Thursday, August 25, 2016

Does your Attire Inspire?

There's nothing I like more than dressing comfortably. I'll take cargo shorts and flip flops any day over a suit and tie.  Yes, dressing up can appear to be a trivial or even an unimportant part of any job, but it is important to remember why the way you dress is essential to your performance and your influence.

Does your Attire Inspire?

When deciding what to wear, the decision shouldn't be about you or even your comfort.  It should be about the role that your attire plays in motivating kids to learn, inviting your parents to be a powerful partner, and inspiring your colleagues to strive for excellence.  Think of your dress as your secret weapon.  It is your tool of influence.  It matters to kids and parents, and it matters an awful lot.  If you don't believe me, ask those around you if an educator's attire can raise the bar for students.

Here is a little poll that I did the other night to prove my point, and out of 67 random responses, the answer was pretty clear.

Whether you like it or not, your attire can elevate the expectations for your students. It can inspire kids to aspire for more.  It can influence parents to be your partner in learning.  Impressions matter and for some kids they matter more than you know.  For your struggling students, the way you present yourself may just be the one thing that convinces kids to stay in the game, and isn't that worth it.

Your influence starts with your appearance.  The better you look, the better you feel.  And the better you feel, the better you can appeal to your clients.  And when we appeal to our clients, they will buy the learning that we are selling each and every day.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

6 Tricks to Build Confidence in your Kids before School Starts

School is almost here, and that means one thing.  Kids are excited and stressed all at the same time.  They're excited about the newness that school has to offer and anxious about making sure they find the place where they fit in.  For new students, the stress, many times, outweighs the excitement.  For struggling kids, stress evolves into apathy, so we mustn't overlook students who seem disinterested in our school.  It may be just a front.

If we want all kids to learn at high levels, then we must remember that a sense of belonging precedes a desire to learn.

Before kids can find relevance and eventually rigor, they must have the right relationships with their teachers as well as their peers.  In order to do that, we must create schools and learning environments where they can leave behind their baggage of insecurities.  The statistics of adolescent stress point to a sad reality that learning and growth will always inhibited by insecurity.

This SoulPancake video illustrates what I mean.



6 Tricks to Build Confidence in your Students before School Starts
In order to help your kids learn at high levels, we must know students as people first and learners second.  Here are 6 things you can research to help your kids find their sense of belonging before school begins.
  1. Find out what strengths they have.
  2. Identify their areas for growth. (Weaknesses are areas for growth)
  3. Discover strategies that helped kids learn or behave last year.
  4. Avoid triggers that shut individual students down.
  5. Engage parents to determine the level of home support students will have.
  6. Verify which adults have significant relationships with individual students

If you took time to truly research your students in this way, there is a strong chance that you would have the information you need to start their year off with a sense of belonging but more importantly a sense of hope about their future.  If we want kids to grow in their learning, they must know, see, hear and feel that they matter.  We are the catalyst for that to occur.  Let's make the extra effort to build confidence in every kid this year, and let's start this process before the kids return to school.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

8 Ideas to Bring Teacher Joy "Back to School"

If you haven't hear Dean Shareski speak, you are missing probably one of the most powerful experiences in your life. Not only is he hilarious, but he surpasses the educational warm fuzzies with a practical ideas and a meaningful challenge to all educators to bring Joy back to school.

Bringing joy to kids begins with bringing joy to the adults in the building. 

Here are a few questions to make you think about bringing joy to the adults in your school?

  • How important is joy to the learning process?
  • What are you doing to bring joy to your staff?  
  • What are you doing to model joy as an essential part of professional development and adult learning?  
  • Does your "back to school" message start with joy or even include it at all?

Joy Accelerates Learning! 
If we want students to grow, it starts with making learning a joyful process for our teachers first. If teachers don't view their learning as a fun, interactive and exhilarating experience, there is a strong chance that the kids won't either. It is important to remember that student growth will only come with teacher growth; thus student joy comes with teacher joy. Furthermore we must always remember the following.

No teacher joy = No student joy. 
No teacher learning = No student learning. 

Bring Joy back to your "Back to School"
Here are a few suggestions to bring fun back into your "back to school" routine. 

  • Spice up your staff development with goofy competitions
  • Roll out the Red Carpet at Registration and get lots of pictures of teachers interacting with parents and students. 
  • Make music a part of your school. Pick positive and uplifting music and play it in the classrooms and in the hallways. 
  • Make an effort to give every teacher several fist bumps every day. 
  • Tweet out pictures of your teachers working together. 
  • Periscope professional learning and collaboration. 
  • Celebrate teachers who have gone above and beyond in their learning this summer. 
  • Lift up educators who have overcome obstacles or difficult situations. 
If we want learning to be a joyful experience for our kids, then it starts by making learning and working together a joyful experience for our teachers and staff.  Let's do it for them and in turn we will do it for the kids when they come back in the following weeks.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The 2 Approaches to Failure

The most embarrassing events in my life have been those that involved failure. Failure to pass. Failure to win. Failure to achieve. Failure to "you name it".

Let's face it. Everyone fails, but how you mentally approach and process the idea of failure is the ultimate reason why excellent people overcome it and mediocre people succumb to it. Talent doesn't beat failure. Tenacity does.

To beat failure you don't need to be great. You must have grit. 


We Always Have 2 Choices:
in how we approach and ultimately respond to failure.

We Can
With a Fix Mindset
With a Growth Mindset
Use it to
Define Us
Refine Us
Become
Fearful
Fearless
View failure as a
Permanent Result
Opportunity for Growth
Work
Harder
Smarter
Run
From It
Through It

Failure is not about what happens now.  It's about what happens NEXT.  What happens next will determine if we let failure limit us or if we will allow it to lead us.  Ultimately it is our attitude and our passion for personal growth that will tell us whether or not we will grow through our failures.


Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The Alignment of Competence

When you think about alignment in schools, what do you think of?  Most people think of curriculum. Now while curriculum alignment is important, I would strongly contend that it's not necessarily the most important. The reason why is quite simple.



Teachers deserve to work in schools where clarity is not only valued but developed with passion. And that makes sense. When teachers work in schools where clarity is defined and continuously refined, teachers thrive and students excel in learning.

How do We get Clarity?
The only pathway to clarity is alignment. In fact when leaders focus on systemic alignment of understanding from teacher to teacher and department to department, schools increase in effectiveness. Aligned understanding is the purest definition of clarity. 

What should Schools Align?
Schools must align everything that teachers have in common. To get started, here are just a few things that leaders should ask teams of teachers to align in order to create the most effective school for all kids. 


  • Knowledge in the Use of School Resources
  • Expectations for Learning and Behavior
  • Responses to Appropriate and Inappropriate Behavior
  • Common Language for Instruction and Expectations
  • Relationship Building Strategies
  • Engagement Strategies for Active Student Learning
  • Rigorous Questioning 
  • Response to Student Failure
  • Celebration of Success

If leaders provide teams of teachers the time and the structure to collaborate about the universal topics and actions essential to student success, there is a strong chance that all students and teachers will grow closer toward excellence. In the absence of a regular opportunity to collaborate around the actions that lead to systemic excellence, leader muddy the water with the ambiguous rhetoric of "high expectations" and ultimately frustrate teachers with inconsistent actions and structures.

Kids Deserve an Alignment of Excellence
Students deserve a classroom where competence is universal, and teachers deserve a school where clarity is valued and sought so that systemic competence is attained. Alignment and the time to align are the most powerful priorities for schools, and leaders will create a highly consistent as well as high performing school that will ultimately guarantee excellence for every child from every teacher in every classroom every day in every way. 

Monday, July 4, 2016

Independence: It's not a Day. It's our Future

Happy Independence Day!  On July 4, 1776 we claimed our independence as a sovereign and independent nation and for the last 240 years this day has been one of national pride and celebration. In fact the 4th of July reminds us of the importance of living our lives free from the tyranny of dependence. But the question we must ask ourselves is this.

Do our Schools and Classrooms create Dependent Followers or Independent Learners?

The future of our independence is completely dependent on the generation sitting in our classrooms right now. If kids don't learn how to be independent learners right now, they will be conditioned to be dependent on someone to provide for them for the rest of their lives. If school leaders fail to create schools that teach students the value of independence, we are doing tremendous harm to our kids. But if we all create learning spaces that fail to transform the 20th century learning paradigm of dependent followership into the 21st century learning mindset of independence and interdependence, we may be doing permanent and irreparable damage to our nation.



The Greatest Threat
The greatest threat to our nation is not the economy, national security or even health care. It is creating a generation of dependent people who will have failed to learn the most important lesson of all time, that a nation of dependent people will ultimately relinquish the very freedom that we have treasured for over 240 years. Dependence on others was the very reason why our forefathers were fed up and fought to no longer be a dependent nation, and maintaining our independence is the only way that we will preserve our democracy. 

The Greatest Challenge
Educators, parents and community leaders must remember that our mission is to work together to create schools that create independent individuals, self-reliant students, and hard-working contributors. We must accept our moral imperative that we don't teach content. We teach kids, and we must teach them that in order to be successful, they must be ACTIVE learners:


  • Assertive
  • Creative
  • Tenacious
  • Independent
  • Valuable
  • Enthusiastic

Active learning is the only way that we can mold students into independent and contributing members of society, and the reason we must do this is for one simple reason. Active learners view independence as a benefit not a burden. The way we became an independent nation is by being active and taking action.  The way we will remain a free and independent society is by creating independent and active learners who take pride in themselves individually and pride in their country. Then and only then will we preserve and defend our free and independent way of life. 


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

It's a Matter of Time

Where did all time go?  

How much time do I have left?  

Time flies when you're having fun.  

I don't have enough time to get it all done.

These statements view time as an uncontrollable force. The fact is that time is an exhaustible resource.  Like money, you only have so much of it, and if you don't budget it, you won't have enough when you need it most.  When determining your effectiveness, a good starting question to ask yourself would be this.

"How am I spending my time?"

But before you go there, I'd encourage you to embrace the mindset of waste leads to haste.  In other words, if you don't watch the minutes you waste, you will be forced to rush through the minutes you have left, and ultimately, you will waste those minutes as well.




10 Ways to Stop Wasting Time
  1. Stop checking your phone, and set a time that you will check it.
  2. Turn off notifications on your phone.  These are big-time time-killers, and they do nothing but steal minutes from your day.
  3. Build a regular routine into your day for getting your job done, and follow it.
  4. Check email only at specific times and don't check in between.
  5. Analyze how much time is lost in between tasks.
  6. Reduce the number of minutes you lose in lengthy conversations.
  7. Set alarms and reminders on your phone for completing tasks and don't ignore them.
  8. Use the task feature on Google or Outlook calendars to ensure the completion of tasks.
  9. Schedule a block of time in your day just for you to get your job done and let no one interrupt you.
  10. Set daily deadlines to complete tasks and end your work day.  Deadlines accelerate productivity.

It's All a Matter of Time
Time is the constant, but how you use it is the variable.  To reach success, creativity is important, but productivity precedes creativity.  In fact without productivity, you'll never have the time to be creative.  If you can focus your efforts on optimizing your minutes, you will bank plenty of time to become more creative and ultimately more successful in your role.