Thursday, May 28, 2015

3 Simple Rules to Guide Your Team

I recently traveled to Nashville, Tennessee, for my niece's high school graduation.

My sister and her daughter

The ceremony was held at Lipscomb University, where legendary coach Don Meyer was the men's basketball coach for 24 years.

Hanging in the arena where graduation took place. 
A retired player's number and a recognition for Coach Meyer.

Not familiar with Don Meyer? Just Google his name. Read about one of the most influential mentors, teachers, and coaches in the sport of basketball and life. (Watch the video at the end of this post, too.)

Coach Meyer passed away May 18, 2014, but his 3 Rules are timeless. He demanded the following from his players and coaches. 

1. Everybody takes notes
We should all be learning all the time. We take notes to pay attention and to later go back to and re-read and reflect.

2. Everybody says "Please" and "Thank You", "Yes, Sir" and "No, Sir"
We extend courtesy because it's the right thing to do, not because we think it will be reciprocated. Just like the Fred Factor, we decide the kind of person we will be towards other people.

3. Everybody picks up trash
No job is too small to make a difference, and no job is beneath us to make a positive difference. Leave the situation better than how you found it. 

Whatever team he was coaching, including his very popular summer camps, the rules were always in place. Taught, reviewed, and reinforced.

These 3 rules are simple on the surface but run deep, and implemented with fidelity can develop a culture of learning, respect, and hard work. The three rules remind me of Chris Brogan's 3 words for the new year. 

Can it really be this simple?
If you had 3 rules for your team, what would they be?

Coach Don Meyer Tribute
If unable to view video above on device, click here:  Property of ESPN Productions

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Dialogue vs Discussion: A New Tool for the Toolbox

Something that I share with aspiring administrators and current school leaders is the importance of being a connected educator. Creating an online network allows school leaders to find people in similar positions who have had similar experiences who can give advice, perspective, or simply listen. 

One group that I am a part of is on Voxer and is called Women in Education Leadership. This group has been invaluable as a “safe place” for us to discuss ideas, situations, and lean in. I am amazed at what these school leaders are doing or have done and the benefits that we reap for our students, staff, and ourselves as we learn from each other.

Recently, one of our members, Melinda Miller, shared a strategy that she uses at her school called Dialogue vs. Discussion. 

I love how she distinguishes between Dialogue and Discussion and that her staff has created a common language to deepen understanding of the role of a conversation among stakeholders. 

Along with an understanding of the outcome of a conversation, creating a dialogue allows for different ideas to be shared without the pressure of finding the “better” idea. It opens up sharing since the ideas are simply different and “on the table.” 

Peter Senge, author of The Fifth Discipline, The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization, distinguishes between dialogue and discussion similarly. He writes that dialogue is an opportunity to explore complex issues from opposing points of view. In a dialogue, people have a larger pool of knowledge than they would have alone, and the emphasis is not on winning. In a discussion, the emphasis is on having one’s ideas accepted by the group. The result of a discussion is a decision of the best idea.

Senge also says this:
"Reflection and inquiry skills provide a foundation for dialogue" and "dialogue that is grounded in reflection and inquiry skills is likely to be more reliable and less dependent on particulars of circumstance, such as the chemistry among team members.”

How do you see that making this distinction with your staff would make a difference?

How can student learning be influenced by using this in the classroom?

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

What do School Leaders do in the Summer?

My friends find it interesting that I am a 12-month employee. 

What do administrators do in the summer? They ask.

Well, depending on the school and responsibilities, there are all kinds of things that school leaders do in the summer, such as...
  • Inventory textbooks
  • Hold registration
  • Host professional learning days for teachers
  • Work on students' schedules
  • Get organized for the next school year
  • Oversee summer cleaning of classrooms and buildings
  • Attend professional development conferences
  • Interview teachers to fill vacancies

When the students are gone and the hustle and bustle of the school day is no longer, it's a time for school leaders to slow down, reflect, plan, and LEARN.

I've set some goals for myself for this summer, and I'm sharing them here as part of my own accountability. (Ask me at the end of the summer if I met my goals!) I also share my goals here because if YOU are planning to learn about the same thing, or if you have expertise in an area and can help me learn, I would love to collaborate with you!

The biggest thing I want to learn about is Google Classroom. I use Google Drive daily, and I want to use Google Classroom next year with teachers so that I can easily collect required documentation from them such as lesson plans. Our teachers of ninth graders have been using Google Classroom since our ninth graders were using Chromebooks this year, so I l plan to tap into their expertise as well as the knowledge that I can easily curate from the Internet and my PLN. 

Another goal is for the next few weeks. I plan to create an app (using Yapp) for our school's PD schedule. A teacher or staff member will be able to download the app to their phone, and check dates and information about our sessions from their phone without having to log in or check a website. Cool, huh?! (Can't you just picture teachers at the pool or park, checking their phones for the next PD time and date?)

My summer learning plans include attending ISTE, CLAS, and AETC, as well as the Closing the Achievement Gap Conference, featuring keynote speaker, Dr. Stephen G. Peters. I love learning and being a part of conferences where the people who are in attendance are excited to be there, too. I'm also looking forward to spending some face-to-face time with my online PLN!

What about you? What's on your list of learning for the summer?

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Canva: A New Option for Creating Exciting Visuals

As you know from a previous post about my design fail, I'm no graphic designer. I DO, however, love to create pictures and signs for my blog posts, Pinterest, Twitter, and our school Facebook page. 

Picmonkey is a terrific (and FREE) photo editor, and I use it to crop photos, create collages, add layers, and add my blog watermark to pictures. 

I've found a new FREE tool to create awesome visuals, and it's called Canva. Canva has a ton of free graphics, fonts, and photos that can be used in many ways to create beautiful visuals. 

When you create your free account, the dashboard will start with "Create a Design." If you click the plus sign on the right side, it will add more options:
Social Media Posts, Social Media & Email Headers, Marketing Materials, Documents, Blogging & eBooks, Events, and Ads. You can also use custom dimensions. 

Below are some of the graphics I've created:

Graphic for Twitter to promote #USedchat

Facebook header for the FB group I led last month

Graphic to share on Twitter

Graphic posted on our school Facebook page for parents/students

Welcome sign for our recent PD day 
(The librarian turned it into a poster for us)

Graphic for a blog post

There are many ideas you can get from the free templates to the eye-catching fonts and pictures. 

I would love to hear how you use Canva. Be sure to tag me if you share your graphic on Twitter! (@jennifer_hogan)

Monday, May 4, 2015

Can School PD be Set Up Like an Edcamp?

When it comes to school professional development...

Do you ever find yourself wishing that they had asked you what sessions should be offered?

Do you ever wish that there could be breakout sessions for a specific "boutique" topics?

Do you ever feel like you're a part of a cattle call, with one-size-fits-all PD?

What if...

We set up school PD like edcamps?

Let's back up. Some of you may be asking, "What is an edcamp?" Here you go.

Usually, when you go to conferences, the sessions are already decided. You go online and read the times and rooms where the sessions are held, you map out your day, and those are the topics you "learn" about.

When you go to an edcamp, everyone gathers in a common area for free coffee and breakfast, and the "session board" is empty. 

Photo by @EdCampBham

The only thing you find on the board at the start of an edcamp are the session locations and the time slots.

Photo by @EdCampBham

The attendees at the edcamp decide on the sessions that will be offered. Attendees put topics on sticky notes and place them on the board for a location and time slot. Anyone can write a topic and lead it, facilitate a discussion, or propose a topic and ask for a leader (by simply writing "need a leader" on the sticky note with the topic.)

Edcamps are always free and without a vendor presence. Edcampers are encouraged to follow the "law of two feet" at the edcamp and choose topics that will meet their needs. If they get in a session that is not engaging or not meeting their needs, participants should leave the session and move to another one for a better fit.

Edcamps are not only about technology. The sessions aren't determined in advance, and the topics can range across all sorts of topics. 

This weekend, I had the opportunity to attend Edcamp Birmingham. (See yesterday's post about the student-led sessions.) We had a variety of sessions offered. Here are some of the sessions that were on the board:

~3-D Printing in the Classroom
~Advice for getting a job and being a first-year teacher
~Igniting the Love of Reading
~Green Screens and Broadcast Ideas
~Empathy: The most needed 21st century skill
~Becoming a Connected Educator, Building a PLN
~Admin chat: Current, Future and Aspiring - Having a conversation

At lunch, we had a mini-hack session. In this "session," a problem is presented and participants are asked to generate solutions. The problem that was presented was this, "Given time restraints, responsibilities, etc., how can YOU reinvent professional development during the year? Think through the lens of "Moonshot Thinking." (Effective professional development/learning is job embedded, on-going, supported, aligned to common visions and goals.)

A link to a Google Form was given where we could enter our ideas anonymously. We also have access to to the Responses, and there was a follow-up session in the afternoon at Edcamp Birmingham, called "Hack Your PD - Continue the Conversation."

What if...

We set up school PD like edcamps?

What if we let participants (school staff) decide on the topics for the PD?
What if teachers lead other teachers in their learning?
What if we include students in leading sessions?
What if we find sponsors to provide breakfast, lunch, and/or snacks?
What if the organizers decorate the area so that it's welcoming to the edcampers?
What if door prizes are given away at the end of the day? 

What if?
What else?

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Students Share What They Want in a Teacher

Yesterday, I spent the day at a local elementary school participating in EdcampBirmingham. (Tomorrow's post will recap the conference - be sure to check back in!) At the conference, we were fortunate to have two sessions which were led by high school students who are members of the Hoover High School Ambassador program. 

The students did an incredible job of sharing their experiences in the classroom. In the first session, students shared how they have used technology (specifically their iPads) in the classroom as well as lessons that they found to be engaging. They also talked about digital citizenship and the management of technology. 

In the second session, the students discussed Effective Teaching Strategies. In general, they shared their experiences in the classroom with teachers that they felt were effective and characteristics or strategies that weren't so effective.

In the second session, I asked the panel the following question,
"If you got to hire the next teacher, what one characteristic would you be looking for? I want to hear from all of you and each answer should be different. You will probably agree with each other on the characteristics, and there are many that we look for. So I would like to hear the top 6 from this group."

Here's what the students said (in no particular order)

1. Be approachable and personable. I would look for someone that students could talk to, in class or out of class.

2. Someone who's motivating. Someone who will be there to catch students when they fall.

3. I want someone who's humble. Someone who says, "I've been in your shoes before." Someone who admits to failure.

4. I would look for a teacher who is dedicated to the students. Not someone who is there for him/herself or for the job. Someone who puts students first.

5. Someone who has good communication skills. I've been in a class where in November the teacher still didn't know my name. Good teachers will know their students and their names.

6. The teacher I would look for would care about their students. If they care about their students, they will do whatever they need to make sure students have what they need. They will make sure they are preparing their students for whatever tests or futures that they have coming up.

The students talked a lot about the importance of a teacher making mistakes and not being perfect. They said that it almost makes them hopeful, because when a teacher who does the work day in and day out makes a mistake, it makes it okay for them to make a mistake when learning something new.

Repeatedly, the students talked about the importance of a teacher being approachable. They also discussed the importance of encouragement by a teacher. 

Ask your students what they would look for... then find or BE those teachers!