Seeking Input…Ask Your Customers

This week I posted the the following tweets:

These 2nd and 3rd grade students used some of their in-house currency or what we call “starbucks” to purchase “lunch with the principal” from our school store. While scheduling these lunch dates, is often a challenge, it is a challenge I am willing to overcome, every single time. It is so insightful, spending an uninterrupted thirty minutes of time with students, discussing, sharing and laughing about what ever it is that comes up. 
So, why do I eat lunch with students? Selfish reasons of course…
It would be easy to make a list, but the one reason that may go unnoticed is possibly the most important one. I am seeking their input. They are our customers. Through natural conversation, I have a series of questions I ask students, taking notes on the pro’s, con’s and changes that may need to be made. 
What is one thing you will miss the most about (enter grade level)?
What is one thing you are looking forward to in (enter grade level)? 
What do you want us to add or consider adding to our school/school assemblies?
What do you want us to remove or consider removing from our school/school assemblies?
What do you want me to know as the your principal?
What do you like the best about Sigler?
As I begin to brainstorm ideas or changes for the upcoming school year, I want our students to have a voice in the process. This is a start. I use them as a sounding board. 
What would you think about…?
What would you say if…?
The positives of seeking input…your customers or in this case our students, feel as if they have a voice. They feel as if they are being heard. The same can be said about the teachers when I seek their input. I know what our students are thinking. I know what they will miss. I know what they are looking forward to. I know what they appreciate and what they could do without. 
The drawbacks…if you consider criticism a drawback, (I do not) be prepared to hear the truth. Sometimes when I ask questions or seek input, I may not be ready for what I may hear. I need to get ready. I may not want to hear what they have to say, but if I listen carefully I will find opportunities to make our great school better and I can be come a better leader too. 
As you reflect on the current school year and begin to make plans for next year, seek input…ask your customers. Teachers, ask questions of your students and parents. Administrators, ask questions of your students, teachers, staff and parents. Ask them how you did. Ask them what you did well. Ask them what you can do better. 
Be sure you are seeking input…ask your customers. 
What was your moment today? 

My Moment – Day 42 – Life Sized Heroes

If you have not gotten a chance to read my blog about my #oneword for 2016, check out Enjoy the Moment.

As I mentioned in my blog, my #oneword is a call to action for me to be mindful of the moments that make up my day. The moments at home, the moments at work and the moments that happen in between.

I received a text message today from a 3rd grade teacher that read, “You need to come check yourself out down here. The girls out did themselves.” The 3rd grade students were working on people they admire and who possess hero qualities. 

Of course, I did my best to make my way down to the 3rd grade hallway to see the work our students had done. There, standing next to Albert Einstein, sharing a hallway with Clara Burton, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Ruby Bridges was Me! 

Look closely at the detail these children put into their heroes. There are two specific details that I love about their version of me. Well, actually three. Normally when students draw pictures of me, they fail to get the hair right. They love to remind me that I do not have much on the top of my head. In this case, I believe they nailed it! The two details that really got me…and I mean really got me were my “daily planner” and the notebook I am carrying in my hand.  

Look closer at my daily planner. These young ladies broke my day down and did it well. They included morning announcements, conference times, a school assembly and were kind enough to let me have a snack before leaving at 1:00PM. A day ending at 1PM. Love it! Notice the notebook in my hand? What you cannot tell from the picture is what is written in the notebook. The handwritten notes, in the notebook, are letters from students, sharing the kindest of words, about me. The honest notes from students nearly brought me to tears.

The most humbling part of the moment I had in 3rd grade today? These girls consider me and their teachers heroes. When I look up the word hero, it is defined as: a person, typically a man, who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities. What an honor. I associate the word hero in my life with my parents, grandparents and other people who have influenced me and helped in molding me into the person I am today. The idea that students hold me in the same regard reminds me how awesome our responsibility truly is.

I do not wake up in the morning to be a hero. I wake up in the morning to be a positive influence in the lives of our teachers and our students. I wake up in the morning to encourage and inspire teachers and students to be the greatest version of themselves. I wake up in the morning to be the one who can listen when teachers and students need someone to do just that…listen. A life sized hero? Never in my wildest dreams.

What we must realize as educators is that our students do see us as heroes. Students do admire us. They grow up wanting to be us. They see us as courageous. They see us as being noble and they see being a teacher as an outstanding achievement. We make a difference in the lives of our students, each and every day.

At the end of the day…we are all life sized heroes!

What was your moment today?

My Moment – Day 28 – Animal Control

If you have not gotten a chance to read my blog about my #oneword for 2016, check out Enjoy the Moment.

As I mentioned in my blog, my #oneword is a call to action for me to be mindful of the moments that make up my day. The moments at home, the moments at work and the moments that happen in between.

At the end of the work day, I always call my wife and let her know I am on my way home. Today was no different. I put my bags in the car and ventured north, knowing I had about 30 minutes to reflect on my day. As my wife and I exchanged moments that made up our day’s, she shared we had a visit from Animal Control. I was a bit taken back, as we do not own any pets, but she continued to share that a gentleman from Animal Control had knocked on our door to serve us a disturbing the peace ticket, for what was apparently a loud barking dog. Someone had filed a complaint, using our address citing a loud barking dog. It took our son, Cooper, who is 4, to set the gentleman straight, by telling him, “We do not have a dog pet. We do not even have any pets.” Taking Cooper at his word, the gentleman from Animal Control apologized and let us know to disregard the letter we would be receiving and he was on his way. Clearly an honest mistake…I hope. 

As I got off the phone, I couldn’t help but wonder, how many times do I, as a leader head into a situation without the full story. Much like the gentleman from Animal Control, how often do I knock on a teacher’s door with a predetermined outcome in mind, without knowing all of the facts? How often do I enter a conversation with a student, after only hearing one side of the story? I know it happens. I am guilty of it. I am led to think it happens because its easy. It takes time to listen, investigate and remain neutral through the process until you have both sides of the story. 

Earlier today a group of teachers and I were finalizing a plan for an upcoming professional learning session at school. As we worked through questions we wanted to ask and outcomes we were seeking, I reminded our team to presume the positive. Frame questions with the presumption teachers were already taking using these strategies and could contribute to the conversation as opposed to presenting as if no one was implementing the strategies and had nothing to share.

How could this same approach work with students? The next time a situation is brought to my attention, presume the positive. Give both sides of the story a chance to be heard. Listen to both sides intently before coming to a conclusion and making a decision. Too many decisions are made without taking the time to fully listen. 

We are in the throws of February. The dog days of summer, minus the summer. Patience is thin and stress is high. I know I will be doing myself a favor in presuming the positive. It helps me slow down. It reminds me to listen and it helps me gain perspective from all parties involved before jumping to conclusions and potentially making a poor decision or a decision I may regret. 

Don’t be the Animal Control gentleman who shows up ready to write a ticket but has all the wrong information. 

What was your moment today? 

My Moment – Day 26 – Leading Up

If you have not gotten a chance to read my blog about my #oneword for 2016, check out Enjoy the Moment. 

As I mentioned in my blog, my #oneword is a call to action for me to be mindful of the moments that make up my day. The moments at home, the moments at work and the moments that happen in between.

Leading Up. Have you heard of this term? As a building leader, growing the capacity of teachers and staff on my campus is a top priority. I grow capacity through asking questions, through listening, sharing experiences, sharing resources, such as books or articles I have read and by supporting our teachers unconditionally. That all sounds great, right? It’s not leading up. 
Leading up is the opposite. Leading up requires asking questions, listening, sharing experiences, sharing resources, such as books or articles with those in positions above you. (Yes, your boss or supervisor can learn from you…and they should.)

Leading up is powerful! I welcome it! I love learning from our teachers. I would be a fool to think I know more than them. I am just one person and we have a large staff.  Fact of the matter is, it is not about who knows more, it’s about how well we can learn together and from one another.  

As I walked into work this morning, I noticed an article that was shared with me by one of our teachers in the mailbox outside my door. It had the following note attached to it:


Thought of you when I saw this since you introduced me to Kid President. 

In the moment I thought, “that was nice of her to share that” as I placed it on my desk and carried on with my day. 

I didn’t pay much attention to it. I wonder, how many times do I share things that do not get paid attention to? My unsolicited two cents…if I share something and one person learns from it, it was worth it. I hope more check it out, but I realize some will set it aside. Some set it aside and never look at it again while others set it aside until the time is right. 

As I sat down at my desk, at the end of my day, I noticed the article I had haphazardly sat aside and was reminded of the term leading up. It was what this teacher was doing. She was sharing and being the lifelong learner I am, I chose to read it. 

If you are a fan of Kid President you will appreciate this article.

Here is the link to the article:

Morale of the story, lead up! Never be afraid to share your thoughts and ideas with those in positions above you. Leaders in the highest of positions can afford to be inspired and engage by those who work along side of them. 

Thank you teacher for sharing and thank you teacher for leading up! 

What was your moment today? 

My Moment – Day 20 – Applause

If you have not gotten a chance to read my blog about my #oneword for 2016, check out Enjoy the Moment. 

As I mentioned in my blog, my #oneword is a call to action for me to be mindful of the moments that make up my day. The moments at home, the moments at work and the moments that happen in between.

In the midst of back to back conferences in #ATX I managed to actually find one day at the end of last week to be on campus. You can read more about my day back by checking out My Moment Day 19. During a whirlwind of a day, I noticed a teacher that I could tell, was not having her “best day” at work. Despite my attempts to brighten her day, it was clear, she was defeated and just was not herself. Later in the day, she made her way by the office and we were able to talk for a moment about what was on her mind. The success of her students weighed heavily on her and a small group of her 4th grade students had just taken a quiz on fractions. Needless to say, the students did not do well. She was frustrated. She shared her thoughts with me and I did my best to listen to her concerns. She had tried teaching it in a number of ways. She taught using ways that allowed the students to be able to visualize the fractions, discuss fractions and use manipulatives with fractions and felt as if, based on the unit, students had an understanding of the concept. Evidently she was wrong. I hate being wrong. Who doesn’t. The good news, she realized work was yet to be done. After some reflecting, I knew she would return with a new plan and be ready to approach fractions in a different way on Monday. As she left we discussed some different approaches she could possibly take that may allow students to understand fractions. 

The weekend came and went and here I am, back in #ATX (Austin, TX) for #TCEA16. In the middle of my day, a brief moment in between sessions, I received a text message from the teacher referenced above. She had spent the weekend reflecting and came back stronger than ever. She came back with a mindset to change and approach fractions differently with her students. No worksheets, no workbooks, and new manipulatives. LEGOS! I love legos and guess what, students do to! If you look closely, students are working on equivalent fractions using Legos. It is not exactly how the curriculum was designed, but if students can make the connection using Legos, why not? 

 I applaud this teacher for a couple of reasons…

1. She recognized her first attempt in teaching a concept was unsuccessful. It is not always easy to admit or recognize that what we did as professionals did not work out. Again, who hates being wrong. We want to be right. We want things to work the first time. However, when they do not, how will you respond? This teacher responded with a new approach to teaching a topic she knew students were struggling to understand, she did not give up. 

2. She took a risk. She is using Legos to teach math, more specifically teaching fractions. How many teachers are willing to teach fractions with Legos? Teachers today need to be willing to do it differently. The workbook is not going to get it done. A worksheet is not what students want to do and if they do not want to do it, will they really learn it? I do not think so. 

Being completely honest and transparent, the students demonstrated an understanding of fractions today, but the true test will come when they return to school tomorrow and demonstrate the same understanding. If they do, hats off to the teacher for trying something different and finding something that worked. If they do not, then what? Do we quit trying and just move on or do we reflect and come back the following day, stronger than the day before? I know what my answer is, but what is yours? 

When teaching gets tough and the ideas we have or the curriculum we teach does not promote the success we seek, what do we do? Do you keep going or do you continue to find the moment? 

What was your moment today? 

My Moment – Day 19 – Sharing the Story

If you have not gotten a chance to read my blog about my #oneword for 2016, check out Enjoy the Moment. 

As I mentioned in my blog, my #oneword is a call to action for me to be mindful of the moments that make up my day. The moments at home, the moments at work and the moments that happen in between.

Feels good to be home…even if it was for one day. 

Sandwiched in between the Texas Principal’s Visioning Institute or #TXPVI and the Texas Computer Education Association Conference or #TCEA16 I returned home for one day on campus. Ever been on campus for two days, returned for one, before leaving for three more? That is the challenge I find myself in right now. 

Well knowing I had limited time on campus, I was in extreme “get it done” mode today. I answered emails, conferenced with staff members and teachers, sat in on parent meetings, returned phone calls, showed visiting teachers around our building discussing AVID, ate lunch with a student who had purchased the opportunity to do so from our school store, competed in a #mathfactchallenge with all of our @SiglerStars3rd grade students and just “caught up” with students and teachers I had not seen since Tuesday. I LOVE MY JOB! It was an awesome feeling to just go, go, go today. 

In the midst of my “get it done” mode, I happened to sit down at a table our parents use when they come and eat lunch with their children. (They eat with their children just outside the cafeteria.) It was no coincidence I sat down with this particular parent, as earlier in the week her daughter, a former Sigler student, had come back from middle school with her teacher and friends, to share their experiences with our 3rd-5th grade students about middle school and AVID. I wanted to share how proud I was of her daughter, which somehow led to a conversation about when her son would be able to eat lunch with me. We have a couple different ways students can eat lunch with the principal, which this mom was aware of and which her son, who was sitting with her was aware of as well. He had yet to have the opportunity, and as a 4th grader he felt as if he was running out of time. I pulled up a chair and continued to talk with him and his mom about all things Sigler. We talked about her younger children, my son, July birthdays, September birthdays and how I was retained in Kindergarten. (Another story for another day) 

As I was about to leave, mom shared her thoughts about our campus activity on social media. What mom did not know was that I am finalizing a presentation for #TCEA16 titled “Connecting Your Campus & Community Using Social Media”. She was sharing the exact message I wanted my audience to hear next week. I completely interrupted her and asked if I could record her sharing why she loved our social media presence. She said of course and now I have an awesome video testimony to share with my attendees next week at #TCEA16. It was perfect. The funny thing is, if I had not taken the #moment to sit down and speak with her, I would have never known what she was thinking. I would not have had the opportunity to listen and I would not have been able to eat lunch with her and her son. I would have completely missed my moment. 

The moral of the story…we all go through seasons of being off campus and I am in the midst of that right now. It does not matter if you only have a day or an hour, take the time to listen to your people…teachers, parents, students and staff. They all have a story and sometimes, if we find the right moment, the story they share will help the story we are trying to deliver. 

What was your moment today? 

My Moment – Day 14 – No Matter What

If you have not gotten a chance to read my blog about my #oneword for 2016, check out Enjoy the Moment. 

As I mentioned in my blog, my #oneword is a call to action for me to be mindful of the moments that make up my day. The moments at home, the moments at work and the moments that happen in between.

I walk up and down the halls of Sigler Elementary often, going to and from, talking with students and teachers, doing walkthroughs and delivering messages, but today I found myself walking up and down the hallway, just listening. As I walked down the hallway with no other purpose than to listen, soaking up the sounds of teachers teaching and students learning, I walked past a teacher who had stepped outside her classroom to speak with a student in the hallway. As I walked closer, I could not see who the student was, but I could clearly see the teacher. As I got closer, I started noticing the teachers body language; bent down, looking the student in the eyes and leaning in, towards the student ever so slightly. It was obvious, this conversation had nothing to do with behavior. It was a conversation between a teacher and a student about something so much more. I wondered what could be going on, what could they be talking about, and then as I passed by, purposefully keeping myself out of their conversation, I heard it. I heard a phrase that every student should hear from their teacher. A phrase that proves #relationshipsmatter. As I passed by, I heard the teacher tell this student, “No matter what, I want you to know, you can always tell me anything.” 

This teacher gets it. This teacher stopped her instruction to remind this student that #relationshipsmatter. She has a connection with this student. A relationship that goes beyond teacher and student. The student trusts her. 

The demands of public education are higher than ever, but never forget “students do not care how much you know, until they know how much you care”. 

What was your moment today? 

My Moment – Day 13 – It Takes a Spark

If you have not gotten a chance to read my blog about my #oneword for 2016, check out Enjoy the Moment. 

As I mentioned in my blog, my #oneword is a call to action for me to be mindful of the moments that make up my day. The moments at home, the moments at work and the moments that happen in between.

According to Albert Einstein, insanity is the act of doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different results.

Ever feel like you are insane? Education as a whole likes to make things sound different, dress them up in fancy acronyms or alter an instructional approach to make it seem better, but at the end of the day, the approach we take is still exactly the same.  As my #leaduptribe mate Neil Gupta would say, “You can put lipstick on a pig, but it is still a pig.”

I wrote in Day 8 that I was ready for a change and asked the question, “Who is Coming with Me?” I continue to have conversations on campus about what exactly this transformation will look like and what I am discovering is more folks may be ready than I expected. 

Today, I was able to sit down and have a conversation with a staff member about where we may be heading. We talked about PBL, we talked about the Texas Principal’s Visioning Institute and we talked about Alan November and his book, Who Own’s the Learning. At the end of the day, we both agree that our students need to own their learning. We want students to embrace opportunities. We want them to wonder, ask questions and be curious. We want all those things, but do we allow them to happen? I recalled a guided reading lesson I was able to sit in on earlier in the day in Kindergarten. I could not help but notice the excitement these five and six year olds had. They were excited to read and they were excited to learn. They wondered. They made connections. They asked questions. It was amazing to sit back and observe how happy they were. Where does that go? What do we do to students to make that go away? As the teacher and I continued to talk about what this transformation would look like, I was reminded about the barriers that may exist. Who may or may not be ready for change? How will this change impact students on state testing? How will we roll this out? What will the expectations be? Each of the points raised were valid questions. My #leaduptribe would refer to these questions as “friction”. Do not be mistaken. Friction can be a good thing…in fact, a great thing. The “friction” allows for leaders to see all angles; consider all options and work through these potential obstacles before they become barriers to change. 

As my time with this staff member came to a close, I was fired up. I get very excited thinking about what education “could be”. My moment came when I received an email later in the day from the staff member who I had spent time with. 

“I also believe that we cannot continue to do exactly what has been done in the past if we want different results.  I really believe that when we take the time to reflect, research, learn new things, and share successes, we will find the right balance.”

I am not naive. I know change is hard. I know it does not happen in an instant and I know you cannot turn your back everything you know, to just “try something new”. With the mindset captured in the statement above, I am reminded of the quote, “It only takes the smallest spark to ignite the fire inside of us. Then everything becomes possible.” 

Here’s is to celebrating the #moment when everything becomes possible. 

What was your moment today? 

My Moment – Day 7

If you have not gotten a chance to read my blog about my #oneword for 2016, check out Enjoy the Moment. 

As I mentioned in my blog, my #oneword is a call to action for me to be mindful of the moments that make up my day. The moments at home, the moments at work and the moments that happen in between. 

Grades! To be honest, I am not a huge fan. A lot of the work we do with students in grades 3rd-5th on my campus is done in a small group setting. The work is done following an I Do, We Do, You Do model and grades quite frankly do not always tell the story of how successful students are or are not being. I say that, yet out the other side of my mouth, I will tell you that I still print out a “honor roll/failure” list at the end of each nine weeks to see which students are “making the grade” and which students are not. Yes, it provides an opportunity to have conversations with teachers about who is doing well and who is not doing so well, but shouldn’t I be having those conversations already? Of course we should be; and we do. You know who I need to be talking to about the grades? The students. I do not do that enough. 

Today I did. I took a #moment. I took my reports and made my way around the campus today talking with students about their grades. What you need to know, is my conversation was not near as much about the number as it was about the effort. The effort! Isn’t that was really gets the grade to begin with? It is not about how much you know or how little you know, it is about the effort you put forth, how much you learn in the process and then how you can apply that learning in a new way. 

Through the conversations today, students would openly admit. “I was not doing my best.” “I need to focus more on my homework.” “I have already talked with my teacher and parents about this and we have a plan.” I was not worried about the number on the page or the grade it represents, I could careless. I want to know that students are giving their best. I want their best each day. I want them to work hard, I want them to overcome and I want them to understand, whatever obstacles they face, the minute they walk in the school doors, those obstacles stay outside. While they are at school, they are safe, they are able to succeed and when they give us their best…THEY WILL.

Educators around the country spend hundreds of thousands of dollars attending conferences, listening to speakers share stories of triumph. Listening to speakers share personal struggles they faced as a child and share how they were able to overcome those struggles and find success. I want my students to realize they can be the ones on the stage. They can be the ones sharing their stories of triumph. They can be the ones inspiring us all, because they did it. They refused to let their story, become their excuse. Their story, became their success.

That’s my #moment. I spent the day letting our students know their story can be worth sharing…if they want it to be.

What was your #moment today?

Enjoy the Moment – Day 5 – Listen

If you have not gotten a chance to read my blog about my #oneword for 2016, check out Enjoy the Moment. 

As I mentioned in my blog, my #oneword is a call to action for me to be mindful of the moments that make up my day. The moments at home, the moments at work and the moments that happen in between. 

Friday. Friday at the end of the first week back in 2016. There was something special about this Friday. Today was the day, students in each grade level had a pizza lunch with the principal. 

Prior to our winter break, we held a school wide assembly as we do at the conclusion of each of our nine week periods. During the assembly, we draw names of students (two from each grade level) that will be awarded the opportunity to eat pizza with the principal. I know there are some diehard “I believe in intrinsic motivation” folks out there, but just hang in there with me. ALL students have an opportunity to have their name drawn for our pizza lunch if they choose to make a purchase from the school store and ALL students can choose to make a purchase. 

I have been looking forward to the pizza lunch since the beginning of the week. I am able to sit down with 12 students, two from each grade level KN-5th grade and two selected staff members are able to join us as well. We eat pizza, we ask questions and most importantly, we enjoy the #moment. 

I secretly take advantage of the time together and use the student group as a sounding board to help give me a student perspective of how they feel things are going around campus. They tell me what they like. They tell me what they do not like. They tell me what they wish they had more of. They tell me what they wish they did not have to do. Do you ever take a #moment to ask these types of questions to the students in your classroom or on your campus? 

The last question I asked the group of students today was, “What is one thing you want to do at school in 2016 that you did not get to do in 2015?” 

– more activities with electricity
– more hands on math activities
– more science experiments
– football at recess (our students play a lot of soccer)
– learn my letters (an up and coming kindergarten student)
– wider variety of after school sports clubs (currently we offer soccer)
– win the spirit stick during the nine week assemblies 
– gymnastics club
– karate club
– learn 5th grade music (from a 1st grade student with a 5th grade sister)
– play more instruments with students (music teacher who is currently using a ukulele with students)
– create volcanoes
– win the science fair

What an amazing list! If you study that list, does it tell you anything about the interests of our students? How much more could we learn if we just took a #moment to really listen to our students. 

What was your #moment today?