Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Resources, Tips, and 3 Ideas for Using ChatGPT as a School Leader

ChatGPT Tips

Technology is Always Evolving

We had a conversation in our doctoral class a couple of weeks ago about ChatGPT, and it got me to thinking about ways to use ChatGPT as a school leader. 

Technology is always evolving, and as I think back to when we started our one-to-one initiative at Hoover High School, we first made a turning point when our principal, Don Hulin, allowed our students to use their cell phones between classes, at lunch, and at other non-instructional times. This was at a time when most high schools were not allowing cell phones to be used at all during the school day. 

Teachers were encouraged to allow students to use their cell phones in creative ways - from recording a teacher's review session to watching rewindable, teacher-created lessons to fact-checking. We believed in and cultivated a culture of risk-taking and growth mindset

As the years passed and new technology was introduced, our teachers were open to trying new things that either 1) made their job easier (who doesn't want that!) or 2) created opportunities for deeper learning for our students. 

While I'm not typically first in line to try something new, I am genuinely curious about new technologies and try to find ways to implement them. However, I understand the mixed emotions and hesitancy of introducing a new technology school- or district-wide without thinking through scenarios and "what if" situations. 

As I think about ChatGPT, I also think about the time when calculators were introduced, and there was a debate about whether or not they should be allowed in classrooms. I think there are some similarities in the arguments against ChatGPT, and I will continue to research both sides as we all learn more about this new technology. 

Chatbots and AI are not new; in fact, many of us have used interacted with them on help websites for some credit unions, streaming services, and other businesses. However, they are new in the field of education as we currently know it.

"Since ChatGPT debuted in November, the nation's largest school districts have banned the artificial intelligence chatbot, concerned students will use the speedy text generator to cheat or plagiarize."

Even if schools ban ChatGPT, I do believe that school leaders can use it to improve workflow, and I want to share a few ideas here in this blog post. 
*Want to try ChatGPT? Use this link to go to the website, and click on Try ChatGPT. You can create an account, ask the chatbot a question, and it will give you a detailed answer in complete sentences. 

Ideas for Using ChatGPT as a School Leader

Below are a few ideas for busy school leaders on how to use ChatGPT to help lighten your load. When considering the suggestions below, it is important to remember that all communications should be in your voice. These ideas can help provide some shortcuts and "jumping off points" for busy school leaders. I DO NOT advocate using the Chatbot's answers as-is, but I do advocate for 1) not having to reinvent the wheel and 2) using the chatbot's outputs as a framework and as support for our own words. Think of ChatGPT as a virtual assistant who's writing your first draft!

1. Ask ChatGPT for help with written communication to parents

For example, I asked ChatGPT:
"Write an email to parents letting them know about the school open house event"

Here's what ChatGPT produced:

Subject: Invitation to the School Open House Event

Dear Parents,

I hope this email finds you well. I am writing to formally invite you to our upcoming School Open House event. This is a great opportunity for you to visit our school, meet the teachers, and get to know more about our programs and facilities.

The Open House event will take place on [date and time]. During this time, you will have the chance to tour the school, speak with our teachers and staff, and learn about our curriculum and extra-curricular activities. You will also have the opportunity to ask questions and get to know our school community better.

We believe that a strong partnership between home and school is essential for student success, and we believe that this event will be a great opportunity for you to get involved and learn more about our school.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to us. We look forward to seeing you on the day of the event!

Best regards,

[Your Name]
[School Name]

2. Ask ChatGPT for help with written communication to community partners

This is what I asked ChatGPT:

"Write a thank you note from a principal to a community partner"

This is what ChatGPT produced:

Dear [Community Partner],

I am writing to express my deepest gratitude for your support and partnership with our school. Your contributions have made a tremendous impact on the lives of our students and have helped to strengthen our community as a whole.

The generosity and dedication you have shown towards our school and its programs are truly inspiring. Your efforts have provided our students with opportunities and experiences that they will never forget, and have helped to create a brighter future for all of us.

Please accept my heartfelt thanks for all that you have done. Your kindness and support mean the world to us, and we are so grateful to have you as a partner.

With warm regards,

[Principal's Name]

3. Ask ChatGPT to help with speech writing

This is what I asked ChatGPT:

"Write a welcome speech by a principal to honor society induction"

This is what ChatGPT produced:

Good evening everyone, and welcome to the induction ceremony of our school's Honor Society. It is my pleasure to stand before you today and celebrate the achievements of our students.

I would like to start by congratulating all of the new inductees for their hard work and dedication. Your commitment to academics, leadership, and service has earned you a place among the best and brightest students in our school. You should be proud of your accomplishments and the example you set for others.

I would also like to extend a special thank you to the teachers, staff, and families who have supported and encouraged these students along the way. Your dedication and support have been instrumental in their success.

As members of the Honor Society, our new inductees have joined a long and distinguished tradition of excellence. They will have opportunities to participate in service projects, leadership initiatives, and academic events that will further their growth and development. I encourage each of them to take advantage of these opportunities and to use their talents and abilities to make a positive impact in our school and beyond.

So once again, congratulations to our new inductees, and thank you all for joining us tonight. I am confident that each of you will continue to make us proud and continue the legacy of excellence that is the Honor Society.

With that, I would like to officially welcome you to the Honor Society and wish you all the best in your future endeavors.

Thank you.

ChatGPT Tips

Here are some words that will help with your chat prompts/requests, and as a reminder, the better questions we ask of it, the better our results will be. Test and iterate!

“Create a bullet list of”
“Write XX words”
“Make a table of”
add “explain like I’m 5” for complex answers

Want to learn more about ChatGPT? 

What is your reaction to using ChatGPT with students?

How else can ChatGPT be used by school leaders?

I would love to hear your thoughts about using ChatGPT in your personal life or in your professional role! Please reach out to me on twitter or leave a comment below!

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Saturday, January 21, 2023

5 Actions to Engage Employees when Building Culture

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

Leaders shape the culture

Now more than ever in education, positive workplace relationships are important. Teachers are leaving the profession in greater numbers, and fewer people are choosing education as a career. Positive relationships between administrators and teachers as well as all adults in a school are imperative in creating a positive culture. 

When building a positive culture in an organization, it becomes a result of a collective effort by everyone in the organization; however, the leader plays a key role in shaping the culture. 

Leaders can build up the confidence of staff members, creating safe spaces where curiosity is rewarded and employees challenge the status quo. Leaders can delegate equitably and demonstrate fairness and empathy, and they must model their expectations and hold others as well as themselves accountable. 

To shape a culture and achieve the collective effort of everyone in the organization, the leader must be intentional about engaging employees in the vision. 

5 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

1. Get to know them

Ben Brearley, the host of the Thoughtful Leader Podcast, wrote a great article titled, Don’t Know Your Employees? Here’s Why You Should, and he shares 3 reasons why leaders should get to know their employees and 4 ways to get to know them. 

Here's what Ben says:
"People are more likely to do the right thing by you and the team if they are personally invested in the workplace and its relationships."

"Most people are creatures of habit and routine. Knowing your employees helps you to spot any changes which may highlight a problem that could impact the team."

One overlooked way to get to know others is by being observant. Ben gives the following questions to use as a starting point:
  • How do your people react under pressure?
  • How about when something unexpected happens?
  • What about when there is uncertainty?
  • How does your team member react when you praise them in front of the rest of the team? Do they love it, or shy away from the attention?
  • Does your team member seem confident, or tentative in their actions?
  • How do your team members respond to team conflict?

*You can read all of Ben's article here: Don’t Know Your Employees? Here’s Why You Should

2. Look for strengths

In a post by Scott Cochrane, he asks, What are the qualifications and qualities of the people you want sitting around your leadership table?

He then goes on to share the obvious strengths, such as results oriented, high achiever, and driven to perform. 

Additionally, he reminds us that there are less celebrated strengths that should also be valued, such as

     1. They are seated, and ready to engage, before the stated starting time of 
         the meeting.
     2. In every conversation they focus on you, not their phone.
     3. They are “thanking machines”- Gratitude oozes from them.
     4. They respond promptly to emails and voicemails.
     5. They stand up for their teammates.

3. Create opportunities for employees to contribute, lead, and use their strengths

Not sure where to start on this one? Try the actions below, which are based on the work of Marcus Buckingham, Researcher, NYT Best-Selling Author, and Founder of the Strengths Revolution.

     1. Know where your own strengths are, as well as your employees. 
Try using a "Love It / Loathe It" list. (Click for FREE download) How it works: for a few days, every time you have a task to do, write it in on the "Love it" column or the "Loathe it" column. At the end of the designated time, review your lists to determine your strengths (the tasks in the "Love it" column).

     2. Meet with employees individually or in teams, and ask employees to fill in
         the blanks about themselves: 

"This is where I'm at for the team: ______" 
"Here's where you can rely on me the most: ____________"

     3. Have frequent check-ins about work + strengths. 

4. Celebrate and recognize them

In their book, Corporate Celebration: Play, Purpose, and Profit at Work, Terrence Deal and M. K. Key note different types of celebration at work:
-Cyclical celebrations: seasonal themes, key milestones, corporate anniversaries
-Recognition ceremonies: public acknowledgement for a job well done
-Celebrations of triumph: special occasions for accentuating collective accomplishments (e.g., in a school, ACT scores or meeting other benchmarks)
-Personal transitions: entrances and exits
-Workplace altruism: doing good for others and promoting social change
-Play: games and events, fun 

5. Show you care

Author and Leadership Coach Kate Nasser reminds us how the world of work has evolved, and how necessary it is for leaders to honor feelings. In her post, "Leaders, Honor Feelings to Engage Employees," she states 5 ways that leaders can honor feelings.

     1. Acknowledge the feeling and its impact.
     2. Recognize when an employee is struggling.
     3. Accept different personality types express feelings differently.
     4. Address disrespect between teammates.
     5. Create a culture of respect for feelings and to results.

Gallup surveyed U.S. employees to see if they agreed with the following statements:

1. “My supervisor focuses on my strengths or positive characteristics.”
2. “My supervisor focuses on my weaknesses or negative characteristics.”

Not surprisingly, those who had supervisors who focused on strengths were more engaged than their counterparts whose supervisors focused on the negative. 

Interestingly, those who agreed with neither statement and were considered "ignored" were more than twice as likely to be actively disengaged than those whose supervisor focused on the negative. 

Questions for reflection:
  • How might relationships be strengthened in my school or organization?
  • How would I rank the five actions in order of my own strengths as a leader? From the ranking, how might I increase my role in engaging others at work?
  • What is a celebration we need to add to our workplace calendar?
  • When reviewing my calendar, how have I created time for getting to know others at work? How can I be more intentional about making time to get to know others?

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Tuesday, January 3, 2023

My 3 words for 2023

As each year comes to a close, I reflect on the year with specific questions to help me prepare and build momentum for the next one. 

Here are a few of the reflection questions I ask myself as the end of the year approaches:

What has had the greatest impact and how can I do more to amplify that?

What am I most grateful for?

What am I most proud of and why?

What did I learn this year, and what do I need to dive deeper into?

What challenged me this year?

The method

In preparing for the new year, I use a practice I learned from Chris Brogan and one that has proven to be beneficial to me both personally and professionally.

Since 2014, I select three words at the beginning of the year that will set my intentions, drive my actions, and align my purpose throughout the year. (Last year was an outlier year, and I only chose one word.)

Choosing three words is something Chris Brogan has been doing since 2006. He sums it this way: 

“The three words are a shorthand representation of your bigger story. It’s kind of like how an icon isn’t the software program. It’s just a way for you to mentally access all the work you’re doing.” 

As we go through the new year, it can be easy to get off-track from pursuing our goals and dreams, but I've found that having three words to use as a guide throughout the year is helpful. 

While Chris says that we don't need to explain our words to anyone else, I find that posting them helps me with accountability as well as community. I learn a lot by reading about others' words, and over the years I've had others with common stories and goals to reach out to me. 

We are all trying to have our own best lives, so reach out to me if I can help you in any way!


During 2021, I began to have some minor health issues, and they progressed and continued into 2022. This setback has been very hard to deal with emotionally, psychologically, and physically. I continue to be positive and see it as a setback and one that will be overcome. There have been many hours spent reading, researching, and learning what I can do to overcome these issues. It has meant many changes, trials (and errors), as well as pushing back against traditional medicine. I know I can't pour from an empty cup, and 2023 is the year to fill it up!

"The soul always knows what to do to heal itself. 
The challenge is to silence the mind."

- Caroline Myss

As an Enneagram 1, I tend to have extremely high standards for myself (I'm a recovering perfectionist), and my inner critic can be very loud at times. Sometimes, fear can get in the way and shorten my stride or even derail me on the path to my goals. This year, in 2023, LEAP will serve as a reminder to me that sometimes we have to go with faith. Sometimes our plans call for big leaps instead of small steps. Have you ever had a time when you had to take a leap and were met with success? I have, and I've had the opposite as well. I've got regrets from times where I should have leaped and didn't. Can you relate?

“What’s important is that you make the leap. 
Jump high and hard with intention and heart.”

— Cheryl Strayed

According to Miriam-Webster, SOW means 
: to plant seed for growth especially by scattering
: to set something in motion : begin an enterprise

Both of my parents grew up on farms in rural Alabama, and several of my father's relatives are still in the farming business. I have great respect for farmers who understand the climate, soil conditions, and care that is needed to sow seeds that turn into crops. Educators are often compared to gardeners since we "plant seeds" in young people, even when we know that the seeds may not bloom or grow until after the students are long gone from our care. 

I have some seeds to plant in 2023. They will have to be planted in fertile soil and nurtured in order to grow. This year will be about planting and tending to the seeds: seeds of wellness, business, finances, relationships, and more. I plan to "sow seeds" that will produce amazing outcomes during the year. 

“Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant” 

-Robert Louis Stevenson

I hope these words have inspired you to create and share your own words for 2023. If so, please share them in the comments or on Twitter or Facebook

Past #My3Words Choices

2014 - Discipline. Intentional. Balance.
2015 - Rhythm. Bravery. Fitness.
2016 - Focus. Purpose. Do.
2017 - Pivot. Go. Grow.
2018 - Lift. Create. Relentless. 
2019 - Practice. Execute. Be.

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Monday, October 31, 2022

3 Key Practices to Build a Leadership Mindset

Leadership is not about a position, it’s about a mindset. 

All true leaders understand that they are in a constant state of becoming as they walk the path of the effective leadership process. Leaders come from different backgrounds and experiences, but they share one thing in common. They are perpetual learners who continue to grow themselves as well as others.

There is too much to learn about leadership for a person to feel as though they have “arrived.” 

A person may have a lot of experience dealing with different situations and people, yet that does not make one incapable of still having something to learn. 

There are two quotes by legendary basketball coach John Wooden that have stuck with me throughout my career as an educational leader. The first quote is this: “If I am through learning, I am through.” The other quote states, “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.” Both of these quotes sum up the mindset that is required for leaders to become exceptional at leading.

Don't make my mistake.

Have you ever thought, “I already know everything there is to know about ______.” Embarrassingly, I did early in my teaching career. After four years of teaching, I left the profession. I was bored. I was jealous that another teacher who had been teaching longer than me but not as effectively as me was getting paid more than me. I thought I had seen every situation and knew how to handle any challenge thrown at me. Dang, was I young and stupid! 

It only took two years for me to realize that education was my calling, and after ending my career in public education of 27 years, I can say that I’ve had a lot of different experiences, but I definitely don’t know everything. 

The mindset that I had as a young teacher was not one of leadership. I was comparing myself to another teacher, which is a limiting mindset. Also, I only thought of my influence with students and not how I could influence other teachers in the building. I feel lucky that the questions I had about "whether or not education was for me" came up relatively early in my career. After the two year break oh so long ago, I was able to eliminate the questions in my mind and change my mindset to that of a leader and learner as I re-entered the education field. Additionally, once I embraced my future as a life-long educator, I began to “learn what I needed to know after I knew it all.” Have you ever had a similar experience?

Just as teachers need to plan lessons to maximize learning for their students, leaders must be intentional about planning their time and “lessons” in order to maximize their own learning and growth. 

Here are 3 key practices that I found worked for me and my hope is that they will work for you, too.  

Key #1: Leaders must build strong support teams

Learning is a social activity. Learning is messy, and it requires vulnerability and persistence.  It is important that leaders build a team of encouragers, disrupters, thinkers and doers. 
Very few people in the world are successful without a team. 

Without a team in place, it’s easy for a person to “tinker” with change, where real growth occurs. Tinkering doesn’t require deep learning or great amounts of courage. Today, we need leaders who are willing to learn deeply and apply their learning.

Key #2: Leaders must be courageous

When new bark grows on a tree, the new growth is generally fragile. Leaders who are willing to change and grow will go through a fragile period, too. 

For example, a school or district administrator may try a new initiative or program and not know on the outset if it will be successful. Risking a period of vulnerability takes courage, but can lead to exponential growth with reflection and learning throughout the process. 

Another example is one that is more difficult for leaders, and that is when the growth is about personal skills and learning about one’s self. Learning not to take the feedback personally is essential for using the feedback constructively as a tool for growth.

Key #3: Leaders must organize their learning cycles

Just as a teacher plans lessons for their students, a leader plans for his or her own learning. Teachers must get clear about what their students are to learn, then they should provide intentional instruction while assessing the students throughout the learning cycle to ensure that students are progressing in their knowledge and skills and determine if there are any gaps in understanding. In the end, it is determined if the students learned what they needed to learn. Reflection about the process as well as collaboration with others assists the teacher in improving effective instruction. 

Leaders should also be intentional about their personal and professional growth. They should get clear about what it is they want to learn, implement their learning to determine if there are any gaps in the learning and/or execution, then they should get feedback, reflect, and collaborate with others to grow from the experience.

Once leaders 1) build a support team, 2) summon up courage, and 3) get organized, the question then becomes, “What is it that I need to learn?” The answer to that question comes from many sources, all of which are valuable and relevant. 

I love the saying, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” What leaders have to get really good at is finding out what they don’t know. 

Identifying blind spots will help to understand and hone in on those things that need to learned. It’s important for leaders to get feedback from others, because there may be a gap in what she perceives about herself. Once a leader gains insights on how her actions are interpreted by others, she can prioritize her learning. 

As part of the learning cycle, a leader will be in a constant feedback loop, always seeking information about their effectiveness and ongoing improvement. Getting authentic feedback from others is a leadership skill itself that must be developed through trust, respect, and authenticity.

Which of the 3 Keys are strengths for you? 
Are any of them an area where you are growing?

I would love to hear what your take-aways are and if any of these thoughts resonate with you. Feel free to reach out on twitter or leave a comment below.

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