Friday, February 16, 2018

Are You Limited by the Labels?

What do you see when you look at a student?  Are you influenced by their clothes, their hair, or their appearance?  Do you judge them by the attitudes or the language they use to address you?  Whether we like it or not, a first impression is always formed by what we immediately see, but great educators possess the innate ability to look beyond the first impression to dig deeper into that child.

Here is a great video by Dwayne Johnson that illustrates what an educator can do for tough kids when they look far beyond rough edges to help students find their purpose in life.

But What about the Labels We See?
When you see a list of students, are you influenced by the labels on the list?  
  • When you are told that a student is LOW, do your beliefs about their potential instinctively drop?
  • Do you think students with a G/T label have very few difficulties in learning and should be able to do most things quickly and with fewer tries?
  • Do your learning targets change for students with a special education label compared to students who don't possess a special education label? 
  • Do your expectations lower for a student when you see that he failed the state test in your content area for the last 3 years?  
  • For students in an ESL program, do you make assumptions about their ability to learn based on their language proficiency?
Do Labels Lead You or Limit You?
If we're honest with ourselves, we are prone to make assumptions based on the labels assigned to students.  Furthermore, those labels influence our planning to lead them to excellence.  But the question we shouldn't ask ourselves is not if we look at kids differently.  The fact is that we do, and honestly we must.

What we must guard ourselves from is allowing labels to change our belief about the potential of our students.  We should continuously ask ourselves if labels lead us or limit us?  If they lead us, we are able to better personalize learning in such a way that addresses student deficients by leveraging their strengths.  If they limit us, we only see limitations shown by the label.  

Great educators are led by labels not inhibited by them.  They see potential not impossibilities, and they use labels to find innovative and creative ways to help every student discover their real label, EXCELLENT!!! 

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Ending Random Acts of School Improvement (Bonus Podcast)

The other day I had the opportunity to lead the #divergEd chat on Twitter.  The conversation centered around this thought. 

Random Acts of School Improvement 
Will Never Help ALL Teachers 
Learn, Grow, and Excel

The reason for this statement is simple.  Random acts are not goal driven.  They're feeling driven.  In order to help educators grow in their craft, we must first have a system that identifies where educators are in their proficiency, a structure to help each teacher set targeted and specific goals for growth, and a support system of professional learning to help them attain their goals.   Without this foundation, school improvement initiatives will be haphazard, based on the latest craze, or which ever way the educational winds blow. 

Here's the reality.  
We would never be random or unpredictable in our approach to helping kids grow in their learning. We would have a roadmap (curriculum) to guide us toward our goal.  We would create instruction that is aligned to that curriculum which would include best practices to move our students down the road we call student success, and we would systematically design formative assessments to gauge our progress towards reaching our goal of all students learning at high levels.  Furthermore, we would create support systems when students "break down" on their journey, so that we can provide those students targeted instructional supports to get them back on the road to their destination.

So Shouldn't We Do This for Educators?
Well absolutely we should, but in many cases we don't.  The reason is simple.  As leaders, we are so focused on students, that we often overlook the people that actually impact kids, teachers; therefore we throw professional development at them rather than taking an intentional and focused approach to ensure that every teacher learns based on their needs, not our random whims.  We make assumptions that they aren't learners because their teachers, and therefore don't need the same targeted instruction, and prescriptive supports to address their areas for growth that we would provide for students.   The fact is this.  Educators are learners too, and the deserve learning that is intentional, purposeful, and ultimately effective in helping them grow by leaps and bounds.

How Can We End Random Acts of Improvement?
In my podcast with Dr. Chris Weber, I explain the reason why schools must create instruction,  intervention and support systems for teachers in the exact same way that create them for students and I outline why we leaders need a guide to ensure that Excellence in Every Classroom isn't a hope.  It's a plan.  Hope you'll give it a listen.

Friday, February 2, 2018

5 Elements of an Excellent "IT" Factor in Educators

Do you have what IT takes to help all kids excel?  It's hard to describe a teacher who has IT.  They have an unbelievable ability to make IT happen regardless of the circumstances. They exceed by generating amazing results in learning because they ensure that any kid grows regardless of the difficulties that they possess.

So Do You Have IT?

Intense Tenacity - an insatiable passion for inspiring your students to love the content you teach. 

Intentional Teaching - everything you provide your students has a specific purpose to hook students into learning. 

Inquisitive Tinkering - never satisfied, you are always thinking of a new and better way to help all kids learn. 

Individualized Targets - knowing the specific strengths and weaknesses of your students, you design prescriptive activities to help them reach their learning targets. 

Dotted I's & Crossed T's - leaving nothing to chance, your organization ensures that every minute is maximized and every opportunity is optimized. 

What's your IT Factor?
The best teachers have a zest for teaching but even more a zeal for their own growth and development. They yearn for new ways to guarantee learning for their students and they do it through constant commitment and routine reflection.  That's how they find their it

Friday, January 26, 2018

10 Tips for Super Parent Satisfaction

Two years ago, my patience had one of the most trying days it had ever experienced. I had one job, get my daughter her driving permit, and that was a job that required a whole lot more time and waiting than I was prepared to give.  The steps were simple, so it seemed.

3 Steps and We're Done...

Step 1 - Find all the "required" paperwork.                CHECK

Step 2 - Get my paperwork notarized.                        CHECK

Step 3 - Get the driver's permit at the State Office.    After waiting in line for hours, CHECK. 


The most frustrating thing about going through the entire ordeal was the reoccurring thought that I would have to do this entire process again as a parent for my next 2 kids. Even though I was moderately annoyed, I really wasn't mad at the folks who helped me because they truly were working as hard and as fast as they could to help me and the countless other folks get their licenses. The fact was this.   The system didn't work very efficiently, and I couldn't stop thinking about how it could be more customer-focused instead of system-focused. 

But here's the REAL DEAL

I didn't want to share my thoughts of dissatisfaction because I just wanted to leave.  My exasperation drove me to resentment for the entire process because I was confident that no one there was interested in how I felt about my experience.  Furthermore I was convinced that this was a systems issue not a personnel issue. After all, what good would it do to offer suggestions or even complain to someone who was clearly a part of the system?

So how does this relate to parents?
The question that we as school leaders must ask is this.

  • Do our parents feel the same way about our processes?  
  • Do they feel that their thoughts really matter?  
  • Do they feel valued as partners in the education process?  
  • Do they find our customer service immediate and personal or insensitive and passive?  
To answer these questions, we all need to dig deep and answer this question.

10 Tips for Super Parent Satisfaction

This is a question that every school leader must answer from the perspective of a parent.  If you were a parent, would you feel that your calls were answered promptly and your questions responded to quickly?  If you entered the school doors, would your office staff greet you warmly no matter who you were or what you looked like?  Would your emails be returned promptly?  If you had a suggestion to make the school better, would you feel like the leader or who ever you talked to was open to listening to your ideas?

If you truly believe that all parents matter, don't miss the opportunity to act on that belief.  Here are a
few strategies to make parents feel more valued when they enter your building.

  1. Smile and make eye contact as you greet parents no matter what's going on.
  2. Don't be so busy that you can't personally and warmly acknowledge them. 
  3. Ask questions that offer your concern, your help or your support. 
  4. Don't get defensive when they're angry. They're not mad at you, yet.  Be open and listen to their frustration. 
  5. Help people understand that they're important and their feedback matters to the school.
  6. Before they leave, ask them if there's anything else you can do for them. 
  7. No matter what, thank them for coming to the school and wish them a great day.  
  8. Reply to parent emails within 24 hours.
  9. Acknowledge Facebook and Twitter comments with openness and understanding.
  10. Follow up with contact thanking people for taking time to talk to you.

Parents send us their very best; therefore, we owe them our very best. They deserve our efficiency, courtesy, dignity and most of all appreciation. When parents receive this kind of customer satisfaction, they will not only appreciate what we do, they'll actively support us in meeting our ultimate goal, student success. 

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Leadership Lessons from the Mirror

Reflection is the difference between excellence and mediocrity. Those who reflect the most, grow the most while those who engage in infrequent reflection, remain where they are. Bottom line, if we want to discover our excellence, we have to take a hard look in the mirror, and we need to do it often.

Don’t believe me?
Check out this tweet I shared a while back.

Reflection is the key to finding your excellence.  Without it, you won't be able to acknowledge your opportunities for growth, i.e. blemishes, messed up hair, or even the sleep in your eye.  But what's worse is that those you lead will notice your inability to pursue growth, and that will do nothing but impede your ability to inspire them to learn and grow by looking in the mirror.

Take a look in the mirror.  Not only will your leadership improve.  Your organization will thank you for it.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

What are We Doing to the Future of Education?

What is the future of education?  No wait... Perhaps that is the wrong question.  To get closer to the heart of my initial question, maybe I should pose a different question. Where is the future of education? Now that not only asks the question but answers it as well.  The future of education is sitting in the seats our classrooms today, so how is the  future of education doing?  Does the future of education even want to accept the challenge of becoming the future of education?

I had the opportunity to hear the presentation about the future of the teaching profession in Texas from TEA Deputy Commissioner, Martin Winchester. In his presentation he shared a starling statistic.

Did you know that only five percent of high school seniors showed an interest in becoming a teacher?

Yes only 5%!!!

That means that 95 percent of our students are completely turned off to education as a viable career choice. I have to admit that I am one of those 95 percent. When I was in high school, I had no desire to become an educator. In fact I had a teacher that regularly told his class that the worst profession ever is the field of education, public education specifically.

Now think about this. 

What profession do students get exposed to more than any other profession? The answer is education. They see everyday the stress, hard work, and frustration that teachers deal with on a daily basis. They see the way the system works, and could it be that very reason that 95% of our students do not want to even consider a career in education?

There are many reasons that students don’t choose a career in education. The first reason is money, and that is something that our government and our country must address if we want the future of education to improve. Teachers deserve to make more money than they do.

Secondly, the teaching profession is belittled on a regular basis. Think about every movie about the education profession that you’ve ever seen. The setting is a disastrous school with horrible students, and only one teacher, the main character,  cared about education while the rest of the educators did not. Furthermore, the media perpetuates the false narrative that education is failing.  Nothing could be further from the truth, but the negative perception is the reality of education, and it influences our students every day not to choose the noblest profession as a career.

But I think the last reason (and more important reason) that students don’t choose education as a career, is that we, educators, fail to market the profession as a noble profession. Think about the way we speak about education.  Think about the interactions that we have with our peers about problems in education.

Our students are listening. Our students are watching. Our students are being influenced daily about the profession we have been called to.  Do our words, do our actions, and more importantly do our reactions influence our students to come to the profession or run from it as fast as they can?


The last point that I would like to make has to do with education leaders. What are we doing to our teachers that makes our students see teaching as an awesome profession. All of the work that we ask teachers to do, does it help them or does it overwhelm them? Are we asking teachers to do the right things, or the cliché things that ultimately don’t lead to positive results or more importantly excited and empowered teachers?

Our students are watching. Our students are listening. And our students are being influenced by the way we leaders value or devalue our teachers and support staff. 

The future of education is sitting in our desks today. Everything that we say, everything that we do, and more importantly everything we don’t do is helping or hurting the profession. We must challenge ourselves to get real about the profession that we profess is so important.  We should ask ourselves these questions. What are we doing that makes students run to the profession, and what will we stop doing that is making our students see education as a horrible profession. The answer to these questions are the clues that will lead us to the next step that we must take to convince and recruit the next generation of educators.

The future is now, but will we be present enough today to pay attention to that future?

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Why You Need a RADICAL New Year's Resolution

Every year I am searching for the new change, a way to be better, an action that is a game changer for others, or a decision that will make my life easier.   It only makes sense.  Change is essential.  Becoming a better person is something we all want to do, and with the New Year comes a new opportunity to make a new commitment for improvement.

That was until I listened to Rick Warren

I thoroughly enjoy listening to the Rick Warren podcast because Rick possesses the powerful ability to turn the complexity of my faith into a simple action that I can implement immediately.  The most recent series he spoke about was titled Radicalis, and in this series, he challenged me to make a better resolution, live a radical life.


Source -
Yes, radical.  Here's the beauty of radical.  We really don't know what it means.  We think of radical as something fanatical, something that is ridiculously or vastly different from where we currently are.  

But in its original definition, radical was never an outlandish change.  This nebulous word was actually designed to be the exact opposite.  Radical in its initial definition is a return to our roots or fundamentals.  The word comes from the Latin, radicalis, which mean return to our roots.  Radical is a ROOT.  

The problem is that we have given this word an earthly definition that simply means ridiculous change, not a return to who we were designed to become.

So how can we return to our roots?
In my presentation and leadership work, I often say the following:

For my New Year's Resolution, I want to make a radical change in my life.  I want to rediscover my roots, and in order to do that, I will have to identify actions that I must let go.  The surest way to ensure that I return to my roots will be to identify, challenge and then drop actions that are not aligned to my purpose.  

As you end the old year, ask yourself this question.  "What is my purpose?"  After that, identify what you need to do to be more connected with that purpose, and before you make your New Year's Resolution, ask yourself this question.  "What must I stop doing so that I can be more successful at what I must be doing?"  Asking these questions will lead you to your "Radical Resolution". 

#HappyNewYear and Live a #RadicaLife in this year