Wednesday, December 30, 2015

My 3 Words for 2016

My 3 words for 2016

At the end of 2013, I had an "aha" moment. I had been a long-time coach and believed in the power of positive words and messages. Until then, I had been setting new year's resolutions, usually to have them not met by the middle of January. I would feel like a failure, even though my brain was trained to use missteps as learning opportunities, I still felt like my goals were out the window before the season had even changed in the new year. I realized that even though I believed in mottos, words, and motivational phrases, I hadn't used them as a way to direct my yearly goals.

I had long admired Chris Brogan and Jon Gordon and their "words for the year," and in 2014 I decided to follow the model of Chris Brogan and choose 3 words to drive my thoughts, decisions, and actions for the year. The result? A wonderful year of "failures" and successes. Each success and failure became part of my journey within the parameters of my three words, and I had a much more meaningful, purpose-driven life.

Even after being called out by Jon Gordon in 2014, I stuck with choosing 3 words for 2015. The three words provide guideposts for me, especially when I want to become distracted or have to make difficult decisions. This past year has been a year of stepping outside of my comfort zone, creating flow and rhythm in my personal- and professional-life balance, and staying mentally, emotionally, and physically healthy. 

"Taking action in alignment with your true values and your deepest desires is the key to a happy an meaningful life."  -- Stacey Curnow

After much thought of what my goals are for 2016 and words that would be meaningful and powerful to me, I want to share them with you here as part of my accountability.


The first of my words is FOCUS. I have a very curious brain, and I usually have several projects going at once. I love learning, teaching, and sharing, and I've been told my brain is like a pinball machine inside my head. While I enjoy the pace and challenge of having several things going at once, I want to really do a deep dive into meditation and focus, and make sure that I am giving my very best to each project that I'm a part of. 


Another of my 3 words for 2016 is PURPOSE. Sometimes I have a hard time saying no (see FOCUS above), even when my actions would not be purposeful for others or myself. I want to make sure that in 2016 I examine all that I do so that I am bringing good into the world that is purposeful and impactful. While I am a very positive person, I want my actions to also have meaning and purpose for others and myself.


The third word for 2016 is DO. For me, this means "just take action." There are so many times that I don't know how to do something or I fear that if I do something it will be wrong, and it prevents me from doing. Not in 2016. I'm going to go for it. Whether it's trying something new with technology, sharing a new PD idea with staff, planning a road trip for my family, or building new furniture for my home... I'm going to take action. Be forewarned... I may try to drag you on my journey of doing, too. :-)

3 words for 2016

When Jon Gordon asked me to narrow down my three words into one, I chose INTENTIONAL, as it undergirded the other two words of Discipline and Balance for 2014. For 2015, BRAVERY would have been my one word, as it would allow me to step out of my comfort zone to create Rhythm and Fitness in my life.

As I review the three words for the new year, I truly have a hard time narrowing it down to only one word. I would say DO, but I don't want my actions to be without focus or purpose. So for 2016, I'm definitely choosing three words to light my path. 

I would love for you to share your one or three words in the comments and connect on Twitter or Voxer (@jennifer_hogan).

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Saturday, December 26, 2015

New Year's Conversation Starters {Free Printable}

free printable

Whether you're hosting a New Year's Party or having a quiet dinner at home with your family, you can enjoy these printable conversation starter cards.

They are designed as business-card size, so they can be printed onto business card paper or cardstock and cut into cards.

There are a total of 20 cards to get your group talking. Click the picture below to download the pdf. 

free printable

Monday, December 21, 2015

What Successful People Do Everyday

printable quotes

Successful people have daily habits and routines.

It’s been written about by Business Insider, Forbes, and Huffington Post. We all want to know what separates successful people and unsuccessful people. Jeff Olson, author of one of my favorite books, The Slight Edge, says that we must do the simple things every day in order to be successful

If I told you there was no magic pill and that it is something that each and every one of us can do, how would that affect your success?

One of my strengths is that I am efficient. I can (and do) get a lot done. I also follow the mantra, “If you’re going to do something, do it right.” My ability to accomplish a lot is not because I have a superpower or because I have unlimited energy. It all goes back to daily habits and routines, and it’s something I’ve been working on for a long time.

My mom did an incredible job teaching me the importance of routines. She had me to make my bed each morning during the school year and even during the summer and on holidays. She also had me to pick out my clothes for school at night before the next day. And even though my mom was a stay-at-home mom (she called herself a domestic engineer) most of the time I was in school, she got up every morning and was dressed head-to-toe (even if it just meant sweats and tennis shoes) and ready for her day. I learned by example of how routines are helpful to create a more productive day.

Another person I learned from was FlyLady. I discovered her system about 15 years ago. While on the surface it seems like a system for keeping your house clean, it actually is more than that. It’s about a lifestyle. It’s about creating habits and sticking with routines. It’s about being accountable to yourself and someone else. It’s about doing the little things so that they don’t get in the way of the big things.

 "It’s about doing the little things so that they don’t get in the way of the big things."

The first step in the FlyLady system is to clean your sink. Every night before you go to bed, you are supposed to clean your sink until it shines.  Such a little thing, you might be thinking. I encourage you to see if you can do it for 28 days. You see, when you do this for 28 days, it will become a habit. Something you just do without thinking about it. It becomes an important part of your nightly routine. It works your self-discipline muscle.

FlyLady’s system is about not just about keeping a home in order, but it’s also about clearing away the clutter so that we can be calmer, more in control, more productive, and able to make better decisions. Doesn’t that sound like qualities of a successful person?

How to create a daily system.
  1.  Start with one thing. One small thing. Clean your sink every night, or make your bed each morning. Clean off your desk before you leave work. Do 50 crunches each morning. Write down three things you’re thankful for each night in a gratitude journal.
  2. After a week, add another step to your system.
  3. After a week, add another step.

After 28 days, re-evaluate your daily system. Is it making you more productive? Do you need to add another daily habit? Is there one you need to stop doing?

Here’s my system:
  •  I plan our dinner menu for the week and create a shopping list from the menu. This saves us from extra trips to the grocery store during the week, and saves time with planning or deciding what we will eat during the week.
  • Each night, I decide on and prepare my lunch for the next day. Also, I decide what I will wear to work the next day. This saves time in the mornings.
  • I clean the kitchen completely each night before going to bed and set the timer on the coffee maker for the morning. This way, I get up to a clutter-free, clean kitchen with fresh coffee waiting on me.
  •  Each night, I review my calendar for the next day. If there’s anything that needs to go on my to-do list, I create an appointment with myself on my calendar for the next morning and include my action items in the description.
  •  I keep a project journal. In the journal, I have different ideas listed on each page. As ideas come to me, I lit them in the journal so that they don’t create clutter in my mind. As I come up with specific steps that are needed to bring the ideas to fruition, I add to the specific pages.

These are the five habits that create conditions for me to be efficient and productive. Do you do any of these are part of your daily routine?

How might educators use daily habits and routines to empower students and each other?

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Monday, December 14, 2015

The Power of a Teacher's Words

I got to spend some time this past weekend with a friend who has a four-year old daughter. She was talking about the difficulty of getting her daughter to try certain foods (I could certainly relate to this. I’ve got two daughters who don’t eat peanut butter!) 

She shared a story about taking her daughter to her husband’s parents’ house where she would be having lunch.  When they arrived, my friend’s daughter sat down to eat her sandwich. My friend’s husband asked his mom if there were any chips that his daughter could have with her sandwich. His mom replied that they had sour cream and onion chips, and when she said that, my friend’s husband said, “She’s not going to like those.” 

After that, my friend’s mother-in-law asked the little girl if she would like some chips, and she replied, “I don’t like those.” My friend was frustrated because her daughter was not open to trying new foods, and she was frustrated because she felt like her husband had planted an idea in their daughter’s mind that she wouldn’t like the chips even though she hadn’t tried them. 

It got me thinking about the power of suggestion and the power of words, especially to a child. As adults, we are usually more open to trying new things and forming our own opinions based on our personal experience. The power of suggestion is real, and it affects us at all ages. 

Have you heard, “No one in our family is good at math,” or “Diets never work,” or “This lucky rabbit’s foot will bring you good luck (in your interview, in the game, etc.)”? Words like these shape our actions, reactions, and perceptions about situations. They also remind us of our limitations. We tend to focus on those more than what we CAN accomplish. 

What about students? Do you think they’ve heard these before?
“You always forget your homework.” 
“This test will be the hardest of the year.” 
“You’ll never get to college at this rate.” 
“You’re either good at math or writing.” 
“Students these days just don’t read.” 
“I don’t think you even care.”
Students’ reaction to these statements may be more subtle than my friend’s daughter who outright agreed with her dad that she didn’t like the chips even though she hadn’t tried them. Students internalize their feelings and responses, all while creating expectations about outcomes. Students may consciously or unconsciously behave in ways that cause the statements to come to fruition. 

Psychological research scientists Maryanne Garry, Irving Kirsch, and Robert Michael found that, “the effects of suggestion are wider and often more surprising than many people might otherwise think … [with] real life implications. They added:  If we can harness the power of suggestion, we can improve people’s lives.”

Imagine if the only messages students heard from teachers were
“You can do this.” 
“Some of you may find the test hard; some of you may find it easy. I will do my best to help you prepare to be as successful as possible.” 
“I want to help you get to college. Let’s try this.” 
“Some of the best writers are engineers.” 
“Here’s a reading assignment that I think you’ll like.” 
"I expect better."

Teachers with a growth mindset don’t take failures personally and believe that there is room for improvement. Teachers with this mindset also believe that they can influence students in a positive way.  Let’s all be cognizant of the words we say (and don’t say) to each other and students.

R. B. Michael, M. Garry and I. Kirsch, Suggestion, Cognition, and Behavior, Current Directions in Psychological Science, Vol.21(3), pp.151–156, 2012

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Reflecting on 2015

DIY chalkboard

For our Compelled Bloggers Community post this week, we are reflecting on the year. 

Can you believe there are only 19 days until Christmas?!? (The picture above is a chalkboard that hangs in my home.) 

As I get older, the time seems to go faster, and this year was no exception. It seems like just yesterday I was writing my 3words for 2015, and here we are with only 25 days left in the entire year!

Rhythm, Bravery, and Fitness were my guideposts for 2015, and I truly think it’s been a terrific year full of opportunities and events that have created wonderful memories.  When I chose Rhythm as one of my words, it was about accepting time limits, constraints, efficiency, and “down time.” While I still haven’t gotten my book written, I did have the opportunity to be a keynote speaker at the AlabamaSchool Public Relations Association fall meeting this year. I also presented at AETC, ISTE, and most recently for the Global Ed Conference. I also produced a step-by-step guide for people who want to tell their school’s story on twitter, and I’ve done some Google Hangouts with some schools to assist them on getting their faculty started on twitter.

While my professional life is busy, my personal life is full, too. My year included family vacations, moving my oldest daughter to college, DIY and home improvement projects, and adding a new puppy to the family. Fitness was one of my three words for 2015 and thanks to the accountability that my #500in2015 friends & my Nike running app gives me, I’ve run or walked 668 miles so far this year. One of my favorite things to do is the 21-day health & fitness challenge I host on Facebook.  I’ve been doing it for several times a year for several years, and the feedback from people about the healthy changes they make in their lives as a result is awesome. I will definitely be hosting more 21-day challenges in the future! Staying healthy is a personal philosophy, because just like they tell you on the plane, Put your oxygen mask on yourself before you put it on anyone else.

Bravery as my third word was a reminder for me to take risks. I’ve taken some risks and led some innovative PD for our staff, including a day of Google Hangouts with educators from all over the country, teacher-led summer PD of choice with an app for teachers to keep up with the schedule, the highly popular Twitter Bingo game, online PD activities that I put together that our teachers raved about, to the most recent Creation Lab. Stepping out of our comfort zone is something we need to do regularly to remind us of what we are asking of our students. I have a couple of projects “in the works” currently (that are requiring MUCH bravery from me!), which I hope to share more information about soon.

Through all of the year, the biggest factor in any success that I’ve had has been my network of family, friends, and colleagues both in-person and online.  From the Compelled Bloggers Community to the #ALedchat team to the Women in Education Leadership Voxer group to individuals who seem to provide just the right push, pull, boost, or question that is needed at a specific time, my love for learning has only grown throughout the year. I've made many connections this year and they have all contributed to greatly enriching my life personally and professionally. 

Thank you to everyone who has been a part of my life in 2015. I’m looking forward to 2016 and what’s to come!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

One Idea for Carving Out Time for Teachers to Learn Technology

professional development

I want to share a simple idea that you can build upon, make your own, and customize for your own needs. 

This idea is a result of my own personal needs plus the needs of others that are often shared. 

So often I find myself guilty of not crossing the bridge between the "knowing-doing" gap. 

For example, "I know I should go work out, but do I? No."

or... can you relate to this?

"I know that if I work on this project a little bit each day it will reduce stress and anxiety as the deadline approaches. But do I? No."

Personally, I like to be busy and productive, I don't mind hard work, and I don't like to complain about workload. Because of this, I usually get a lot done, and one of my secrets is MAKING time for what I need to do. That looks different for different situations, but I am good at creating "protected time" for myself when I know that I need it. 

Along those lines, I often hear teachers say that they are overwhelmed, too busy, or drowning. I wanted to do for them what has helped me, and that's having designated time for checking off items on a to-do list. I wanted them to have protected time where they could work quietly or with partners, ask questions as needed, and/or try some new things with technology that they "just haven't gotten around to doing."

The Creation Lab was created just for them! 

Here's the email I sent to staff to let them know about the open space:
On the first 3 Tuesdays in December, you will have the opportunity to intentionally set aside time to get things done. Come after school to A107 on the first three Tuesdays in December to enjoy snacks, camaraderie, and time to create, learn, and do.  
You can sign up here: 
Examples of things you can get done:
  • Create online quiz or exam review using Kahoot
  • Learn how to set up Flubaroo
  • Create a formative assessment/quiz in Google Forms
  • Learn how to join a twitter chat
  • Create graphics using Canva
  • Create video tutorial using Screencast-o-matic
  • Set up Remind account for classes
  • Find experts to do Google Hangouts with classes and craft invitation email
  • MORE!

Sign up here:


To implement the idea, it just takes a few things:

-You need to be present (physically, emotionally, an intellectually)
-You or someone else who can answer technology questions
-A quiet, dedicated space
-Snacks (I always provide snacks for after-school meetings!)

professional development
Working with teachers at our first day of our December Creation Lab

You may be thinking... Why December? I say, "Why not?!" 

Think about it. Every month is busy. Every month has lots of commitments. Every month there's stuff to do. What I'm trying to provide for teachers is 1 hour per week for 3 weeks (3 hours per month) to check off some of their "someday I'll do this" items. 

Our amazing technology guru, Keith Fulmer (@kfulmer), stayed with me and we just answered questions and helped teachers with whatever they needed or asked.

The teachers who attended this week got a lot done. They set up Remind accounts for their students, learned how to use ScreenCast-o-Matic, learned differences between Google Classroom announcements and assignments, Flubaroo, and more.

I think we'll definitely do this again in the Spring!

professional development

If you decide to try something like this, 
I would love to hear how it works for you! 

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Are You a 21st Century Educator? (A Collaborative Post by Jennifer Hogan & Craig Vroom)

Constantly striving to embed best practices, teachers are embracing the notion of the 21st Century academic experience more now than ever before. And, as leaders in our field either in the classroom or within our building or district, it is the modeling that we do, the efforts that we make, and the implementation of these concepts that sets us aside from our peers.

Teachers and administrators today are defining themselves by the experiences they offer. The art of education is taking on a form of its own. The traditional side of education is evaporating from our experiences. The strides being made in this generation of learners has evolved beyond all the previous generations combined. There is a growing separation. 

With that, we have heard time and time again about shifting from the scope of being “good” at what we offer as educators to taking what we do to the level of “great”. Today, however, we are hearing and believing that being “great” isn’t good enough. The charge given to those that truly seek to be innovative and be a leader amongst leaders and a visionary amongst their colleagues is to take the craft of teaching and learning and strive to be “exceptional”. It is educators taking their passion of teaching and learning to a level achieved only by a handful. Many of us strive toward this level of instruction, not all can reach this peak.

Being exceptional requires many attributes, most notably, the belief in being a 21st Century teacher and leader. Do you have the attributes of being a 21st Century educator? Read below to see how you measure up to your colleagues near and far. Becoming exceptional is a goal well worth achieving.

Are you a 21st century teacher?

  • Do you share what your students are doing with the world?
  • Do you bring in experts to talk with your students via Skype or Google Hangout?
  • Do you seek out and participate in professional learning via twitter and other online communities?
  • Do you take your students on virtual fieldtrips?
  • Do you focus on having your students to create instead of them only consuming?
  • Do you connect your classroom with other classrooms across the globe?
  • Do you use backchannels in your classroom to give even the quietest students a voice?
  • Do you give assignments where students collaborate via online platforms, such as Google Docs?
  • Do you teach your students about digital citizenship and anti-cyberbullying?
  • Do you share your lesson plans and collaborate with teachers across the globe?
  • Do you leave a video tutorial or podcast for your substitute to play when you are not at school so that students don’t miss a day of learning and/or doing?
  • Do you allow your students to guide their instruction and do they own their learning?
  • Does the culture of your room speak to the values and beliefs of the learning?

Are you a 21st century school leader?

  • Do you flip your faculty meetings?
  • Do you seek out and participate in professional learning via twitter and other online communities?
  • Do you share what your teachers and students are doing with the world?
  • Do you model risk-taking?
  • Do you provide professional development experiences that allow for teacher choice in delivery format, skill level, and flexible time of delivery?
  • Do you lead technology training sessions?
  • Do you use Remind to notify your staff of important events and news?
  • Do you collaborate with other school leaders across the globe via social media and other online communities?
  • Do you have a school hashtag?

Whether you are a teacher within a classroom of students or a leader within a building full of learners, your charge is to ensure that each person within your community is receiving a 21st Century academic experience. This list of questions is a great starting place for you to recognize what is, or is not, happening in your workplace. Take inventory in your teaching and leading and strive to becoming an exceptional educator in the 21st Century.