Archive for the ‘Collaboration’ Category

Wednesday

Today is Wednesday, January 13, 2016, and today was “one of those days” !!!

It started off good, went bad, then ended up good again.  Notice that there were two positives to only one negative so that pretty much sums it up.  The positive outweighed the bad today, so I’m not going to talk about the negative here.

Last week when we returned from our Christmas Break, I met with my faculty and staff and we discussed a few things, one of which was an “idea” I had.  One of my goals is to get my teachers to get together more so they can learn from each other.  This is not a new idea at all.  It’s done everywhere …  on Twitter, in libraries, in cafeterias, in teacher’s classrooms.  Everywhere except at my school.   Not really … that’s an exaggeration.  It does take place at my school in pockets, on a small scale.  And often times, it’s done begrudgingly.

What I want to do is have a day once a week where my teachers get together and share ideas with each other. I decided on Wednesday after school — 3:45 in the library.  I told everyone on my campus about it last week.  This week I sent an email to the Jr. High and Elementary teachers and invited them to come.

This is what I said about the Wednesday Learning Opportunity (the name I made up):

What it is–
  • Learn from each other
  • Share ideas
  • Discuss Articles/books
  • Use of Social media
What it not —
  • Gripe session
  • Mandatory

I knew that I didn’t need to force this on them at all, so I made sure to put that it was NOT mandatory.  I still had one teacher ask me if she had to come!  Again, I said that is was not mandatory.

So today, before I went to bus duty, I stopped by the library and got the computer and projector set up and wondered if anyone would show up.  I was curious and told myself that if no one showed up today that I would try again next week, and then again the next week if I needed to.  In reality, I thought to myself that the “Not Mandatory” part of it would offer a free ticket for them not to come!  After all, the first question I got about it was from a teacher asking if she “had” to come!!

While at the bus stop this afternoon, I got an email from an elementary teacher letting me know that she wasn’t going to make it because she had a sick child at home, but that she would be here next week.  That was cool.  Somebody wanted to make it today but just couldn’t.  And I knew that I would have at least one person next week.

So as the last bus leaves at 3:40, I make my way to the library.  I walk in and to my surprise there are 11 teachers, 1 counselor, 1 assistant principal, and 1 superintendent.  That was 15 people (including me) getting together to talk, ask questions, and share ideas.

Not a bad way to end the day.

TodayWasVeneer_1024x1024.jpg

Hand holding a Social Media 3d Sphere

To begin with … I am, and have been, a supporter of social media.  I have been on Twitter since June of 2012 when I went to the Texas Association of Secondary School Principals Summer Workshop in Austin and went to a session on using Twitter as a tool for personalized learning. I talked to my teachers about it and many of them have also joined in and use Twitter on a regular basis for their own learning and sharing.  I also use Instagram to share pictures and information, mainly because most of my students use it, and I wanted to be able to get information to them as well as show off the good things that are happening at our school.  I do see the value in social media !!

However, I have not ever been on Facebook even though I knew it was the most widely used form of social media. The superintendent at my previous school would not allow us to have a Facebook account for our school (he called it The Evil Empire), so I just didn’t worry about it for my school or for myself.

Facebook

I have been contemplating getting on Facebook for a while now, not really personally, but for my school.  I think we have done a fair job this year of reaching parents, but I knew it could be better.  I got with one of my teachers the other day and she talked me through creating a personal Facebook account so I could then create a Facebook page for our school. After doing this, I linked it with our school’s twitter account so now when I post on Facebook, it automatically posts on Twitter. That was one benefit … one post goes to two places, but the main benefit so far has been the ability to reach so many more people.  To be honest, I was really amazed and pleasantly surprised.  In just a few days of my school being on Facebook, we have tripled the amount of people who we reach and that are able to get information.  Now more people can see all the good things that are happening at our school.  It is important that we tell our stories of all the good things that are happening in our schools because many people never hear about the good … they only hear the bad … and if that’s all they hear, then that’s all they think is happening.  People thrive on the negative, but I want to spread the positive.

So with that, I am now officially personally on Facebook and I am a little shocked.  It amazes me not only the sheer number of people that are on Facebook but also how much time people are on it as well as the amount of information that gets posted.  I have used Twitter as a tool for my own learning and then occasionally I would share something that is just useless random information.  But with Facebook, I will have to get used to people putting every bit of their personal information out there for people to see and read about.  And I will have to caution myself to not do that as well.

Being on Facebook for these last few days has really opened my eyes even wider to the value of social media and the ability to reach so many people.  It also has reminded me to be wary of the pitfalls and that we should exercise some caution while connecting in the world of Facebook.

And to anybody who is my friend on Facebook, please be patient with me as I am still learning.

This post is taken from Jon Gordon’s weekly newsletter, Positive Strategies to Fuel Your Life and Career.

 

Jon Gordon's Weekly Newsletter

 

While watching the Oscars I noticed that almost every award winner said they couldn’t have done it without their team, family, and the support of others. The fact is no one achieves success alone. We all need a great team to accomplish great things. We are at our best when we are surrounded by those who want the best for us and when we are bringing out the best in others. In this spirit I want to share 9 ways to be a great team member.

1. Set the Example – Instead of worrying about the lack of performance, productivity and commitment of others you simply decide to set the example and show your team members what hard work, passion and commitment looks like. Focus on being your best every day. When you do this you’ll raise the standards and performance of everyone around you.

2. Use Your Strengths to Help the Team – The most powerful way you can contribute to your team is to use your gifts and talents to contribute to the team’s vision and goals. Without your effort, focus, talent and growth the team won’t accomplish its mission. This means you have an obligation to improve so you can improve your team. You are meant to develop your strengths to make a stronger team. Be selfish by developing you and unselfish by making sure your strengths serve the team.

3. Share Positive Contagious Energy – Research shows emotions are contagious and each day you are infecting your team with either positive energy or negative energy. You can be a germ or a big dose a Vitamin C. When you share positive energy you infectiously enhance the mood, morale and performance of your team. Remember, negativity is toxic. Energy Vampires sabotage teams and complaining is like vomiting. Afterwards you feel better but everyone around you feels sick.

4. Know and Live the Magic Ratio – High performing teams have more positive interactions than negative interactions. 3:1 is the ratio to remember. Teams that experience interactions at a ratio equal or greater than 3:1 are more productive and higher performing than those with a ratio of less than 3:1. Teams that have a ratio of 2:1, 1:1 or more negative interactions than positive interactions become stagnant and unproductive. This means you can be a great team member by being a 3 to 1’er. Create more positive interactions. Praise more. Encourage more. Appreciate more. Smile more. High-five more. Recognize more. Energize more. Read more about this atwww.FeedthePositiveDog.com

5. Put the Team First – Great team players always put the team first. They work hard for the team. They develop themselves for the team. They serve the team. Their motto iswhatever it takes to make the team better. They don’t take credit. They give credit to the team. To be a great team member your ego must be subservient to the mission and purpose of the team. It’s a challenge to keep our ego in check. It’s something most of us struggle with because we have our own goals and desires. But if we monitor our ego and put the team first we’ll make the team better and our servant approach will make us better.

6. Build Relationships – Relationships are the foundation upon which winning teams are built and great team members take the time to connect, communicate and care to build strong bonds and relationships with all their team members. You can be the smartest person in the room but if you don’t connect with others you will fail as a team member.(Tweet This) It’s important to take the time to get to know your team members. Listen to them. Eat with them. Learn about them. Know what inspires them and show them you care about them.

7. Trust and Be Trusted – You can’t have a strong team without strong relationships. And you can’t have strong relationships without trust. Great team members trust their teammates and most of all their team members trust them. Trust is earned through integrity, consistency, honesty, transparency, vulnerability and dependability. If you can’t be trusted you can’t be a great team member. Trust is everything.

8. Hold Them Accountable – Sometimes our team members fall short of the team’s expectations. Sometimes they make mistakes. Sometimes they need a little tough love. Great team members hold each other accountable. They push, challenge and stretch each other to be their best. Don’t be afraid to hold your team members accountable. But remember to be effective you must built trust and a relationship with your team members. If they know you care about them, they will allow you to challenge them and hold them accountable. Tough love works when love comes first. Love tough.

9. Be Humble – Great team members are humble. They are willing to learn, improve and get better. They are open to their team member’s feedback and suggestions and don’t let their ego get in the way of their growth or the team’s growth. I learned the power of being humble in my marriage. My wife had some criticism for me one day and instead of being defensive and prideful, I simply said, “Make me better. I’m open. Tell me how I can improve.” Saying this diffused the tension and the conversation was a game changer. If we’re not humble we won’t allow ourselves to be held accountable. We won’t grow. We won’t build strong relationships and we won’t put the team first. There’s tremendous power in humility that makes us and our team better.

Twitter-icon

Last summer at the TASSP Summer workshop I attended a session on Twitter.  I created a Twitter account during that session and that started me on the path to where I am today.  Now, one year later, I am going to present three sessions on using Twitter to build your PLN (Personal Learning Network).  Up until that point last summer, I relied on others for my professional development, but since then, I have been learning something new almost daily … and it’s been on my own terms.

I would like to acknowledge a few people who I have found through Twitter.  They have shared some resources that I will use during my presentation this week, and without being on Twitter, I would never have been able to find this information as easily as I have.  They are a valuable resource for me, and I am very grateful to each of them for the part they have played in helping me grow as an educator.

Thank you …

  1. Eric Sheninger – @NMHS_Principal – Twitter Resources, Apps, and Tools
  2. Daniel Zeevi – @DanielZeevi – Twitter 101: What is Twitter Really About
  3. Leland Rechis – @leland – Introducing Fast Follow, and Other SMS Tips
  4. Jerry Blumengarten, AKA Cybraryman – @cybraryman1 – Cybraryman’s Internet Catalogue
  5. Tom Murray – @tomascmurray – and Chad Evans – @cevans5095 – Google Doc — Weekly Twitter Chats
  6. Tony Sinanis – @Cantiague_Lead – Everything We Need to Know We Learned on Twitter
  7. Erin Klein – @KleinErin – Twitter for teachers: Erin Klein’s Awesome 10-Minute Video Tells All
  8. Jeff Herb – @jeffherb – How to Join Twitter
  9. Rita Clawson – @RitaClawson – Clawson’s Bloggity
  10. Sally Cariker – @carikers –Random Thoughts and Musings
  11. Jennifer Rogers – Technology Times in an E-Classroom

It truly has been an interesting year for me as far as my professional development goes.  I cannot stress enough how valuable of a tool Twitter is for educators, and I hope that more people get on board.  With Twitter you have access to thousands of teachers, administrators, and other educational professionals throughout the world.  There is no easier way to learn, exchange ideas and be in control of your own professional development.

If you haven’t begun to use Twitter to build your PLN, what are you waiting for?

Help Wanted

Before this school year started I did a session on using Twitter.  Some of the teachers that attended have really taken to using Twitter and have done a lot with it throughout this school year so far.  Others, though, for various reasons, have been a little more reluctant to take advantage of it.  It’s also no secret how many of my teachers feel about some of the professional development opportunities that have been forcefully made available to them in previous years.  In many instances, I feel the same way as they do.  That’s what is so great about Twitter.  It puts the teachers in control of their own professional development through the connections they individually make.

As a principal, my main job is to make sure that the teachers are effective in the classroom.  Effective instruction is the best way to increase student achievement.  Each one of my teachers has a unique set of abilities that helps them to be effective in the classroom; however, each one of them also needs improvement.  We all do!  Those teachers who think they don’t ever need to improve should get out of this profession!!  I’m extremely lucky.  I have a great group of teachers at my school that are willing to do whatever they can to make themselves better.

As a principal, another part of my job is to get my teachers the tools they need to be effective in the classroom.  This is where I am asking for your help.  I want to help my teachers make connections with other teachers.  In turn, they can meet other teachers who have the same passion for learning and self-improvement.  In turn, they can learn something new that they can use in their classes.  In turn, they can become better teachers and have more effective instruction.

Here is a list of my teacher’s Twitter handles:

ENGLISH LANGUAGE ARTS

 

Wright, Lesa @WrightLisa
Nixon, Shane @NixonCoach
Henson, Wendy @WendyHenson225
MATH
Jones, Jamesa @JamesaJones
Soper, Ze Ze @ZeZeSoper
DeLorme, Lily @LilyDeLorme
SCIENCE
Antes, Kerri @KerriAntes
Cariker, Sally @carikers
Brach, Vince @BrachVince
SOCIAL STUDIES
Touchstone, Keith @CoachTouch
Eudy, Jordan @JEudy24
Smith, Doug @smithd0710
SPECIAL EDUCATION
Montgomery, Kim @MontgomeryKim1
ELECTIVES
Anderson, AnthonyBand
@andersona54
Clawson, Rita — Art @RitaClawson
Coleman, Johnny — Ag @JohnnyColeman16
Jones, Roger — Ag @RogerJones2009
Evelyn Nieves — Spanish  @nievesetu
Mock, Amy — Family and Consumer Science @AmyMockL
Rogers, Jennifer — Technology @rogersjochs
Heflin, Nathan — Assistant Principal @NathanHeflin
 

If you are interested in making connections with them, please send them a message.  Post a link to an article and include their twitter handle.  Invite them to a chat.  Read their blogs and send them the link to yours.  Give their Twitter Handles to other teachers.  Re-Post this blog.

I appreciate your willingness to help me help my teachers.

Have fun making new connections!

Image

Today I attended a meeting today in regards to Career Tech courses and different certifications students can get to make them more marketable to employers.  One speaker was talking about Baby Boomers, those who were born between 1946 and 1964, and the fact that many are retiring or will be retiring soon and the jobs they had will need to be filled.  However, companies are having a hard time filling these positions because applicants in the workforce are not adequately prepared.

I think many schools have really messed this up!  Have we REALLY prepared our graduates for the “Real World” with actual skills that can help them be successful in a career?

The fact is that many, students today are not auto programmed to think that once they graduate from high school they will go to college, declare their major, graduate from college, and then get a good, high paying job.

Many of our students do not plan on going to college.  That is something that lawmakers in Texas seem to be beginning to understand and accept the fact that a one-size-fits-all curriculum in high schools today is not what is needed.  I am glad that these legislators are finally beginning to realize this.   We have to do whatever we can to help our students be prepared for life after high school.  This includes preparing students with higher-order thinking skills, problem-solving skills, communication skills, and collaboration skills.  Students don’t have to be in Calculus or Physics to get these.  This can be accomplished in Career Tech classes while the students, in addition to the fore-mentioned skills, also earn certifications that will help them be more marketable when they apply for a job.

We have the Baby Boomers (born between 1946-1964), Generation X (born between 1965-1980), Generation Y (born between 1980-2000, and now Generation Z (born between 2000 – present).  Society today is different and ever changing, but what has not changed much is our schools.  Many of our mission statements say something about “preparing students to be productive members of society, or productive citizens, etc.”  What are we really “preparing” our students for?  Does passing 15 End-of-Course tests prepare them for real life?

I can take tests

Career Tech classes are vital for everybody.  These are the students who we will call on one day to fix our air conditioners in August or our heaters in January.  These are the students who we will need to program a certain software application that will help our business run more efficiently.  These are the students who will one day take care of you when you are sick and in the hospital.  These are the students who we will call on one day when our vehicle messes up and we need it fixed correctly so we can get back and forth to work.  These are the students who one day will be working on a pipeline running from Canada to Texas.  These are the students who will one day build you a new house. These are the students who will be working on jobs that we haven’t actually thought of yet.

Our schools can’t stay where we are right now.  We must continue to look at our courses and look for ways to meet the needs of ALL of our students — those who go to college and those who go into the workforce.  Our students deserve our best efforts.

 

school design

Right now in Texas the Legislators are meeting and hashing out what changes they are going to make to public education.  We don’t know what will happen, but what we are sure of is that there will be major changes to the educational landscape in Texas.    In any case someone or some group will not be happy.   Here’s the big question, as I see it … as a result of this legislative session, will the students in the state of Texas be better off as a result of the actions of these Legislators?  That remains to be seen.

There are many arguments as to what our students really need.  Parents say one thing.  Business leaders say one thing.  Colleges and Universities say one thing.  Legislators … who knows?  See my point?

What do the students say?  That’s a great question.  Do they have a voice?  At one school in Massachusetts, they do.  In the following video, which is about 15 minutes long, we get an idea of what that answer would be.  I highly encourage you to watch it.  It really opened my eyes to the fact that, more often than not, we take our students for granted.  These students in this video could very well be representative of students in every state, and they should be given a lot of credit for taking control of their own learning.  And their principal should be given a lot of credit for having the guts to allow this project.

I would love for you to leave a comment and let me know what you think about these students and what could happen to education if we allow students to design their own schools.