Monday, November 12, 2018

COMPELLED: Week 10 - Excellence

Growing up and playing sports, pursuing excellence was something that was always emphasized throughout a season as well as off-season. Chasing excellence was something that we (athletes, and for me, later as a coach) were never ashamed of. Perfecting our craft and demanding from each other that we all get better than average was a norm. It's something that my husband grew up with as well, and something that we've stressed with our daughters. 

For many of you reading this, you can relate to the athletic piece and you are most likely nodding your head in agreement. For some of you, maybe you weren't an athlete, but the expectations to be above average came from other areas - the arts, academic endeavors, home life, or other areas. 

I've noticed in many education circles, though, chasing excellence can be a taboo subject. Maybe it's because we strive to be humble, servant leaders and educators. Perhaps it's because we aim to be collaborative and not competitive. 

I love when I get to hear my friend Jimmy Casas - a truly compelled educator - speak because he reminds us that, "No one got into education to be average." 

"Strive to be a leader who.... 
Doesn’t wait for others to change: You change. Take responsibility for your own behavior. You cannot paralyze yourself because others are not doing the things that need to be done.   Take initiative and be the change, not the same."

Whatever the reason we choose to make our desire to be excellent a private matter, we need to remember that the best educators don't compete with others. They compete with themselves. Let's continue to strive to give our very best each and every minute of every day. Let's chase excellence, not average. 

Previous posts in this series:

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Saturday, November 10, 2018

When teachers lead their own learning

Professional learning is something I'm very passionate about. As a curious person, I engage in learning for my own personal reasons, but I also try to spark curiosity in others as it relates to professional learning. 

Even though "PD" rolls easily off of the tongue, I really hate the connotations that the term "professional development" (PD) conjures up. 

When I lead professional learning for our teachers, I always try to make it interactive, engaging, and worthwhile. I never want it to feel like a "sit and get," and I model instructional strategies that teachers can use in their classrooms. Even with the intentional actions on my part, it wasn't until recently that I felt like I was able to be a facilitator of teacher learning rather than a content delivery person. 

For our teachers' Professional Learning Plans, they are asked to choose at least one school-wide goal for their plan. We have three school goals this year: Diversity, Assessment, and Technology. A different assistant principal is leading the learning for each goal, and I'm leading the learning for technology goal. This is what the goal states:
"I will explore, identify, and integrate technology enhanced activities into my classroom that will allow me and my students to think creatively and communicate effectively while extending learning opportunities beyond the classroom."

Teachers who chose the technology goal have met three times over this semester over the first semester as part of the action plan, and I want to share how the meetings were structured so that you may find inspiration or ideas that you could use in your school. 
For our first meeting, I shared what the goal is NOT. It was not about checking a box or just using technology tools for the sake of using them. (In our 1:1 school, there are still a lot of people in the Substitution phase, and this goal was going to be the impetus to have teachers move beyond it.)

Our school's awesome technology coach, Keith Fulmer, has been helping me and the teachers with the learning all semester. Keith and I also emphasized to teachers that even though we are asking them to step outside of their comfort zone and take risks, we will support them all along their journey. 

Along with asking teachers to trust us and themselves as they venture into possibly unknown territory, we asked them to reflect on their "why." 
  • Why do I want to learn about this?
  • Why choose this goal that requires risk-taking? 
  • Why do I want my students to have this experience?
Additionally, we asked teachers to look through the "consumers vs creators" lens as they were designing the experiences for their students. So often we ask students to simply consume (and there is a place and time for that). We emphasized that we wanted to move the needle towards creation. Information is everywhere, and we want students to be able to do something with the information, such as think critically, evaluate, and problem solve. 

Near the end of our first meeting, teachers were given a hard copy of ideas (tweeting with an expert, Skyping with another class, using virtual reality to take students on virtual field trips, blogging, etc.) where they were asked to literally put "pen to paper" and jot down their own ideas for connecting their students outside their classrooms walls. While the suggestions on the list were not inclusive nor required, they served as a jumping off point for our teachers. Teachers shared ideas with others at their tables and gave ideas to those in and outside their content areas. They were also asked to brainstorm as many ideas as possible until our next meeting, which would be about a month later. 

At our next meeting, the slide above was on the screen as teachers entered the room, and they were asked to again get clear about their "why." 

After everyone completed the top of the planning template, we used a protocol to share ideas at the table. 

How the protocol worked:
  1. One teacher had 3 minutes to share his/her ideas with the group. No one should interrupt or ask questions during the three minutes. 
  2. When time was up, the "table" had 2 minutes to ask clarifying questions and share additional ideas (What if you...?) with the teacher.
  3. It then rotated to the next teacher until everyone had shared. 
  4. One teacher served as the timekeeper of the table. 
After each person shared with the table, we then asked if anyone had any questions or thoughts to share with the room. 

I then asked teachers to narrow down their ideas to 1-3 activities that they would implement in their classrooms. These items would be entered into the planning template, along with instructional outcomes, and the timeline for the activity. Teachers were asked to be specific in their timelines, including in them any learning they would be doing prior to the activities.

Some of the activities that the teachers have planned are 
  • Skype with a geology professor
  • to have their students to blog (The teacher had never blogged before, so she started one in order to be able to model it for her students and help them once they begin.)
  • Connect a Spanish 3 class with a Spanish 3 class in Arkansas via GridPals and learn together
  • Use VR to take students on virtual college tours
  • Create a digital newsletter with articles and videos written and created by ELL students
  • Use Skype or Instagram Live to talk with a nutritionist about healthy eating
  • Create book trailers as podcasts
and more!

On the planning template, teachers were also asked to answer the question, "What do I need to learn to accomplish my goals?" Each teacher shared a copy of their template with me, which I dropped into a Google folder for Keith and I to access. We can read through the plans to make sure that we provide support as needed. 

At our final and third meeting of the semester, I asked the teachers to bring a hard copy of their plans to the meeting. The plans were taped to the walls and teachers did a Gallery Walk around the room. They wrote feedback, ideas, and suggestions on sticky notes. After all of the plans had been read, teachers were then able to ask clarifying questions to the group. 

In past "PD sessions," the learning took place in the room with limited collaboration time. With the way in which I structured the sessions for this goal, the learning takes place outside of the room and our time together is to collaborate and help each other. 

"The smartest person in the room is the room."

The 40 teachers who are participating in this goal are from different content areas and levels, and Keith and I are simply facilitators and encouragers of their learning. We ensure that they have the resources they need to make their plans come to life, and I'm excited to hear about their experiences next semester. 

For the full presentation, click HERE.

Monday, November 5, 2018

COMPELLED: Week 9 - Grit

When you see or hear the word grit, what synonyms come to mind? Tenacity, fortitude, perseverance, persistence? Why would grit be a characteristic of a compelled educator? It's because being an educator is the HARDEST and BEST job there is, and having and teaching grit is important.

Edutopia wrote a great article on teacher Amy Lyon and the GRIT curriculum she created based on the work of Angela Duckworth. You can watch a video below. 

If you can't see the embedded video above, click HERE

Educators try new things all the time in their classrooms. Trying something new and failing is part of the equation for developing grit. Having a coach for support in those times can maximize the positive impact of trying, failing, recovering, and trying again. All of this is part of the process when trying to achieve the long-term goal of being an effective educator. 

"Adversity gives us power ~ the power to change our lives and to give ourselves the gift of transformation. Our problems and challenges are change agents. Without the grain of adversity, there are no pearls." 
- @MelissaRathmann

In an article by Patrik Edblad, he shares 5 ways to "grow your grit." 

  1. Pursue your interests. Find something that fascinates you.
  2. Practice, practice, practice. Get a little bit better every day.
  3. Connect to a higher purpose. Ask yourself how you are helping other people.
  4. Cultivate hope. Remove your inaccurate, limiting beliefs. 
  5. Surround yourself with gritty people. Create positive peer pressure. Do you work in a "culture of grit?" Are the 5 people you spend the most time with considered gritty people?

You can gauge your grit on Duckworth's website by answering questions on her "Grit Scale." Click HERE to go to the site. 

Here's a great resource for you if you have teen children or work with teens:

How do you teach and/or model grit?

Previous posts in this series:

Monday, October 29, 2018

COMPELLED: Week 8 - Hopeful


Did you know that hope can be measured? 

As I've been reading, reflecting, and researching for the weekly series on characteristics of compelled educators, I've learned a lot! What I didn't expect to learn is that hope can be measured! 

Whatever the perspective through which we appreciate authentic educational practice ... its process implies hope. 
-Paulo Freire

C.R. Snyder and colleagues have developed a valid and reliable tool to measure hopefulness. There are two areas that are measured - those of agency (a sense of determination to successfully meet goals) and those of pathways (a sense of being able to generate different pathways to successfully meet goals). 

Two researchers, Peterson and Byron, state the following
". . . more hopeful people are more successful at goal achievement because they approach problems differently than do less hopeful people (italics added). Specifically, the success of more hopeful employees may be due in part to the fact that they conceive of multiple pathways to reach their desired end."


Hope is taught to children by example and through stories. It's important that the educators in the building are "high hope" educators. 
Hopeful educators see around barriers and persistently work to help students to be successful. Barriers become challenges to overcome, and the perceived likelihood of positive outcomes is great. It's imperative that we model and directly teach methods that lead to increased hope. 

Questions for reflection:
  • How do we increase our odds as educators to have a "high hope" week or month?
  • How do we pass on "high hope" to students?
  • How do we help students identify their strengths, set goals, and identify ways to reach those goals?
  • What interview questions need to be asked in order to identify "high hope" individuals when hiring?
  • In what ways can we encourage hope in our schools?

(If you can't see the embedded video above, click HERE to watch)

Previous posts in this series:


Peterson, S. J., & Byron, K. (2008). Exploring the role of hope in job performance: results from four studies. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 29, 785-803.

Snyder, C. R., Harris, C., Anderson, J. R., Holleran, S. A., Irving, L. M., Sigmon, S. T., et al.(1991). The will and the ways: Development and validation of an individual-differences measure of hope. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 60, 570-585.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Five impactful books for educators

The Compelled Educator
This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Thanks for supporting

For as long as I can remember, I've always loved to read. My dad tells stories of my sitting in his lap when I was little and him reading to me every day while I quietly listened as long as he wanted to read to me. 

As I got older, I read mostly mystery and young adult (I don't think they called it YA back then!) - some of my favorites were all of the books in the Nancy Drew series. In late elementary and junior high, my mom would often take me to the library often so that I could check out books. 

I'm so thankful they laid the groundwork for a lifetime passion in me for reading. To this day, one of my favorite vacations is when I can lie on the beach with a paperback and get lost in the pages.

October is month is National Book Month, and the Compelled Tribe has been blogging this month about books that have impacted us personally and professionally. I'm thrilled to share mine with you - especially because I know so many of you enjoy a good book like I do!

In no particular order, here goes...

1. The Slight Edge (@yourslightedge) by Jeff Olson. This is a book I re-read each year. In it, Jeff reminds us of the exponential power of doing small acts each day that lead to big results. 

2. Do You Know Enough about Me to Teach Me: A Student's Perspective

I was introduced to this book around 2008, and a few years after that I had the opportunity to connect with the author, Dr. Stephen Peters. Since the book had a great impact on me personally, I chose it to be a part of a summer book study on twitter with some members of our staff a few years ago. 

3.  Living, Loving, and Learning by Leo Buscaglia.

When I was in college, I was given this book by a teammate on my college volleyball team. This book was the first book of its kind that I had read, and it had a huge impact on me. As time passed and I made the decision to major in education, this book shaped my views on loving myself, my students, and my colleagues. This book also makes a great gift, especially for people who are in roles where they serve others. 

4. Handbook for Courageous Leadership (Shameless plug!) :-)

Fellow Compelled Tribe member Dennis Griffin sent me a Vox recently to share his thoughts as he began reading my e-book. It's a quick read, but chock full of stories and experiences about facing fears and how to get better and finding courage. Dennis and I are planning to do a book study soon; I hope you will join us and share your reflections, too!

5. The Innovator's Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity    

This book by George Couros is one that I read recently with a group of teachers at our school. The book will cause you to be reflective, empathetic, and brave. George includes practical ideas and questions for reflection throughout the book. It is a book that builds on what we know works with students - relationships - and takes it to the next level as we are a part of 21st century teaching and learning.

On my bedside table:

What Every School Leader Needs to Know about RTI by Margaret Searle

I'm reading this book as an assignment for the ASCD Instructional Leadership and Coaching Design Team. While the title didn't capture me, and I thought it would be a dry book filled with theory and research, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the theory and research are supported by practical examples at all grade levels. Being an administrator in a high school, I find that when I talk with other high school educators, implementing RTI at the secondary level can be very difficult. This book will remain part of my toolbox for many years to come!

Dare to Lead by Brene Brown

This is Brene's newest book, and I have had for over a week now. I cannot wait to read it soon! I'll be traveling to Houston next week, so I think I'll savor it on the plane ride there. I'm sure there will be a blog post soon to review the book... I'm a huge fan of Brene's work, and from what I've heard from friends who have started this book already - Brene hit a homerun with it. 

I’d love to add your favorite books to this post for future readers! Just comment below with your fave and short review, and I’ll be sure to add it to this post and link it back to you!

Other posts from members of the Compelled Tribe:
How one book changed my life  - by Laura McDonell
A Compelled Tribe post - October reading by Elisa Waingort
For the love of reading by Tamara Letter
Beyond the Pages by Anthony Meals
Two books that changed my practice by Nicole Fahey
Books that have mattered mostly just to me by Gary Kidd
Read to Lead by Jon Wennstrom

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Tuesday, October 23, 2018

The answer was so obvious, but I didn't see it! (Classroom - or Lunchroom - Management)

You know what... I knew better. I taught science for 12 years, coached for more than that (including private pitching lessons), and I've been in education for 25 years. 

I know how to manage and change adolescent behavior... I just wasn't doing it in the lunchroom.

Each morning, we serve breakfast in our cafeteria. There are about 300 kids in the lunchroom, and it's a great time to see kids interacting in certain groups and interact with them as a school leader. 

But there was this one table. 

Each morning, they would leave trash on their table and on the floor under their table. 

It was normal that someone at the table would take a few bites out of a piece of fruit and leave it on the floor by the table. 

I got angry and frustrated that they were leaving a mess each morning. I talked to them, told them to pick up their trash. No one would admit to the trash, nor were they happy about picking it up. It felt like lose-lose both ways. They had to hear from me each morning, and I was frustrated that they weren't responding to my words. 

Then I had an aha moment. A breaking point. 

I told them that if they left any trash, they wouldn't be allowed to sit at the table. 

And... it happened. 

They left trash on the table and floor that day, so the next morning I arrived early and didn't allow anyone to sit at the last two sections of the table. Students would arrive, and other students would tell them they couldn't sit there. I was nearby and would make students move out of the designated area. 

I gave them a consequence that was tied to the undesired behavior.

My "talking to them" or "being stern" with them was not enough. I had to create a situation where they had to do something different. 

Since the "table banning," there has only been one occasion where trash was left by a student. I took a picture of the trash (yes, I'm that person), and the students told me who it belonged to (they didn't want to lose privileges of sitting at their tables.) The next day, I had that student pick up 10 pieces of trash at the end of breakfast. 

Since then, there has been NO trash left at the tables. 


Why didn't I think of it sooner and do what I knew to do - create a "consequence" that is related to the behavior? 

Rewards for students? Lots of smiles and praise each morning. 

Have you had to think creatively to help change student behavior? Share your examples below in the comments. I would love to hear from you!

Monday, October 22, 2018

COMPELLED: Week 7 - Self-Growth

Maybe you've heard educators talk about learning and time like this: "We must make learning the constant and time the variable," OR "It doesn't matter when a student learns something, but that they DO learn." 

Have you ever heard similar versions of those quotes? 

I think the same thing is true for us... for dedicated, professional, positive, thoughtful, compelled educators. There is no time limit on learning and self-growth. There is no buzzer that will go off and let you know that your time is up and that "you can't teach an old dog new tricks." Personal development and self-growth is a life-long process, filled with risk-taking, missteps, and learning. No matter where you are on your educator journey, there is always an opportunity for growth.

Three principles to self-growth:

1. It takes a specific mindset.
Choose a growth mindset, knowing that skills and knowledge are not fixed. Also, be positive and approach challenges with a positive attitude will lead to greater growth. 
2. Be willing to face your fears.
We can be limited by what we believe to be true about ourselves as we put ceilings on our capabilities. When we are willing to step outside our comfort zones, we can redefine our view of ourselves and what we are capable of. 
3. Align your values and your practice.
For greatest self-growth, it's important to know your beliefs and values in order to know what kind of life you want to lead and what kind of legacy you want to leave. This moral compass will help you focus on areas of self-growth that will support alignment between your actions and your beliefs.

“The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

When we commit to learning and growth as an educator we are making a commitment to success for our students, because our WHY should include students as well as ourselves. How are you growing as an educator?

Previous posts in this series:

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Monday, October 15, 2018

COMPELLED: Week 6 - Passion

This is the sixth post in a 15-post series about characteristics of compelled educators. The characteristics and ideas I post about are not earth-shattering revelations by any means. They are more reminders to all of us. Let's keep our fire hot and our purpose front and center!

My husband is a certified drone pilot. He got interested in drones about 6 years ago, and he purchased and became a certified pilot about 4 years ago. He LOVES anything that has to do with drones. He watches YouTube videos by Casey Neistat and any other webinars or videos that have to do with flying, building, discussing, or even repairing drones. He recently purchased a large Matrice drone and LiDAR so that he can work with surveyors and other mapping porfessionals. If you ask him about his drones, his face lights up and he gets very excited to share whatever he knows and can about LiDAR and drones. He would love for working with drones to one day become a full-time position for him. His passion is obvious and contagious!

What about you? Are you like my husband? When someone asks you about education and what you do, does your face light up? Do you read everything you can about being a better teacher/leader/counselor/etc? Do you watch webinars so that you can learn more about the developmental stages of the students you work with? Do you get excited about professional learning? Do you seek out opportunities to learn more about what you do? Are you FIRED UP to go to work each day?

Would you say that you are passionate about what you do? Is it obvious to others? Would others say that you are passionate about what you do? If you won the lottery today, would you keep doing your current job? 

Passion is when you put more energy into something than is required to do it. It is more than just enthusiasm or excitement, passion is ambition that is materialized into action to put as much heart, mind, body and soul into something as is possible.

Passion is the energy that we bring to the table. It fuels us to keep going, to get better, to be better. It attracts others who are passionate, too, and it's contagious. And being passionate means taking action. 

Check out the short video below by Chris Do

The first 10 seconds are powerful. Go ahead - rewatch them. 

Passion = action. 

"You can't fake passion."

No passion for your job? Luke Ball (@lukemball) wrote a blog post on how to find it

Luke says it's a choice. It starts with us. It starts with action. 

What do you think? Can we choose to be passionate about what we do? I would love to hear your thoughts about this post. Feel free to reach out on twitter or Facebook, or leave your comments below. 

Previous posts in this series:

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