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!