Saturday, October 15, 2016

The Secret to Helping Kids find their Excellence

The greatest examples of excellence are not found in accomplishments or even accolades. They are revealed in silent, unnoticed events when we quietly demolish barriers and overcome obstacles. When it comes to our students, we must teach them that they are not defined by their results. They are actually refined by the process that produces those results. To create a culture that supports this mindset, a student must learn in an environment where he knows and hears often that his worth is never based on a numerical or letter grade. It is however derived from the effort and sweat he or she expends to achieve the result.  

In its truest form, excellence is not a result.  It is mindset, and this mindset is best reinforced by this Vince Lombardi quote. 
Source - What It Takes to be Number One by Vince Lombardi and Vince Lombardi Jr. 

Some of the best ways to condition students to find their excellence is by acknowledging and reinforcing work ethic, attributes of high quality work, persistence, and sheer determination.  These intangibles are some of the most powerful tools that kids will need to discover the excellence that is already deep inside them.

As educators and parents, we must encourage our children to define their value through their character, perseverance, hard work and sheer determination, for these are the skills that will take them  the furthest in life.  When we find personalized ways to help each individual kid see his value without being influenced by letter and numerical grades, we inspire kids to identify their strengths through their learning styles and abilities, and eventually motivate them seek exponential growth.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Great Leaders Move Forward with Pushback

One way communication leads the organization one way, the wrong way. Leaders who tell others what to do without asking for input set followers up for failure, and let's face it. Without input, leaders implement action steps that often lead to missteps and mistakes that ultimately result in missed opportunities.

Great Leaders gather Great Feedback 

The most uncomfortable yet most productive move a leader can make is asking followers for honest feedback about his or her leadership. With it he can make great gains. Without it he'll continue down his path of unprogressive stability and complacent mediocrity. 

The Greatest Leaders Invite Pushback

Pushback is uncomfortable because it stretches leaders. It forces analysis of his action plan, and it demands deeper discussion and real reflection. It asks for clarity, and it elicits brutal honesty. 

The very best pushback challenges the trust that has already been established, for if it leads the organization to a better understanding, improved cohesiveness, and finer fellowship, the leader has successfully leveraged pushback to move the organization forward. 

Pushback is essential in order to make significant progress. The only question you really need to ask yourself is will you be vulnerable enough to invite your followers to give it to you, courageous enough to accept it, and wise enough to learn from it.

Pushback Pushes Organizations Forward.  

Thursday, September 29, 2016

In 1 Word, Define your PLC of Excellence

Excellence is a goal that all schools aspire to achieve, and when schools approach their quest for excellence by operating as a PLC at Work, excellence can be attained.  So what does it take to be a high-functioning professional learning community that works and learns interdependently to achieve this common yet illusive goal we refer to as "Excellence for All"?

Well, it depends on 1-word.  In one word, define what a PLC of Excellence look like.  What does it sound like? Feel like? Work like? Think like?

Go to my Menti to give your Input.
A PLC at Work is a group of people working interdependently to achieve a common goal for which they hold one another mutually accountable.  The team of excellence demands that its members work differently, think deeply, respond with precision, and demand excellence from themselves, as well as from their colleagues.  Excellence will only become a reality when every member of a team identifies their one word and then treats that word as the missing piece of the puzzle that will lead the team and ultimately every teacher to excellence.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Are you Finding the Fix or the Fault?

Today's world conditions us to find something wrong with virtually everything, and finding fault is easy. Point out the problem; blame someone for it, and you're done. Status quo solidified.

Organizations on the grow, however, fix their eyes beyond the problem and even the people responsible for it. They go one step further and find the fix. Now this one step is much bigger than you might think. It requires analysis, and it demands reserved patience in order to discover a solution that resolves the issue permanently.

What are Fault Finders?
  • Fault finders point out problems without finding a solution. 
  • They are quick to place blame on others. 
  • They pride themselves on being the first to illuminate problems and the people who may create them. 
  • They create a culture of fear and inhibit risk-taking. 

What are Fix Finders?
  • Fix finders identify the problem and its causal factors. 
  • They identify supports that need to be in place to prevent the problem from reoccurring again. 
  • They take ownership of the problem and engage others in order to learn from the problem so that it can be eradicated. 
  • They protect and reassure people who may have caused or are associated with the problem. 
  • They nurture a culture of experimentation and exploration.

The Fix and the Fault: It's a Matter of Excellence
Mediocre leaders find faults because it justifies their role and gives them a sense relevance. Excellent leaders, however, quickly look past the fault to the fix simply because they know that an overemphasis on the problem stalls organizational momentum. Faults don't improve the organization. They stifle them. Only resolution can build organizational efficacy.  

Are you fixed on the problem or the solution?  The answer to that question possesses greater implications than you know. 

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.