Week 15: Instructional Leadership #SAVMP

Stephen Covey talks about the notion of great leadership and how it is measured by “character and credibility”.  Character is basically that people see you have good values in who you are, and credibility is in what you have to offer.  In much of our conversations in the #SAVMP program, it has talked about the importance of trust and fostering effective relationships.  If you have no trust, you will have change.

Instructional leadership is an important part of becoming an effective principal, yet many teachers question if there administrators would be effective teachers.  How can you change what the classroom looks like if you were never an effective teacher?  This was something that I focused on in my writing and shared things that I looked for in today’s classroom.  I also wanted to immerse myself in work with my teachers and started to do “1-to-1” sessions talking about things staff could do with students.  This is the focus on “credibility”.

So…in your work as a leader, what are some of the things that you do to not only show your knowledge and understanding of today’s classroom, but also get deep into the work with your staff and students?  Please share some of your learning to the #SAVMP hashtag through your tweets, or blog.

Have a great week!


Week 15: Setting Goals #SAVMP

Marie Rogai, one of our #SAVMP mentors recently reached out to George and shared something she has done with her mentees’.
She asked them to send her :
  1. their “short-term” goals for the first semester (now until January) and the challenges they foresee in achieving them
  2. their “long-term” goals for the year (also with any challenges)
  3. any current issues they are facing that they would like some “outsider insight” on
Her purpose?  She wants to be sure that she is supporting the leaders she is working with, but not pry.
It can be really hard to achieve your goals if you don’t have people to encourage you, support you, and hold you accountable. Take advantage of the #SAVMP relationships you’ve developed and hold each other accountability with these goal setting ideas. And remember, just writing down a goal isn’t enough. You have to take measured, actionable steps to make it happen!  Be careful with your phrasing…many times goals are too vague, have no deadline (or a completely unrealistic deadline), and are worded in the future tense (“I will”)…which your brain interprets as a message to keep that goal in the future. 
What goals can you personally/professionally set? How can you help your team be successful with their goals?
Thanks, Marie, for the great idea!

Week 14 – What is school for? Staff Activity #SAVMP

This is a powerful Ted Talk by Seth Godin that asks the question, “What is school for?”:

A powerful way to do simple professional development with staff, is to take a Ted Talk like the one above, and open up conversation on our staff. Think about it…how many times do we spend with staff to talk about the purpose of school? If we want things to change, is it not important that we embed time where we can talk to staff about how things are changing and where they are at?

I encourage you to blog about some of the things that you do with your staff to help understand where they are at, and how to move them forward.

Week 13 – Individual Learning and Mass Sharing

In my leadership role, I have started to do “1-on-1” days with staff where they could ask questions on initiatives that they wanted to learn about.  This has been the most effective way to do PD (in my opinion) and I learn a lot from their questions as well.

Although I have done this several times, I decided to try something different and summarize what I did with each teacher in a tweet.  Why did I do this?  Well, I wanted people to know in the school who was working on what, and to also make great learning viral.  People probably would not ask about what others learned in their individual session unless they were exposed to it.  This goes back to what I discussed in the post on the different roads to innovation.  Both 1-on-1 time and mass sharing will get you places quicker if combined.

Below is a Storify that I put together to share what was learned by each staff member,


Here are some questions…

How do you share the work that you do during individual staff PD to ensure that great learning goes viral? I would love to see some other examples of how people are sharing.

Week 12- Involving Parents with a New Vision for Schools #SAVMP

savmpSchools play an important role in determining how involved parents are within our schools. What does your school do to solicit your parents? How much and in what different ways is information communicated through your teachers about the happenings throughout the building?

A New Wave of Evidence, a report from Southwest Educational Development Laboratory (2002) found that regardless of family income or background, students with involved parents are more likely to:

*Earn higher grades and test scores, and enroll in higher-level programs
*Be promoted, pass their classes, and earn credits
*Have better social skills, show improved behavior, and adapt well to school
*Graduate and go on to postsecondary education (Henderson & Mapp, 2002)

Given that many parents only interpretation of school comes from their own past, it is important as a leader to communicate just how different education is today. The headlines certainly aren’t helping them understand our reality. There are amazing, life changing, DIFFERENT things that are happening within your walls…it’s up to you to make that understanding happen!

No longer is sending home a flyer in a brown envelope enough to solicit and encourage our families to be involved. There’s a variety of tools available that involve technology, social media, student creations all designed to communicate to our families. One of the first comments that is always shared when I talk about this is that “all of our parents don’t have computers”. In 2011, 75.6 percent of homes reported having a computer, with 71.7 percent accessed the internet. Statistics still vary across ethnicity, but the bottom line is that we are still making strides.  By combining the technology resources we have available today and some of our “traditional practices” there’s no family we can’t reach.

We’re going to discuss several of them with two leaders who are on the forefront of connecting and involving parents, Joe Mazza and Tony Sinanis. Keep an eye out for that #SAVMP hangout to happen soon!


This week, I encourage you to blog or comment on the following:

What are you doing to encourage parent involvement?

How are you thinking out of the box to involve ALL of your families?

Have you encountered resistance to breaking away from the traditional strategies that parents may be used too?


Hope you have a GREAT week!

Week 10 – Time and Priority #SAVMP

After last week’s post, I was really happy to see how many people were recommitting to helping out and pushing within their own little groups.  As a mentor, it is important that we are there for our mentees, but it is also a reciprocal relationship.  There is a lot we can learn from each other.

As time management is a crucial part of leadership, I would love if others shared some advice on “time management”.  I have some big beliefs on time management in schools:

  1. If it is important (priority), you will make time for it.
  2. You should never look at doing more, but doing things better.
  3. For every thing you are willing to “add” to your plate, you need to take something off.

What are some of your thoughts/suggestions on effectively managing your time and the time of others in your school/organization?  Please share your thoughts below or I encourage you to use it as a blog post.

Have a great week!

Week 9 – A Gentle Nudge #SAVMP

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!

I just wanted to do a check in and see how people are doing?  If you have any feedback about how the #SAVMP project is going, I would love to hear it.  If you could email me directly with the good, bad, or ugly, I would love to hear your stories.
One of the things that was clearly stated when joining this program was that there was an expectation of using blogs and Twitter to connect. I know that everyone is busy, but reflection is vital to the success of an administrator, and open reflection creates a transparent environment.  I have been inspired by the many tweets and blogs that have been shared through the #savmp hashtag, and I am hoping that more will come from a wider range of people within the program.  This is a great chance for you to not only reflect, but also to learn from others.
Here is a post on taking time to reflect:
You Can Close the Door (Sometimes)
Also, when we openly share our learning, we create a much more positive footprint and for many of you looking to go into administration in the future, “googling” someone is becoming a normal practice in the hiring process.  If you googled yourself, what do you find?  Again, this is something that we want to model with students.
Take a look at some of the #savmp tweets.  They are inspiring and share some great stories of learning and leading.  I am inspired every time I see new content.  Thank you.
Here are some questions I am hoping others can answer in the comments below.  How has blogging, tweeting, or being connected in general made you a better leader?  I am hoping that others can jump in and share the transformation that this has done to their practice as a leader.

Week 8 – Rethinking Staff PD #SAVMP

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

staff meetingTime 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

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