Wednesday, December 31, 2014

What will You STOP doing?

As we close out the year and start a new one, we reflect on the year and what we want to change or improve upon in the new year. Before we think about the things we want to accomplish, it's important to make note of what we need to STOP doing in order to make room for the goals, dreams, and plans of the new year.

What will you stop doing?

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Best of 2014: Top 10 Posts of the Year

As we look back on 2014, I'm amazed at how this blog has grown into something that I consider the cornerstone of my professional journey. I'm able to expand on ideas, reflect on practices, inspire others, and share practical insight and strategies through my blog posts. If you are considering starting a blog, I encourage you to GO FOR IT in 2015! If you already have a blog and are looking to "turn it up a notch," perhaps you should consider joining the Compelled Bloggers Community, a blogging group started in 2014 by me and Craig Vroom. (We're taking new members in January.) If you would like to join us, there is a link at the bottom of the blog post.

Now... on with the Top 10 list! (This is a compilation only of blog posts that were written in 2014.)


The State Superintendent for Alabama is Tommy Bice. He's the real deal. He's a doer. 
He's in it for kids. 
And he's in it for educators who are in it for kids. Check him out.


Teachers are wired to finding a way to use technology to help their students. Don't use twitter with your students, use it for YOU. A better you will be a huge benefit for your students. 


This post offers practical ideas to use when introducing twitter to staff, and it has been inspiring twitter parties at schools of all grade levels. Free, downloadable resources are included in the post.


As 2014 comes to a close, it will soon be time to choose my 3 words for the new year. While Jon Gordon does a #oneword for the year, I still enjoy choosing 3 words (a la Chris Brogan) to drive my quest for being the best ME I can be.


Sitting in an airport, waiting to head home from an inspiring conference led by Stephen Peters, I read a blog post by a new administrator, Tim Dawkins. I felt compelled to respond, not only to him, but to all new administrators who face the "dream-stealers" and 
the "yea-buts."


This post shares a creative way to find out what your students, administrators, and teachers believe about your school.


Positive relationships between all stakeholders is what makes a school successful. This post includes five questions for reflection, which may prompt you to initiate changes at your school or district or perhaps celebrate what you are doing in your school or district.


In this post, I share a 3-session PD experience I led with staff based on Rick Wormeli's videos. I also include resources in this post. It's a practical PD idea to use when introducing staff to standards-based learning, retakes and re-dos, and defining failure.


This post includes a story about a new scoring system our cheerleading coach will implement for the next tryouts, and it also includes a personal story about my daughter and her tryout for the middle school volleyball team. It also includes tips to giving feedback to students. 


If you're on Pinterest, here are 7 boards that range from BYOD to HS literacy to Bullying & Digital Citizenship. They are excellent resources I've curated for you!

And now, for a few of my favorite 2014 posts that didn’t get many pageviews, but still deserve a mention...

Empathy is extremely important when working with others. In this post, I share why we need empathy, what it is not, and how and when we can practice.

As a former athlete and coach, a life lesson I learned through athletics is that when it comes to our part in life, there are two things we can control: attitude and effort. In the blog post I share ways to have a positive attitude and to improve effort.

I'm a big believer that attitude is a choice and that we create the life we live. In this post I share a lesson I learned at a motorcycle safety class.

In this post, I share words of wisdom from Dr. Jack Watkins: chancellor of Troy University, and Lolly Daskal: Leadership Coach, Consultant, Speaker, and Author.

While my weekly Motivation Monday series did not make the Top 10 blog posts of 2014, I loved the "research" of finding videos and quotes that inspired me and that I hoped would inspire others. 

Thank you from the bottom of my heart to all of you who have supported me this year. It has been the best year so far, and I'm looking forward to another wonderful year in 2015. Best wishes to all of you!

Monday, December 29, 2014

True Strength according to Devon Still - Motivation Monday #52 {December 29, 2014}

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

I love the recent ESPN interview with Bengals defensive tackle Devon Still about his daughter, Leah, who is battling cancer. 

Here's the story about Devon Still's strength, as well as his daughter's.

If your device cannot show embedded video, click the link below:

This is the last Motivation Monday post for the year. It's been a wonderful journey to share with my blog readers. I hope you have a terrific ending to 2014 and a blessed beginning to the new year. 


Monday, December 22, 2014

Band of Brothers - Motivation Monday #51 {December 22, 2014}

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

I once gave the keynote at an athletic banquet. The theme of my talk was how being an athlete is similar to being in the military. I made the comparisons of preparing side by side with your teammate to go into battle to conquer the opposing side. Also, teammates have a bond that lasts forever. Going into battle with someone means that there has to a huge amount of trust between each other. Nothing can be taken for granted. Each member must be willing to sacrifice his or her own needs for the success of the group. Both athletes and military understand the comparisons and what it's like to work side by side with another person on whom they can fully depend.

And as we close out this year, I feel the same bond with fellow educators. Even if we don't go to battle on the same battlefields, there are many of you with whom I fight the good fight. We wage war on poverty and undernourishment of the body and soul, and we are unwavering in our efforts to educate, support, and encourage the young people of today. 

I thank you and salute you.

(Click the picture below to watch the German General's Speech from the movie, Band of Brothers.)

Click picture above to watch the video clip.


Monday, December 15, 2014

Unbroken - Motivation Monday #50 {December 15, 2014}

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

I can't believe this is the 50th Motivation Monday post for the year! When I started this weekly series back at the beginning of 2014, I didn't realize the personal impact it would have on me. Each week, it helps me to be cognizant of videos or quotes I hear about, see, or read. It lifts my spirits, fills me with hope, and it empowers me. I hope you enjoy today's video as much as I did!

Without fear,

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

How to Share a Private Audio Message with SoundCloud

A consistent message I share is to limit email to good news when communicating with parents about students. In email and text, it is very difficult to determine “tone.” With a phone call or face-to-face meeting, others are able to hear sincerity and concern as well as excitement and joy. 

Last Friday morning on the way to school, an idea hit me -- I wanted to add a voice message to our weekly staff newsletter (that gets emailed out on guess which day? Friday!). I have a small section in the newsletter where I share links to blog posts, technology tips, and images, but I wanted to send a word of encouragement to our teachers as we enter the last couple of weeks of the semester (we have semester exams next week, and our last day is December 19). I wanted it to be a voice message so that they could hear the encouragement and support in my voice.

So... first I had to figure out how to do it! Hmmmm.....

I LOVE using Voxer on my cell phone, and I knew that I could email a Voxer message to myself. The app will send a URL, and when I click on it at home, it looks like this….

In my car on the way to school, I recorded a message in Voxer in the "My Notes" section, then I emailed it to my school email account. I had never sent one to myself and tried to open it at school, but I figured it would work. 

As you can guess by now… it didn’t work. 

I emailed our AWESOME tech guys, Keith Fulmer and Jonathan Sandlin, who got back to me quickly.

Here’s how our email exchange went…

Me: I recorded a Voxer for the staff as part of the Friday memo, but when I tried to play it back, it said that the webpage wouldn't load. Is using Voxer this way possible on our network? 

Jonathan: We checked our ISP seems to be the problem for some reason even outside the web filter it will not direct to the site. Can you try another recording method? We don't really know where the break is but it is with our ISP or their backbone. May take some time to clear up.

I was determined to send a link to an audio message for our staff. How hard could it be, right?

I Googled and read and tried and tried.

I tried uploading to Google Drive, but I learned that you can’t share play an audio message in Google Drive to be played back (I can upload the file and play it back for myself, but it can’t be shared that way.)

Then I tried to read about Google Voice. I couldn't find a number in my area code that was available... and I just didn’t feel like I had time to learn how to use it, so I moved on. 

Podbean? Nope. I couldn’t send a private audio message… the messages would be saved publicly.

Then I came across SoundCloud. I knew it was a platform for sharing music... one of our students is a professional singer

I read about how to share private audio messages, and I realized that this may be how to do what I had been trying to do since my drive into school. 

So next I needed the message to upload into SoundCloud. 

I used the Voice Memos app on my iPhone to record a new message, then I emailed it to myself. I saved the recording on my computer in my office, then I uploaded it to SoundCloud. Finally, I copied the private sharing link and included it in the Friday memo. 

If you give this a try, let me know how it goes for you! I'm always looking for new ways to use technology to connect to others.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Don't Wait to Tell Someone What They Mean to You - Motivation Monday #49 {December 7, 2014}

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

John Vigiano had two sons, John Jr. and Joe. Both sons lost their lives in the tragedy in New York City on September 11, 2001. 

If you cannot watch embedded video on your device, click here: 

Don't wait to tell someone what they mean to you. 

The video was found on the StoryCorps website. StoryCorps is the largest oral history project of its kind. You can listen to inspiring stories that celebrate public school teachers from across the country here:

Sunday, December 7, 2014

What Inspires Me?

For this week's post for the Compelled Bloggers Community, we are to write about what inspires us. 

In general, I’m inspired by the underdog who overcomes adversity and achieves success. I’m inspired by the opportunity to be the change agent for the underdog, and I’m inspired by those who give of themselves to make someone else’s life better.

For the work that I do, I’m inspired by the students.

-The student who told me that she sleeps on the floor each night. Her family shares an apartment with relatives, and she doesn’t have a bedroom, bed, or dresser.

-My former athletes who are now “grown,” successful, happy, and with their own children and families.

-The angry student with a behavior plan who says, “I’m not good at math,” who agrees to meet with me after school every day until he gets caught up.

-The former student with dyslexia who allowed me to read his tests to him, to transcribe his papers, and read the ACT to him… who was admitted to Ole Miss as a result.

-The students who balance extracurricular activities and heavy academic loads and are successful at both.

-The former students who contact me via Facebook who tell me that I made a difference in their lives.

And there’s so many more individual stories to tell.

Most of all, I’m inspired by these two…..

I want them to have a happy and successful adult life built on a strong foundation, and I want the world to be a better place for them.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Treating Students as Volunteers - A Mashup of LeadershipFreak and Phil Schlechty

“Perhaps the most important understanding here is that students are volunteers, whether we want them to be or not. Their attendance can be commanded, but their attention must be earned. Their compliance can be insisted on, but their commitment is under their own control.”  -Phil Schlechty

From 2007 - 2009, I worked in a school system that followed the Schlechty Center Framework for school transformation. A few weeks ago, I was reading a blog post by my friend Dan Rockwell, and it reminded me of the quote above and the assumptions of the Schlechty framework. Phil Schelchty posed that students are volunteers. (Additionally, the late Peter Drucker stated that employees should be treated like volunteers.)

Why is it important that we treat people, more specifically students, like volunteers?

Dan's blog post is all about leading volunteers. What if we took his advice and applied it to students? 

(Below, you can read excerpts from Dan's blog post. I replaced the word "volunteers" in his post with the word "students.")


#1. Help them.

The first question to ask students is, “How can we serve you?”
Talk about them before talking about you.
Learn what makes students tick before explaining what you need them to do. 

#2. Adapt:

Align your language with the students.
Leaders who align the way they talk with the language of students show respect and connect.

#3. Help us:

How can you help us?
Serving is a two way street. Don’t stop with, “How can we serve you?” If you do, you may end up with self-centered, self-serving students.
Give students the opportunity to fulfill their inner drives. Help them find roles that enhance meaning, align with strengths, and make meaningful contribution.

#4. Clarify:

Students want to know what success looks like, how they add value, and what you add to the process.

#5. Intervene:

Students appreciate you stepping in when things go wrong.
When things go wrong, take responsibility with curiosity, compassion, and vision for the future.

Have you ever volunteered for something and it seemed as though that the only thing that was cared about was you showing up and completing the task?

Do you think students ever feel like this?

Monday, December 1, 2014

Are You Ready? - Motivation Monday #48 {December 1, 2014}

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

Odell Beckham Junior, wide receiver for the New York Giants, is a household name because of one catch. The Catch. Labeled as The Greatest Catch Ever.

{Post update: Watch the video below to hear from Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry on how they practiced. 
The video below is from ESPN.} 

After Odell makes the catch, he acts it's like it's just another catch for him. No big deal. 

Why? He was ready. 

He practiced that catch before the game. And probably a thousand times before that.

He was ready. Ready to make a catch while being guarded, falling backwards, and stretched out with a few fingertips pulling the ball down to his chest.

And what does OBJ say in the press conference afterwards?

"I hope it's not the greatest catch of all time. 
I hope I can make more."

Are you ready?