Tuesday, September 10, 2019

5 ways to start the school year strong


A new year is a time of reflection, goal setting, and new habits and practices. As the new school year begins to take shape, it’s time to get re-energized. Maybe you’re a new school leader who is looking for ideas to start the year off right, or perhaps you are a seasoned administrator who wants to keep the fire alive. 

Here are five leadership ideas to jump-start your year and lead to your best one yet.

1. Choose One Word for Your School Year

Perhaps you’ve heard of the #OneWord movement by Jon Gordon (@JonGordon11). It’s a reflective and deliberate activity to choose one word to shape your goals, decisions, and actions during the year. This school year, choose one word for yourself or your school, and let it drive your work throughout the year.

Schools have chosen words like kindness, equity, and relentless to serve as reminders of the work that they are doing and that needs to be done. When examining new and old practices, the word can serve as a lens of whether to start, continue, or stop certain practices. If you’re not ready to choose a word for your school, reflect on your personal areas of growth as well as your strengths and choose a word for yourself that will serve as a reminder and encouragement as you do the challenging work of being a school leader.

2. Join and Contribute to a Professional Learning Network (PLN)

When I was a teacher, there were 100 other people in the building who did what I did. There was always someone there whom I could go to with questions, ideas, and problems. When I became a school leader, there were only three other people in the building who did what I did, and we all had different areas of responsibility. I felt really alone and had a lot of questions. Fast forward to today and with the power of technology, it’s now easy to connect with other people in leadership positions across the globe.

Make this the year that you collaborate with other school leaders to support you on your leadership journey. Additionally, use these connections to uplift others and offer encouragement as well as a critical ear. Twitter and Voxer are two tech tools that make collaboration easy, and there are a plethora of positive school leaders there with whom you can connect. School leadership is hard. Thank goodness it doesn’t have to be a lonely journey!

3. Intentionally Celebrate Your Staff

When I was a young teacher, I didn’t want to reward my students for doing the things that were basic expectations, such as putting their names on their papers or turning their work in on time. As I got more experienced, and especially after I had children, I realized that praising my students for doing something I had asked them to do made them want to do more of it. I began to celebrate my students for the small and big accomplishments. Little did I know that it would create a more positive, productive, and fun environment.

Staff members also want to work in an environment that’s positive, productive, and fun. If you’re not the type to plan celebrations, enlist the help of someone who is and plan the celebrations together. Go ahead and put the celebrations on your calendar to ensure that they happen regularly during the year.

Read how we held a "signing day" to celebrate new teachers at our school.

4. Stay in Touch With Your Passions

Outside of being an educator, what are your passions? What stokes your creativity, pushes your boundaries, keeps you young, and leaves you feeling energized and alive? The job of a school leader can be all-consuming, and your school community needs you to be at your best. It’s not selfish to make time for your passions so that you can be your best self for others.

There are too many stories of leaders who burn out and leave the profession after a few years. To combat the weariness that can come as a result of the job, it’s important to commit to activities that will re-energize us and sustain us through the school year.

What if your passion is being an educator? Keep stoking the fire!

5. Join the #ObserveMe Movement

The Observe Me movement was created by Robert Kaplinsky (@RobertKaplinsky), who encouraged teachers to open their classrooms and invite their peers to come in and observe the teaching and learning that takes place. In some schools, teachers post signs outside their door that state the things on which they would like feedback. In others, teachers simply visit and take notes on ideas and strategies they want to take back and try in their own classrooms.

As an administrator, we can share our own professional learning goals and ask for feedback from our staff members. When we join this movement and ask for specific feedback, we are modeling vulnerability and continuous learning and growing. Let this be the year that you join the #ObserveMe movement.

This post first appeared on the NASSP blog: http://blog.nassp.org/2019/09/03/5-ways-to-jump-start-a-new-year/

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Hey, school leaders... 5 hacks to get you out of your office

This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Thanks for supporting TheCompelledEducator.com

Finding time to visit classrooms is a challenge for many school leaders. It seems that there is always an email to answer, a person to meet with, or a situation to handle. It's important for school leaders to make time to get out of the office and into classrooms consistently.

It can be a challenge to make time, but it's not impossible. Some days will be better than others, and some days it may be a simple gesture of sticking your head in a teacher's classroom to ask, "Need anything?" 

I'm sharing 5 hacks for school leaders to use to get out of the office and into classrooms, hallways, lunchrooms, and other areas of the school. I would love for you to leave a comment below to share any other ideas you have. We are better together, and we can all learn from each other. 

1. Set your alarm on your phone

On the iphone, you can set a daily alarm for weekdays only and label it as a reminder to get out of the office. Try setting a morning alarm and an afternoon alarm, and start with the small, consistent goal of 2 times every. single. day.

2. Get out with your mobile desk

I love taking my standing desk out into the building. I can monitor hallways, keep up with email, visit with students and teachers, and easily move between classrooms. 

There's room for my Chromebook and two shelves for a notebook, pens, sticky notes, and my phone. They are usually around $70 on Amazon - not bad for this workhorse of a desk!

3. Set up a temporary desk in the building

If you're not ready to go office-less like my friend Carrie Jackson, consider setting up a temporary office in the cafeteria or in the library. Another idea is to set up a small table into the lobby or at the end of a hallway and use it as a place to work on email or other tasks that don't require privacy. 

4. Schedule classroom visits as appointments on your calendar

Just as you would schedule a doctor's visit as an appointment or make an appointment with a personal trainer, putting the classroom visits on your calendar helps you when planning other meeting times and a to-do list. By scheduling your visits, you shift your thinking from "finding time' to "making time." 

5. Commit to daily or weekly building walks with a colleague or student

Last year, we walked almost every Friday during 3rd period

Grab another administrator, an aspiring administrator, new teachers, or students and walk the building. "Walk and talks" are a great way to build relationships, and when you visit classrooms with other administrators, it's a learning opportunity for both of you as you debrief after the visit. 

Are there other hacks that you or your school administrator use(s) to get out of the office? Please share in the comments below!

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Saturday, August 24, 2019

Leadership resources for new and aspiring leaders

This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Thanks for supporting TheCompelledEducator.com

I have been blessed during my long career in education to have had many pivots, roller coaster rides, and unique experiences. (You can listen to more about my journey on the In AWE Podcast, hosted by my friend Sarah Johnson.)

Working through the challenges has always been because I had a support network -- a group of family, friends, and colleagues who were able to give advice, encouragement, and the gift of their time. Because of them, it has led me to be even more intentional and passionate about mentoring others along their journeys. 

L.E.A.D. is an acronym that I use when coaching others to find their greatness. Before we can lead others we must be able to lead ourselves, and L.E.A.D. provides a framework towards living our confident truths. 

In a previous blog post, I shared resources to help Listen, Engage, Act, and Deliver. 

In today's post, I'm sharing even more resources with you to add to your leadership toolbox.

During coaching sessions, I have the people I work with to do an exercise around the 80-20 rule. It can be a real eye-opener, and it also serves to create a greater awareness of really listening to others and not just hearing what is said. 

Another practice that supports becoming a good listener is asking good questions. Curiosity sparks questioning, and one way to cultivate curiosity is to try something new. The act of discovery and learning will help to create a curiosity habit. 

Additionally, ask clarifying questions whenever you're communicating with someone, especially when you may not see eye to eye.

Curiosity can also be sparked by reading. Shane Safir's book, "The Listening Leader," is a must-read for anyone in school leadership. (You can follow her on twitter @ShaneSafir)

Want to test your listening skills? Take the free Listening Quiz on Mindtools.com, create an account, and it will give you your score along with tips on improving your score. 

In education, we stress that relationships with students are crucial. It is also crucial for leaders to build relationships with staff members. Employee engagement is a crucial component to effective leadership. 

 >Employee loyalty is decreasing
     >43% of workers would be willing to leave their companies for a 10% salary
increase, and weak company cultures are to blame.

>Most cultures are decidedly mediocre
     >We found that less than one third of people believe they have a strong culture

Culture is the biggest factor of employee engagement, and leaders have a huge impact and influence on an organization's culture. 

"Employee-manager relationships have a big impact. How comfortable
employees feel about providing upward feedback to their supervisors is a major
indicator of overall happiness."

     Reflection questions for leaders: Are you listening? What do you do with feedback from employees? Do all employees have equal opportunity to provide feedback? Do you encourage all types of feedback - positive and negative? 

"First impressions affect long-term happiness. Effective onboarding is a crucial
part of the employee experience, and correlates to how employees feel about their companies overall." 

     Reflection questions for leaders: Are you being intentional about your induction/onboarding programs? What kind of first impression are you making at the interview? On the new employee's first day on the job? Are you being intentional about creating and sustaining a positive experience for new employees?

Simple actions to engage employees:

     1. Get to know them
     2. Look for strengths
     3. Create opportunities for employees to contribute, lead, and use their strengths
     4. Celebrate and recognize them
     5. Show you care

Treat others like they will make a difference and they will.

-Jennifer Hogan

"We judge ourselves by our intentions. We judge others by their actions."

I'm not sure where or when I first heard this quote, but it has stuck with me for many years. It is one of those quotes that serve as two reminders for me. 

The first is a reminder that we need to extend grace to ourselves and others for missteps as well as inaction. There is always more to the story, whether it's a private one or one that is not accessible to us. 

The second reminder from the quote for me is to TAKE ACTION.

One speed bump in the leadership journey can be a lack of knowing the "how." Often, we have a purpose and a "why," but we lack the resources, ideas, or experience to know the "how," and it can halt us in taking action. 

When I work with women through individual coaching, we work on pinpointing the exact speedbumps, then together we formulate strategies for overcoming the hurdles. Even without individual coaching, you can use the 80-20 principle to collect ideas and solutions. The next step is up to you. To act.

If you prefer to work alone and research your strengths to determine your next steps, an awesome must-read is the national best-seller, Strengths Based LeadershipUnderstanding your strengths will assist you on taking action on your leadership path. 

**Each book comes with an access code to take Gallup's CliftonStrengths Assessment. 

Leaders have a lot to deliver. We want strong, healthy cultures led by people who walk the walk. 

With consistent, positive action, leaders can deliver value and results to staff members and the organization. 

A checklist of 7 deliverables (Not all-inclusive):
   > Praise
   >Consistency in words, actions, and expectations
   >Clear and effective communication
   >Personal accountability
Leadership is a mindset and a skillset, and I encourage others to view it as a journey instead of a binary destination (you either have it or you don't.) There are highs and lows, successes and failures, and it is always filled with growth opportunities. 

If you are a leader or aspiring leader who would like individual coaching, contact me for a free discovery call so that we can see if it would be a good fit for you. My desire is to encourage and empower you to be your very best. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Ideas to Support and Celebrate New Teachers

It's that time of the year when school is starting and a new crop of teachers are joining the teaching ranks.  

Richard Ingersoll is a professor of Education and Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania, and he does a lot of research in the area of teacher recruitment, retention, and the teaching force. 

In the National Teacher Principal Survey of 2015-16, he tells us that there are more beginning teachers than before and that teaching has a higher attrition rate than police officers. 

How to support new teachers

Knowing these statistics, we've got to be intentional in our schools about providing support to our new teachers. 

How can school leaders support new teachers and impact retention? The four items below are from an Edweek article titled, "What do Beginning Teachers Really Need?"

1. Being accessible. Can I walk to his/her office door and have a quick word?
2. Being instructional. Is he/she sharing strategies that help me be a better teacher in my classroom?
3. Being protective. Does he or she “have my back” if a parent is angry or a student is disrupting class?
4. Being communicative. Am I always aware of what’s going on, or do I hear things first from students or from the community?

I worked with a team of experienced teachers to create a new teacher orientation experience that would allow our new teachers to get to know each other, get to know me, and walk away with practical knowledge that they would need to have a smooth start to the school year. 

new teacher ice breaker
We modeled "Get to know you" activities with our new teachers that could be easily implemented during the first few days of school.

new teacher activities
Teachers worked in groups to solve clues for the building scavenger hunt. 

new teacher activities
An experienced teacher guided them through the building, and they picked up office supplies at every other stop.

new teacher activities
We invited "newish" teachers (3 years or less experience at our school) to talk about how to survive floating, tips for success, and what they wish they had known before taking the job.

As another layer of support in our new teacher program, each new teacher is assigned a mentor. It is generally someone in their PLC or department, and it's a person who is organized, caring, supportive, and passionate about teaching. 

During the year, I hold small group meetings during teacher off periods where we discuss parent communication, culturally responsive classrooms, personal wellness, classroom management, and more. 

new teacher activities

One of my favorite events this year was our "New Teacher Signing Day."

new teacher signing day

new teacher signing day

The news covered the event, just like they do when our athletes sign college scholarships.

new teacher signing day

new teacher signing day

new teacher signing day

It was a huge hit with our entire staff, especially our "signees." It's a tradition that we'll continue every year!

Share your ideas for supporting and celebrating new teachers. You can leave me a comment below or reach out to me on twitter



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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