I just finished reading Essential Truths for Principals by Danny Steele (@steelethoughts) and Todd Whitaker (@toddwhitaker).  This summer our administrative team will be doing a book study over this book.  I’m sure our conversations will be interesting !!

This literally is a book that only takes just a little while to read but it is packed with powerful information that can help all of us.   I highly recommend it.

essentailtruth

 

As I read through this book, I took a few notes that I want to share.

Here are my notes:

  • Rather than trying to do the current things, we must strive to do the important things.
  • It’s about creating a culture of collaboration where teachers learn from and inspire one another.
  • It’s about providing consistent focus every day.
  • Pursue excellence!
  • Culture – Are teachers complaining about student’s behavior or are they sharing the accomplishments of their classes?
  • What matters is not the quality of words in a frame ( the Mission Statement) but the quality of relationships in the building.
  • The success of programs depends on the adults who lead them.
  • Everyone in the school contributes to building a strong school culture.
  • School culture is not about the big things, it’s about the little things.
  • The best instructional initiatives do not count for much if the teachers are not empowered and supported by the administration to carry them out.
  • We can choose to make a difference every day, in spite of adversity.
  • Decisions are not driven by the convenience of the adults but by the needs of the students.
  • Great schools determine what’s best for the students, and then figure out how to make it happen.
  • Engage others in collective pursuits of solutions.
  • Success as a teacher is determined by our relationships, appropriate expectations, and consistency.
  • Happy teachers are more effective teachers.
  • When you remember your “why” it can carry you through the stresses of the day.
  • When you listen to teachers they feel valued. When teachers feel included in the decision-making process, they take ownership in the school … not just their classroom.
  • Teachers are professionals. Treat them like professionals.
  • Micromanagement is the quickest way to destroy the morale of the faculty.
  • Trust is foundational to any healthy school culture.
  • Notice the little things…and recognize it.
  • Never underestimate the value of encouragement.
  • Our job is not to reflect on society, it’s to cultivate society. We have to help improve each student and to help improve the world.
  • We need to be connected. These connections provide camaraderie, encouragement, and inspiration.
  • We all have flaws because, as it turns out, we are all human.
  • We should be patient with one another.
  • You change culture through relationships…one conversation at a time.
  • Great principals walk around … a lot. This is how they validate, recognize, communicate, and how they support.
  • We will not cultivate a culture of growth if we are never willing to step outside of our comfort zone.
  • You do not become awesome by staying the same all the time.
  • Seek to leverage the experiences, passions, and expertise among the staff.
  • Culture is built on the little interactions every day.
  • The quality of the school is directly related to the quality of the teachers.
  • The best way to take care of students is to take care of the teachers.
  • We must focus on making sure every child has a really good teacher.
  • If you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid — Albert Einstein.
  • Collaboration is the best way to improve professional practice.
  • Good teachers steal awesome ideas wherever they can find them. (Principals can do this too).
  • Principals can’t mandate collaboration. Best practices are not implemented as a result of mandates. Teachers need to believe in it and feel supported and empowered to implement.
  • It’s the principal’s job to promote a culture within a school where collaboration becomes the norm.
  • EdCamp style faculty meeting — get topics and each teacher gets 7 minutes to discuss their topic. Then they rotate.
  • Twitter chat – faculty meeting. Use certain hashtag(s)
  • Positive reinforcement goes a long way in promoting professional behaviors that characterize great schools.
  • What gets validated gets replicated.
  • Schools with a healthy culture have adults who talk to each other.
  • Never underestimate the importance of personal communication.
  • Make sure to have a strong relationship with your support staff.
  • Welcome new perspectives and ideas that can help us all become even better.
  • Encouraging words never get old. Ever.
  • The best faculties function as a team — as a cohesive unit.
  • Principals cannot force “buy in”.   Teachers “choose” to buy in.
  • When teachers feel support, they are much more receptive to instructional leadership.
  • Excellence is what results from thinking “good enough” is never good enough.
  • Educators who are extraordinary became that way by making lots of little decisions to rise above mediocrity.
  • Student achievement happens … When students are inspired. When teachers are empowered. When teachers have maximized their instructional efficacy through professional collaboration. When adults share a common commitment to connecting with students in the school.
  • Student achievement is a function of student engagement.
  • Don’t just focus on test scores. Focus on student engagement.
  • Complaining is injecting negative energy into a situation.
  • Don’t just complain, look for solutions.
  • Good school culture is not accidental.
  • Good school culture results when all adults in the building are motivated to do what is best for kids.
  • Good school culture is a reflection of everyone in the building.
  • It doesn’t cost anything to focus on the students. To collaborate. To keep a positive attitude.
  • Administrators have greater credibility when the teachers know they are aware of the realities of the classroom.
  • Make the most of unscheduled and unplanned moments. They could end up being the most important moments of your day.
  • Don’t just evaluate … support.
  • Have a commitment to rise above the status quo.
  • What if … !!!
  • Micromanaging yields bare minimum performance.
  • Reflection is important for all of us.
  • Good administrators should never lose sight of what we ask of our teachers. We need to look for ways to lighten the load.
  • To impact student achievement it’s important to invest energy into creating a school culture where teachers and students are engaged in the educational process.
  • My attitude affects your attitude.

 

As you read this, I hope you can reflect on your own situation at your school.  As we reflect we can only get better.  When we get better, everyone gets better.

Have a great day.

learning

This summer I want my teachers to get more accustomed to reading and sharing so we can all learn from each other.   I know that teachers do want to learn and value learning.  I know they also value choice and freedom to learn on their own terms.  I know that we can all learn from each other and that when we do, everyone benefits.

For those of us in administrative positions, we must listen to our teachers.  We must value their time.  We must give them the freedom to improve their skills.  We have to give up control of professional development and the thought that we always know best what our teachers need.  We must understand that the vast majority of our teachers want to improve themselves because they know that when they learn new skills, techniques, strategies, etc., and when they share we can all reap the benefits.

That’s why we are in this business of education … to help our students learn and grow and gain new knowledge and skills.   That’s what it’s all about.  It doesn’t matter if you teach Pre-K, 3rd grade, algebra, or world history.  The goal is for the students to know more at the end of the year than they did at the beginning.  The goal is also for teachers (and for me as an administrator) to keep learning and learn more every day.

I also know that there are teachers in all schools (and administrators too) who think they already know everything there is to know about their subject, their grade, and what their students need.  These are the teachers (and administrators too) who do the same things every year at the same time every year.  These are the teachers (and administrators too) who think all students (and teachers) are the same and they will learn it or do it “my way” !!!

These are the ones we need to reach.  We need all teachers (and administrators) on the same page and able to admit that we don’t all know everything there is to know.  We need to learn from each other.  Teachers can not only teach their students, they can teach their fellow teachers, and they can also teach their administrators as well.

We are all fortunate to have those superstar teachers on each of our campuses.  We must take advantage of their skills, their knowledge, their desire to learn and teach.  If we do this, each of our schools will be a better place.  Each of our teachers will be better and more able to teach.  Each of our students will be able to learn and grow and become more knowledgeable.

We all have those teachers who are constantly learning.  And you know what, they don’t save their “learning time” to that first week back from summer break — The Staff Development Week.  To them learning is fun.  But it’s more fun when they are in control, when they have a choice, and when they are given the freedom to learn on their own terms.

So this summer, here is the challenge …. read, learn, and share.  Lets all learn from each other and make ourselves better.

Reflection

Take some time now that the school year is over for REFLECTION.  What area(s) of professional growth do you want to pursue over the summer so you can use next school year?

This is one area that all of us can improve on. We need to be a positive example for everybody in our schools and in our districts, an example not only for the other professionals but also for the students. When you model learning, the students can begin to value learning more. This will only help to make our schools better.

learn grow

Summer is a perfect time for all of us to reflect on our own practices, our own teaching styles, our classes we’ve always taught, our willingness to accept and embrace new challenges and to take on more responsibility in our own professional growth.   All the while understanding that the educational system we’ve all grown so accustomed to has  changed, our students have changed, and that we must begin to change our views as well (even though we are all reluctant to do so).

This challenge is for all of us …

  • reflect
  • read more
  • learn as much as you can
  • reflect some more
  • plan
  • adapt
  • apply
  • grow

Reflect.  Grow.  Be better tomorrow.

 

 

Be Great

Every day in schools, many decisions are made that will have a huge impact on student achievement.  After all, student achievement is our main focus.  The decisions we make determine if we have progress and growth or keep the status-quo.  If we decide to keep doing as we always have, then we won’t have progress.  We won’t grow.  This is not good!

So what does it take to move forward?

It takes vision.  Leaders who don’t have vision will get left behind.  It takes courage.  Leaders without courage will get left behind.  But it also takes a team.  A team with the same vision and courage.  A team that doesn’t want to get left behind.  A team that wants to move forward.

So what are great teams doing?

Great teams are connected.  They have created their own Personal Learning Networks (PLNs) thru Twitter and other social medias.  Administrators, teachers, and other school personnel are now giving and receiving high quality professional development on a daily basis.  This not only benefits the individual, it benefits everyone…students, parents, the entire community.

Great teams are collaborating with others all across the country and even from other countries.  They used to close their doors and just do their own thing.  Now they’re are reaching out to others and sharing ideas.

Members of great teams are taking risks.  “If it works … awesome!”  If it doesn’t, let’s make adjustments and try again.”  This has to be the mindset.  No longer are they doing the same things they’ve done every year.  What is happening is the teachers and administrators are experiencing a refreshing new attitude, one that the students see and will respond to positively.

This year let’s take our schools to another level.  Get connected.  Collaborate.  Take risks.

Be Great.

social-media

As I was sitting in the drive-through line at our local don’t shop this morning, I began reading a blogpost from Eric Sheninger called Relationships are Everything, http://esheninger.blogspot.com/2017/01/relationships-are-everything.html , and it got me to thinking about my own story involving using social media.  I use social media but I am by far, not a pro at it. 

This is my story….

I’ve been a principal for 16 years now at three different schools.  At my first school, social media was just getting started but most people, including me, didn’t participate.  After a few years as social media grew, I knew about some of it, like MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter, but I still didn’t participate. 

At my second school I had a superintendent who was dead-set against us using any forms of social media at school, even really in our personal lives.  There was in incident at either our Jr. High or our elementary school and a parent got really upset at something (I don’t even remember what it was).  She BLASTED the school and our superintendent on Facebook.  From that point forward, he referred to Facebook as “The Evil Empire” and he thought there was nothing good that could come from social media, so he really was against it.

It was during this time that I attended a conference in the summer of 2012 and I joined Twitter.  I went to a session and the presenter showed us how she used Twitter as a way to learn.  This was something that was a way for me to expand my own learning opportunities, so I signed up at the end of her session.  She showed me how she looked at someone’s bio, looked at who they were following, and read some of their tweets before she started following them.  That is what I did as well.  Soon, I had built up a pretty good group of people I was following and at the same time, many people started following me. 

I went back to my district and shared what I was doing on Twitter.  I got many of my teachers involved but the other administrators were slow to follow.  Remember, my superintendent thought of Facebook a “The Evil Empire” and he really never got on board with what I was doing with using Twitter as my personal learning network, my PLN.  He did allow me to start a Twitter account for my high school but warned me that if there was anything negative that came from it, I would have to delete the account.  I could use Twitter but NOT Facebook.  In reality, very few of the parents at that time followed us on Twitter.  They were all on Facebook so our communication efforts via social media were very limited.  I eventually started a school Instagram account, so I was able to have Twitter and Instagram but still no Facebook. 

I eventually took a position at my current district and in talking with my new superintendent, he was agreeable to me using Twitter, Instagram, AND Facebook.  He said just to be cautious.  At this time, I was familiar with Twitter and Instagram but not Facebook.  I didn’t even have a personal account, so I got signed up.  I started my own personal Facebook account and also one for my school.  At this time, my school had Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook accounts.  My district did not have an account on any of these nor did the other two schools in my district.  I kept telling them how much of a benefit it is and how we were reaching more people and sharing information and good things that were happening in our school and that they should really get started doing this.

Now our district and all three campuses have Twitter and Facebook accounts (my school is the still the only one who currently has an Instagram account) and this has been very positive for our schools and district.  Even my previous school district still uses social media and even has given in to “The Evil Empire” and began using Facebook.

My personal use of social media has changed a lot since I started being connected.  I have been able to learn from many other administrators from all of the country and the world.  Not only have I been able to learn more, I have been able to learn more of what I wanted to learn.  Rather than just going to a workshop or conference and just keeping all the information to myself, I am able to share with others.  I can learn from others and I can share with others. 

I have a system on how I use social media.  I use Twitter for professional learning and I use Facebook just socially and for fun.  I will share some personal stuff on Twitter, but not very often.  For my school, I am able to connect my Twitter account to my Facebook account so I can just post one time and it posts to both.   When I first started doing this, I would post to Facebook first then is automatically posted to Twitter.  I have since switched this and post to Twitter first and it posts to Facebook automatically. I got this idea from my superintendent.  By posting to Twitter first, when we tweet and have a photo with it, that photo will show up on the Facebook post as well.  When we posted to Facebook first the photos would not show up on Twitter until you clicked on the link.  And I still use Instagram but not as often. 

My goal is to better utilize all forms of social media.  I have a Snapchat account both personally and for my school but I don’t use it.  I keep asking my daughter to teach me how to use it, but she doesn’t want to help me.  I am also going to begin to utilize YouTube for my school.  This is what I am working on now.  Stay tuned.

Since I began my journey into school administration, a lot has changed.  Unfortunately, there are those who do not want to change with the times.  These are the ones who will get left behind.  We must all be open to the new as well as being able to stick with what is working … just making it better.  My social media journey has been fun.  There is something out there every day to learn, videos to watch, new recipes to try, old friends to find, and much more. 

The Benefits of a PLN

Posted: June 8, 2016 in Uncategorized

For all teachers, administrators, and educators everywhere … (this post was updated from a previous post I had written a few years back)

We all know that professional development and professional growth is important; however, the truth is that many times we get a one-size-fits-all approach to PD that just doesn’t work for everyone.   A few years ago I had a group of teachers meet to discuss Personal Learning Networks and the importance of building their individual PLN – Personal Learning Network.  This way, teachers can be in charge of what they get so it works for them.  And they can also be in charge of what they give so they can help others as well.

PLN

 

Here’s what some of them had to say about PLNs …

“PLNs are a “must have” for teachers … sharing ideas for class projects with lessons accessible through technology.  Technology is our future, now.”

“PLNs – The opportunity to set my own agenda for what is relevant, useful, and important to me.  Also, to steal every good idea I come across and to share the few I periodically have.”

“I’m always looking for new ideas or a better way.  Personally, I’m not very creative, but I can mix and match from other teacher’s ideas and create something that suits my needs.  There is so much out there as far as technology, and I do not have the time to sample everything but PLNs will be the time saver. We can all be of benefit to others.”

“My PLN will be beneficial to me.  We are living in a time where “time” matters.  Kids want things to be automatic – and so do I.  The more information I can have in one click, the better off I am.  This can help me learn new ways to learn as well as teach what I learn.”

Taking charge of our individual professional development is the way to go.  In this day and age, we have access 24/7 (Twitter, Pinterest, etc.) to all sorts of information  and things we can learn and share.  No matter where you are in the world, there’s always someone available to answer questions and share ideas about what works (and sometimes what doesn’t work) in schools and classrooms.  It used to be that we had to rely on just a few people within our districts to do the “Staff Development” for everyone in the district.  Now it’s not that way anymore.

You can start your own PLN today with just getting together with one other person who is like you and wants to share, collaborate, and grow to become a better person.  And then you can find another person, then another, then another …. Now that’s taking charge of your own learning !!!

And when we learn, it benefits the students. That’s what it’s all about.

common sense

 

COMMON SENSE — using good sense and sound judgement in practical matters

Good Sense!   Sound Judgement!   Practical Matters!

All it takes is to think a little bit before doing something that questions whether you have any common sense at all.

Think!  Just a little!

I know some really smart people who lately have have shown a real lack of common sense and I am somewhat at a loss for words as to why they do what they do.  It is a shame because there are so many people who have such a strong distaste for education, educators, and schools today.  You are just adding fuel to their fire.  There are many reasons why people feel this way, but I’m not here to get into that debate.  However, what I can do is give you just one reason why.  It is simply because for some reason something was said or done that defies all logic and shows such a lack of common sense. And because of this, all the good that we’re trying to do in our schools becomes overshadowed by the negativity that comes from lacking common sense.

I’m not here to offer any psychological answers as to why this is.  What I am here to do, however, is to issue a challenge:  THINK !!!!!

  • Think about how your actions will affect your students.
  • Think about how your actions will affect your colleagues.
  • Think about how it will affect how people will think about our schools.
  • Think about the example that you should be setting.

Please!