Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Demonstrating Learning is Scary!

Every Monday night, while many may have regular dates with the TV for Monday Night Football or The Bachelorette, I'm connected to my computer for a weekly motivational, thought-provoking, and inspiring chat on twitter called #ALedchat. Holly Sutherland and I stepped out on a limb two years ago and started #ALedchat. We've been assistant principals together at Hoover High School for the past three years until about two weeks ago when she was named principal at her alma mater, Haleyville High School. A few months ago, we asked Michael McLendon to join us on our journey, and he's jumped right in the deep end with us!

Along with #ALedchat, we also host the quarterly #USedchat. We rotate responsibilities on who will take the lead for choosing the topics and guests, and this quarter's #USedchat was my turn to take the lead. With it being a summer chat, I decided on the topic of CHANGE since summer is a season of change for many educators. Some take on new roles, some change schools, and some step into leadership roles. Summer is also a time for learning and planning; for everyone, the beginning of each school year marks a time of renewal, a new start, a "do-over."

Monday night I had the honor of getting to chat with three leaders who are going/have gone through personal change, leading others through change, or both. One of our guests was Andrew Maxey, a middle school principal in Alabama who is successfully leading his school through a multi-year process of going to standards-based learning and grading. Another guest was Todd Nesloney, who has left the classroom to start his new role of principal this fall. Not only is he going through personal change, he is tasked with leading his staff through a process of change as well. Our third guest was Dan Rockwell, better known as LeadershipFreak. I still remember when Dan first started on twitter a few years ago... he connected with me and had some questions about twitter and how I was using it. We've been twitter friends since then, and I was thrilled that he was going to be a part of the chat!

Back in April, at the end of our spring USedchat, we announced that we were going to do a Google Hangout for the summer edition of USedchat. Holly and I had bounced the idea around for the spring chat, but we didn't have the knowledge to pull it together for the spring show. By announcing it, it made us accountable so that we had to learn how to set up and use a GHO in the summer. When I invited our guests to join us for the summer USedchat, I told them that it would be a GHO. It was time to start learning!

Now this is where the journey gets scary for me, because I was going to have to learn how to set up my first Google Hangout on Air and successfully broadcast it to the world. I had never done that before and I was nervous about it, but I knew that I had friends that I could call on for help. When I was a kid in school, all the way up through my early years in college, I was very shy and wouldn't ask others for help. It wasn't because I didn't want help... I was just too shy to ask for it. Thank goodness I picked up things quickly, because I didn't know how to advocate for myself. (For some reason, my colleagues tell me that they can't believe that I was that kind of kid!) Now, I readily ask for help, and learning about GHO was no exception. 

I read a ton of "how to" articles and blog posts. I set up a "circle" of just us 6 on Google+. I talked several times with our former librarian, Nikki Robertson. Then I asked the group for a practice run over the weekend before Monday night's chat. I then set up (what I hoped was correct) a practice hangout and the GHO on Air for Monday night's chat. I saw that there was a link to the YouTube video for our broadcast, so I started sharing it via Twitter. I did all of this with my fingers crossed as the waves of nervousness began rolling in. 

Sunday night, it was almost time to call everyone for the practice run. Transparency alert: I couldn't figure out how to call them. I either had a blonde moment or my nerves got to me. So I texted Nikki, who helped me connect with the group. I didn't actually connect with them via the GHO on Air that I had created, we had just done a regular hangout. Nikki explained how to connect within the GHO on Air, and she promised that she would be available for me to call her the next night before the chat started. Whew!

As Monday night approached, I got more and more excited, but I also got more nervous. I had all kinds of questions about how the Google Hangout would go... Would it connect correctly? Would we run out of time? Would we cover everything too quickly? Would everyone hate the new format? 

As 7:45pm approached, I began to warn my family (again) that I would need them to be quiet while I was on the chat. (Didn't they want to all go see a movie?) My youngest daughter giggled at me, because she could visibly see and hear my nervousness. Then it was time. I called Nikki and put her on speakerphone. She was very calm and helpful, telling me where to click and how to invite the guests. I sent the invitation, and the guests started to pop up on my screen. Then I got a text from Holly. She didn't see the invitation. As Nikki was talking me through how to re-invite just her, she joined us. I said goodbye to Nikki, and there we were all were, waiting for the 8pm start time. At 7:58, I clicked the Start button, and off we went! 

If you missed the video, you can watch it below or click the link to watch it on YouTube:

The GHO on Air happened successfully, but through all of this I was affirmed in what I believe about teaching and learning. I strongly believe that a teacher should never forget what it feels like when learning something new. As we teach each year, we become more of an "expert" in our content. We begin to anticipate questions, we learn from student questions, and we grow more confident. It can be easy to get farther away from where students are in the learning process. We can forget what it's like to grapple with new information and what it feels like to try something and fail. For a youngster or teenager, who is going through a lot developmentally, they may not respond like an adult does or would. We owe it to our students to BE a student. 

I also believe in having an authentic audience for student work. We need to leave the days where students' work was only viewed and assessed by the teacher. With technology, there are many more ways to create opportunities for students to demonstrate their learning to authentic audiences. But don't forget, when we ask students to go to the board to solve a problem in front of their peers, or create a public service announcement to show to the school, or write a blog post, or other ways, demonstrating learning is scary! Students will need emotional support through the process. They will need coaching. They will need knowledge. But when they have an authentic audience, they won't need to ask, "Why do I have to do this?"

Monday, July 28, 2014

Here's to the Crazies - Motivation Monday #30 {July 28, 2014}

Every Monday I post quotes and/or videos to inspire and motivate you through your week. Get ready for a great one!

I tend to like everyone... from the red, yellow, black, and white, to the quirky, independent, cool, and different. I try to learn from everyone I meet, especially the ones who are most different from me.

I applaud those who have the courage and tenacity to "go against the grain." Those who ignore the dream stealers, face adversity, and keep going. 

I especially love the ones quoted in this video clip from the movie, Jobs.

If you can't see the video on your device, click HERE

How do you feel about the Crazies? Do you embrace them or try to keep them on the outside?

Will you dare to throw a stone and cause ripples?

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Freshmen Orientation at Hoover High School

This week has been a busy week at Hoover High School. Along with football practices, math prep classes, summer school, and band camp, we've had 3 days of registration plus freshmen orientation and freshmen tours. 

Since I'm the ninth grade assistant principal, I want to share our freshmen orientation with you, and hope that you will have some ideas for us, too. We've had construction going on at our school for the past 3 summers, so this is the first year that we've had a "Freshmen Orientation" day since the freshmen moved back to our campus from the ninth-grade building. (Our ninth graders used to be on their own campus about a mile from our main campus.) So this is the first year that we've done orientation on our campus in a long time (since the freshmen moved to their own campus about 8 years ago.)

We began the day by having the cheerleaders welcome the new freshmen as they arrived to the school. They then went to the courtyard where they could hang out, visit with friends, and take selfies in the photo booths we set up.

Our Peer Helpers (in the selfie above) led the small-group sessions in the classrooms. We divided the kids up into classroom where at least 2 Peer Helpers got to know them, answered questions, and reviewed school-specific topics with them. Our goals for the day were for kids to connect with each other (we have two feeder middle schools), with HHS students (peer helpers), and with adults (Debbie Grant, the 9th grade counselor, and me). We also wanted them to learn about our expectations and procedures prior to the first day of school. Most of all, we wanted them to have FUN!

Dr. Grant and I got to spend some time with them in the auditorium. The first thing I had them to do was to put away their cell phones. The second thing I shared with them is that "we don't usually say that at HHS." I talked to them about the connectedness we have at HHS and how we encourage students to share the great things that are going on at Hoover High via social media. Digital citizenship and cell phone etiquette was discussed, as well as creating a digital footprint. 

I explained that for the next 20 minutes or so, Dr. Grant and I had some important things to share with them and that we wanted their full attention. 

Here's what we shared:
  • Dr. Grant told them that she is one of their biggest advocates. They are welcome at her office any time. Email her, leave her a note, drop by... just to say hi, or to talk with her.
  • Dr. Grant also encouraged them to act early. Don't wait until a problem gets huge to ask for help. 
I shared
  • I, too, am in their corner, but I happen to be the one who sits at the desk where I give consequences to those who make poor choices, and it happens out of respect for the ones who are doing what they are supposed to be doing.
  • Bullying is not tolerated at HHS. I shared with them that I know that our freshmen look out for each other. Students come to my office to tell me about something that happened in one of their classes or in the hallway, locker room, or on the bus. Sources are never revealed, and bullying will be addressed and stopped.
  • There are lots of ways to get involved at HHS. Over 85% of our students belong to a club, and they will learn about the clubs and choose one within the first month of school. 
  • Being in a club is a great way to be a leader at Hoover High. I encouraged them to be a leader, telling them that leadership has nothing to do with age. (When school starts, we will have conversations about what it means to be a leader and what they need to do to be a leader at HHS.)
  • High school is the beginning of their GPA. I shared with them that in 20 years, I've never heard a former student say, "Darn, I wish I hadn't studied so much!" or "Man, I wish I hadn't made straight A's when I was in high school." BUT, I have heard kids say, "I sure wish I had studied more when I was in school." or "I wish I had worked harder my freshman year." I want them to start strong and finish strong.
  • I ended the session encouraging them to take pictures and tweet using the school hashtag, #HHSiBucs.
The day ended with popsicles and music in the courtyard. On a hot day, the popsicles were a perfect treat!

As part of freshmen orientation, we offer Freshmen Tours on a separate day, after registration and when the students have their schedules. This year we did it on Friday, which was great because the offices are closed and there's not extra traffic in the building. 

Freshmen and their families are welcome to come any time during the scheduled hours, and they receive a personal tour from an Ambassador or Peer Helper. The leaders are able to "walk the schedule" of the freshman so that the 9th grader will know how to navigate our campus from class period to class period. We also have a separate building on our campus called Hoover Hall that uses a shuttle to get back and forth from our main building. Several of our academy classes are housed there, so students who go there need to know where the busses pick up and drop off. Also, our ninth graders have a separate lunch from 10th - 12th graders, so navigating it in their schedule is important on the first day.

Offering Freshmen Tours is a wonderful way for 9th graders and parents to have one-on-one time with an upperclassman who can answer questions, alleviate concerns, and create a positive relationship with a family. Even with almost 2,800 students, we try to make the school feel small and personal, emphasizing connections and relationships.

Monday, July 21, 2014

People are Awesome! - Motivation Monday #29 {July 21, 2014}

Every Monday I post quotes and/or videos to inspire and motivate you through your week. Get ready for a great one!

Today's video is freakin' awesome! 

Link to video on YouTube:

Don't be normal. 
Be Amazing! 

 Have a fantastic week,

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Keeping Balance in a Busy Life

All of us can relate to the title of this blog post. It's hard sometimes to keep a balance in our professional and personal lives, because we caught up in the "busy-ness" of daily needs, actions, and activities. After 46 years, you would think that I would be really, really good at keeping balance in my busy life. While I'm not perfect and still have room to grow, this has been my best year so far! I wanted to share what I've been doing in case it is helpful to some of you. (And so that you can share ideas with me!) 

One major thing that is helping me this year has been my "focus words." I selected 3 words to guide me during 2014.  Interestingly (or not so), one of my words for 2014 is BALANCE. I find that I don't have to give up a lot to have balance. I DO have to say no to some things, though, but looking back over the year it has not been anything that I've missed.

If you haven't done this for yourself, find make some quiet time to reflect on 3 main areas of focus for the second half of 2014. Write them down and put them somewhere where you can see them every day. (I have mine framed and hanging in my office next to my computer.)

Another useful tool is Stephen Covey's matrix. It's a great reminder for daily interruptions and to-do lists. While I have my larger "themes" to drive my actions for the year, I still needed help on prioritizing and filtering. (Something we really need to be teaching our students, since they are - and will always be - bombarded by information.)

Do you use a matrix like this when considering your daily activities?
Notice where email is on the matrix. Do you agree with where it is located on the chart?

Another way I've found balance in a busy life is that I've also decided that my personal values would guide my decisions. In other words, I want my decisions to align with my values and what's important to me.  God: greater personal relationship, quality time with family, quality time with friends, and self: healthy, happy lifestyle. 

For example, I LOVE to read. I don't get to read very many "beach books" during the school year, so I fill up on them during the summer and breaks from school. During the school year, I accept that I can't read then, knowing that I will intentionally make time for it during breaks. 

Books I've read this summer!

By reflecting back to my values, I know that it will lead to a happier and more productive life because I will, for a large part, be doing things that are important to me spiritually, intellectually, physically, and emotionally.

I would love to hear how you keep your life in balance in the comments below!

Monday, July 14, 2014

When Dreams Come True - Motivation Monday #28 {July 14, 2014}

Every Monday I post quotes and/or videos to inspire and motivate you through your week. Get ready for a great one!

What a school we would have if everyone did a dance in the parking lot as they entered the building. Sound crazy? That's what Tim does when he goes to work. Check out the video...

For a dream like this to happen, it can't happen alone. When your dreams are big, allow others to get in your corner with you so that they can support you along the way to reaching your dreams!

Have a super week, and DREAM BIG!

Friday, July 11, 2014

We Get What We Look For

About 12 years ago, I took a motorcycle safety class. It was a two-day class, where we had "classroom" lessons on Friday evening, then actually driving on Saturday. I remember the bike being big and heavy, and not at all like riding a bicycle. I had a lot of fear riding it alone, afraid I would lose control and "drop" it. 

To this day, I remember what one of the instructors told us while driving the course: 

"When you want to make a turn, go ahead and look that way. Which ever way you look is the way you will go."

That phrase applies to so much of life. Whatever we're looking for... we will find it, whether it's trouble, happiness, success, etc. And what we look for depends on our OUTLOOK on life. It also depends on our belief system. Do we believe that other people are inherently good? Do we believe we have something positive to offer the world? Do we believe we can make a difference?

This week, we had an incredible twitter chat with Angela Maiers. (Read the #ALedchat archive here.) She started the "You Matter" movement, and I got to hear her in Atlanta at the recent ISTE conference. She told the participants of her session that You Matter is not an event. It's not a day, a thing, a feeling. It reflects what we believe about others. 

(If your device doesn't support the video, you can watch it here.)

When I was coaching and would tell my athletes, "I believe in you," it was to let them know that they mattered. That I had confidence in them. That I SAW them. That I was with them. 

So when the school year starts, what will you be looking for? Because whatever it is, you will find it. 

Monday, July 7, 2014

What Would You Do with 5 Extra Years to Live? Motivation Monday #27 {July 7, 2014}

Every Monday I post quotes and/or videos to inspire and motivate you through your week. Get ready for a great one!

If you've been following me on Twitter or following this blog, you know that I'm part of a running/walking challenge for 2014, where I'm trying to complete 500 miles by the end of the year. (Here's where I posted 5 strategies for getting through a mentally hard run.

I'm a believer in physical activity and a healthy lifestyle, so when I was introduced to the Designed to Move website, I was blown away by some of the statistics I found there!

From the website:

"By the end of this decade, most Americans 
will exert only slightly more energy per
week than if they slept 24 hours a day."

"This year, 5.3 million deaths will be 
attributed to physical inactivity. Smoking is 
responsible for 5 million deaths per year."
Click here for the infographic

Here's what kids said they would do if they were given 5 extra years to live:

This is the first generation that is expected to live shorter lives than their parents.

Think about your children and/or your students.... Let's work hard to give them the extra years! Visit the website Designed to Move for ideas on how to get kids moving. 

Share with me here or on Twitter how you model healthy living for your kids!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Nine Characteristics of Successful Educational Entrepreneurs

Yesterday, I featured the Alabama State Superintendent of Education, Dr. Tommy Bice, in this week's Motivational Monday blog post. During Dr. Bice's entertaining and inspiring message, he shared a slide with us titled, "Characteristics of Successful Educational Entrepreneurs." It is adapted from "10 Characteristics of Successful Social Entrepreneurs" highlighted in the book, The Power of Unreasonable People

Dr. Bice went through each of the characteristics below and encouraged us to embrace these characteristics as we work to meet the needs of students in the ever-changing 21st century.

Characteristics of Successful Educational Entrepreneurs

1) Shrug off the constraints of traditional ideology and norms.

2) Find creative approaches to social challenges and see these challenges not as barriers, but rather as opportunities.

3) Focus first and foremost on social value creation and are willing to share their innovations and insights for others to replicate.

4) Jump in before they have "permission" and before ensuring they are fully resources (they figure it out as they go along.)

5) Have an unwavering belief in everyone's innate capacity, regardless of one's education, to contribute meaningfully to economic and social development. 

6) Show an unwavering determination that pushes them to take risks that others wouldn't consider. 

7) Balance their passion for progress while at the same time being sure to measure, monitor, and evaluate their impact.

8) Have a great deal to teach change makers in other sectors.

9) Display a healthy impatience with the status quo. They do not do well in bureaucracies.

What do you think of these nine characteristics? 
Do you have at least one that is a guiding principle for you? 

I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.