mccoyderek

‘Is Your Leadership Attitude Worth Catching?’


Last
month, Dr. Julie Morrow , our Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum, led a talk with principals about setting the tone in our schools and how important our influence is to teachers, students and our community. I tweeted this picture during her presentation as what she was saying really resonated with me and the conversations I’ve been having with several #leadlearners around my school:

Her passion about this message evident and this is a message that speaks volumes by itself. It made me reflect on my actions and thoughts:

  • the-principal-50-part1
    The Principal 50: Critical Leadership Questions for Inspiring Schoolwide Excellence http://buff.ly/264nCIf @PrincipalKafele

    What do I really believe about my school?

  • Would teachers/students parents be able to articulate my beliefs to a visitor to West Rowan Middle?
  • What does a person see/hear when I am talking about West Rowan Middle?
  • Do my students say my attitude sucks or do they believe I love them and my school?
  • What am I inspiring people to say, think and do?
  • Do they see/hear a consistent message?
  • Do they hear trust and belief from me?
  • Do I joke too much? Do I use sarcasm at the wrong time?
  • Am I speaking with enthusiasm and drive? Commitment?

I also reflected on other lead learners in my building:

Department Chairs: Do the teachers in these departments merely get updates or are they hearing an inspiring message to try new things? Do the teachers in departments know they are supported on every level? Are teachers encouraged? Are teachers being told that their department is critical but our overall goal is drive the school mission and vision forward?

Grade Level Chairs: Do teachers hear a positive message in supporting the emotional/social needs of our kids? Are teachers building great routines that help them get to supporting students? Are teachers being told that their grade level is the most important and our overall goal is drive the school mission and vision forward?

Leadership Team: Are they seeing me model tough conversations and change and is it giving them the tools and impetus to do the same? Do they hear and see the vision of our school being communicated in a powerful way that will help them repeat the message?

Parents: Do my parents hear me say we look forward to seeing kids everyday? Do they believe it? Do they know we are always looking for new ways to challenge kids?Do they know that we treasure their future?

I want my attitude and message to be meaningful and contagious. This is a great message for us all, any educator in any position, to keep a keen eye on what we do and say and be purposeful in our acts and messages.

Other resources:

 

The Realities of Learning, Unlearning, and Relearning

James Pittman, the technology facilitator at West Rowan Middle School, shared this article with me about a digital/thinking shift happening at AT&T.

14att-split-master1050Gearing Up for the Cloud, AT&T Tells Its Workers: Adapt, or Else http://buff.ly/1QfahPt

Randall Stephenson, Chief and Chairman at AT&T, has laid out a new, clear vision for where the company needs to go, specifically in terms of evolving employee skills.

“There is a need to retool yourself, and you should not expect to stop”
‘If you don’t develop the new skills, you won’t be fired … but you won’t have much of a future’
“Learn new skills or find your career choices are very limited.”

Screen Shot 2014-12-12 at 1.33.44 PMThis is a good hard truth for many of us working with students and teachers in schools today. This article talks about the dire need to evolve – if the employees of this company do not continuously grow skills and adapt practices they could face some dire changes. The absolute same can be said for us in schools – if we don’t change beliefs, practices and approaches to learning and teaching, we will woefully underprepare students for their futures.

It was telling to hear that Stephenson’s own brother is one of the reluctant movers of the company – talk about a leadership conundrum. But in terms of what we face and do in our schools, are we having the difficult change conversations with our co-workers that will bring about the change we need? Are we having the ‘good’ conversations with others about:

  • flexible learning spaces
  • passion/problem based learning
  • BYOD
  • Student ownership
  • Decreasing direct instruction
  • Flipped learning
  • Blended learning

Do they know they have to change for their students? What do we do when they are reluctant?

hqdefaultThis makes me think of one of my favorite quotes from Alvin Toffler captured in this visual. This was profound when I read it years ago and even more striking when I read it in the context of this article. Literacy is a fundamental skill but we have to teach everyone that fundamental skills today also include adapatability, communication, critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, and grit. If we don’t promote these skills, students may not only find themselves ‘illiterate’ by new measures, they could also be unemployed or ‘have limited options.’ I want better for my students.

A few takeaways:

  • Do you have a clear vision of where you want to take your department, school, or school district and can people articulate it?
  • Stephenson needs his employees to be critical, flexible thinkers and solve problems they didn’t imagine when they first began working – are you training students for that mindset?
  • How are you fostering growth and change in the skills of people in your department, school, district?
  • If students returned to your school in 5, 10, 15 years would they say “This school really prepared me for my future” or “I’m riding the copper train all the way down”
  • Does AT&T have Twitter chats? Imagine the growth and potential for implementing PLN growth practices like Twitter chats or edcamps [or whatever is comparable].

You should share this article with every stakeholder group in your school.

Screen Shot 2014-12-12 at 1.33.44 PMParents should read this article because if they aren’t educators they can appreciate a good business/work story and the implications of what happens when an employee can’t meet company needs.

Teachers should read this article because they are living this reality [or they should be]. We all have to check our great practices from 5 years ago and embrace that every year is a new year and we should be putting something in place that we have newly learned.

Students should read this article to begin to understand why they must develop dynamic skills and a growth mindset. We should be celebrating successes and growing hungrier from every opportunity given to us.

 

Be That Teacher

0050ec171fb4eff4365f729391c9ab38Teaching is hard.

Change is hard.

We regularly ask teachers to make difficult adjustments to their practices. Change talks come from all levels, central office, building administrators and from the teachers themselves. If we are going to commit to relevant and rigorous learning, we have to commit to real, regular and honest conversations with ourselves, and our groups, about what we are doing in our schools, what things need to look and be like, and then work we need to engage in to get there. Without these talks and commitment, we won’t realize changes in:

  • implementing teaching practices to get students to communicate, collaborate, think critically and creatively;
  • making sure students are future ready, whether it be college or a career;
  • changing not only how we teach, but how we think and FEEL about what teaching is and should be;
  • using different mediums or approaches, sometimes that challenge us personally and professionally, to reach students
  • taking deliberate steps to meet the individual needs of every student in every class.

I recently had a conversation with some of our teachers about the difficulties we are facing in our school. As with any school, a new leader brings some new viewpoints and practices in how things are done. But it doesn’t matter if these innovations are brought in from the administration or the central office or from a strong teacher leader – changes have to be made to keep learning the priority. Reflection, new learning goals and a focus on student learning means change is inevitable.

Change is hard. And if that difficulty isn’t managed or monitored or addressed carefully frustration, resentment and feelings of hopelessness can overwhelm everyone. These feelings can cause arguments or conflicts to start between different parties. We can get caught up in making sure our point is heard or that we win a disagreement. If not handled appropriately, while battles are fought, students lose out.

0a83c260d3084c6a58067328d5eab5a0Our recent talk was about how some of the recent changes in our school was affecting everyone. I wanted to convey two big points with the staff. First, I wanted to acknowledge that I know change is hard. Change is particularly difficult for educators because we invest so much, personally and professionally, into creating learning experiences for students and our colleagues that when we find something successful we want to protect and guard it. Every person wants to build something that is good and valuable. These kinds of investments are significant and when we are successful in creating a great activity or lesson to share or design great presentations or trainings for our colleagues, we want to protect it – after all it is great and we are proud. The hard part, especially for teachers, is when we have created lessons or activities that were engaging at some point but have to be changed or modified to fit the needs of different learners or environments or times. Because of investments in time, emotion and sweat, it can be hard to let. These factors make change hard. They have to be respected and heard.

#BeThatTeacher

The second part of my message was a call to the teachers in our great school to rise to the challenge. Our school is great school because we have committed teachers who are determined to make a difference. You can’t have one without the other. They do many things that unseen to make sure students are successful and thriving. Its inspiring to see our teachers daily trying to reach students, personally and academically, and push them to grow and improve, if only just a little, from the previous day. And as they push kids, we have to push ourselves as well.

Be That Teacher who:

  • builds a great activity with a teammate and later asks, how can we improve next time?;
  • acknowledges the frustration, comes into the principal’s office to vent, hugs it out and leave with a plan to do a little better;
  • doesn’t see it as a failure, but sees it as a journey;
  • is learning a new thing this week or month or year;
  • chooses not to hear a criticism but an opportunity to grow;
  • doesn’t accept a 0 or 50 or 100, but looks thinks, ‘Do my kids get it?’;
  • isn’t afraid to bring a good plan to the team and make it better;

[Some of these bullet points weren’t part of my talk but as I write this, I reflect on conversations I’ve had with teachers over the years in different schools and with members in my PLN.]

In one of the opening chapters of Mindset, Carol Dweck writes about athletes who have thrived in competitive environments where they were often outclassed. At the end, they were better for it because it forced them to develop an attitude to keep pushing and moving forward. Its not about the win, its about the struggle – that’s where the victory comes.

#bethatteacher is about change, not for the sake of change, but change to give kids what they need for their future. Its about being happy enough with ourselves to accept that we have to keep working at what we are doing for our classrooms, schools and students.

Stay motivated.

Get inspired

#bethatteacher

Its a Culture Builder, Not a Selfie Stick

We had our #OpenHouse Thursday night and it was a rousing success! After some heavy promotion and incredible preparation from an incredible staff [#GoBulldogs], we enjoyed a packed gymnasium, full halls and lots of smiles!

We had two separate events – one special open house for 6th graders and a separate one for 7th/8th. Both the same night, just 30 minutes apart. This allowed us to spend time with our 6th graders and introduce our teachers, support staff, share some essential logistics and give them the ‘run of the school’ minus 7th and 8th graders who already have working knowledge of the school but just have to get to know teachers, transportation changes and more importantly catch up with old friends.

Our night was a great success.

School Leader’s Tool for Culture Building

Most of you know that my last staff, #broncopride, gave a me a selfie stick as a going away present. It has without a doubt been a lot of fun at lot different events. It helps start conversations, make introductions and create some great memories. When I was given the selfie stick at the faculty meeting I took 40+ pictures in an hour, the next day in school I took 50+. At these open houses, I effortlessly took 110+ pictures. I’ve loaded some of them below.

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There are a couple of easy takeaways from the draw of the selfie stick in the principal’s/school leader’s hand:

  1. People believe in the approachability;
  2. The selfie stick says its ok to trust me;
  3. We draw together to be a part of something bigger [Relationships, relationships, relationships];
  4. Fun opens the door but the conversations keeps them there.

Culture Building

One thing I’ve learned over the years is that you can never take culture for granted, it can surface in the most obscure places. That night, I saw new parents and students, returning parents and students, faculty and staff take time to be a part of something bigger and happy! This was a great time because we all were a part of happy event we will remember for a while to come.

Its important to start the year off on a good note and let people know the culture of the school, the values of the leadership both involve transparency, working together and creating a welcoming environment.

So as I move forward with the school year, I’m not just having fun, I’m Who's this guybuilding a positive school culture. I’m not just taking pictures, I’m drawing my community together and letting them know that I’ll be there for them as their proud principal.

[ok, it is a lot of fun]

Connecting and Influence

One of my graduate school professors shared an insight that has stayed with me for after almost 15 years later:

  • Students are the reason we have schools;
  • Teachers are the most important people in the school building;
  • Principals are the most influential people in the building.

As a teacher in program at the time and later as an assistant principal, I didn’t have a good understanding about the principal and influence. My perception was the principal’s role was one of authority – giving mandates around the school on what needed to be changed and put in place to make the school a better place to work and learn. But some good mentors and supervisors helped me understand the power of building a vision and empowering others to be incremental in making change in schools.

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My presentation this week at #ModelSchool in Atlanta  centered around the influence of the school leader and one of the major tools that school leaders leverage in becoming better leaders – getting connected. One of the things I’m most grateful for is how my PLN constantly reinforces and teaches me how to be a more effective leader. I learn from world class experts on leadership best practices that help grow me as a leader and in turn change my school environment. Jimmy Casas, principal of Bettendorf High School in Iowa, is a great example of this. I visited Jimmy during one of his open sessions while he was coaching a school administrator on how to begin his journey on bringing about systemic, courageous change in his school.  I’ve heard Jimmy speak a number of times, follow of his posts and thoughts on social media and avidly follow his work. I know him to be a great thought leader and leadership coach but I would absolutely not know him if I was not a connected educator. Being connected shrinks our world and brings experts with in arm’s length. It gives us immediate access to their knowledge and experience. I’m a better leader and educator because my PLN [professional learning network] is always there and accessible.

School leaders at every level should make time to build up and engage their PLN. Spend time learning Twitter, Voxer, Facebook and start developing your leadership skills, understand your role as a vision builder and start using your influence help change your school. We will never mandate our way to better schools but leveraging our influence is how we build sustaining and impactful change.

Its About Learning AND Sharing

A recent Twitter post inspired a great exchange between me Jennifer Marten,@jenmarten. I wanted to share this conversation because it epitomizes what effective educators are about. Effective educators should be about learning new information that will make a difference in their schools or classrooms and making sure that students in classrooms reap benefits as well. That’s the essence of a PLN – helping other educators help their students.

 

 

 

 

Thanks Jennifer for this great conversation!

Take a moment to reflect on what your PLN means to you or better yet, what you want your PLN to do for you! Now’s the time to engage with the difference makers who will help the learning in your classroom! We are all committed to growing students!

Prepping our Middle Schoolers for a Blended Experience

Several weeks ago, we began some strategic planning to address a large class-number problem we knew we would be having in our upcoming second semester. The short description of our solution is that we would create a blended learning experience, using local resources, for these students. The beauty of our solution is that we would not have to acquire any new resources, we could use existing resources in our school. The focus of our work would be in training staff members and students in the format, design and tools we would need to have a successful experience.

Training SLMS Students on GoogledDrive5

We have designed an online mini-course for our health classes. We had our Health/PE teachers collaborate with  our instructional coaches to develop quality online curriculum for this blended learning experience. Curriculum design is a passion of mine so this is right up my alley! It was exciting to see this develop during our progress monitoring checks. After we decided on the content, choosing our delivery tool was next. We are fortunate in that Cumberland County Schools, #Broadfinalist, is a Google district and one of the top 10 largest school districts on Edmodo. With a combination of the two we feel we had great resources we need to make this successful.

The most important component is getting our learners ready for this endeavor. We outlined all the operational knowledge we know our learners need and came up with a pretty concise but critical list. Our students have been on Edmodo for years so we felt comfortable with that knowledge base. We designed a training protocol for our students on Google. @CumberlandCoSch enabled Google accounts for all 6-12 students earlier this year. Our training was a walk through on the various Google tools they would need to complete assignments and navigate coursework. The pictures here are of our training day with kids. They came with a lot of prior knowledge and of course some had more experience than others but by the end of the session, all students were where we needed them. In the pictures, you will see our Innovation Coach leading a talk with a group [I even took over session when she was called to the office].

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This will be a great experience for teachers and learners, for our school as a whole. I plan on showcasing our plus/deltas and progress with our staff as a whole to show where we can go and move as a school. I’m proud of this experience we are creating and building in house. I’m excited about this because its another chance to share a real-life working example of students centered learning experiences that our learners need and that our school can provide.

Earlier this week, I found this article on the different types of blended learning models out there. A real value of this article is the summary of the benefits of blended learning. Our original plan was sparked by necessity, pure and simple. But while we’re here and have engaged in some great curriculum design and planned for great learning experiences for our learners, we are going protect this as endeavor and promote it benefits. Hopefully, we’ll see this expand and grow.

I need to give thanks to a lot of people for this:

  • SLMS Instructional Team for dreaming and pushing forward and our Health/PE teachers for curriculum design
  • Innovation Coach – Ms Crumpler, you rock!
  • 6th grade Broncos – Kids Rock!
  • NCVPS – Bryan Setser and Don Lourcey for first exposing me to blended learning
  • Donna Peters and Dave Cassady
  • Cumberland County Schools for having the foundation in place and willingness to be flexible
  • And of course my PLN!