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. 

Monday, March 11, 2019

It's time to rise up

Sometimes things happen, and it's as if someone is trying to get a clear message to you through related events. 

I will try to weave the pieces of the story together here, and share my reflections of the past week.

Piece #1... 

Last week, American Idol returned to television for its seventeenth season. I'm a sucker for reality TV, especially when it includes singing (something I would LOVE to be able to do well.) 

One very talented singer brought Lionel Richie to tears, and her story is captivating. 

Shayla Winn, who goes by Shayy, is a 17-year old from Virginia who started going blind about a year ago. 

Being a blind singer is not the inspiring part. How Shayy has handled this right turn in her life is what is extremely inspiring. (What else inspires me?)

During the show last week, Shayy says that about a year ago she was having trouble seeing the whiteboard at school, so she thought she would need glasses. At the eye doctor, several tests were run and the optometrist told her that she needed to go to the ER immediately. 

After having an MRI, Shayy was told that she has a brain tumor. 

On the show, Shayy says, "I got dragged to my MRI and that’s when they found a tumor in my brain. One doctor was like, ‘Okay, Shayy, I’m going to try and save you from going blind. I was like, ‘What’d he just say?'”

Shayy shares that when she got home from the hospital, she couldn't see well and going back to school was hard. Kids were cruel. They kicked her cane. 

On American Idol, Shayy shares that she asked her mom at one point, ‘Why did that happen to me?’ 

Shayy also says, "But on the other side, I have people that have been really supportive and I have made new friends. There’s a whole other side to life that I never knew about. People are always going to say, ‘You can’t do this, you can’t do that.’ But you can do it. You got it!”

I love how Shayy says that she has made new friends and there's a "whole other side to life." Finding new friends as a teenager is HAAARD. Shay is a champion. She shows that it can be done. She reminds us that for whatever struggle we may be going through, there's a light at the end of the tunnel, and we will be stronger for it. 

If you can't see the video on your device, watch here: 

Take a few minutes to watch the video above. Go ahead. I'll wait on you. 

Shayy has an amazing voice, and her choice of song is spot on. "Rise Up" by Andra Day is a perfect song for this inspiring teenager who we can all learn from. 

Rise Up

You're broken down and tired
Of living life on a merry go round
And you can't find the fighter
But I see it in you so we gonna walk it out
And move mountains
We gonna walk it out
And move mountains

And I'll rise up
I'll rise like the day
I'll rise up
I'll rise unafraid
I'll rise up
And I'll do it a thousand times again
And I'll rise up
High like the waves
I'll rise up
In spite of the ache
I'll rise up
And I'll do it a thousands times again
For you
For you
For you
For you

When the silence isn't quiet
And it feels like it's getting hard to breathe
And I know you feel like dying
But I promise we'll take the world to its feet
And move mountains
We'll take it to its feet
And move mountains

And I'll rise up
I'll rise like the day
I'll rise up
I'll rise unafraid
I'll rise up

If you believe in yourself and work hard, you have a fighting shot at having your dreams come true.  
-Mindy Kaling

Piece #2...

Yesterday, on Sunday, I saw an Instagram post by my friend, Sarah Johnson. 

It read, "Came across this photo of my first principal experience. Loved those kids, that staff, the community and remember this moment vividly. That lady at the wheel had no idea the fires that would forge her into the woman she is today."

Having walked across come hot coals in my life and career, I could totally relate to Sarah's words. I immediately thought of Shayy and the positivity she exuded on American Idol as she had a fire that she had to walk through to get to the other side.  

We say "iron sharpens iron," but it's really the iron PLUS a significant amount of heat. We need the fires, plus the iron, to mold us into the strong leaders of today and tomorrow. 

"Isolation does not breed confidence."
-Suzanne Roff, Ph.D.

Piece #3...

In our most recent podcast episode of Rising Tide Radio, Allyson Apsey (@AllysonApsey) and I discuss the value of reflection. 

You can listen to Episode 4 above. If you cannot view it on your device, you can play it here:

Through these three seemingly unrelated events, I've realized a few things.

The first is the value of having a strong support system as a conduit to confidence. Confidence comes when there are others who can empathize, challenge, and appreciate the meanings that we make in our lives. 

Ultimately, confidence and the ability to rise up comes from within. It means changing the inner narrative to one of positivity and hope, and it may mean changing long-held negative beliefs about one's self. 

It's time to set the bar high and have tough-to-reach goals. 

As these three pieces of the story weave together, the message comes through loud and clear...

It's time to rise up. 


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