Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Non-negotiables for schools - is JOY one of them?


If you've been following my blog for a while, you know that I strongly believe in the power of relationships and that every student needs at least one "go-to" adult in their school

So recently while at a state leadership conference, I attended a session led by Carla Tantillo Philbert (@_coolclassroom) called "Strengthening Staff and Student Relationships via Social-Emotional Learning and Mindfulness."  I'm always looking for new ideas on how to increase my and other's abilities to connect with students. 

In the session, she talked about the non-negotiables at her school. She called them the no matter whats

At her school, it was a non-negotiable that adults wouldn't use eye rolls and that adults wouldn't say, "Shut up." While I think we can all agree that these are great reminders and that they shouldn't be used in a school, it got me to thinking about unwritten rules that we have for school staffs. At her school, it was known, it was discussed, and it was stated out loud. 

We were all raised differently, with different family, educational, and social experiences, so what may be acceptable to one person may not be acceptable to another. Additionally, if empathy is the building block of good relationships, we must seek to understand our differences and create no matter whats for our schools that are inclusive for ALL of our students.  

In a previous post, I shared advice from expert Cynthia Tobias about non-negotiables. While she gives advice on how to deal with a strong-willed child, I believe her advice stands true when working with most students. 

Here are some areas where schools can discuss and decide on their non-negotiables:

  • Communication with students
  • Communication with parents
  • Administrative support
  • Assessment
  • Joy
  • Classroom Climate
  • Teacher Collaboration 
  • Instructional Technology
  • Lesson Design
  • Professional Learning
  • Instruction
  • Equity
  • (What else would you add to this list?)

It's important that we explicitly define what our non-negotiables are in our schools. 

I hope you will share in the comments your examples of non-negotiables you have for yourself and ones that your schools have established. Our work matters, and we're better together!









Thursday, May 16, 2019

Teachers use Flipgrid to leave words of encouragement for students



Have you caught the "Flipgrid Fever" yet? 

As the school year winds down, you may find Flipgrid to be the perfect option to capture reflections, stories, advice for future students. 


Flipgrid fever started last fall at our school at a day of teacher-led PD, where teachers could choose their sessions - from Instagram to Edpuzzle to Canvas to Kahoot to Flipgrid

Flipgrid was a huge HIT with teachers across our building in different disciplines. 


There are some teachers at our school who were a part of our Technology Professional Learning Series this year, and they have been using it for book talks, class reviews, class messages, and more!

As April was drawing to a close and the last month of school approaching, thoughts of finishing the year strong were on my mind. For a schoolwide professional development day last month, my part was the opening of the day. I knew I wanted my time with the staff to be interactive and meaningful. 

My friend Debbie Campbell shared several motivational quotes and videos with me as I was trying to decide what to include in my presentation to the staff.




I shared the quote above with the teachers and reminded them of the power of our words. 



The video is powerful, and it's a great reminder of the influence we have as teachers to positively impact a child's life. 

After watching the video, teachers were asked to leave a a few words of encouragement for our students as exams were aproaching and stress levels increase during exam time in a high school. 




While some of our teachers had used Flipgrid before, it was still a new tool to many of our teachers. 



Teachers were given space in the cafeteria to move to a quieter place to do their recordings. 



Just like students when they first use Flipgrid, some teachers were a natural in front of the camera while some found it difficult to be pleased with their recordings.




The Flipgrid code was shared with students so that when they need a word of encouragement, they can find them from our Hoover High teachers. 


(Scroll down below to see some of our videos!)




I would love to hear your ideas for finishing the year strong and/or how you use Flipgrid at your school! Please leave a comment below.








Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Leadership Lessons from Brene Brown


I'm a huge fan of Brene Brown. She is a researcher on shame, vulnerability, and courage. As a school leader for almost 20 years and a person who is always trying to get and be better than before... I find that her lessons are extremely valuable and on point. I hope you enjoy this post and feel free to share your comments below about lessons you have learned from Brene Brown. 

On a personal note:
Only God and the enemy (as my friend Sarah Johnson says) know the struggles I've gone through with shame and how it has impacted my life. So when Brene speaks or writes, I take heed to the message she delivers. The bag of rocks that I have been able to reduce, pebble by pebble, has been possible by the teachings and impact of people like Brene. Shame is a heavy burden. Through reflection, actions, introspection, and responding to feedback, shame can be lifted or reduced to a manageable amount. I encourage anyone who is dealing with shame to seek out help. Reading the works of Brene is an excellent start to a long but rewarding journey. 

Brene's most recent book, Dare to Lead, is full of lessons for leaders. One important note I want to state is this: "Leadership is not a title." Leaders are leaders through their beliefs and actions. This book is for most everyone, and the lessons are applicable to most, regardless of possession of a "leadership title." 

Brene Brown defines a leader as "anyone who takes responsibility for finding potential in people and processes, and who has the courage to develop that potential."


Courage is contagious.

Brene's research supports the idea that vulnerability is "the emotion that we experience during times of uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure." Sometimes, people tend to see vulnerability and courage at opposite ends of a spectrum, but Brene defends that one cannot happen without the other. The other interesting component about vulnerability is that trust and vulnerability walk hand in hand. The best leaders understand that they don't have to wear a protective armor or be perfect to be considered effective or courageous, and they definitely know that perfection is not a building block of trust. Leaders provide psychological safety for their teams to be vulnerable with and in front of each other. Leadership creates a safe space that is an integral part of the work that teams must engage in. 


Clear is kind.

Leaders have to have courageous conversations with others. They have to share feedback with others, and leaders determine the tone, words, and emotions that will be used while giving feedback. Brene reminds us that when we give unclear feedback to try to "protect others' feelings", we're really just trying to make ourselves feel more comfortable. 


I've experienced first-hand how a principal I have worked for has effectively "circled back" to a contentious issue at hand. Brene shares this lesson: "In my research and in my life, I've found absolutely no benefit to pushing through a hard conversation unless there's an urgent, time-sensitive issue at hand." As leaders, we have to remember that clear feedback is HARD to hear sometimes. As leaders, we can't own the other person's emotions. They are going to be mad, hurt, surprised, and more. 

"We can't both serve people and try to control their feelings."  
- Brene Brown, Dare to Lead


Who we are is how we lead.

While it can be very hard to do, it's important for leaders to connect with our own emotions as well as the emotions of those we lead. Brene describes Armored Leadership vs Daring Leadership, which consists of dichotomies such as "Being a knower and being right vs. Being a learner and getting it right" and "Rewarding exhaustion as a status symbol and attaching productivity to self-worth vs Modeling rest, play, and recovery."  

While fear will always be present when we rumble with vulnerability, our response to fear will determine our success as a leader. 


Dare to Lead is full of practical ideas that are backed by research, and Brene's writing style is concise, real, and relatable. I encourage everyone to put this book on their reading list! 














Wednesday, April 24, 2019

10 ways to move from surviving to thriving

Surviving to Thriving

Too often, we get busy and in a rut. We put others ahead of ourselves, and it leads to living in survival mode and playing the blame game. 

"My schedule's so busy, I don't have time to exercise."


"Of course it's not my best work. I just don't have time to make it perfect."


"It is what it is."




Maya Angelou Quote


How to know if you're in survival mode


1. Everything is a reaction. There is no thinking ahead or being proactive and preventive.

2. You're looking for the path of least resistance, not the path to excellence.

3. Procrastination is the norm. 

4. You don't have time and energy to deal with others. You prefer to be left alone. (You even push others away.)

5. Stress is at an all-time high, and you feel like you're going to snap at any minute.

6. You constantly compare yourself to others - your home, life, children, job, vacation, etc. 

How to go from Surviving to Thriving



First, you have to recognize that you are in survival mode. (This is not usually the hard part.) 



Next, ask yourself these questions:
  • What is important?
  • What is necessary?
  • Where do I want to be in 1 week? What will I do today to get closer to my goal?
  • Where do I want to be in 1 month? What will I do this week to get closer to my goal?
  • Where do I want to be in 3 months? How do I get rid of barriers so that I can get to my goal?
  • Where do I want to be in 1 year? Who do I need in my life to help me get there?


Finally, try these...

  • Do things each day that you love and are passionate about... a dance class, yoga, volunteering, painting, singing, etc.
  • Sit in the sun and soak up Vitamin D.
  • Try a new recipe - healthy or decadent!
  • Read a book or blog post by someone who inspires you
  • Listen to a podcast by a thriver
  • Call a friend and meet up for coffee, dessert, and connection
  • Take a walk or exercise. 
  • Do something kind for others


Surviving to Thriving


Each morning, set your intention to THRIVE that day. It may seem harder than just surviving, and it may push you out of your comfort zone. If you are ready for a change, it will be "hard thing" that you will appreciate. Just remember to take it day by day, and even hour by hour. If you need help, feel free to reach out to me via Voxer or Twitter. 








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