Staying True to Your Roots

When we make the move from the classroom to other leadership positions in schools, the transition can be awkward at times. PIRATE leaders stay connected to the heartbeat of the classroom,  with the realization that roles have shifted. We understand that we need to continue to model effective teaching practices, but also know that we simply cannot teach classes each day. Modeling strategies during adult learning helps, but it still is not the same as teaching a class of students. In order to keep our credibility as leaders, we must find opportunities to “walk the talk” of instructional leadership.

The challenge then becomes, how do you find ways to do this, when you already have a to-do list that is overflowing? And if you neglect those other important leadership tasks and spend all day teaching, that can also have some very negative impacts as well. The balance is delicate, but Shelley and I believe that asking the right questions can help to tease out those opportunities to make this a reality. What do you do when you are short on subs? Do you divide kids and make other classes bigger? Do you pull other staff to cover? How often do you roll your sleeves up and cover classes to ensure that learning is still the number one focus? It is one thing to say we value serving leadership, it is another to make it happen. How could you set up a rotation so that once a month you get a chance to teach a different class? How could you offer to model specific strategies that your school is focusing on for staff? If you are in central office role, how could you answer these questions to ensure you are able to get back into classrooms?

These are just a few questions to trigger ideas on staying true to your roots as a leader. We look forward to hearing your ideas and hope you can take our #LeadLAP challenge for the week. Please share your thoughts (and pictures if you have them) on the hashtag. 

The Stay True to Your Roots #LeadLAP Challenge:

  • How can you find time to get in the classroom without neglecting your daily leadership tasks? How could you commit to being the “mystery teacher” one period a week (or a month, start somewhere) to allow the classroom teacher to collaborate with colleagues or observe others (or observe you)?
  • Create a monthly or quarterly drawing where the winner gets to spend the day developing lessons and materials while you teach their class. Part of the day, the winner gets to observe you and give feedback.

Thank you for all you do as leaders! Shelley and I look forward to learning and leading with you this week!

#CultureMatters

Culture First, Culture Next, Culture Always!

I just had thcwgzssbvqagokgue wonderful opportunity to co-host an inspiring #satchatwc with the theme #CultureMatters with my good friend Jay Billy (@jaybilly2). It was evident throughout the chat that culture trumps everything else in a building. No matter what terrific structures you have in place, systems you have established, facilities, resources, etc. the school culture drives everything. Period. Our #LeadLAP (Lead Like a PIRATE) challenge for this week is for each of you to reflect on how you are adding to the culture of your organization. These are some of the questions that emerged this morning that I invite each of you to reflect on this week:
  • Am I presuming positive intentions of our students, staff and families?
  • Am I being solution-oriented instead of complaint-driven?
  • Am I truly following our norms in our team meetings?
  • Am I bringing my coworkers down by my body language, complaining or gossip?
  • Am I taking time to think out engaging lessons for students that will minimize behaviors and actually get our students enjoying school? As an administrator, am I doing the same for staff?
  • Am I pushing myself to take risks to add to the culture of growth mindset?
  • What practices do I have set up to celebrate students, staff and families?
  • How am I confronting behaviors that toxify the school culture?
  • Is what I am projecting worth spreading to the whole school?
  • What can I do the very first thing on Monday morning to make a positive difference in our school culture?
What is one thing you will intentionally do this week to make the culture better at your school? Also, this is a great topic to take to our students. How might you offer a similar challenge to them? Please share your ideas to the #LeadLAP hashtag so we can all learn and grow together. Have an amazing week! #CultureMatters

Resources on Culture:

If you have a favorite to add, please tweet to #LeadLAP or @BethHouf

Transcript of Today’s Chat

.participate.com/chats/satchatwc

BAM! Interview with Rosa Isiah and Ken Williams

http://www.bamradionetwork.com/tweeted/4122-school-culture-myths-compliance-commitment-and-buy-in

Blogs by Rich Czyz on Culture

http://fouroclockfaculty.com/2016/10/strategies-for-a-solutions-based-culture/

http://fouroclockfaculty.com/2016/04/negative-energy/

Cybraryman’s Culture Page

http://cybraryman.com/cultureschool.html

Powerful Reminder from Matt Miller

http://ditchthattextbook.com/2014/09/25/turning-into-the-teacher-i-dont-want-to-be/

Resources from ASCD

http://www.ascd.org/research-a-topic/school-culture-and-climate-resources.aspx

School Culture Rewired–>Book Spotlight

http://www.ascd.org/Publications/Books/Overview/School-Culture-Rewired.aspx

http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/classroom_qa_with_larry_ferlazzo/2015/07/school_culture_rewired_an_interview_with_steve_gruenert_todd_whitaker.html

Transforming School Culture–>Book Spotlight

http://newfrontier21.com/store/transforming-school-culture/

Setting the Foundation

z1apwwvn-1At Fulton Middle School, we just completed our first full week of school and it seems like we have been back for months already…in a good way! Students and staff have worked hard to build a positive school and classroom culture. Routines are well established and the buzz of learning is palpable when you walk through the doors. We have worked hard to develop relationships with our students and families through positive contacts as well as virtually knocking down the walls of our building through the use of social media to showcase our story. Our staff have stepped up to lead the mission of our school and the energy is spreading like wildfire! It’s been a great start to what looks to be the #BestYearYet as an educator. I can tell our staff feels this way as well.

But I have work to do as an administrator. This is also the time that our staff begin to feel overwhelmed by maintaining this energy. I begin to ask myself, how can I best support our staff? To me, it starts with appreciation. Something that I was inspired to do from the book Kids Deserve It by Adam Welcome and Todd Nesloney is to put together a form to get to know staff better. This form (HERE)includes a place to get contact information for the families of my staff so that I can showcase their amazingness to the people that matter most to them. I am also dedicating this week to not only be in each room, but drop an {anchor of appreciation} to each staff member. To take this to another level, I’m also going to send anchors of appreciation to the other building leaders in our district. Never underestimate the power of appreciation.

One thing that I’ve also started doing this year, that I should have done years ago, is work to secure subs for our mentor teachers and new teachers to observe, model and give and get feedback from each other from the start. We can’t rely on already busy teachers to use their already full plan time. Something else is that at our school, we encourage ALL staff to support our new teachers by checking in on them during plan, lunch and before and after school. We are all in this together. Just because you aren’t new doesn’t mean you don’t need support though. Our school has Team Tuesdays each week. This is a time when all of the teachers of a grade level, the principal and assistant principal, counselors, and special education teachers come together for professional development and data teaming during team plan. A rolling agenda item and focus is “What support do you need?” We are shifting the culture to one of support and collaboration vs isolation, blame and shame. We shouldn’t be nervous or worried if our colleagues are in our rooms asking how they can help, we should be nervous if they are not.

The next #leadlap challenge is to reflect on how you can take time to support and appreciate those you serve from the beginning. Don’t forget others in the district that could use appreciation..other building leaders, district leaders, etc. If you haven’t started school yet, how can you reach out before the first day? If you are in full swing, how can you be sure you build these practices from the beginning. Please share your ideas, thoughts and reflection to the #leadlap hashtag. Shelley and I can’t wait to see all of you ideas! Have an amazing week!

Back to School… Like a Pirate!

imageUpdate: I wrote this post on the eve of becoming our district’s new middle school principal in the summer of 2015. Our building wanted to do something big on those first days of school to show our change in our mission to create a school that our students, staff and parents are beating the doors to get IN, not out. We wanted to get our kids so excited about learning on day one, that they couldn’t wait to come back the next day.  What I can say, without a doubt, is the first day of our first year together at Fulton Middle School was one of my favorite, most memorable days of my career. I watched our staff pour their hearts into teaching and showcase their passions for the subjects they teach. I experienced our students enjoying learning, from the first minutes of class. I experienced all of us trying new things, some successfully, some not, which laid the beginnings of a foundation of growth mindset. These first few days set the tone for our year, which truly was amazing! The original blog is as follows and then I’ve added some BONUS material to the end. Thank you so much for reading and making this year the #BestYearEver for your students, staff, parents and YOU!

Original Post:

Sometimes an article finds us at exactly the right moment. Moving to a new position next fall, I have been in back-to-school mode all summer. First impressions are the most important, so I’ve been constantly thinking and brainstorming about how to start the year for students AND staff with a bang. My personal mission is to collaboratively create a school that our students, staff and parents are running to get IN rather than out. I knew the traditional first day of rules and rules and more rules would not work.  Then I stumbled upon this treasure:

http://inservice.ascd.org/how-do-you-motivate-middle-school-students-by-inspiring-teachers-to-think-outside-the-box-on-the-first-day-of-school/?crlt_pid=camp.onBhIriAFhHN

image-1I immediately shared it with my leadership team on our Voxer group as well as a few PLN members for feedback. As Dave Burgess says, the snowball began to roll. I had immediate feedback on a Friday night from everyone. An overwhelming WE MUST DO THIS came back to me loud and clear. (on a Friday night in July, I might add!) I shared the article, as well as the amazing quote by my friend Don Wettrick, author of Pure Genius to my PLN and I found there are several others ready to make this happen as well! Then I found a blog by Don on this very topic as well. http://theinnovationteacher.com/create-culture-first/ YES!! Create culture FIRST! When the right culture is cultivated, it’s amazing how the need for specific rules diminishes.I had a conversation with my PIRATE principal pal Jay Billy about how awesome it would be get our colleagues to take this Back to School…Like a PIRATE challenge with us, not just teachers, but school leaders as well. This challenge is to not only make the first few days of school an EXPERIENCE for our students, but to extend this thinking to our staff learning. How can we minimize the mundane and maximize the excitement for our profession; for our passions in education?

image-2Our theme for our school year at Fulton Middle School is Together, We CAN! This works perfectly for our challenge as well. Jay and I created this Google Doc to collect ideas to KICK up those first days of school. We would LOVE it if you would add your amazing ideas as well. Imagine the possibilities of a year that starts in such a positive way. That snowball will continue to roll into the BEST YEAR EVER! Together, We CAN change the way things always have been those first few days of school. The challenge is ON! Let’s make it happen!

Google Doc for sharing:
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1qXQJWagnbwj7CYeajg24FKmDtRDiQHa2NYosU69Zjjc/edit?usp=sharing

Update: 
Last fall, I had the opportunity to partner with the outstanding educator, Shelley Burgess to begin Lead Like a PIRATE. We hosted weekly challenges through our #LeadLAP hashtag to help us become intentional about our leadership practices and build support within our PLN. Our first challenge for the 2016-2017 school year is from the blog above. How can you TRANSFORM back to school to lay the foundation for an unbelievable school year? Please share out your ideas on the doc above and the #leadlap hashtag. When we share, we help make everyone better! Shelley and I can’t wait to see the amazing things happening in your school. Here’s to the #BestYearEver!

 

Everyday Appreciation

recite-1aqnkhvLast week’s staff appreciation was wonderful at our school. It is always a favorite week of mine to show how much I appreciate all that our staff does for our students. Through the positivity, I had a nagging feeling throughout the week. As much as I loved the celebration, I wondered how I could do a better job of appreciating those that surround me all year long. Special weeks and presents are great, but it’s the day to day interactions and meaningful expressions of gratitude that last through the years. For me, this means I need to slow down and take time to listen. Sometimes I get so driven that I forget to ask how those around me are doing. Small talk can lead to rich conversations and deep trust. I also need to take a few minutes each day and take time to appreciate those that have gone out of their way to help me. I’ve put a stack of blank thank you notes on my desk to help remind me to make this a daily habit. Before I leave school each night, I’ve also started to fill out at least two student positive referrals. This small task has helped to keep my focus each day on looking for the amazing things that our students do. It’s wonderful what you see when you look for it. Lastly, I need to remember to take time to appreciate the work that I do instead of beating myself up for what I haven’t done yet. It’s hard to appreciate others when our own appreciation reservoirs are low.

Our #LeadLAP challenge for this week is to reflect on how you can show appreciation for staff all year long. How can you ensure that those that surround you in your school community know how much you appreciate what they do each day. It’s amazing how small gestures can make deep impact. Share your ideas to the hashtag and include pictures if you have them. As always, Shelley and I look forward to your wonderful ideas! Have a great week!

#LoveMySchoolDay

Happy Sunday! Our #LeadLAP Challenge is a two part challenge for this week. The first step is to take part in the #LoveMySchoolDay which is happening tomorrow! Basically, take time tomorrow to share out the amazing happening in your classroom or building using the #LoveMySchoolDay hashtag. (if you can squeeze #LeadLAP in, too, that would be awesome!) Of course, every day is #LoveMySchoolDay, but the WHY behind this is to connect our schools globally to showcase the awesome learning opportunities happening for students. John Wink (@JohnWink90) is the creator behind this special day. You can read his thoughts here: http://leadlearner2012.blogspot.com/p/lovemyschoolday.html
So inspiring! Part two of the challenge is that we ask that you continue #LoveMySchoolDay throughout this whole week! Post at least 5 tweets daily throughout the week to the #LeadLAP hashtag to spotlight the amazing at your building. Shelley and I can’t wait to see the posts and learn new ideas that we can bring to our schools. Have an amazing week!

#LeadLAP Challenge – Teacher Appreciation Week: Personalize It!

So… I’ll admit that this challenge maybe should have been sent out a few weeks ago as Teacher Appreciation Week is now upon us, but we still felt like it was worth posting even though it’s late in the game.  I don’t know about you, but as a principal I always looked forward to Teacher Appreciation Week.  I loved putting time, energy, and creative thought into how to honor the challenging and important work that teachers do day in and day out.  For me it was always the ultimate time to celebrate teachers, and Beth and I both believe in doing this in a very authentic and personal way.  We will admit that we have both had colleagues who do not look forward to this week… They treat it like one more thing to check off the “to do” list.  Their celebration of teachers this week is usually very general and looks something like picking a gift from a catalog and telling their secretary to order one for everyone, creating a generic note to attach to it and either putting it in the teacher mailboxes or handing it out at a staff meeting with a very general speech that sounds something like this: “You are all my heroes!  Each and every one of you makes a difference in the lives of our students, and I’m grateful for the work you all do.”  Sometimes the speech and the gift are accompanied by a lunch or some treats brought in by the PTA or catered by a local restaurant chosen by the secretary. Teacher appreciation… Check!  While celebrating teacher appreciation week in a general way can be a powerful component of what you do… adding a personalized touch can take it to the next level.

That’s what Beth and I like to do! Rather than just generalize teacher appreciation this week, we strive to personalize it and make it meaningful for each individual teacher in some way.  We also like to do things where we personally give of our time rather than asking others to give theirs. It takes more time and effort, but it is time well spent if by the end of the week each teacher knows that there is something unique and special about them that you appreciate and that you are willing to put in the time to honor their unique talents and gifts.  Including just one thing throughout the week that is personalized shows teachers that you care, that you notice what makes them different and special, and contributes to building that positive culture on your campus.  We ask our teachers to personalize for our students, Teacher Appreciation Week is a great way to do the same for our staff.

So… our #LeadLAP Challenge to you this week is to build in just one thing that is personalized for each teacher or is personally giving of your time.  Below are a few examples of things that Beth and I have done over the years.  We would love for you to share what you are doing to personalize teacher appreciation all week using the #LeadLAP hashtag.

Teacher Appreciation Gift Ideas:

  • Choose a book that you want to give to everyone, but make it personal in some way.  Beth gave her entire staff a copy of P is for PIRATE: Inspirational ABC’s for Educators and chose a letter that represented each individual teacher well.  She wrote a personal, hand-written note, inserted on the particular page explaining why that particular letter reminded her of them.  Below are a few pics:

screen-shot-2016-10-09-at-8-02-08-pm

  • Create an individualized poster for each teacher to hang in their classrooms.  Select a different quote or poem for each teacher and write a personal note as to why that quote/poem reminded you of them. If you have a special staff meeting or lunch, it’s fun to have these hanging up to decorate the room.  Teachers can do a gallery walk and see them and then take theirs down at the end of the event.
  • Take an hour one day this week and visit every single classroom. Tell their students that it is Teacher Appreciation Week and share a few words with the class about why you think their teacher is special.
  • Write a personalized letter to each teacher’s spouse, parent, or other significant person in their life telling them how much you appreciate them and why.  I had a teacher do this for me once… he wrote a letter to my mom thanking her for all she had done to contribute to the person I had become and they type of leader I was for our school.  It was one of the best gifts I (and my mom) ever received.
  • Give the gift of time.  One of the things I did every year was have a raffle during our teacher appreciation lunch.  The prizes were administrators giving their time in order to give a teacher the gift of time.  Prizes were things like covering recess or morning duty, covering a class period with the grand prize being a teacher day off… The teacher would get a day off, and I would teach their class for the day.

These are just a few simple examples.  We know you have more!!  We can’t wait to hear what you are doing to celebrate your teachers this week.  We look forward to seeing your pictures and Tweets in the #LeadLAP hashtag!

 

#LeadLAP Challenge – 5 Survey

screen-shot-2016-10-09-at-8-09-35-pmBeth and I are thrilled to have an amazing educational leader and friend, Amy Illingworth (@AmyLIllingworth) host this week’s #LeadLAP Challenge.  I will be writing a blog this week in response to the “5 survey” and sharing it in our #LeadLAP hashtag.  I hope you’ll join us!

From Amy:

Over the last few months the #LeadLAP challenges have asked us to get into classrooms to appreciate the amazing work our teachers are doing every day on behalf of their students.  We’ve dropped anchors, been enthusiastic, rethought professional learning, and harnessed the power of social media.
Today it’s time to reflect and share our reflections with other leaders, to enhance our collective knowledge and impact on students and teachers.  Below is a survey asking you to reflect on your work as a #LeadLAP leader.  For each topic, brainstorm 5 items that relate to education, leadership and learning and why they ended up on your list.  Feel free to share your ideas on Twitter in the #LeadLAP hashtag or on your own blog.  We can learn from one another!

For a sample, see mine here.

Five Places I’m Dying To Visit

Five Tasks I Do Every Day

Five Talents I Wish I Had

Five Leaders I Wish I Could Work With

Five Twitter Hashtags I Love

Five Blogs I Love To Read

Five Phrases I Have On Repeat

Five Books On My To-Be-Read List

Through Their Eyes: Shadow a Student Challenge

screen-shot-2016-10-09-at-8-11-36-pmShelley and I both have been inspired by blog posts that we have seen recently from educators taking the #shadowastudent challenge. The premise of this challenge is for educators to take time to spend a day shadowing a student at his/her school and looking at teaching and learning through their eyes. Our challenge to you this week is to read through the posts below and take the challenge to shadow a student in your school. Then take a moment to reflect and share to the #LeadLAP community through our hashtag. I look forward to taking this challenge along side you and can’t wait to read your reflections. Have a great week!
Shadow a Student Homepage:
Inspiration from Dr. Neil Gupta, District Administrator from Ohio:
Washington Post Article:

Who’s Your Champion?

recite-q3jam1“Every child deserves a champion: an adult that will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection and insists that they be the best they can be.” Rita Pierson

A week ago our community had to say a much too early goodbye to a champion of education. Mr. Bob Hogan was a champion to so many students, staff, parents and community members. I had the utmost privilege to follow in the footsteps of Mr. Hogan as principal of McIntire Elementary upon his retirement. Mr. Hogan served as my mentor, role model, comic relief, father figure and friend. Most of all, Mr. Hogan was a champion to me. He taught me so many important things about leadership that I could never learn in any class or professional development. As I’ve made decisions over the years, I’ve always thought to myself, “What would Mr. Hogan do?” I was honored to be asked to speak at Mr. Hogan’s funeral service about his impact. I shared these important things that have helped to build my own leadership philosophy. Mr. Hogan reminded me to:

  • Keep the passion and fight for what’s right in our noble profession that sometimes can get minimized to a fill in the bubble test. But….don’t forget when to be more poodle and when to be more bulldog.
  • Take time to enjoy what you are personally passionate about. Take a personal day to go to the ballpark. Spend your weekend away from work. Enjoy life!
  • Always do what is best for kids, but remember to take care of those special people that are teaching our kids.
  • Don’t forget there is a time to ask for permission and when to ask for forgiveness.
  • It all comes down to relationships…with students, with staff, with parents, with the community, but most importantly with your own friends and family. Take time to enjoy the relationships in your life. Days are too short and you never know what the future holds.
  • Take your profession seriously, but not yourself.
  • Keep creating those unforgettable experiences for students, staff and your own kids. You just never know the influence it makes.

Mentors are hard to find, difficult to part with and impossible to forget. Thank you, Mr. Hogan, for making the world a better place, with your passion, compassion and that big smile.

As I said goodbye to Mr. Hogan, it made me think of all of the other champions in my life that have helped make me the leader I am today. Our #LeadLAP challenge for this week is to take time to thank the champions in your life. Feel free to share a blog post, memory, or shout out to the #LeadLAP hashtag or if you would rather just share privately with your champions, that is wonderful as well. Shelley and I can’t wait to hear about the incredible people in your lives. Have an wonderful week!