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.

Friday, August 2, 2019

The #1 Thing You MUST Give Teachers BEFORE School Starts

Each year, leaders make their plans for school improvement, and this is typically how it goes. Set goals, determine action steps,  find new resources and training everyone before school starts.  Have additional meetings to ensure everyone knows everything to make this a great start to the year, and then give teachers time to work.

While every bit of this is extremely important, all of the meetings and trainings can leave teachers with a whole lot of things to do and not a lot of time to do them all. If we want teachers to be highly successful with our initiatives, there is one thing they definitely want and we must give them at the beginning of the school year. 

Time to Process and Apply

Yes, we need to take time to welcome back our people and celebrate our progress.  We need to take time for team-building, but we also need to remember that with every piece of training, they need time to process all of the new information we want them to know. While meetings and trainings are invaluable, so is time to collaborate with peers.  Even more important is the time teachers need to take information back to their rooms so they can make a plan to apply that information. Time spent in training is wasted if we don’t give time for teachers to work both together and alone to process the information and make a plan to implement it.

Furthermore, we can’t expect teachers to process multiple days of training of new and complex content. If we want them to be successful, it is best use of their time and our resources, if beginning of school year activities provide teachers deep learning about one or two things rather than multiple things. Additionally, if we believe whole group instruction is just one component of learning for kids, we must believe the same about adults and their learning. Teachers need the gradual release of responsibility in their learning also. They need staff development time dedicated to collaborative learning with their team and time for independent learning to take the learning gained from whole group and collaborative learning and determine how best to implement what they have learned. 

If we want teachers to be successful this year, we must give them TIME. We must structure professional learning time that values teachers more than it values content. At the end of the day when teachers consider the learning needs of their kids first, the content usually takes care of itself. The same is true schools considering the needs of their teachers first and the content we want them to learn second. At the start of this school year, value your teachers by valuing their learning time. 

Saturday, July 27, 2019

6 Steps to Becoming a Really Good School Right Now

The school year is upon many of us, and we’re all feverishly working to make our schools the best they can be for all kids. All educators want their schools to be really, really good, but wanting something to be good and taking the critical steps to make it happen are two totally different things. If you really want your school to be great, you have to really want to work hard to make your dreams become your reality.

6 Steps to Becoming a Really Good School.

People make schools great when they focus on building strong relationships among and between leaders, teachers, students, and parents.  When these relationships are strong, open, honest, supportive, and ultimately focused on what's best for all kids, schools stand a great chance of becoming great. 

In schools of excellence, expectations are high, tight and consistent for all kids but also for all educators, and what's really important is that these high expectations remain high, tight, and consistent all year long. 

Expectations can only remain high when every person in the organization stays really committed to them by holding everyone accountable. Without accountability, high expectations wither away to mere hopes and dreams. 

If you really want your school to be excellent, a culture of leadership exists where every employee from the principal to the custodian is a leader of some aspect of the school program, and they lead their area by inspiring and teaching everyone how to get better every day.

Your school will never become really good until every adult becomes a learner and a model of learning for everyone around them. We can’t expect a students to become learners if the adults who influence them aren’t learners first. 

Really good schools never settle for the status quo, and they don’t lean on last year’s success. They yearn for even better results, a more supportive student environment, and a better and more effective way of doing things for the benefit of all students. 

Do You Really Want to be Really Good?
The fact of the matter is that we all want the same thing, but the really good schools turn their aspirations into actualities. They turn their why’s into why nots, and they do it as a unified team of educators. 

What ideas listed above will you take advantage of to make your school really good this year?

Friday, July 19, 2019

How to Tell if your School has a Pronoun Problem

Missions are realized through the actions in the building rather than words plastered on the wall. Visions can become realities, but they can also become nightmares as well. Goals are reached by people who believe in the power of teamwork and are also missed by teams who get cause in traps of selfishness.

We know this to be true, so how can we prevent our organizations from moving backwards?

Dig deeper into the words used in your organization

Actions often follow our words, which are shaped by our thoughts. Many times our thoughts are positively and negatively influenced by those around us as well as by the words our ears consume in the building and our eyes absorb through social media. If you  think about it, those words enter our brains and the negative ones will impact our works if we fail to filter them appropriately. To determine if this is a problem in your school, a key indicator can possibly be revealed in how and when we use our pronouns and possessive pronouns in our daily work.  

Does your School have a Pronoun Problem?

Teams that win use power pronouns. They say:
  • My and I when they own it
  • You and your through the lens of support,
  • We, our and ours when they remind everyone that we’re all on the same team in both good and bad times. 
  • He, She, They, His, Her or Their to identify where both problems and solutions are located,
  • This, that, these, and those to elevate strengths and identify struggles. 
Teams that lose use blame pronouns. They say 
  • My and I only when they succeed 
  • You and your when they fail and need others to blame 
  • We, our and ours only when there’s a team success,
  • He, She, They, His, Her or They to identify where problems are,
  • This, that, those, and these when frustration mounts about kids. 

Which Pronouns are Most Prevalent in your School?
Often times, the pronoun problem is not pronounced among the school as a whole, but there are always pockets of blame pronouns as well as exemplars who always use power pronouns. The job of leaders, both campus and teacher leaders, is to confront and counteract blame pronouns with a reminder of why the team exists, and that problems and frustration can be overcome when the principle pronouns become we, us and our, instead of the divisiveness of mine and yours. Only then will the words positively impact the actions of the organization. 

Friday, July 12, 2019

The Disconnect You Need, So You can Connect to What Matters

In this fast paced world driven by social media, texting, or instant communication, there is an ever growing urge to be "connected".  Finding the latest information, checking your feed, checking your other feed, and then checking your stories can consume us if we're not careful. The dopamine hits increase with every like, love, comment or retweet, and they push us to be evermore connected to the people inside our screens.

There is however an inherent problem that comes with this urge to connect, and that is it disconnects us from the people outside those screens that we stare at.  Each time we connect to one thing, we disconnect from everything else. You have a choice.  Connect with people inside your screen or outside your screen.  The decision can be influenced by this question.  Are you connecting with the most important things in this world most of the time?

Chances are that if you are connected to your device a lot, you're doing that at the cost of connecting with people who matter most to you:  your spouse, your children, your friends, and your colleagues.  So what's most important in your life?   If it's in your device, it might be time to reassess your priorities. 

Better yet, how much of life are you missing because you are so connected?  After all, the purpose of life is to make a significant impact on those we are closest to first, and everyone else second.  D

This summer, disconnect so you can connect to what matters most.

Friday, June 28, 2019

6 Exit Tickets to Improve your Leadership

Exit tickets have been proven to elicit formative assessment data that drives instruction. At the end of a lesson, an exit ticket is a quick check to see which students learned and which students are still struggling. Then the data from yielded from the exit ticket is leveraged to make adjustments to the next day’s lesson.

Well, it makes good sense to employ exit tickets as much as possible to strengthen instruction, so wouldn’t it make even better sense if leaders used exit tickets to strengthen their leadership?  After all leadership is nothing more than teaching folks how to get better at what they do. 

Think about this.
  • We have meetings. Are they getting it?  
  • We have trainings. Did they learn it?
  • We send communication. Do they understand it?

If you answered these questions with “I don’t know”, then the answer for some folks in your organization will be a definite no. To strengthen your leadership, here are 6 strategies to use exit tickets to strengthen your leadership by knowing if your people are with you.

6 Exit Tickets for Leaders
  1. Sticky Note Feedback - Provide sticky notes to your staff and at the end of the meeting or training, have them leave you with information that they don’t understand or need more clarification. 
  2. Hand signs - Quickly poll the group with a thumbs up or down or fist of 5 (rating scale) to gauge their comfort with new information. 
  3. Google Form - This tech tool allows you to get specific information from individuals through ratings or responses. 
  4. Mentimeter - CLICK HERE for a great tech tool that participants can anonymously leave ratings, feedback or questions. 
  5. Plickers - CLICK HERE for a tech-tool in the form of a paper-based QR code that participants can answer multiple choice or true/false questions while you can scan the entire room with your cell phone. 
  6. One & One - Before people leave the meeting, give a note card to participants  and ask them to write down one positive and one question or concern they have from your meeting or training. 

At the end of the day, your leadership is based entirely on how much your followers gain from your influence. You will never truly know your impact until you ask for help from those you serve. Exit tickets are a quick and powerful way to both gauge their knowledge and comfort as well as your effectiveness as a communicator and leader. 

Saturday, June 22, 2019

7 Serves of a Super Leader

Leadership is service. It’s influence. It drives cultural and structural change. If you get down to the heart of leadership, it is the galvanizing force that permanently shapes an organization.

So what is the driving force of leadership?  At the end of the day, it is how the leader serves. Now you may be thinking, “Not every leader serves”.  Well actually every leader does serve. It’s just that some are self-serving, while others are not. Here’s what I mean. 

Weak leaders serve:
  • Themselves first and others if it feels right. 
  • The status quo. 
  • At the cost of customers. 
  • Safety and easiness,
  • Negativity 

Super leaders serve:
  • Others first and themselves last. 
  • A quest for continuous improvement all in an effort to avoid the comfort and stagnation of the status quo. 
  • Customers as if it were an investment in the organization,
  • Innovators and a better way of doing things
  • High expectations and accountability,
  • Optimism to every one,
  • A higher calling. 
Weak leaders serve at the cost of the organization’s future, but super leaders alter the current trajectory of that organization forever. The difference between those two leaders always comes down to one question. 

Are you here to serve yourself or everyone else?

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

7 Escape Routes from the Silo Syndrome

The other day I was driving the beautiful roads of west Texas, and I came upon a row of silos.  During the summertime, silos are busy being filled with the bountiful harvest on their route to the market and eventually into our grocery cart.  If you think about it, silos are the final resting place for once thriving, growing seeds.

Are You in a Silo?
In our work, getting stuck in our very own silo is safe.  It is comfortable, but we must remember that no growth can occur in a silo.  No meaningful iteration of our work can occur simply because we close off our minds and therefore ideas to the possibility of purposeful improvement. 

Silos are vacuums of isolation, pure and simple, and too often, people withdraw to a silo and limit their life from discovering its true purpose.  You were built for something amazing, but you won't find out what it is if you spend your life in a silo.

Escaping the Silo Syndrome
Excellent people make sure that they escape the allure of the silo syndrome, which is the purposeful decision to isolate, withdraw, and avoid learning from others in order to save face.  These people escape their personalized silo in the following ways:

  • learning from others,
  • showing their flaws to others,
  • asking for help,
  • observing,
  • challenging the status quo,
  • fighting for more effective and efficient ways of doing,
  • sharing their excellence with others.
Have you Escaped your Silo?
Safe is easy, but that's not what you were built for.  Silos offer comfort, but it is in the form of novacaine.  Step out of your personal silo.  Stop seeking comfort, and embrace your "uncomfort" zone.  Your work and those you work with will thank you for it.

Friday, May 31, 2019

How to Know If You’re a Leader or a Boss

Are you a leader or a boss?  Immediately the quest to find the answer begins with your own opinion and often never leaves that location.  Do you justify your actions, interactions, and behaviors that convince you that you are not a boss, but a leader.

We all want to believe we are leaders and not bosses. But the reality is this. The answer to this important question can only be found in the people you wish to lead.

Are You a Boss or a Leader?

  • Employees avoid the boss but come to the leader. 
  • Employees are afraid of the boss but unafraid of the leader. 
  • Employees tell the boss only good things about themselves, but they reveal their shortcomings and difficulties to their leader. 
  • Employees cover their butts with the boss but reveal their mistakes to their leader. 
  • Employees flatter the boss but are authentic with the leader 
  • Employees will openly argue with the leader but will never confront the boss. 
  • Employees discuss the cold hard truth with the leader, and avoid it at all costs with their boss. 

As much as you want to be a leader, it will never be completely up to you. The reality is that perceptions of others determine whether not you are a boss or a leader. To some you are their leader, but to others you are their boss.

The main difference between being a boss and a leader is whether or not employees trust you and have confidence in you to protect them and support them. Now let’s be honest. Some people will never see you as anything other than their boss, and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it.

What we must remember is that we must always exhibit strength, high expectations, accountability,  openness, transparency, and willingness to learn from our employees, and in time more employees will change their opinion of you from being their boss into inspiring them as their leader.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Leadership Lessons from a Graduation Ceremony

Graduation time is here. Caps, gowns, pomp, circumstance, and lots of celebration. The purpose for graduation is commencement, not completion. For graduates the journey is just beginning, not coming to an end.

As I listened to our salutatorian speech as our school’s commencement exercises, I reflected on how leaders can perceive the end of the year. After all, the completion of a school year is more or less a graduation ceremony in and of iteself. Celebration, appreciation, sending everyone off with a smile, and we’re done. 

The fact of the matter is that average leaders view the end of the year through the lens of completion rather than commencement. They look back and think about what to bring forward or better yet resurrect next year. Conversely, the best leaders lead through the lens of commencement. They improve their work for next year by producing data that identifies areas in need of change, actions steps for improvement, training needs to be sought, and decisions to be made to commence the work of making the entire organization leaner and ultimately more effective. But they also identify what worked well to bring back again. 

The best organizational improvement knows no end. It only knows the next beginning and the next steps that must be taken to inspire all to aspire for even better success. Sadly, many graduates reach the pinnacle of their life on graduation day, and as such many leaders will settle for this year’s work as being good enough for next year as well. The best leaders, however, never graduate. They simply move on by moving up and taking others with them. 

Have you graduated or are you commencing?  They answer to that question will not be answered today, but I can promise you that it will be revealed through the results of your organization’s work next year!  

Congratulations to all the graduates out there, and best of luck as you commence into the next chapter of your life. Be sure to make it a good one. 

Friday, May 17, 2019

The MOST IMPORTANT JOB of a LEADER at the End of the School Year

End of year assemblies, games, dodgeball tournaments, field days, parties, graduations, awards.  These are the fun jobs of a leader at the end of the school year.

Exit interviews, inventory, transition sheets, data rosters, grade submissions, records updated, summative evaluations, last minute meetings, endless to do lists.  These are important jobs that sometimes can be more overwhelming than fun.

No matter what the task is, THAT IS NOT THE MOST IMPORTANT JOB!!!

At the end of the year, leaders have one job that is so important but it is often overlooked.  It is forgotten, or at least attended to IF the leader has time at the end of the year.

No matter if an employee has been in your school for 1 year or 31 years, they all are anxious about what the future holds.

  • What will be different?  
  • What will make the work more challenging?  
  • Will the work be easier next year?  
These are just a few things that employees are wondering, and your response or lack thereof could be the deciding factor if the employee wants to come back next year, or be excited when they do return next year.

The reality is that the end of the year is a challenge for every leader.  It is stressful and at times downright overwhelming.  There are not enough hours in the day to get it all done.

The cold hard truth is that the very best leaders NEVER fail to get people fired up about next year.  While some . leaders are counting down the days, the best leaders are making the days count!!! (SEE HERE and HERE)

At the end of the year, you have one job to do, and that is to inspire excitement about next year.  You must have conversations about how our organization can be more efficient and more effective next year.  You are listening to frustrations about this year, and using that information to make your EXCELLENCE CHECKLIST and helping your teacher make their EXCELLENCE CHECKLIST even better than last year's list.

This means that in the midst of the craziness, fun, and endless tasks, we must MAKE TIME for conversation.  We must MAKE TIME to elicit feedback, and we must MAKE TIME to ask our followers about their dreams and aspirations for next year.

The most important job of a leader is not merely an ordinary end of year task.  It is an investment in your staff, in your students, and in the future of your school.  It will pay huge dividends that far exceed the very best plan that you could ever create on your own, and the reason for that is simple.

Optimism is a leader's competitive advantage. 
Jon Gordon

Saturday, May 11, 2019

End your School’s Year with Parent Appreciation Week

Staff Appreciation Week is a great opportunity for everyone to show their thanks to teachers for all that they do for our students, and it is well deserved. Teachers, leaders and staff members go above and beyond to ensure that students learn, grow and excel. But if we think about it, students would not excel as much as they do without great parenting.

In a previous post, CLICK HERE, I proposed schools having a Student Appreciation Week that encourages schools to celebrate students during the last week of school, and I think we must continue to have initiatives like that to honor our kids. In this post, I would like to recommend that we utilize the last weeks of school as a Parent Appreciation Week.  This would be the school’s opportunity to thank parents collectively and individually for their partnership in making their children a success at school.

Schools could post appreciation messages on their marquees and social media sites. Leaders could make announcements celebrating parents, and they could encourage teachers to send messages of appreciation to parents who have been instrumental in helping students learn. Students could write letters and make posters to their parents thanking them for their guidance in their education. The school could even encourage the community and radio stations to join in on the fun. The possibilities are limitless. Even if parent relationships have been strained or even fractured, this is the school’s last chance to end the year on a positive note that gives parents hope for success next year. 

When students have parents that are actively involved in their child’s education, student learning soars. Support for teacher expectations accelerates learning, and the culture of learning and high expectations is solidified and even strengthened. Great parents make the difference in our work as educators, and we owe it to our parents to utilize our time at the end of the school year to express our gratitude for the sacrifices they make, the consistency they provide, and the love they give to make certain their most prized possessions are fully prepared to succeed as learners and ultimately as future parents. . 

I hope you’ll use this week to celebrate our awesome parents. It will send parents into summer knowing their hard work is valued, and that their partnership will be more appreciated next year. 

Friday, May 3, 2019

7 Sentence Stems that Strengthen Student Motivation

I had a request the other day to write a post on motivating kids at the end of the year in preparation for end of year testing.  While I felt honored that my thoughts meant so much, I thought to myself, “How would I motivate my kids at the end of the year?”  “What would I say?”  “What would I do?”

As I pondered these questions, the only word that came to mind was sincerity. Sure at the end of year, we can do the group motivation strategies, such as pep rallies and assemblies. We could give out motivational trinkets and gifts. We can also feed them, and that also makes all kids feel really good. But I remind myself what motivates kids more than anything is a meaningful relationship, and what builds relationships more than anything are sincere words of appreciation and praise. 

7 Sentence Stems to Motivate All Kids...
In addition to all of the positive things we do for kids, they need to hear, see and feel our belief in them. To help strengthen student motivation, I have included these 7 Sentence Stems for educators to use when finding the right words to use to praise their students.
  • I really appreciate how much you have (describe behavior or attribute that led to growth)...
  • At the beginning of the year, you (insert deficiency), but now you have (insert strength).
  • I like how much you have grown at...
  • The best thing about your work ethic is...
  • Don’t forget that you are most successful when you (insert attribute or strategy)
  • I have seen your best work when you (insert best work ethic)...
  • I am so proud of you this year because (insert best example of overcoming odds)...
Everyone loves a pep rally or group motivator, but those things lose their effect with each passing day.  Extrinsic motivators work temporarily, but intrinsic motivation works much longer. Kids won’t always remember what you taught them, but they will remember what you said and will always remember how you made them feel. If we want all kids to be intrinsically motivated, we must commit to saying personal words to students that will penetrate their hearts in a positive and ultimately productive manner. 

Best of luck as you finish the year strong. 

Friday, April 26, 2019

Finding the True Winner's Mentality

At the Masters, the world witnessed arguably one of the greatest personal and professional comebacks in sports history.  When Tiger Woods sank the putt on 18 to seal his first victory at the Masters after an 11 year major victory drought, he didn't tell his caddy, "I won".  He jumped for joy as he screamed, "We Won!!!".  In this individual sport, one of the greatest golfers in history didn't take all the credit or even a majority of the credit.  He shared it with his caddy, who in reality was his teammate, friend, and coach.

Do you have the 'I Win' or 'We Win' mentality?  
As the leader, are you the only one winning?  We must remind ourselves that our success is rarely accomplished in isolation because we never really win anything for ourselves.  No matter how big or small the role, people in every facet of our organization are contributing to our collective win, either with their encouragement, their advice, their talent, or even by sharing their expertise with us.

So the next time you win, answer this question.  Who will share your victory with?  How much of the credit will you take?  Will you predominantly use the pronoun, I, or will you make darn sure that the word, We, comes out of your mouth more than any other?  In the game of organizational improvement, there is no I in the team.  The leader must bring forward the strengths of everyone and that only happens when we intentionally recognize everyone's contribution to the team's success and take little to no credit for ourselves.  After all, the leader is the coach and not the players who do the real work that ensures that the team wins the game as a collective unit.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

The Easter Reset Button.

Easter is here and the story of the resurrection is the most powerful story in the history of mankind. The most gruesome death is followed by the most amazing victory. Life defeats death. Love conquers all. What inspires me the most about this story is how one person could take so much punishment for me and you, and then conquer death in the end, so that we could all have life. It is the epic comeback story that saves us all.

So here’s a question for you
Where’s your resurrection?  

I mean if we’re honest, you and I have experienced some challenges and perhaps some pretty bad things in life. We’ve experienced some the elements of crucifixion, such as being denied, rejected, and rebuked. We have been attacked or hung out to dry. Yet in spite of all of that, we are still here. With all that has happened to you, have you risen from it all to a better place?

Is your leadership lacking?  Do you feel down trodden with your work? Do you feel like things are just not going your way?  Do you ever feel like you wish you could just push the reset button?

Push the Reset Button!
The reality is that Easter is our reminder that we can overcome anything. We can hit the reset button! We can be renewed, and we can recommit to our ultimate mission. The reset button is there for us everyday and we can push it as much as we like, because the resurrection is our reminder to reset our lives with Him. 

All we have to do is reach out to God, ask Him for forgiveness, accept Him in our lives, and recommit our works and words to fulfill His glory. Because He lives, we are saved, but we aren’t saved until we invite Him to live in our thoughts, in our hearts, and in our actions. Hit the reset button. The world and your soul will thank you for it. 

Happy Easter!

Saturday, April 13, 2019

You Are What You Perceive.

Have you ever heard the statement, "The camera adds 10 pounds"?  The video below and the article with it illustrates why this phrase is true in our minds.  We are what we perceive.

So why is perception so important? 

Well our kids are what they perceive they are.  Perception is self-fulfilled prophecy, and it is their

reality in the making.   If kid feel they are weak, they will be weak, but if they have a strong sense of efficacy, they will be strong and ultimately successful.

The point is this. Motivation adds 10 more points on the test.  Believing in yourself will make your time faster, your execution more precise, and your overall success even higher.  What kids believe is what they will achieve.

Our job as school leaders and teachers is to create the conditions that foster motivation in every child and every adult.  If a culture of motivation is strong, performance will no doubt mirror the perception in the minds within that culture.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

How Much Do You Love Your School? #LoveMySchoolDay

The 6th year of #LoveMySchoolDay is coming up on Thursday, April 11, and I am excited to see once again all of the wonderful stories of how awesome your school is.   Each year, the hashtag inspires educators and friends of education around the world to believe in the transformational power of education.   To kick this yearly event off, I have a quick question for you.

Just How Much do you Love your School?

The reason that I ask this is simple.  Some love our schools to a point, and that point defines how much we are willing to take a stand for the people inside that school.  If we like our school, then we are just fond of it.  We respect the leaders and associates who we work with in a safe manner, but we may not go far enough to say that we love the school.

If We Love our Schools, Let's Stand Up for Them.
That means that while we know that not everything is perfect inside our school, we sacrifice for our school.  We take a stand when others would remain silent.  We acknowledge the fact that like every other organization, we don't always do everything right, but we also don't sit there while the critics on the sidelines use our shortcomings and mishaps as weapons to attack the school.  We do this because we believe in the progress that we are making to educate all students.

The Bottom Line is This.

No one will ever know just how much we love our schools until the educators inside them tell people
outside the school just how much they love what they do, the students they do it for, and the colleagues they do it with.  #LoveMySchoolDay is our choice to take our stand, to raise our collective voice, and to join educators around the world who also love their schools in telling the real stories.  Schools don't exist to merely teach kids; schools are designed to transform communities, states, and nations by shaping both the young and adult minds within them. 

At the end of the day, when we actively demonstrate our love for our schools, schools have the potential and the needed support to instill faith, hope and love in all of our students, of which the greatest of these three is love.  (1 Cor 13:13)  I hope to see your story on April 11, and I look forward to inspiring the world with you as we unite to tell the world just how much we love our schools.

Friday, March 22, 2019

The Difference between Expectations and Nonnegotiables

Nonnegotiables... things not up for discussion. Obviously, they’re not up for discussion. They are not negotiable. Or are they???

Leaders set expectations, but expectations aren’t nonnegotiables until the failure to meet those expectations is called to account until they are met. Have you ever had a leader expect something that you knew they were not going to follow up on?  If we’re honest, the answer is obvious. The challenge in all of this is creating expectations that we can guarantee. 

  • Plan for Accountability - The first step to turning expectations into nonnegotiables is to make plan of how those expectations will be monitored and responded to if not met. 
  • Time to Monitor - If expectations are importer. Enough to assign, they are important enough to dedicate time to see if they are being met. 
  • Systems of Support - If they are not being met due to lack of skill, leaders must proactively provide a system of supports to help people meet the expectations. 
  • Confidence to Confront - If expectations are not met due to lack of will, leaders must demonstrate courage and commitment to both the expectations and the organization by addressing the person and their lack of will. 

Expectations without a plan to guarantee them are nothing more than a leader’s aspirations. Nonnegotiables are expectations accompanied by a plan to guarantee their success. The difference between expectations and nonnegotiables is essentially a leader’s determination to see then through. The question weleaders must ask ourselves is if we have the grit and determination to see them to fruition. 

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Those, Who Can, Teach

It has always been most frustrating listening to someone who has never taught a day in their life make the following statement.

Those, who can, do, and those, who can’t, teach. 

This statement could not be more inaccurate and more insulting to the tremendous people who commit their lives to serving children. Here’s the deal; the statement above is completely false. Teachers don’t know the word, can’t. You know why? It’s because they don’t like failure at all, and they like excuses even less. Furthermore, teachers can and they do make a difference because they take full responsibility for every student that walks through their doors regardless of issue, background, disability or zip code. Teachers do what few can do. 

For those who truly don’t understand what it takes to be in the profession, let me ask you a few questions. 
  • Can you motivate and inspire 25 students for 6 hours per day every day?
  • Can you teach kids while also serving as their mother, father, counselor, friend, and sounding board?
  • Can you prepare every student to perform successfully under the highest standards in the history of education?
  • Can you ensure that all, not some, kids learn and grow?
  • Can you do all that even as funding dissipates, benefits erode and retirement looks less and less solvent?

Are you getting my point???

Teachers are the lifeblood of our democracy. Better yet, they hold the future of our democracy in their hands, but here’s the real story. They can and they do all of this without the full support they deserve. 

So What Can We Do?
In this time, we can advocate to our legislators the critical importance of legislating on behalf of all teachers and the education profession as a whole. We can persuade legislators to take meaningful action on their behalf, not just in funding, retirement, and accountability, but also in restoring respect and reverence for the profession. 

Those, who can, teach, and they do it everyday. The question is whether we can and will do more to restore respect and reverence to the profession, so that teachers can do even more for all kids. 

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Let’s Take Care of Texas Retirees

Recently, I visited the Texas Capitol and had the opportunity to advocate for education. It’s was a great honor to talk with our legislators and share my thoughts on education. After my visit I shared pictures of my memorable day on social media which garnered words of thanks and congratulations from my friends. But there one comment from my history teacher, Mr. Oliver, that stopped me in my tracks.

"John, please get your old retired 
Texas History teacher some help."

Here’s the Deal. 
Mr. Oliver was an amazing teacher. He was so much fun and made a tremendous impact on my life as well as 30+ years worth of students. What bothers me is this.  After putting his heart and soul into the noblest career which not only transforms minds but also lives, he retired with the understanding that he would not have to worry about the solvency of his retirement nor the security of his health insurance. He had a plan and that plan has changed due to no fault of his own. 

Here’s the Bigger Deal. 
Mr. Oliver is just one of the thousands of retired teachers who have seen the negative impact of the Texas Retirement System. There are countless other life-changers in the education profession who dedicated their lives to kids and now their plans have also been negatively impacted by the solvency of the Teacher Retirement System. 

But Here’s the Biggest Deal!
There are future retirees who are working in the classroom right now. Some are near retirement age, and some are in their first year of teaching. The reality is this. If we can’t take care of our teachers after they have sacrificed their lives for the children of our state, there won’t be any teachers left because they won’t choose the profession due to poor salaries and even poorer benefits.

Mr. Oliver is not the only teacher who shaped my life. There were countless others who molded me into the educator I am today, and I can’t thank them enough for their efforts. Furthermore, Texas can’t thank educators enough for all that they do for Texas kids, but here's what Texas can do.  Texas can do what’s right for Texas educators and the future educators who will follow in their footsteps by providing them with a retirement system that works as hard as the educators have worked and will continue to work for Texas. 

Saturday, February 16, 2019

You Can’t Get Engaged without a Relationship First.

Have you ever met someone who got engaged to someone they didn't have a relationship with first?  The reason that I ask this question is because relationships kind of drive whether or not you will choose to get engaged in the first place. 

Well, apply that same idea to student engagement. Relationships are everything when it comes to engaging students into the learning.  Sure some kids may not be interested in us personally, but they must develop some relational connection to either our content or to us before they will choose to learn. 

So do you want better student engagement?  Better yet, do you want your most struggling students to get engaged in your classroom?  Well, it won't happen without strong relationships for learning first.  

Here is a list of questions to reflect on students who are least engaged in your learning?
  1. How well do I call my students by name daily?
  2. How consistently do I greet students coming and/or leaving my class daily?
  3. How well do I listen attentively to my students?
  4. What do I know about my students' lives, hobbies, and interests?
  5. What do I know about my students' personal and academic challenges and interests?
How did you do?  
Do you have the knowledge of your students to meet them where they are?  Relationships are about reaching out, making them feel valued, and showing them that you care more about them as people than you do your content.  Without them learning is a struggle.

At the end of the day, we teach kids not content. And when we make consistent efforts to cultivate amazing relationships with our students, especially those reticent to learning, engagement is rarely a battle. The reason is simple. Taking time to learn the students inspires them to take the time to learn the content. 

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Some Thoughts and Feelings about Leading with Thoughts and Feelings

Impulsivity is probably one of the greatest detriments to both leadership and life.  Have you ever witnessed some destroy their life or career simply because they sprung to action based on their immediate thoughts or feelings?  Of course, we have. 

Consider these tidbits of advice when it comes to everyday events in life.
  • Never go shopping for groceries when you’re hungry. 
  • It makes no sense to pull out your credit card for new clothes when your bank account is low.
  • It's not very wise to make life-altering decisions when your life is in chaos.  
The main idea to these pieces of advice remind us that our lack of order and self-discipline negatively impact our future.

So let’s apply these same statements to leadership. 
  • Never make decisions based on solely on your thoughts.
  • It doesn’t make much sense to confront a difficult personnel situation with only your feelings. 
  • Don’t act when you’re angry. 
  • Your hunches and your gut are right 50% of the time. 

Sure, thoughts are obviously important to our leadership.  We better think before we create solutions or analyze problems, but thoughts by themselves serve as a bad barometer for gauging the reality of a situation or developing a positive response. Feelings are even more unreliable, as they are merely a thermometer of our current and ever-changing mental state. In fact, our thoughts are often influenced by our immediate feelings and if that’s all you have to lead with, you’re in trouble as a leader. 

So how can we lead more effectively with ours thoughts and feelings?

Well first, we must remember that when we lead with preplanned systems, our responses have a greater chance of being consistent, effective and ultimately successful. Furthermore, if we reflect on our daily work, we can anticipate 80% of the problems we will encounter; therefore, leaders make their work more efficient and effective when we create a system of automatic responses to those problems. Second, we can anticipate that people will attempt to handoff their problems to us or infect us with their negative or irrational feelings.  In these situations, we create a system or responses to ensure that their monkeys don't shift from their backs to ours.

Thoughts and feelings are powerful in both constructive and destructive ways, but if we develop plans to respond to the majority of problems we face on a regular basis, our thoughts and feelings can be leveraged around those systems to ensure that we transform the ineffectiveness of going with our gut into the certainty of leading with confidence and competence.

So what other thoughts or feelings do you have about leading with your thoughts and feelings?

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Welcome to #FistBumpFebruary

February is upon us and that means Random Acts of Kindness month. With all the efforts to show kindness, I truly believe the smallest act with the largest impact is acknowledging people around us. Maslow’s 3rd level in his Hierarchy of Needs is love and belongingness and we mustn’t forget that many students lack love and belongingness from home, and therefore come to school with a motivation to fill this very important need.

So What If We could Fill that Need???
What if the school functioned in such a way that everyone one in the school participated in a unified
movement to make everyone feel loved and feel like they belong in the school?  And what if that unified movement was something that everyone could do that required next to no effort?  It would be pretty cool, and I believe highly successful for the school as a whole.  

I, therefore, propose that February be renamed Fist Bump February. Throughout the month of February, teachers and leaders could create a culture where every student received  at least 10 fist bumps and gave away at least 10 fist bumps each day while at school. Can you see it?  Better yet, can you see how your students will feel more a part of your school because of it?  It might be a little bumpy (pun intended) getting started, but it could be powerful enough to change the entire culture within your school. 

#FistBumpFebruary, let’s make this a movement and spread the love, show acceptance, and strengthen the relationships throughout our schools!

Friday, January 25, 2019

Why You Have to Write this Down!!!

Rick Warren is one of the greatest influences on my life.  His words of inspiration guide my faith and
my work each time I listen to him on his daily podcast.    In one of his podcasts, he made a statement that is now seared into my brain.

"The shortest pencil is longer than the longest memory."

Think about it.  It is hard to remember what we hear, and don't forget that we only retain 5% of what we hear for a long period of time.  In fact research on the retention of Sunday sermons indicates that we forget the majority of the preacher's message by Tuesday.  That's not good news if you're a preacher.

So how do we get kids to remember what we want them to learn?

The answer is to make them write it down.  Marzano's research proves that summarization and note-taking is the highest yield instructional strategy.  When students are writing down notes of their learning as you teach them, there is a much greater chance that they will retain that information in their memory, but even better, they have an artifact of their learning if they forget.

A strategy I use often is to frequently say the words, "Write this down"It tells kids, "Hey this is really important, and it's so important that I don't want you to forget it".

This week,
Ask these questions of yourself.

  1. How can you challenge your students to write more things down in their notes or journals?  
  2. What are all the different ways students can take meaningful notes of their learning?  
  3. How can you sell the importance of note-taking to your students.

The answers to these questions will increase engagement and learning retention simultaneously.