Sunday, February 18, 2018

How are YOU preparing students for the future? {+ book giveaway}

Disclosure: There are some affiliate links below and I may receive a small commission for purchases made through links in this post, but these are all products I highly recommend. 

In a recent post, I challenged the notion that relationships is the #1 important factor to being a good teacher in the classroom. The ideas from the post came from my being in the classroom for the past few weeks to assist in the transition from the former teacher to a new teacher. Since I have not been a classroom teacher for a few years (and even though I made a commitment when I became an administrator to never forget what it's like to be one...), it truly gave me a chance to become even more convicted about my beliefs. (If you missed the post, I hope you'll go back and read it.)

Being a part of the classroom experience + my own daughters who are college-aged + preparing for "testing season" at our school has me reflecting on the question, "Will our students be prepared for the future?"

David Geurin (@DavidGeurin), my friend and one of the 2017 NASSP Digital Principals of the Year, asks the question like this in his book, Future Driven
"Will your students thrive in an unpredictable world?"

In Alabama, there has been a push to have every graduate college and career ready. The issue is this... we measure this by standardized test scores, career credentialing, and/or military enlistment. And I bet we all have examples of students who didn't make a benchmark on a standardized test who are thriving at "life," and other examples of students who scored well by don't have the skills they need to be successful in their future. 

Work Rules by Lazlo Bock
I'm currently reading a book shared with me by our school's principal called Work Rules! by Laszlo Bock. Mr. Bock worked at Google for over 10 years, and his book sheds light on the culture of Google that makes it one of the best places to work. In David's book, Future Driven, he shares this message from Lazlo Bock:
  • "GPAs are worthless as a criteria for hiring, and test scores are worthless... We found that they don't predict anything.
  • Up to 14% of Google employees don't even have a college degree.
  • For every job, thought, the No. 1 thing we look for is general cognitive ability, and it's not I.Q. It's learning ability."

Now, I'm not saying that we need to prepare every student to work at Google, but what they're doing is working. I would like to see us look for ways to prepare students so that they have what Mr. Bock calls "high learning abilities." 

The video below is little controversial for some. As you watch it, try to imagine ALL types of students who enter school and exit as graduates.

I don't want this post to be just a rant about using standardized test scores to measure the preparedness of our schools. This post is also about challenging ourselves to reflect on what we're doing in order to prepare our students for THEIR futures. A future that is changing quickly that will require adaptable learners. A future that is globally connected that will require empathetic and engaged learners. A future that requires our students to be hopeful, connected, courageous, and ready.

If we are to graduate students who are adaptable, schools must be adaptable as well. David talks about two different types of teachers in his book - "time-capsule teachers" and "time-machine teachers." Time-capsule teachers hang onto the past while time-machine teachers are future-driven thinkers and doers who are always considering a better way to do things. 

As a closing thought, here's a quote from David's book:
"When things are changing so quickly, it's tough to predict what's next. The key is to  be looking forward and paying attention. Then, chart your course based on your best guess, and the best guesses of others. Consider all of the possibilities of what change might bring and position yourself as well as you can.  One thing is for sure, you can't be static and do nothing and let change happen to you. You have to be part of driving change. Do something even if it's wrong."

Personal testimonial: David's book reads like a Chicken Soup for the Soul. It's full of stories, short chapters, and ideas. It's also very easy to read. You'll feel like David is sitting next to you!

I have the privilege of getting to give away a copy of David's book, Future Driven!

How to enter: 1) Leave a comment below AND 2) share this post on twitter with the hashtag #FutureDriven.
One book ($22 value) will be given away to winner selected via Contest opens on February 18, 2018 and closes on February 25, 2018. Entrants must be over eighteen years of age in the United States. Winner will be announced February 26, 2018 via twitter.

Monday, February 12, 2018

How to create your school's hashtag

This blog post is about a game-changer that every school leader who uses social media should know about. If you are a school leader, keep reading, and use the ideas in this post. If you're not a school leader, keep reading and share this post with your school leader. AND, offer to help. 

In my digital workbook, Telling your School's Story on Twitter, I go into detail about creating a school hashtag along with other ideas for how and when to tweet, ideas for creating graphics, along with connecting the school with the community. 

Not having and using a school hashtag is a missed opportunity.

It's something I notice when I'm connecting on twitter... I see a tweet about an event in a school somewhere, a celebration of students or staff... and there's no hashtag. Not using a school hashtag is a missed opportunity for connection.

School hashtags allow stakeholders to “find” tweets about your school by doing a search for your hashtag. They can click on the hashtag in the tweet and see all of the tweets containing that specific hashtag. Imagine what it would be like if parents, teachers, students, alumni, and other stakeholders all used the same hashtag when tweeting about the awesome things happening in a school. It's a powerful way to get a "big picture" about a school as well as keep parents informed about successes within the school that may not make it to the newspaper... things like a friendly librarian who makes kids want to visit the library and check out a book, a lunchroom worker who serves the kids and knows everyone by name, a lesson in class that results in excellent problem-solving practice.... I'm sure you can think of many more examples!

How to create your school's hashtag

There's no "rule" about what you can use or not use for a school hashtag. Keep it pretty short in length, because the characters in the hashtag take up some of the characters you can put in your tweet. Examples include #(schoolname)pride, #go(mascot), or #(schoolinitials)(mascot). This would look like #hixsonpride, #gospartans, #LHSCowboys. For other ideas, check out different school leaders to see what kind of hashtag they use to promote their schools. 

Before deciding on what you will claim as your school hashtag, check to make sure it's not already being used. You can do a search on twitter with the potential hashtag, and if it's not being used or was used only a few times a few years ago, GO FOR IT! 

Here are 7 places to share your school hashtag:
  • School marquee
  • Posters around school
  • Next to the copier
  • In your email signature
  • In your twitter profile
  • On the price board in the concession stand
  • Print and frame a sign for the front desk

Do you use this simple, yet effective, method of telling your school's story on twitter? I would love for you to share this post and tag it with YOUR school's hashtag! 

Pin this!

Friday, February 9, 2018

The #1 key for being a good teacher

This post may be controversial to you. It may challenge your beliefs, ruffle your feathers, or it may cause some of you say, "you're preachin' to the choir!" 

Good teaching is hard work. 

Just "being" a teacher in the room... well, it can be easy. Keeping students "comfortable," not confronting them with or coaching them to high standards, blaming students... all of those things are easier than the really tough job of good teachers. 

What does it take to be a good teacher?

I am going to share what I believe is the #1 requirement for a teacher to be good, successful, and happy in the classroom. 

Even before building relationships, it takes a positive mindset from the teacher. The teacher must 1) believe in him- or her- self, that he or she can build a positive relationship with student and make a difference, and 2) love ALL kids. 

In what feels like long ago, I attend a wonderful PLC conference where I got to hear from Rick and Becky DuFour and others. I will always remember the four kinds of schools that Rick named and described.
- The Charles Darwin School where they maintain, “All kids can learn based on their ability.” 
- The Pontius Pilate School that believes “all kids can learn, if they take advantage of the opportunity we give to them.” 
- The Chicago Cub Fan School where “all kids can learn something, and they help all students experience academic growth in a warm, nurturing environment.” 
- The Henry Higgins School, where they believe “all kids can learn and they work to help all students achieve high standards of learning.”
Henry Higgins was the professor in My Fair Lady who turned Eliza Doolittle, a Cockney working-class girl, into someone who can pass for a cultured member of high society. At the PLC conference, Rick DuFour reminded us that Henry Higgins had more confidence in his own abilities than in Eliza, which was how he was able to relentlessly help her to rise to his expectations. 

Teachers must believe that they can and will make a difference. Teachers must have confidence in their abilities to help students meet their expectations. They must also have confidence in their abilities to adapt, build relationships, use the tools in their toolbox, and lean on others when they need help. This is not easy. This takes a certain mindset. 

Part of this positive mindset is a love for students. Really think about this sentence. Don't gloss over it like a prospective teacher in an interview for his or her first job.... "I want to be a teacher because I love kids." 
Do you love the kids who dress in all black and wear fingerless gloves every day? 
Do you love the kids who don't sit down when you tell them to? 
Do you love the kids who roll their eyes when you tell them it's time to get to work on their assignment? 
Do you love the kids that have to be redirected from _________ (talking to their neighbor, looking at their phone, opening a new tab on their Chromebook, drawing anime pictures...) 
Do you love the kids who don't say hello back to you when you say hello to them?
Even before trying to build relationships, a good teacher loves ALL kids. 

Kids are going to 
  • check boundaries, 
  • make sure that you mean what you say and your word is good, 
  • find out if you can think on your feet, 
  • ask you a question just to see what the answer will be,
  • watch to make sure you're fair,
  • see if they can find out what it takes for you to give up on them.
We know this about kids. And when we love them we accept that this is part of who they are. When we LOVE others, we make a commitment to them. We make a commitment to listen, forgive, care, and accept. 

It takes this kind of mindset PRIOR to trying to build relationships. It takes a recognition of where kids are developmentally, accepting each and every one where they are on their journey, and doing everything you can to help them to be successful. 

What do you think? Is a positive mindset the #1 requirement of being a good teacher? Please leave a comment below or connect with me on twitter

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

50 blog post ideas for educators

Sometimes it can be tough to come up with ideas on what to blog about. As a regular blogger, I get asked the question alot... "What should/will I blog about?" Here's a list of 50 blog post ideas for educators. Be sure to share in the comments the ones that you haven't done and have put next on your blogging list to write about!  

1. Your favorite classroom hack
2. Interview a teacher in your school who does ______ really well
3. Write a letter to you in your first year in your current role.

4. Challenge yourself and share the process
5. Write about the day in the life of YOU (3rd grade teacher, instructional coach, assistant principal, district administrator, etc.)

6. Share an article or book that changed your practice as an educator
7. Do a Q & A with someone whose opinion/work you really value

8. Share your ideal wish list for your classroom/school/district
9. Do a “how to” post
10. Write an open letter to someone about an issue that’s important to you

11. Share your top 3 tech tools you use and how you use them
12. Share a successful lesson or activity you did with your students

13. Write a post called, “If I were a baseball player, my walk-up song would be ______” and share the song and why (a walk-up song is the song that plays when the batter “walks up” to the batter’s box for his turn at bat)

14. Share the books that are on your “To-read” list
15. Ask someone to co-write a blog post with you on a common topic
16. Share a time-management or organization tip you use daily

17. Read a children’s book and make connections between the message in the book to your role as an educator
18. Create a screencast tutorial and embed it in your blog post

19. Write a “What I learned from ___________” (sports, cross country travel, playing the guitar, etc.) 
20. Create an infographic and share

21. Read an article on a business outside of education and how you can apply the lessons to what you do
22. Share your favorite blogs and bloggers in a post
23. Write a post about a failure and how you responded to it

24. Write a post about where you get your inspiration.
25. What would you share with someone who is in their first year in the role that you are in?

26. Share how you stay on track when trying to reach your goals
27. What are questions that you get asked frequently in your role?

28. Share a “best of” post where you share your most popular blog posts
29. Write a “round up” post of articles and posts that you read during the past week or month
30. Write a post on WHY you do what you do

31. Share your best classroom management strategy
32. Write a post about how you balance life and work
33. Share your notes from a conference or workshop you attend

34. Share a “cheat sheet” for using a tech tool or app
35. Share a story about one of your school’s traditions

36. Curate the research about a topic and summarize it (and include links to research) 
37. Create a collection of inspiring posts
38. Share your take-aways from a twitter chat
39. Write your “Educator’s Bucket List” 

40. Innovative ideas that you want to see in your school
41. Emerging tech trends in education
42. A round-up of motivational videos to show to students and/or staff

43. What you’ve learned about yourself through blogging
44. Make a list of things to avoid in education
45. Highlight your, your students’, or your school’s milestones and/or tradition(s)

46. Write a review of a product you use often
47. Ask your readers for feedback on a dilemma or question
48. Share the best and/or worst advice you’ve ever gotten
49. Share a project you’re currently working on

50. Share your mission statement and your process for writing it

Use one of these ideas? Be sure to share on twitter and tag me when you do! 


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