. It will give some kids the hope to endure the difficulties they will face during the summer. It’ll remind kids of just how awesome they are, and most importantly it will make you remember why you chose this profession, to save lives. Make the last week of school the most powerful week of the year for every student. 

Friday, May 11, 2018

The Funny Thing about Expectations

Expectations are everywhere in a school.  Some are high, and some are ridiculously high.  Some are low and some are even nonexistent.  Yes expectations are everywhere in a school, but I often ask myself what makes kids commit to them and what make them resent and actually run away from them.

The interesting thing about expectations is that they can actually cancel one another out.  Think about it.  If Teacher A has a set of expectations that Teacher B doesn't believe in or doesn't have those same expectations, then kids will resent Teacher A for expecting too much.  Conversely, parents could resent Teacher B for not having the same high expectations as Teacher A, thus parents aren't as supportive of what Teacher B is trying to accomplish.

Furthermore, let's think about our kids and where they come from.  Some kids come from inconsistent homes where expectations very from day to day or from parent to parent.  Therefore, those same kids come to school with inconsistent expectations and then we become frustrated when kids don't want to follow 8 more and different sets of expectations from 8 different teachers.


If we want kids to reach the highest levels of achievement and therefore excellence, it's not the kids who need to get on the same page with us.  It's us educators who are not on the same page with one another.  We must remember this; expectations that are high, tight and ultimately consistent are the expectations that have the greatest chance of being followed by the kids for one reason and one reason only.

Kids learn best and grow the most in consistent learning environments, and we have complete control and choice on just how consistent that environment can be.

The funny thing about expectations is this.  Kids will reach them if we educators will commit to working interdependently to achieve a common goal by creating common learning spaces with common expectations for learning.  That is essentially the secret to excellence.  Expectations created in isolation will leave you isolated and overwhelmed, but expectations created through collaboration and calibrated with ongoing collaboration will yield far greater results.

As you finish the school year, ask yourself a few questions.

  • Do I have the same expectations as my colleagues with whom I share kids?  
  • Do our expectations support our learning goals?
  • Do we work together to stay consistent with one another on a regular basis?  
  • Do we work together to address students or groups of students who fail to meet those expectations?  
  • Do we work together to enrich and empower students when they meet our expectations?  

The answers to these questions may uncover the next step to pushing your team or even your school to the pinnacle of excellence in student learning.  Expectations are all over the place, but the best schools make sure their expectations are unified and uniting educators around one thing, supporting all kids.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Underneath the Excellence

I am often inspired by excellent results. When teams win championships, organizations attain major accolades, and individuals reach the mountaintop, I can’t help but be motivated to push myself to aspire for greater personal results. While I am often inspired by excellent achievements, there’s one thing that piques my curiosity even more.

The Story behind the Excellence

We never see the unnoticed hours of painstaking work. We never hear about the setbacks that transformed into comebacks. We never felt the failure and rejection that fueled the hard work and perseverance. All we ever see and therefore know is the product, not the process.

Everyone wants excellence but not everyone wants invest time in writing the story that reaches it. Mediocrity and comfort often creep into those stories as the antagonists, while sacrifice and resolve are unable to save the day as protagonists. The fact is this. 

We glorify the product but demonize the process. 

As leaders what stories are we telling to inspire excellence?  Are we illuminating the all-stars while ignoring the stories in the making?  Are we setting lofty goals while failing to show examples of how the work is the excellence? The answer to these questions will tell you if you’re superficially scratching the surface of excellence or digging deep to discover what it takes to achieve it.