As shared in an earlier post, from my perspective a key aspect in the growth of any person is the importance of reflection. Despite my efforts to find time do this regularly, the pace of summer seems to allow for more frequent and in-depth reflection. Recently, I was thinking of this past year – both the challenges but also the successes of our school. While this year has had significant hurdles and challenges that had to be worked through, I also recognize that for our students it was (in my humble opinion) a very successful year. As I reflected about “why”, I came to conclusions by asking myself “what do we learn from our students” and it allowed me to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for our learners.
While our staff strived and were successful in providing learning experiences for students that were engaging, involved high-level thinking, a focus on skill development in areas of communication-collaboration-creativity and were built on relationships- I recognized that our students demonstrated and displayed so many attributes during these learning experiences every day. My learning from the students include the following observations:
- Positivity – Every day is a new day as they do not focus on the past failures but focus their energy on the present.
- Gratitude – They enjoy connecting with others and can easily smile and show their appreciation for others through words and actions.
- Mindset – They love to try new things – fail – try again – come close to the goal – adjust and then find success. Our students overall do model the importance of innovation and finding multiple answers to a problem.
- Learning is fun – They share their ideas in multiple formats and learn through just as many modalities. It is amazing to see how comfortable they are at learning new aspects ranging from making videos, playing games, picking up new skills…..they crave learning!
- Empathy – The many groups students worked in throughout the year displayed a “give and take”. They listened to other opinions, learned about others and used that information to make well-informed decisions in the best interest of the group.
- Human element – They display passion, heart and a relentless spirit in the pursuit of greatness. Whether it be the athletic field, the fine arts performance or a group of students completing a PBL – they amaze me with these attributes. They relate to each other, show compassion, build teamwork and communicate their ideas for the success of all.
My hope is that by understanding our learners regarding their hopes, goals, mindsets and habits – it will make me a better leader and help guide next steps in our building and in our work.
As I summarized these traits, I recognize that I need to do a better job of using these same characteristics in my learning, both individually and with our staff. This will help create excitement, a sense of purpose, a common vision and help all of us further understand our “why”. By establishing a stronger culture through connecting with each other and building trust, we will also then be able to better support our learners in our classroom with their learning experiences. I have learned from our students that when you establish trust while building positive and productive relationships, communicate in a personable and engaging way, then you can change the culture and reach excellence!
I look forward to hearing from you about what you learned from your students this year? Comment below or reach out to me at email@example.com
As we enter summer, all of us are excited about the next few weeks or months. This time of year is important for many reasons in the growth of leaders. It may be that the pace of our work is different, perhaps we have time to connect with colleagues or we have time off from work. The next few weeks are critical in the ongoing growth of leaders but the question remains – how do we grow as leaders from one year to the next?
As I think about my own growth as a leader, the summer months are so important and provide the following ways to grow:
Find time to rejuvenate – Yes, perhaps the most important thing to grow is finding time to get away from our work for periods of time. Why? This time away allows us to find balance in our lives and if leaders do not fill their cup, then they will not have anything left to lead the next year for students, staff, parents or the school. It may be vacations, fishing, spending more time with the family – whatever it is, those times allow us to not only relax (which is so essential) but also to find time to do deep thinking that may not be available during the busy time of year.
Find time to reflect – Reflection may be the most important aspect of growth for a leader. We learn by doing but it is most impactful when we reflect upon the work we tried to implement. The following reflective questions from George Couros and Connected Principals resonate for me:
- What did I do well this year?
- Where do I need to grow?
- What things will I challenge myself with next year?
- How will all of these answers impact learners we serve?
Find ways to move your school forward – As David Geurin shares, it is critical that we are future driven and instill in our school practices to develop in our learners the skills to be successful. From my perspective, this includes:
- Embracing an open culture that stimulates learning to include aspects of choice/voice, getting feedback from students/staff, providing ways for learners to create-play-challenge through relevant experiences that include authentic audiences.
- Narrow the focus of your school so the staff can deepen their learning on a few essential ideas (quality vs quantity).
- Challenge each other to think about past practices and why those were used, how did it benefit learners and are there other options to consider that would better serve our learners?
- Focus on strengths of staff and maximize their impact with your school community.
Find ways to continually build the culture – The most important aspect that impacts the school is its culture. As Jon Gordon reminds us, leaders must always build their culture and it is achieved through the simplest but most impactful ways. Take time and analyze how you can better:
- Be Demanding without being demeaning – it is a fine line of growing staff thru “balance of pressure and support” but staff need to know you have their back as it relates to trying new innovative ideas and it is okay to fail forward – the key is they are trying new approaches to engage and make learning relevant for learners.
- Unite the team – The greatest schools have the best cultures so as each school year begins with new staff – what ways will you unite the new folks with your existing staff to create a team vs a group of individuals?
- Connect with the individual – The most important thing leaders can do is find time to get to know their staff and value their contributions. In this day and age, staff need to know they are valued for their work and feel if they are part of something special.
I am truly looking forward for a few days off to get away from the work this summer. However, the items mentioned above are ways that I will analyze my work practices this summer to help me grow as a leader and make a greater impact upon students and the school community. In what ways will you grow this summer as a leader?
I look forward to hearing from you about your thoughts on ways you grow as a leader during the summer. Comment below or reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
The end of the school year brings many emotions for students, staff and parents. Traditionally, it brings graduation or recognition ceremonies for specific grade levels. It may also bring going away parties for staff retiring. Of course, the end of the year also brings so many endless but needed endeavors that close out 1 year and begin the next year.
As a school leader – what aspects do you take time to reflect and celebrate, with both your staff and you personally, that moves your school forward? That simple question sheds a lot of perspective on what we are placing our time, focus and values on as a leader.
From my perspective for our school, the celebration includes:
- FOCUS – The “intentional steps” our staff took to help transform our classroom instruction from a traditional model to creating engaging student experiences focused on skills that leads to high academic achievement.
- POSITIVITY – The school climate we have created that is based on our interactions with each other through positivity and kindness that promotes a school community where students and staff feel they belong.
- TEAMWORK – A shared vision that is modeled by staff throughout the building that places an emphasis on “what is best for kids”.
- “IT TAKES A VILLAGE” – A strong partnership with the parent and school community that is established by being visible, accessible and communicating in a clear, consistent manner.
- EMPOWERMENT – Giving our staff opportunities to help lead professional learning and be the change agents within our school.
- STUDENT LED – Creating opportunities for students to lead within our school day and giving students a voice in their school by listening to what they think is working and what needs changing so we can improve.
Most importantly, it is critical to recognize that staff were willing to take risks to grow, and at times, we failed, but we learned from our experiences and that opportunity gave us greater insight into becoming stronger educators.
These aspects were shared with our staff as we reflected upon our journey from this school year and it clarifies the importance we place on that work and focuses our journey even more into next school year.
At the end of the year, everyone wants to start summer and rightfully so. However, it is also important that at the right time and in the appropriate manner, to share the celebrations through reflections that tell your story and how your staff have made the school year a success for students. It is through these conversations that staff will truly recognize and understand the importance of what we celebrate as a school community.
I look forward to hearing from you about your thoughts on what you celebrate within your school community that moves your school forward. Comment below or reach out to me at email@example.com
In recent times it seems that anytime someone has a situation that does not go the way they want, the first thing some individuals do is blame the other person. This type of negativity and frustration have a direct impact upon how someone feels about their self-worth and their role in the work force.
If you relate this to education – it is an educator’s job to appropriately challenge students so they develop skills and understand how to be successful when things are not easy. It is through the support and encouragement of educators, that students develop the needed skills of problem solving, how to think critically, working with others, develop resiliency and grit and respect the ideas of others that are different than their own. Yet despite this work, too often educators feel the negativity from outside influences through email, personal conversations etc… So how do we respond to Negativity?
As an educator who has been on the receiving end of very difficult conversations with others……I have developed a mindset (that I must remind myself to use often) that allows me to embrace these opportunities and work with all parties involved and move forward in the best possible solution. So what is included in this mindset that I use? It includes an understanding that:
- There are things outside of my control such as someone else’s actions, opinions, mistakes, feelings and words.
- Things that I can control include my attitude, effort, behavior and actions in response to these situations.
- When I communicate with an upset person, I try to remind myself to “listen before I act, reflect upon what they are saying, and try to understand the situation from their perspective”.
- When others “go low” and use negativity, I should “go high”, be positive, and remain optimistic.
As an educator and someone who reflects frequently, I have grown the most from difficult situations and how I responded to it. There have been times, after reflecting, that I could have done a better job. However, there are other instances where my response allowed for a productive solution and grew everyone involved closer together and gain an appreciation for each other in regards to how we were helping the students. As a leader, I think it is imperative to always try to make the best of our work…………..every hour, every day of our job. I also believe that sometimes it is the simplest things that help us to respond to negativity….it is our attitude and remaining positive and kind with our actions.
In summary, during moments when things are not positive, I hope you use the right mindset to work with other people by remaining positive and take that opportunity to help others find a successful solution. How we work with others needs to have enthusiasm, positive actions and kindness for others. As a leader, I remind myself that I must:
I look forward to hearing from you about your thoughts related how do you respond to negativity. Comment below or reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Each school inevitably gets very busy in the final weeks before students go home. This includes finishing standardized testing, teacher and staff appraisals, finalizing up current budget and finishing the framework for next year’s budget, hiring staff (and saying goodbye to current staff leaving), completing transition documents for incoming and outgoing students……. As you can see, the end of a school year gets very busy and time is not in enough supply. The tasks listed above did not even include the typical school day happenings including building relationships and culture, conducting walk throughs and supporting staff, and encouraging students in their efforts as they develop into learners in a rapidly changing world. With all of this work, the question becomes “how do we make it through the busiest times” as both internal and external forces are putting too many demands upon an already busy schedule.
From my perspective, and through reflection and previous blog work, the most effective way for me is to “focus on the things that I can control”. As a leader, we must prioritize our work and know what must be done now and what can wait (and what may not get done and that is ok). This prioritization allows leaders to focus on things they can control and truly focus on things that can make a difference in school…..supporting its people.
When we think of “focusing on things we can control” that specifically includes the following:
- Put others first and focus on the best in people
- Empower others to help make a difference
- Celebrate the successes of our work and embrace our failures
- Trust the people you work with….you hired them for a good reason – they are leaders too.
- Communicate often with short, clear messaging
- Make decisions on what is best for kids
When summer starts, there will be more time for some of the tasks that you put off that still must be done. There will also be important time for reflection time for yourself and the importance of finding time to rest-relax-energize for the work in the upcoming year. However, if we do not focus on things that we can only control, our work will not be a high quality that supports the most important parts of our school – its people.
I look forward to hearing from you about your thoughts related to how “what you focus on” during the busy times in your role to remain effective. Comment below or reach out to me at email@example.com
As educator’s we strive to grow and improve in our practices over the course of our career. How we do this varies from one person to the next. While there are many different ways the growth happens, a common component is the importance of FEEDBACK along the journey.
Feedback by definition is “a person’s performance of a task used as a basis for improvement.” I believe it is not only feedback that allows for growth, but also asking the right questions in our conversations.
Specifically consider the following:
- If we want someone to learn a new skill then it involves a cycle of:
- Learning the skill
- Practicing the skill
- Reflecting upon using the skill
- Getting Feedback about how the skill was used
- Revising the skill if needed
So often, we try to learn new skills but if we are not taking the time to get feedback about its impact then our purpose may never be fully reached.
- As we work with students, so many educators do an outstanding job of using formative assessments with students to measure their learning during the unit so help can be given if needed. However, to take the learning deeper and make it more impactful, how we deliver and provide feedback to students may be the most important aspect. Consider these points about feedback within our learning environments with students:
- Upgrading Feedback is the key to sustaining a great culture for learning
- When feedback is given, learners need to be heard and given chance for dialogue
- When giving feedback to students, as Jim Knight From High Impact Instruction shared it should:
- Be focused on objective data, not the student themselves.
- Be given as soon as possible.
- Provide actionable information (final grades are rarely actionable)
- Be easy to understand
- Peer feedback can be used but it must be modeled and practiced for it to be effective
- The goal of feedback is to train students to be able to assess their own progress
- As leaders, we also need this feedback process if we are to grow in our leadership skills. When having conversations with colleagues and giving/receiving feedback, this involves the use of questions. As Shelly Burgess and Beth Houf shared in Lead Like A Pirate, “asking good questions inform – asking great questions transform.” As leaders, we must ask questions of our colleagues-listen to their response-analyze their feedback and reflect in order to learn/grow. The importance of questions when giving or receiving feedback is essential as:
- It allows us to connect with people and engage in meaningful conversations.
- It allows us to build ideas and give us different perspectives.
- It challenges our “mindsets” and gets us out of our ruts.
As we approach the end of this school year and prepare to have our year-end conversations with staff, students or parents; one of my goals is to always gather feedback. This provides rich insight into someone else’s perspectives and allows me to ask meaningful questions that provides greater growth in my skillset as a learner. I encourage you to also take some time as you approach the end of this school year and provide feedback and seek it from all constituents. In some instances, we may not like the feedback we get but this will only allow us a greater focus on our work and in our growth as leaders.
I look forward to hearing from you about your thoughts related to how you use feedback in your work. Comment below or reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
As we enter spring, the workload for educators seems to increase and for good reason. The spring season is full of standardized testing and year-end activities within schools. Many educators are also busy planning for the upcoming school year (ex. budgets, master schedule, events etc..)while still working in the current year. In addition, it seems that spring is when everyone is just a little more tired, less willing to be patient and kindness is less apparent in our daily world. This all leads to the question……..”How do you respond to challenges”?
As I reflect upon my work through the years, the springtime in schools has its own pace. I have also learned not to get caught up in the never ending workload, stress, external demands upon our time and frustrations that dominate our thoughts. Yes, hard work is needed and there are times I get frustrated. However, I choose to focus on different thoughts that allow me to focus on students, continue to make positive connections with staff, challenge the status quo to make the school better and help others end their year in the best way possible. What are these thoughts you may wonder. I cannot take credit for them, as they simply are a collection of ideas I have learned from others. However, for me, they have been so important and allow me to respond to challenges in the following ways:
- Mindset – As a leader, you must be comfortable with criticism that others will launch at you. The key is to focus on your “mindset” and continue to be positive and challenge the status quo as it relates to building your school’s culture and moving it forward for students.
- Reflection – Find some moments and analyze what has worked this past year and what has not worked. This reflection will re-energize your mind/body and allow you to remember “your why” as you realize that there are so many more positives than negatives that occurred during the school year.
- Seize the Moment – View challenges that do arise as opportunities to grow and make a positive impact in that situation. As educators, we went into teaching and working with kids to make a difference. The true difference is not made when things are easy but rather when there is a difficult situation. Working through the difficult situations provides greater insight into your work and stimulates ideas about what is working and what needs to be adjusted.
- Serve – Lead – Inspire: As a leader, we must transfer our passion, optimism and beliefs to those we work with. It is so important to show your team how much you care, even more so during challenging times. Smile – have fun- show kindness and positivity you want in your school.
- Be the Model – As Jon Gordon shared in his book “The Energy Bus”, it is important to fuel your ride with positive energy; so in other words leaders are responsible for creating the positive, fun and welcoming environment that so many educators seek in spring. A person’s enthusiasm attracts more leaders and energizes them to perform their best for students.
In summary, during this busy spring season, I hope you find time to discover they ways you not only survive during the spring season, but thrive as a leader. How we work with others needs to have enthusiasm, empathy for others and empower others to take part in developing the culture. As a leader, I remind myself that I must:
I look forward to hearing from you about your thoughts related to how you thrive during the busy spring season. Comment below or reach out to me at email@example.com