Wednesday, November 11, 2015

A Great Aptitude Doesn't Make You a Great Educator

I was fortunate to get to hear Siran Stacy this week as he gave a keynote address at the fall conference for the Alabama Association of Secondary School Leaders. His story is powerful, and the message he gave was inspiring and encouraging.  

One of my favorite quotes from Siran was when he said, "A great aptitude doesn't make you a great leader." He says that it's ATTITUDE, not aptitude, that makes leaders great. I strongly believe in controlling the things we can control and choosing a positive attitude. 

"A great aptitude doesn't make you a great leader." -Siran Stacy  <---Click to Tweet

I also would like to change his quote to read, "A great aptitude doesn't make you a great educator."

When we choose to have a positive attitude, it turns negative moments into opportunities for growth. When we choose to be positive, we lift up those around us. 

In our roles as educators, it is important to have buildings full of positive adults to define the culture and model this for young people. 

When I'm advising people on choosing education as a career, my answers have to do with attitude and mindset. I don't talk about "having summers off" or "working hours that match with kids' school hours" or "having holidays off." 

Our job is too important to advise just anyone to go into the education field... we need to be encouraging those with positive attitudes and growth mindsets. 

Below is an example of how I responded to a recent email about a friend's granddaughter. (Her granddaughter is a college athlete and is considering education as her profession.) 

Here's what she wrote to me in the email: 

"She has chosen to take elementary education, but is second guessing her decision. Her observations to me include: 'I will work all day and then there's so much MORE to do than just teach. There's so much paper work - IEPs and everything, etc.'

What advice would you give her?"

Here's what I wrote in return:

"Yes. There is a lot of work that goes into teaching. It is a complicated process to motivate, understand, listen, nurture, teach, communicate, push, pull, and care for kids. It is a service profession, so the students' needs always come first, sometimes at the sacrifice of our own. However, it is one of the THE most important roles, and one of the most rewarding. 

Here's what I would suggest she ask herself:
  • Do I love helping others?
  • Do I enjoy seeing others succeed because of me?
  • Am I willing to do whatever it takes to help kids be successful?
  • Can I give to someone without expecting anything in return?
  • Do I believe in my ability to help someone else be successful?

If she's a softball player, she has been through tougher situations. She knows what it means to sacrifice her wants/needs for the greater good. She knows what consistency means, and how to fight for something
she believes in. She also is a learner, because you never 'arrive' in athletics, no matter what accolades he/she receives... there is always a lesson to be learned, either more about the sport, about yourself, about others."

Do you think we should ask veteran educators these questions? Do you think these questions should be asked in interviews? How would you answer?

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Sunday, November 8, 2015

Traditions as a Culture Builder

Once per month our group of edu-bloggers, the “Compelled Bloggers Community,” shares a common topic which we all blog about. This month’s shared topic is “Traditions.” I believe traditions go a long way in helping to build culture in a school, and I want to share one of the traditions we have at Hoover High School.

Paul Spiegelman (@paulspiegelman), NYT Best selling author and Chief Culture Officer at Stericycle, writes in an article for
“Building a company culture of engaged employees takes years and requires consistent execution.” He goes on to share that camaraderie and celebrations are two of the 10 essential components of culture strategy.

At Hoover High School, we have several traditions that come to mind as positive culture builders of camaraderie and celebrations. The one I want to share with you in this post is a relatively new tradition started by our Junior Class Officer sponsor, Jamey Nowlin. She had the vision of an annual schoolwide 3K race to serve as a fundraiser for a charity.

A teacher advertises to her students 
to join her team for the race.

This year was the sixth year of the race, and we usually have about half of the school body to participate. The participants pay $5 for a race bag, which includes a race number and entry into the courtyard after the race for free food, music, and fun. We run a special schedule, and the race and festivities are held between our last two periods of the day.


The Junior Class Officers secure sponsors for the food and festivities, so there is very little that has to be paid out in expenses to hold the event. Because of the support of the community, we are able to donate almost $8,000 to a charity.

Teachers and students come together to be a part of something bigger than us, and we never forget the reason which is to support a deserving organization. We build camaraderie and we celebrate each other through this annual event. What two better essential components could we have for our culture?

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

5 Actions to be a Better Leader

Whether you’re an aspiring leader or a veteran leader, this is a list of 5 actions to start doing today. 

Already doing all 5? What would you add to the list? Leave it in the comments.

1. Believe in your own abilities to help, support, and lead others.  Great leadership starts with growth-oriented mindset, and a belief in one’s self to impact and influence a team or individual.

2. Model risk-taking and recovery from failure. If innovative ideas are honored and new ideas are tried, there will be some failure involved. Let others see how you recover and respond to setbacks and use them to move forward.

Failing forward turns a road block into a speed bump.

3. Assume the best in others. Not assuming the best in others leads to mistrust and broken relationships. Love for others undergirds these powerful assumptions. 

4. Highlight and celebrate others. Others feel validated and respected, which leads to greater morale and opportunities for stronger relationships.

Lighting another person’s candle doesn’t diminish your own.

5. Put yourself in your team’s shoes. Empathy is like a muscle that can be exercised and strengthened. By seeing things from your team’s point of view shows that everyone has value and is an important part of the team.