I hope everyone is having a great week and enjoying the students at your respective schools. We are blessed to have jobs that make such an impact!
Archive of ‘Weekly Updates’ category
Below is a post that I recently shared on my blog regarding the way we do staff professional development. I would love some of your thoughts on the following questions:
1. What are some of the ways that you create meaningful staff professional development?
2. What have you found to be the most beneficial PD experiences that lead to better learning in the classroom?
Hopefully you can gain some ideas from the post below.
A New Staff Experience
“The only source of knowledge is experience.” — Albert Einstein
Staff meetings were something that I dreaded in my beginning years as a teacher. We would often spend the majority of our time together discussing rules and policies, and would debate, on end, things that are seemingly significant. Hours have been spent in schools talking about whether kids should wear hats or not in school. Really?
I saw the following quote on a slide, and I have shared it many times in talks that I have given to leadership groups. It seems to resonate with many:
“If I die, I hope it’s during a staff meeting because the transition to death would be so subtle.” Unknown
Time is limited, but is this how we want it to be remembered? How do we make better use of our time?
A few years back, as principal in a school, I had an interesting conversation with my brother (Alec Couros) and Will Richardson. As we talked about something as simple as bookmarking, he asked why I didn’t use a social bookmarking service such as Diigo. I simply replied that it was too much of a hassle. Will simply said, “So you are not into sharing?”
That changed everything.
As I thought about myself as principal of a school who is supposed to be the “instructional leader” in the school, I was not even sharing with my staff. I was simply hoarding all of the information that was coming my way. If you want to be innovative, you have to disrupt your routine. It was time to do things differently.
I jumped into Twitter and was amazed by the learning that was happening and being shared in such an open network. The ability to have professional learning at your fingertips every minute of the day, is something that has changed the way I viewed my own practice. This ability to learn at any time, any place and at any pace is the reality of our world. As educators, we need to jump in. Will Richardson acknowledges this belief in how educators need to take advantage of the same opportunities for learning that our kids do every day.
“…And truth be told, teachers should be responsible for their own PD now. Kids wouldn’t wait for a blogging workshop. Adults shouldn’t either.”
It is imperative that we move staff to the place that they are able to take ownership of their own learning.
A New Look Staff Experience
We spend a lot of time in schools telling people about how teaching and learning should look. Yet, how do we create opportunities for them to experience it? I watch a lot of schools talking about things like blogging initiatives with students, yet their own staff have never blogged. How do you teach something that you have never done? More importantly, how do you have people embrace the unknown? Well, my belief is that you make it known.
I felt it was imperative for our students to use blogging to create digital portfolios of their learning. It was essential that staff blogged as well. To create this, I did not simply say, “Thou shalt blog,” but I actually did it myself first. I spent time doing something that I wanted to trickle down to staff and students. It is easy to say, “Do this.” It is more important to say, “Let’s do this together.”
Jumping into blogging and seeing the amazing opportunity that it had created to reflect, collaborate and make learning transparent, we started to give this opportunity to staff. For example, on one staff Professional Development Day on a Monday, staff were asked to have a blog post written for Friday to share with others. The catch was that if they did not feel comfortable doing it on their own, we would provide time at the beginning of our staff day for them to have support. For the staff that were able to do this on their own, they had the opportunity to come in later. If it is a priority, you will put time and resources into it. If you do not put those two elements in place, it is not priority. That simple.
So if you want students using Google Apps for Education in the classroom, use it with staff. If you want learning to be personalized for students, help personalize it for staff. This experience helps you to not only embrace this change, but to experience what your students will feel in the classroom.
A question that I always ask teachers is, “Could you spend an entire day sitting in your own classroom as a student?”
The question that I asked myself as a beginning administrator was, “Could I spend the whole day in my staff meeting?” I tried to create an environment that I would want to be in as a teacher.
Differentiated Learning for Adults
Differentiated instruction is something that we talk about all of the time for students, but it also applies to educators. We often see frustration from administrators when they feel staff are all over the place, but this is something that we need to embrace. I am comfortable with staff learning at different paces. Where I struggle is if they are not open to learning at all. This does not mean agreeing with everything and not having critical conversations. Sometimes we have to embrace the “naysayer” as a challenge that helps to make us all better. It is, however, imperative that they have, as Carol Dweck states, “a growth mindset.” We have adopted the idea that we need to move staff from their point “A” to their point “B.”
One of the most successful practices that I have partaken in is taking one-on-one time with staff where they have the opportunity to ask questions about things that they are trying to do in their classrooms. We simply book time in a day, and we have time for them to ask questions to start learning from where they are, as opposed to where someone wants them to be. The person who is asking the questions is also the one who is often doing the learning.Creating opportunities for individual staff to ask these questions and get personal attention, no matter who it comes from, can often accelerate growth a lot quicker for your entire organization.
Innovation often comes out of experience and we have to change the way we do and think about professional development. I have sat and watched someone speak to a group of teachers and administrators, sitting in rows, for hours on end about “21st Century Learning,” showing bullet points on a presentation. How much do you think will really change in the classroom if that is what our time together looks like?
Want innovation in the classroom? Get people to focus on being open to new learning and create different experiences for them. They are more likely to do the same for their students.
“People never learn anything by being told, they have to find out for themselves.” — Paulo Coelho
Please take a look at the video below that talks about some innovative ways to empower student voice through social media.
In my first year as Assistant Principal, I had an argument with one of the teachers on best practice. I did not know her well, but I was very bothered by the situation and it had an impact on my ego. I was mortified that she would challenge me so quickly. Over the next two years, she would often challenge many ideas that had been presented by the admin team, but as I got to know her, I understood that she was always focused on what was best for kids. With new ideas, we would go to her and ask her thoughts, and she would often disagree. We would then rework some of our ideas, present it again to her, and she would like that we both listened to her input while also willing to take action because of it. She had a lot of influence with staff because she was a great teacher, but also because she always spoke her mind. When I was hired as a Principal in the district, I took her with me and she became my Assistant Principal. I knew she would never leave me to do something that she thought was wrong and would challenge me when I needed to be challenged. That is how I wanted my team to be.
As a leader, it is imperative that you focus on the “best ideas”, not “your ideas”. Sometimes they can be the same thing, but if you have a group around you that only agrees and is worried about challenging ideas, we often make the wrong decisions for kids.
Here is a quote from Harvard Business Review on “groupthink”:
Let’s be honest: for the most part, we gravitate toward people who hold a lot of the same beliefs that we do. It’s human nature. But for anyone in a leadership position, this basic human urge can also be your kryptonite. If you surround yourself with too many like-minded colleagues, that is, you can create a culture of group think. That’s not good. Just take a look back at U.S. history. Lyndon Johnson’s escalation of military action in Vietnam, John F. Kennedy’s invasion of Cuba — many historians have argued that these mistakes were fuelled by too many team members refusing to voice their opposition. So every leader should take this advice to heart: never shy away from opposition; welcome it — better yet, encourage it, then encourage it some more.
When is it the right time to go against consensus though? With school needing to change, sometimes a majority of staff could want to stay in the same mindset and practice that could also be hurting the future of our students.
I encourage you to blog or comment on the following:
How do you create a culture where “pushback” is encouraged?
How do you know when to stick with the minority over the majority?
How do you create a team that will give you honest feedback?
Have a great week!
“Innovation” is the big buzz word in education, and rightfully so. People are looking at doing things “different and better”, and we should be exploring different practices to help focus on “what is best for kids”. One of these practices that many people have explored is Google’s “20% time”, although that program has recently been ended.
Even “innovative practices” can become stagnant and sometimes only serve a short term purpose, but there are multiple roads to how you can be innovative. Jamie Notter explores this in his most recent blog post:
Folks, were you really implementing 20% time just because Google was doing it? Or because you read about it on a blog, or heard about it in a speech? Why on earth would you copy something that someone else is doing without understanding why that practice makes sense to you and your organization?! And while I’m on the subject, can I please throw that question in front of you as you debate whether or not to become more like Steve Jobs and Apple and have everything tightly controlled by a single visionary (those articles bug me too)? See my post the other week about the evil of best practices. Google was decentralized in its innovation, and now it is apparently centralizing it a bit. Does that mean Jobs was right? No. It just means innovation is important, there isn’t one single path, and it’s up to you to figure out how to do it.
So here are some questions for you that you can either blog about, or respond to in the comments section.
How do you go about creating innovative practices in your schools?
How do you know if they are making a difference?
How are they revisited to ensure that they have the same impact that they once had before?
Just some ideas of things that I wanted to throw your way this week. Hope everyone is having a great month of September!
“Leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders.” — Tom Peters
One of the best things that I had as a teacher was a principal that believed in me. I remember having a conversation with her about technology in school, and she asked me what I thought the budget should be for the year and what we should look at purchasing. I was perplexed by the question as this was traditionally the principal’s call and she looked at me and said, “I hired you for your knowledge in this area. Why would I make decisions for something that I do not know much about? I trust you.”
After that, I would have done anything for that principal (and still do as she is still my boss as the division level). When you give over power and responsibility it says one thing, but when you say where people excel and build upon it, that is also an important trait.
For this week’s topic, I want you to think about how you develop leadership in your buildings/work. How do you promote others to lead? This is important to focus on whether we try to “control” our people, or “unleash” their talents. What are some of the things that you do that make this happen?
Have a great week!!!
Here is an interesting article on “Leadership Development” that may spark some ideas. – The #1 Reason Leadership Development Fails
“Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.”
― Stephen R. Covey
“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.”
― Ernest Hemingway
Trust is the single most important thing that you can build as a teacher or administrator, and it is imperative that we look at how we develop trusting relationships within our organizations before we look to move forward. I am a big fan of Stephen Covey’s work and he talks about the importance of “character and credibility”. We will look at the notion of “credibility” later, but basically if you do not have the “character” that people trust, then it does not matter how smart or knowledgeable your staff finds you. You will lose them.
So based on those notions, here are a few ideas of things that you can blog about for this week (always optional):
- How do you work to build trust starting in a new place?
- When you lose trust, what do you do to try to regain what you do?
- In a world with social media so evident, how do you use that technology to create a transparent culture within your community?
Hope you are having a great week! Most Canadian educators will be back within a week if they are not already so mostly everyone in the program will be in full swing at school.
Instead of asking people to share in a blog post this week, I am hoping we can use this blog to start a comment thread to share some ideas in one space.
As a new principal, it was imperative that I started off right with my school or I could easily lose them right from the beginning. It takes a long time to build trust, but you can lose it an instant. With that being said, I spent time just observing the culture and listening to the ideas of others and trying to build on strengths. In my first year as an assistant principal, I got into a small argument on one of the first days with a strong teacher on our staff. I was actually very upset and looked poorly upon the person, but later when I reflected, I was much too pushy for coming into a new environment and didn’t listen as much as I needed to at that point. Two years later when I was promoted to principal at another school, I chose that very same teacher as my assistant principal.
There were lots of mistakes and learning along the way, but my focus as a principal was on learning the culture of the school as a whole, while also understanding individuals.
So I ask you, to share what are some important thoughts that you have on either starting at a new school, or starting a new year? What has been successful and what didn’t work? Please share your comments below.
Have a great week!
I wanted to personally thank so many people for sharing so many inspirational posts and stories this week through their blogs and the #SAVMP hashtag. I have really enjoyed seeing this program start off strong due to your passion for making a difference. Thank you.
In my own belief, as leaders, we must know ourselves before we can lead our schools. Many of you had the chance to look at your own “why” and why you lead. The next thing that I believe is helpful is to have a clear focus on what we would like our school or organization to become. If you are asked “what is your vision for school?”, it is important that are able to answer this. We are unable to lead our schools if we do not know where are we headed.
As suggested viewing, I encourage you to watch the following Simon Sinek Ted Talk on what makes an organization great.
For a prompt this week, I encourage you to develop your “philosophy of education’ to try and articulate your view for leadership and what schools should look like.
As a sample, I have written the following post to give you an idea of what this could look like. Also, if you have written something like this before, I encourage you to either share what you have or revamp it and share.
Here is also a great Ted Talk from Seth Godin regarding his beliefs for school:
As you write your post, I encourage you (as I do for all posts) to use the #savmp hashtag in your title so that it is more likely to be shared to the hashtag.
None of these are mandatory posts, but just suggestions to help you get to know yourself, while also helping to build connections between mentors and mentees.
To anyone who is not officially in the program, you are more than welcome to take part in the activities and share with others.
Please feel free to use the comment section to share your thoughts on anything that I have shared above or any ideas that you have before.
Have a great week!
I want to thank everyone for signing up and participating in the #SAVMP program and I am looking forward to seeing how this program unfolds. There are definitely going to be some bumps during the year but the most important part of this is the connection that you make with one another over the upcoming year. To anyone that is reading this post that signed up and has not been contacted, you probably missed out on the deadline (July 22) and unfortunately will not be paired up with a mentor at this stage due to the high number of people that have already signed up.
Just to clarify, this is NOT about leaders using social media. It is however the vehicle that we will use to connect and share our learning which will hopefully influence some of the things that are happening in schools that are connected during this process.
As the year progresses, we are going to have some Google Hangouts with people on various topics to spark conversation. I will also be sending out emails to participants to hopefully help out with some ideas as the year goes. The focus is on your conversations and connections that you create in your pairings. The other element is openly sharing what we learn with others so that many people can benefit from this program.
As we go into the first week, here are some things that are suggested you do (#3 is a MUST)
Make sure you have a Twitter account with an updated profile.
Start a blog if you haven’t. (To make it a “blog/portfolio”, watch this video). I suggest reading this article from Dean Shareski on blogging and the impact it has on teaching.
Mentors…please send an introductory email to your “mentees”. Share a little bit about yourself and connect with them.
Mentors and mentees please share your blogs with one another.
I encourage you in the next two weeks to write a blog post on the topic of, “Why do I lead?”, or “Why I am an educator?”. The focus here is that you look at yourself as a leader before you look at who you are leading. In the title of your blog post, I encourage you to throw the hashtag #SAVMP at the end of your title so that when others share it on Twitter they will see the hashtag.
Mentors…I encourage you to comment on your “mentee” blogs.
Obviously none of this is mandatory, but the more you put into the process, the more you will get out of it.
I hope that you all enjoy connecting with one another and that you learn a great deal for this process. I will not be sending emails out once a week but will share from time to time. This is meant to be an informal process and the real work will be done between the mentors and mentees.
Thanks again for taking part in this program 🙂
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