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.