Building Empathy…Changing Behavior…More Questions than Answers

Man it feels good to watch these letters and words appear on the screen. It has been way to long since I have been able to share my thoughts and learn from you. In all honesty, I have many thoughts or potential posts in the “que” but I have either not taken the time nor found the time to articulate my thoughts well enough to post them. I am reflecting. I am making notes. I will share. I promise, I will…

So, why this one? With so many thoughts just waiting to be shared, why did I decide to share this one? I suppose that answer is an easy one. Complete transparency…I am sharing and writing about this because I do not have the answers. In fact, I have more questions than I do answers and I am turning to you, my readers, my PLN, to help bring clarity to my thinking.

If you have spent any amount of time in education, you realize you spend 90% of your time dealing with 10% of your students when it comes to addressing unwanted behaviors. In fact, it may get to the point where you feel all you are doing is addressing “the behavior”. While it may feel that way, the reality is, the majority of students are meeting…or in many cases exceeding expectations and we simply are not paying enough attention. How do we fix that? How do we spend more time focused on the positive, moving away from focusing on the unwanted?

I realize the unwanted behavior, if unaddressed can quickly interrupt the learning experience of the student exhibiting the unwanted behavior, but as we know, the unwanted behavior also interrupts the learning experiences of other students who are simply bystanders, trying to do their best to maximize the opportunity in front of them. Keeping in mind, the relentless pursuit many teachers embark upon in attempting to do their very best to instruct all students, balance behaviors, implement accommodations, work to strengthen relationships & keep parents informed of progress (or lack there of) well knowing the behaviors of the few can negatively impact the instruction/success of the majority. So, how do we address the unwanted behavior in an attempt to change it?

Traditional practices would suggest the unwanted or undesirable behavior be stopped or redirected. Got it. Easy enough. A teacher can redirect behavior, change a seating placement, provide engaging activities and even activities that empower students, but what if the behavior does not change? A parent conference can be scheduled. Teachers can collaborate with other teachers and brainstorm ideas to implement within the classroom. Plans can be put into place. The plans can be positive (which I prefer), the plans can have input from the student (prefer this as well), the plans can be catered to meet the student’s specific needs. Mentors can be assigned. Counselors can be utilized. The list can go on and on. What if all of this does not work? At some point the positive behavior supports wane and consequences turn from positive to negative and words like suspension begin to enter the conversation. In-school, out of school…alternate school setting. Yep. All forms of suspension. Does it work? I suppose it depends upon the individual student and their needs. Does it work for all students? I know that answer. No, it does not work for all students. So, what do we do?

At some point over the last nine to ten weeks, I had an epiphany. We keep running our students through all of this well intended “stuff” to address behavior, but we are not addressing the root cause of why our students are doing what they are doing. They are serving their time or doing what we ask and then we are sending them back to class as if they should “have it figured out”  or we think things will change. What we are forgetting as the adults is “for things to change, I must change.” I wonder, “Is the cause of the student’s misbehavior linked to something they may not completely understand?”

Do students understand empathy? Have we provided them with the supports to do so?

How do we grow and develop a student’s ability to be empathetic? How do we get students to feel? How do we get students to feel how someone else is feeling? Do students realize their undesirable behaviors make other students feel a certain way? If they did, would they continue to act in that way?

I told you I have a lot of questions. I am seeking some answers. I am not one to sit around and just wait for the answers to come to me. I am actively seeking out answers on my own and I hope you will contribute to my thinking. Familiar with restorative practices? You may be, but what I am finding is that most educators are not. There is a lot of research out there behind the effectiveness of restorative justice or restorative discipline in schools and guess what key word is positioned at the center of this research? You got it. Empathy.

As I have learned more about restorative practices and met with colleagues within my district and within my PLN who are also interested in learning more about how we can develop empathy within our students, I am beginning to see how this may change the narrative on school discipline. Less referrals. Less suspensions. Maybe, no suspensions at all. The sky is the limit with restorative discipline.

Have you ever participated in a restorative circle? Whoa. Powerful. Talk about getting to know your students. Restorative circles immediately take me back to my college psychology class and Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. As a campus we are ensuring the physiological needs are met, we ensure students are safe and create environments that allow them to feel safe. A restorative circle can reinforce learning in a safe environment. Students feel loved and cared for when they are listened to and a restorative circle provides an opportunity for students to be heard. Earlier I asked, How do we grow and develop empathy? The next level of Maslow’s Hierarchy is “esteem”. Using the visual to the left, the respect of others is a key ingredient of empathy. How do we make students aware of the respect they are showing others? We have to take action. We have to do something different.

Are you ready for your first circle?

Sit your class or small group of students down in a circle and use a talking stick to provide one participant the opportunity to speak, while reminding the others they need to listen. Then provide an open ended question about how students are feeling…

How did you feel when you walked into the building this morning after the weekend?
How do you feel about not being in school over the weekend?
How do you feel…

If you are looking for questions and need something more concrete, try these if you are experiencing challenging behavior within your classroom:

To Respond to Challenging Behavior
What happened?
What were you thinking of at the time?
What have you thought about since?
Who has been affected by what you have done? In what way?
What do you think you need to do to make things right?

To Help Those Harmed By Other’s Actions
What did you think when you realized what had happened?
What impact has this incident had on you and others?
What has been the hardest thing for you?
What do you think needs to happen to make things right?

See how these questions shifts the focus from a me versus you to a focus of empathy? These questions also remove the accusatory tone used when discussing behavior with students and give a voice to those who may have been impacted by other’s actions.

While circles can be used to discuss a specific incident, circles can also be used to develop community, address a concern or to just check-in with your class. While I still consider myself a “rookie” in this practice there are a couple of takeaways I can share after completing just a few restorative circles.

Shifting the conversation from “Why did you do that?” to “How were you feeling when…?” is a game changer for students. Ask a student “Why did you do that?” and nine times out of ten you receive an “I don’t know.” Of course they do not know. If they knew why they did it, they would probably not do it. Ask a student “How were you feeling when…” and the response is completely different. Through my brief experiences, students have shared a plethora of feelings, often times sharing feelings completely unrelated to the direct event, as something made them feel a certain way and this “thing” was a result of unresolved emotions. Insightful. It not only allows me as the educator to learn more about the student but students are learning about one another. Guess what? Empathy is increasing. Mine included. If we do not think empathy in educators needs to be checked, we have another think coming. The first thing to go when a student acts out in “my class” is empathy.

We think “How dare he do that?”
We think “Does he know whose class this is?”
We think “I am the teacher. I will show him?”

How often do we think, “I wonder how that student is feeling?”

Empathy.

You know what it takes to build empathy?

Time.

You know the one thing we never feel we have enough of?

Time.

Now compound that by working in a high needs, Title I building where each minute we are not working with students is a minute lost. Who has time to lose when we are trying to support students in scaling a mountain? After all, they have a test to pass at the end of the school year. Who has time to spend on developing empathy? (These questions are smeared with sarcasm…but we know there are educators who are asking these questions.) 

How do we shift the mindset?

While I do not have the answers to many of these questions, I do know this. We better find the time to develop our students’ empathy. Our students, our future depends on it. We must be raising a generation of students who have empathy for one another. We must raise students who understand their actions not only impact themselves, but they also impact others and not always in a positive way. I believe we find time for what we value. The key will be leading people to understand the importance of valuing empathy.

Where do we go from here?

I am going to keep refining my restorative practices. I will continue to facilitate restorative circles with students and yes, I will have some teachers participate in them as well. We will start small…subtle changes here and there. Is there a silver bullet? I believe there is. It is the time we spent developing empathy. Easy? Not a chance. Necessary? Absolutely.  I have a million questions and I have yet to find the million dollar answer. Maybe one of my readers has it, but I will not hold my breathe. We will continue to put one foot in the other, knowing that continuing to do what we have always done, will give us what we have always got.

I am ready to approach behavior in a new, transformative way.  I am ready to bring restoration to our students, teachers, classrooms and community.

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Are you transforming the way you approach behavior in your classroom, school or district? I hope you will take a moment to share what you are doing. Share what has worked. Share what you have learned. Share where you have failed along the way. Hopefully, by sharing your failures and successes I, along with others will be able to learn from you and share.

Do you have resources you have learned from? Please share them below.

Here are a few I have collected and am currently using:
Restorative Questions: http://store.iirp.edu/restorative-questions-cards-pack-of-100/
Restorative Practices Handbook: http://store.iirp.edu/the-restorative-practices-handbook/
The Little Book of Restorative Discipline for Schools: https://www.amazon.com/Little-Book-Restorative-Discipline-Schools/dp/1561485063
Better Than Carrots or Sticks: https://www.amazon.com/Better-Than-Carrots-Sticks-Restorative/dp/1416620621

Are there people online I should be learning from?

I learn from:
@RyanBJackson1
@SSchweikhard
@Mr_Braden
@brittainka
@momentous
@edutopia
@RJCouncil
@RestoraCircles
@iirpGradSchool

Who are others?

Take a moment and share your answers in the comments below.

See You Later

This past week I was able to spend two and a half days learning from some of the sharpest and brightest principals throughout the state of Texas as we concluded our year long principal’s institute through @n2learning. When I started this year long journey, consisting of six learning sessions, I had been told from past PIs (principal institute participants) how great of an experience this would be and how this would be the best professional learning experience I would ever have. You know what? They were right.

The wisdom I gleaned from interacting and getting to know principals, central office staff and superintendents from across the state of Texas was eye-opening and at times overwhelming, but more important than the knowledge I acquired, the networking and lasting relationships that have been established will carry me farther than even the wisest lesson I learned. You see, the principals selected to participate in this institute were not your typical principals. These PIs were not the quiet, conformists who do what they are told. These PIs rock the boat, do things differently and push the boundaries of what public education could and should be. These are the principals you want to learn from, these are the principals you want to work for and alongside of and these are the principals I am honored to call my colleagues and friends.

As I reflect on the last year’s worth of learning alongside these amazing building leaders, I find myself recalling three reminders that served me well:

  • The smartest person in the room, is the room. 
  • You must go slow to go fast. 
  • If not you then who, and if not now then when?

The Smartest Person In The Room, Is The Room

Let’s face it. I am just one person. Yes, there are times I like to think I have it all figured out (which I do not) and yes, there are times I admittedly need support from colleagues. The room is a powerful thing. What I have learned this year is that you have to let the room know who you are, be willing to share what you know with the room and be willing to learn from others in the room. The collective wisdom within the group of principals I worked along side this year (otherwise known as PI5s) was humbling. I learned to ask questions and gain insight. I learned to listen to their feedback.  I learned to make connections with colleagues allowing the room to be available to me 24 hours a day & 7 days a week through this powerful professional learning tool, called Twitter. Check it out! 😉

You Must Go Slow To Go Fast

@Roz_Keck our facilitator from @n2learning reminded us of this often. As we gathered for sessions and heard from incredible speakers such as Alan November, @Globalearner,  Dr. Rob Evans, author of Seven Secrets of the Saavy School Leader or George Couros, @gcouros I wanted to run back to  campus and share all of the great things I learned right away, but in the back of my mind I could hear Roz repeating, “You must go slow to go fast.” Yes, there were some things I could share right away, but building a culture of change or what we referred to as organizational transformation takes time. This shift does not happen over night and coming back excited and on fire can make the change process that much more difficult. After all, just because I was excited about it, does not mean others would be. It wasn’t until I was introduced to The Backwards Bicycle and this image that I better understood change and how teachers in my building took to change. There is a reason we need to go slow to go fast, but this image reminded me there may be a percentage of my teachers who are ready to go faster than others and those innovators and early adopters are there to help support the transformation.

If Not You Then Who And If Not Now Then When

“Those Of Us Doing If Differently Are Changing Education”

Former Superintendent and @n2learning partner Dr. Kathy Bryce would always share these inspiring words of wisdom as a call to action. We as public educators are quick to let our voices be heard when we do not agree with a policy or decision made by someone who may work above us or sometimes even at the state level, but at the end of the day, we are not always ready to be the change we are wanting to see. This call to action is a reminder that we cannot wait around hoping others change for us. If we want something to change, we are the ones who need to make it happen. If we wait around for others, how long will we be waiting? I have this image as the header on my Twitter account and each time the phrase “if not you then who and if not now then when” is shared it reminds me of the work we are doing and the change that is necessary for our students to be empowered learners. The risk we take to do it differently, while not always popular is blazing a trail for others to follow and making a positive impact in the lives of students who deserve education to change.

If you are interest in learning more about the change I am speaking about and the work done by past and future principals through the Texas Principals Visioning Institute, click here to review the work in the visioning document. I will warn you, it may just make you a better leader, teacher, educator & learner.

To my PI5 cohort, who taught me more this year than I would have ever dreamed, thank you. You challenged my thinking and your wisdom, friendship and inspiration will continue to serve as motivation to be brave enough to do things differently and challenge the thinking of others. We are just a tweet, email, text, phone call or vox away. To quote a line from one of my favorite actors, Denzel Washington, in the movie John Q, “It’s not good-bye…see you later.” 

My Moment – Day 50 – What & How

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 was able to spend the day with some of the sharpest leadership minds in my district as a part of the Plano Leadership Visioning Institute. As our time concluded, we were presented with the two questions:






What did you hear, read, think about today that will impact what you do on your campus? 

A critical friends group…do you have one? Do you have a small group of friends, whether it be professionally or personally that you can call upon to make you better? This article was shared with me today, “Critical Friends Group: Catalyst for School Change“. If you are an educator, take a moment and read this. I know we have PLCs, Vertical Teams, Focus Groups, Grade Level Teams and a bevy of other teams in schools across the country, but regardless of what you title it, the work done in those groups typically focuses around a larger cause. It focuses on the direction of a campus or a team, supporting a larger mission/vision. What if you could work on a smaller team that just made you better at being you….in this case, making you a better teacher?

As plans for the 16-17 school year take shape, I am interested in finding those “early adopters” who want to improve, who want to be better teachers and who have established a growth mindset. I am interested in finding teachers who are willing to be uncomfortable or work outside the box in order to connect with other teachers either in our building or in other buildings and share their teaching practices, seek feedback, give feedback, receive feedback and take what they are given to improve their practice. In identifying the volunteers, we will have established our first critical friends group, who will be able to help one another grow professionally, improving their practice and positively impacting the students they serve.

What did you hear, read, think about today that will impact how you do things on your campus? 

If you know me I am super competitive, so throwing down a challenge is something I rarely pass up. I was able to participate in a Tool Box Leadership activity today by picking a toy from the list below:

Jenga
Twister
Potato Head
Slinky Dog
Yo-yo
Play Dough
Legos
Green Army Men
Rubix Cube

Our group picked the Jenga game and jumped right in. As each of the members of our small group took a turn, it was apparent some of us felt more comfortable than others in removing a piece. Each of us took a different approach as we analyzed our options. As the game progressed the moves became harder to make, needing to spend more time thinking about the moves and the consequences of making each one. Sometimes the piece needed a little nudge, while other times you just moved the piece without hesitation, because you knew it was the right thing to do. Other times you wanted to consult with your peers making sure you were on the right track.


Sounds a lot like leadership, right? How do you approach being a leader? I would imagine many of the approaches we took in trying to conquer our Jenga game are applied by leaders…or they should be.

Great leaders take risks, collaborate with others and understand that some pieces play a larger role than others, but each of the pieces is integral in the overall success of the large whole. One misplaced piece can upset the balance, which can lead to a collapse. While keeping a solid foundation allows you to continue building upon what you started.


The leadership lessons or takeaways from today’s Jenga game will remain our  “how” as we continue to transform learning at Sigler Elementary. We must keep in mind that each decision made, impacts the next one and it is OK to take the time we need to think through each of our decisions, aiming for our decisions to lead to further growth, building on the foundation, as opposed to a total collapse. 

What was your moment today?

My Moment – Day 49 – Connections

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 have previously shared moments about the power of being a connected educator. 

As my PDAS conferences are winding down, I have been using a part of my time with teachers to discuss my work with #TXPVI (which I have previously as well). A large part of the work revolves around the idea of transformation and changing the way we approach our instructional methods. To guide the transformation on my campus, we have been using Alan November’sTransformational 6“. I find these six questions deep and powerful when it comes to truly integrating technology to strengthen instruction across our campus. 

As a part of our discussion, I sent out the six questions prior, having the teachers choose which one resonates with them and then share how we can begin addressing the question with their current practices. I believe George Couros calls that moving a teacher from their point A to their point B.  

My conversation today involved a teacher who would interested in learning more about question #4:

Are there opportunities to broaden the perspective of the conversation with authentic audiences from around the world?
The teacher shared a little bit about the units of study they had been working through and the literature that accompanied them. The students in her small reading group had recently been reading about rural areas, specifically in Thailand and Argentina. She also shared they had a unit coming up that would focus around a variety of different sporting events with pieces of literature that would match. 
She had done her research and share two links with me, that I am interested in learning more about. They are iearn & Around the World with 80 Schools. Are you familiar with either of these? I would love to hear your thoughts? 
Knowing she was interested in connecting her students with students in two specific countries, we sent out the following tweet, including some of our connected colleagues. 
Before our conversation had ended, the tweet had been retweeted and responses were beginning to come in. 
We found a possible connection and then even a resource that may lead to additional connections. 
Later in the day, our friend Mandy, even offered to look up a Google+ Community for us to invest in more connections. 
Top top it all off, the connection that was recommended to us, @gret happened to reach out and let us know she is interested in helping. 
Listen, these types of connections happen! This is a perfect example of the power of being a connected educator. One tweet, sent from an office in Plano, TX, made it’s way to Argentina in a matter of a couple hours. 
The connections are there, just waiting to be made. All it takes is someone who is willing to open their mind, acknowledge they are taking a risk and know they are doing so to provide experiences to students, that otherwise would not exist. I am excited to see how this connection will “broaden the perspective of the conversation with authentic audiences from around the world.” 
Our students deserve this! Stay tuned. 
What was your moment today? 

My Moment – Day 40 – Surprisingly Awesome

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.

While listening to Google Play Music over the weekend, I stumbled across an advertisement for a podcast, titled, “Surprisingly Awesome”. OK, stumbled across is a stretch…fact is I am cheap and haven’t purchased the add free version of Google Play Music, so I stumble across ads regularly. 

“Surprisingly Awesome”, which you can read more about here, takes everyday or otherwise “boring” topics and turns them into something…you got it, “surprisingly awesome”. I just started listening, but the first podcast was about mold and the second is about free throws. Other topics include concrete, Tubthumping, interest rates, broccoli and adhesives. I think we would all agree, these topics do not scream “listen to this podcast now” but admittedly so, I listened and learned about mold for over thirty minutes today. In the intro, to the podcast Adams Davidson and McKay state the objective is “trying to convince each other that something that seems like it might be really boring is actually really awesome.

Now, place yourself in a classroom…as a student. How many times do students enter classrooms and feel as if what they are about to learn is boring? If students feel it is boring at the beginning of the lesson and feel the same way at the end of the lesson, are they really going to be able to apply their learning? Nope. It’s boring! 

Whose responsibility is it to ensure the content students need to engage with is not…boring? Is it the students’ job? Sure, we hope they enter the classroom with a mindset to learn. We hope students enter with a mindset to explore, apply and create based upon what the learning target is for the day. We are kidding ourselves if we think that is just going to “happen” for all students. We as educators, must make the learning meaningful. We must make the learning “surprisingly awesome”. 

Fractions, history, writing and yes, even reading for some students may be defined as boring. I do not like hearing that as a principal, but the fact of the matter is, some students find certain content areas or areas they are not interested in…boring. 


It is our job as teachers to turn what starts out as boring into something “surprisingly awesome”. How can we engage students who must learn about fractions, history, writing and reading and make it awesome for them? It is not doing it the way we have always done and it is not about doing it in a way that works for us. We must demonstrate a growth mindset as educators and think outside of the box. We must find ways to make the learning experiences awesome for students so that at the end of our lessons, what started as boring for students is “surprisingly awesome”. 

I would love to hear how you turn boring into “surprisingly awesome” in your classroom?

What was your moment today? 


My Moment – Day 36 – Learning Is a Process

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 have never been the type of person to test the waters on something before committing. I am all or nothing. I jump right in. I “refuse to conform to social trends…”. In other words, I like to do things differently. Depending on who you ask, that can be a desirable leadership trait or one you may not fancy. Interested in reading more about me…check out this article, “People Who Wear Crazy Socks Are Smart, Successful and Revolutionary”

This week is #eweek2016 or Engineer’s Week and we are jumping right in. Students in our learning commons have been working on a collaborative project that will culminate as part of our open house for parents on March 3rd. We have identified the theme for our open house as “Siglerland”. Students have been using a science TEK across each of the grade levels that incorporates Force, Motion and Energy. The idea is that students will use the design process to create a ride, game or experience that would be seen at an amusement park. While each of the grade levels has a specific TEK or learning target, ALL students are working on the same project in the learning commons. They are creating a six hole mini-golf course using Spheros as the . The idea was inspired by a tweet posted by Dr. Brad Gustafson or @GustafsonBrad

Check out his Vine: https://twitter.com/GustafsonBrad/status/666280715265421314 


Over the last two weeks, our students have been working on their mini-golf course. I did not have any expectations going into this project and the only frame of reference I had was what I had seen on the Vine posted above. After two weeks of work, here is what our students have created so far. Thoughts? I certainly had mine. If I am being completely honest, looking at these compared to the examples that were shared in the Vine (linked above) from an aesthetics stand point, we are coming up a bit short. However, Siglerland does not open until March 3rd. 

I have kept a closer eye on the students working on the mini-golf course holes over the last week or so spending a moment or two observing students working and my perception has changed completely. We jumped into this work with two feet. We are all in. Using this and a couple other classroom projects between now and the end of the school year our students are going to be exposed to PBL and the design process…really, our teachers are too. Spending a few moments observing, I have noticed is that PBL and the design process are messy. There is a key word that I failed to recognize when I arrived at my first thought…process. After all, this is why we want our students involved in PBL and the design process, right? The product may not be flashy and it may not even be fully functional, but the process students are going through to arrive at the product is more valuable than what they will showcase next week. 

Let this soak in…our grade levels, made up of anywhere between 3-5 sections of classes, have come down to our learning commons, one class at a time and have collaboratively researched, imagined, planned, created, tested and evaluated, and improved a design. A design that in some cases, was not theirs to start with. We are talking about 5-11 year olds. Do you realize the restraint some students show, in not scrapping the prior idea and starting over completly, so the idea belongs to them? Instead, our students have improved or redesigned, making an original idea better. 

With the grand opening of Siglerland just over a week away, I am excited to see our students’ products on display, but more importantly, I am proud of the process they have worked through. Regardless of what the final product “looks” like, I am excited to hear our students explain the process they went through to arrive at their product. I want to hear what did not work. I want to hear what did. I want to hear what they would do differently. I want to hear about the process. 

Thankfully, learning is a process and I am continually learning what our students are capable of when presented with the opportunity. 

Learning is process and in this moment…it was a design process. 

What was your moment today? 


My Moment – Day 32 – Moonshot

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.

What is your “moonshot”? 

If you are a staff member at Sigler Elementary, you have heard me say “I am ready to do school differently.” I mean that. I have written about it before. (See My Moment Day 8) When I say, “I am ready to do school differently”, I am not talking about changing the master schedule or changing how we approach guided reading or math instruction. I am talking about organizational transformation. 

I have commented on more than one occasion, the work I have been involved in with the Texas Principals Visioning Institute (#TXPVI) which you could say is doing the work at a macro level, in comparison to the work I am involved in with Plano Leadership Visioning Institute (#PLVI) which instead of administrators from across the state of Texas is comprised of administrators from my own school district; a micro level. 

By definition, we define organizational transformation as not about changing one thing; it is about changing the culture or mind-set on the campus where what students and teachers are doing is different. 

That is a loaded statement…changing the culture or mind-set on the campus where what students and teachers are doing is different. 

Doing what is different is not always popular. Sometimes doing what is different is so far out there that leaders who desire to transform organizations can be viewed as…well…”a little crazy”. With no disrespect to those with the opinion that I am “a little crazy”, it is going to take a “little crazy” for us to do things differently. 

Today, as leaders from across my great district were sharing their vision for how they are going to do things differently, some shared with a reservation in their voice or a hesitation of “can we really do this”? Our facilitator picked up on the questioning of ourselves and asked if we had heard of the word, “moonshot”? To her surprise not a single one of us had, so we looked it up with the help of our friends at UrbanDictionary.com


I literally spent the rest of my day answering the question, “What is my moonshot?” Everyone in education should have a “moonshot”. We teach our students to dream big and set goals. This is our example to model having big dreams and setting goals with our students. Share your “moonshot”. 

I am not ready to post my “moonshot”. I am still working through how to capture it in words, but what I do know is that “my moonshot” will be epic and I know it will be something that changes the culture or mind-set on our campus where what students and teachers are doing will be different. 

Can you articulate your “moonshot”? Share your “moonshot” in the comments below. Be EPIC! 

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:

Matt

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? 

Now Hiring

Our staff conducted a survey at the beginning of the school year that reviewed our professional practices. We covered it all. We surveyed culture and climate, instructional practices, professional learning, collaboration and yes…hiring practices. What we discovered was that our core interview questions “as written” were not the type of questions we wanted to be asking the next generation of teachers for the students and families at Sigler Elementary. I firmly believe we should be hiring teachers that will help us reach our full potential. This means hiring teachers that are unlike the teachers we currently have. Now, there is nothing wrong with the teachers we have…in fact they are amazing. But…if we continue to hire exactly what we already have, will we evolve? Will we change? Will we improve? I appreciate the perspective new teachers or veteran teachers, who are new to a building bring to the campus. New perspective can help challenge status quo.

I have had the opportunity to sit on hiring panels when interviewing potential assistant principals, and one of the questions we ask is, “What is the most important responsibility of being an administrator?”Answers range from student safety to developing relationships to being an instructional leader. All of those answers are great. You could make an argument for each. In my opinion, the most important responsibility I have as a building leader is recruiting, hiring and retaining the very best teachers.

In order to recruit and hire the best teachers, I need our interview questions to evolve so we are asking potential teachers questions that reflect the teachers we want working with and for our students, teachers and community. Once we have have hired them, the retention piece is up to us.

Here is where you come in! I wish this idea was my own, but with many ideas in education, one person has it and the rest of us steal it, so in the spirit of transparency, I am stealing this idea. Last week, George Couros led a session at TCEA (Google Tools for Admin.) and in the midst of this session, he shared a Google Doc with those in attendance, which of course was tweeted and retweeted enough times to travel around the world twice. At least! The purpose of this Google Doc was to “collect some inspirational videos on teaching and learning”. I am not sure about you, but I know I have searched You Tube an endless number of times, looking for just the right video, but come up short, more than once. I know where my search will begin now. Thanks to this Google Doc. Check it out!

Now, back to where you come in. I need your voice. I need your experience and I need my PLN. As we work to reinvent the interview questions we ask, knowing we are trying to recruit and hire the very best, what interview questions are you asking? What interview questions have you asked? Let me know! As we begin to refine our questions, we may just use yours!

Use the link below to submit interview questions you have asked or have been asked that you feel help recruit and hire the very best teachers.

Click Here to Contribute Your Interview Questions

My Moment – Day 24 – 3 Questions

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 message via Twiter today from a teacher within my PLN who was pitching an idea she wanted my feedback on. After she shared her idea, she posed the following questions: 



“Wouldn’t that help build capacity in our teachers?” 
“Better together, right?”
“Would you be on board?”

Those three questions…I have been thinking about them since seeing them this afternoon. I completely respect this member of my PLN and am honored that she asked me for my input. I was inspired by her challenging the status quo. 
As I have had some additional time to reflect on her idea and even now as I am starring at the three questions she asked me, I am thinking, This teacher gets it! 
“Wouldn’t that help build capacity in our teachers?” 

This is the essence of leadership right? Building capacity within our teachers. Growing our people. It is a responsibility I fully embrace and recognize it cannot be done solely by the campus principal. Yes, I play a huge role in building capacity, but I appreciate this teachers stance. She recognizes the teachers as “our” teachers. Not mine and theirs, but ours. This question is one I need to ask myself daily. I would like my teacher leaders to ask this question daily. “Did I help build capacity in our teachers today?”
“Better together, right?”

You ever try to create a plan, articulate a vision and walk that vision out daily? On your own? How did that work out for you? I know it would not work out very well for me. This teacher is spot on. We are better together. This past week at #TCEA16, Steven Anderson shared, “You may be sitting next to the smartest person you don’t know.” We must do this work together. If we bring teachers together, knock down the barriers (aka…school walls) and allow teachers to collaborate with like minded individuals, we WILL be better together. No doubt about it. 

“Would you be on board?”

Absolutely! I would hope that would be the emphatic response from all school leaders. As a building leader, I feel a tremendous amount of pressure in trying to get people on board with ideas. Sometimes the ideas are mine, sometimes the ideas belong to someone else. At the end of the day, it is not about who had the idea, it is about who has the best idea. 

This teacher presented an idea that will without a doubt, be transformative, build capacity in our teachers and bring great teachers and great practices together, making us all better. You bet I am on board. 

Let’s do it! 

What was your moment today?