Sunday, February 28, 2016

My heart is full

My heart is full. I’m at the sunset of my last day at the NASSP conference, and I feel energized, supported, and proud. When I come to this conference, I’m with "my people"... school leaders who are trying to do great things for their staff and students. 

While school leaders, district administrators, and some teachers attend the NASSP conference each year, the main topics seem to revolve around leadership issues. I love being a school leader, and I want to continually get better at what I do, which is why I love that leadership topics are a focus of the conference.  

At the close of this year’s conference as I reflect on the fast 3 days of greeting, meeting, sharing, learning, and laughing, it’s hard to express in words the gratitude I have for so many adults that stand up for kids and create incredible experiences for their students. I feel blessed to be in a profession that has the opportunity to be a positive change in someone’s life. I also feel fortunate to be connected with so many educators whose beliefs are the same. 

I feel blessed to be in a profession that has the opportunity to be a positive change in someone’s life. I also feel fortunate to be connected with so many educators whose beliefs are the same. 

Two years ago, I “met” Craig Vroom on twitter and as we got to know each other, we created a group for edu-bloggers called the Compelled Bloggers Community. We’ve been working together for the past two years, and we didn’t meet in person until Thursday morning! 

 Craig and I presenting "Bravely Blogging for Impact and Community Building" at NASSP

What a cool experience to physically meet someone that you feel like you already know. And as you can guess, it was as if were reuniting with each other rather than meeting for the first time. 

When I hear about Glenn Robbins holding an Edcamp daily for his students or Jason Markey, who not only shadowed a student for a day, but spent time in a teacher’s classroom for an entire unit in order to better remember what it was like to be a student, it gets me excited about possibilities and motivates me to do more for our students. 

Jeff Zoul and Jimmy Casas always have a smile! 

When Jimmy Casas and Jeff Zoul remind us that one of the 10 trust factors is to address underperformance, and Todd Whitaker advises us to make every decision based on the best teachers, it reminds me that leadership can be hard but the rewards are awesome. 

When I hear positive stories about educators in public schools across the country, it makes me proud of the work that we do and the impact that we make in not only in the lives of children but in the lives of each other. 

Celebrating educators with Craig Vroom, Bobby Dodd, Neil Gupta & Mickey

My first support system is my family. I’m also blessed to have a support system in my school and community as well as across the globe. THANK YOU to all of you who inspire, encourage, nudge, and care for each other. 

THANK YOU to all of you who inspire, encourage, nudge, and care for each other. 

My cup runneth over. If you are in a place where you need support, please reach out to me. We must lift each other up! 

Sunday, February 21, 2016

15 Days of Inside Out Leadership

Leadership is a journey. 

It’s a journey “on the outside,” filled with relationships, decisions, situations, strategies, and other observable actions. It’s also an inner journey that is filled with a leader understanding his or her own strengths, beliefs, and weaknesses. 

I’m excited to share a new leadership project with you - one that I’m working on with Lisa Dabbs. Lisa is an education consultant and former school administrator, and we’re both passionate about authentic leadership and mentoring others. We’re working together to bring you a FREE e-mail course, 15 Days of Inside Out Leadership

From March 7 - 25, you will receive an email on each weekday only (we respect your personal time on the weekends!) There are 15 key topics included in Inside Out Leadership, and we’ll share insights, action items, and resources each day that are related to the day’s topic. We’re starting with RISK on Day 1 because to be an authentic leader, it requires a person to risk shaking up his/her comfort zone in order to try new things, learn new things, and listen with an open mind and heart.

Exceptional leaders are constantly trying to learn more about themselves and act in ways that are consistent with who they are. The 15 actions are simple and effective, and we hope that you will make this 15-day course part of your leadership journey. 

We encourage you to share your insights and experiences on twitter using the hashtag #InsideOutLead. If you are a blogger, please share your reflections in a blog post and tag it with #InsideOutLead.

Register here for the free e-mail course. Your first email will arrive on March 7. Lisa and I are looking forward to being a part of your leadership journey through the 15 Days of Inside Out Leadership. We believe in you!

Friday, February 19, 2016

Be inspired by a public high school teacher who's blind

Click the picture above to watch the 2 min video

Maybe I'm the last to know about Jim Hughes. The Youtube video (above) was posted in 2012, and I've watched a TON of inspirational and motivational videos for the 52 weeks of Motivation Monday posts on my blog

THIS video is my absolute favorite by far, and I felt compelled to share it with you! There are SO many takeaways from this video, which I'd like to share in today's post. I hope you agree that the story is incredible, awesome, inspiring, (insert other adjective here).

Here are my take-aways from the video
  • Sometimes we underestimate what people with physical limitations can accomplish
  • Jim's principal was a risk-taker with a growth mindset
  • Kids know what the qualities of a good teacher are
  • Jim's students don't see his blindness as a disability but as an asset to his teaching
And here are my favorite quotes from the video
"Boy am I glad I took a second look at that resume, because it's made all the difference in the world for generations of students."  - HS Principal 
"[The other teachers] are blinded with the Powerpoints and the handouts and all that. Every teacher should try a day with a blindfold and really learn how to talk to your students."  -student
"There's no cheating whatsoever. We respect him too much."  -student

Who do you need to share this video with?

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

I agree with Covey: Put first things first

Habit #3 - Put First Things First
by Stephen Covey, author The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
One day an expert was speaking to a group of business students and, to drive home a point, used an illustration I’m sure those students will never forget. After I share it with you, you’ll never forget it either.
As this man stood in front of the group of high-powered over-achievers he said, "Okay, time for a quiz." Then he pulled out a one-gallon, wide-mouthed mason jar and set it on a table in front of him. Then he produced about a dozen fist-sized rocks and carefully placed them, one at a time, into the jar. 
When the jar was filled to the top and no more rocks would fit inside, he asked, "Is this jar full?" Everyone in the class said, "Yes." Then he said, "Really?" He reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. Then he dumped some gravel in and shook the jar causing pieces of gravel to work themselves down into the spaces between the big rocks.
Then he smiled and asked the group once more, "Is the jar full?" By this time the class was onto him. "Probably not," one of them answered. "Good!" he replied. And he reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand. He started dumping the sand in and it went into all the spaces left between the rocks and the gravel. Once more he asked the question, "Is this jar full?" 
"No!" the class shouted. Once again he said, "Good!" Then he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it in until the jar was filled to the brim. Then he looked up at the class and asked, "What is the point of this illustration?" 
One eager beaver raised his hand and said, "The point is, no matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard, you can always fit some more things into it! "
"No," the speaker replied, "that’s not the point. The truth this illustration teaches us is: If you don’t put the big rocks in first, you’ll never get them in at all."

Download this document and list your Rocks, Pebbles, and Sand. Post it where you can see it each day. Feel free to download one for work and one for your personal life. 

Examples for School Leaders
(Classroom observations, meetings with teachers about instruction, Unexpected parents who show up, minor discipline infractions that must be dealt with, etc.)

Examples for personal reflection
(Exercise, planning healthy menus/meals, spending quality time with family, watching TV, reading, household chores)

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Leadership: A Balancing Act

When I talk with new administrators about the challenges of being a school leader, one of the topics we discuss is the balancing act of leadership. Sometimes as leaders we “walk a tightrope,” where sometimes we misstep and sometimes we glide effortlessly. Today I want to share some of the situations where leaders must find balance, and I would love for you to share other situations (perhaps some that you yourself have faced) in the comments. 

Sometimes school leaders act as shields for teachers. They listen to complaints or concerns from parents and/or students, and they realize that they should gently nudge the student or parent to the teacher to address a situation head-on. Sometimes school leaders listen to the venting of a parent or student, and they never share the comments with the teacher. But, at a certain tipping point, the school leader will address the comments with the teacher. Part of being effective is knowing at what point a comment or complaint should be shared.

Another balancing act is in the area of professional learning. Most leaders I know are lifelong learners who embrace the opportunities to learn. Part of the responsibility of the leader is to encourage and model professional learning, but if “too much, too soon” is faced by teachers, there can be a resistance to the opportunity to learn. There has to be a balance between enough learning to enhance professional growth with not so much that the teacher feels overwhelmed. It can feel like a no-win situation at times, especially for new leaders.

Another situation that requires balance is time management. The lives of school leaders can become so engrossed with serving others that they don’t serve themselves. Also, school leaders can sometimes neglect their own families because of the needs of their students and staff. Workloads can be overwhelming, communication responsibilities can overflow, and taking time to exercise can become a ghost of the past. School leaders must balance their own needs and their families’ needs with the needs of their school community. They must delegate and trust in others to assist them and share the load. Without a support system, school leaders will tip the scales in an unhealthy direction, both physically and emotionally.

          Related Post: Leadership Resources for New and Aspiring Leaders

Balance does not mean all things equal. It means doing what’s necessary and doing it well. It means allowing others to share the load. It means understanding one’s beliefs and values and acting in a way that honors those values. It can be one of the highest hurdles for a new administrator to get over. Sometimes it can even be such a high hurdle that turns new administrators back to the classroom. 

Can you relate to this post? If you’re an administrator, how do you walk the tightrope? 

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Tuesday, February 9, 2016

We learn by doing - activities to try for Digital Learning Day!


Digital Learning Day is coming up soon, and we're turning it into a week-long celebration at my school. Next Monday and Tuesday, we have two district Professional Development Days scheduled, so I went ahead and shared the "Digital Learning Day Challenge" with our staff today because of our different start to the week next week. 

If you HAVEN'T heard of Digital Learning Day, you can read more about it at There are a ton of resources there for you and your staff for every day, not just Digital Learning Day!

So... what are we doing at our school? 

There are 9 activities from which our teachers can choose. If they do three, they are entered into a drawing for either Starbucks or iTunes gift cards. All of the instructions are in the online flyer. 

I used S'more to create the online flyer, but you could easily do this in a Google Doc that you could share with your staff. 

Today, I got our school's first entry from Coach Cavender. Her students were playing a Kahoot review game in her history class, so she's the first person on our leaderboard! 

What do you have planned for Digital Learning Day? Please share in the comments or on twitter (@Jennifer_Hogan).

Sunday, February 7, 2016

When it comes to PD at your school, is anyone being overlooked?

In my role as Assistant Principal of Curriculum and Technology, part of my responsibilities is to create Professional Development experiences for our staff by leading or coordinating the opportunities. As a 1:1 school, there have been many opportunities for teachers to learn about flipped classrooms, dealing with distractibility in a 1:1 classroom, Google apps and extensions, Google Hangouts, and more. 

As the second semester started and I reviewed our PD plan and the schedule for the second semester, I knew there was a group that I wanted to intentionally design a professional learning experience for -- our physical education teachers. 

In every school where I have worked, there are teachers who feel often left out of the PD plans. Physical education, fine arts, speech, special education, and ELL teachers are the ones who usually feel like the PD sessions aren't applicable to what they do. 

As a believer in having an online PLN and seeking out my own learning opportunities, I am aware that PE teachers may seek out their own opportunities to learn outside of the school day and outside of the PD that we offer. In my commitment to our staff, I feel it is imperative to include all teachers in the PD that we offer at our school.

I'm a huge fan of physical education. Teaching students about living a healthy lifestyle that includes physical activity is one of the greatest gifts we can give them. 

My husband grew up in Laramie, Wyoming, and when he was in high school, they offered a class called Advanced Physical Education. To take the advanced class, the prerequisite was a grade of an "A" in regular P.E., and students in the advanced class got to do things like gymnastics, fencing, boxing, swimming, archery, bowling, and mountaineering. 

That sounds like an amazing program for students, and it sounds very different from anything I've seen in high schools around our state. 

It was something that I wouldn't have even imagined for a high school P.E. class unless he had told me about it. 

All of our P.E. teachers are coaches, too, and it can be difficult for them to find time to attend professional conferences due to coaching responsibilities. I knew Voxer would be an opportunity for our P.E. teachers to learn from other P.E. teachers across the country, and they could participate at their convenience. 

On the way to work, I reached out to Justin Schleider, a P.E. teacher in my PLN who is very active on Twitter and Voxer. I wanted his input on how I could help the P.E. teachers understand the value of connecting on Voxer. Justin replied almost immediately that he could create a Voxer group with P.E. teachers who could share their testimonials about the power of learning via Voxer. By noon, there were lots of teachers who had left their testimonials in the group. There were teachers from Saudi Arabia, Wisconsin, Alabama, New Jersey, Texas, and Georgia, to name a few!  I couldn't wait to play the Voxes for our teachers!

My first email to our P.E. teachers told them the date, the period we would meet, and that all they needed to bring was their phones and their favorite quote about commitment. 

My second email posed a challenge:

A few days later, I emailed the teachers to let them know I was excited about seeing them the next week, and I included this picture:

These are 5 of the 8 P.E. teachers that I was going to meet with, and this is the last version of the picture. The first one I sent had one teacher in the bronze column. Quickly, there were more pictures added and movement between levels. Competition is a motivator, especially with coaches!

When the day finally arrived, I started the meeting by having the teachers to share their favorite quotes about commitment. I also asked them why they thought I had them to bring quotes about commitment. The common understanding was that we must be committed to learning about our craft and getting better as educators for our students' sake.

I then connected my phone to the speaker in the room, and played most Voxes from the Voxer group that Justin created. I asked our P.E. teachers to take notes as they listened. I wanted them to capture any "aha" moments or anything they heard that they liked about using Voxer for professional learning. They then shared with the group, and placed their sticky notes on the whiteboard in the room. 

I created a Voxer group called "HHS PE Teachers" just for our teachers, and I asked them to Vox one thing they liked that they had heard that morning. I also told them that I would be posting a few questions in the group and wanted them to respond. 

I also shared a list of resources for them, which include the National Lesson Plan Creator, PE Google Drive, and a list of Voxer PE chat groups.   

After the meeting, I compiled the ideas from their sticky notes and sent the list to them via email. Click HERE to see the ideas they noted. 

So far, I have asked three questions in the Voxer group:
  1. What unit have you taught that you would like new ideas for? Perhaps it's a unit that you've been teaching for a long time, it's stale, you're bored... you would like to re-vamp the unit or freshen it up. Which unit would that be?
  2. What unit have you read/heard about that you've NEVER taught but would really like to?
  3. Should volleyball, football, basketball, and soccer units be taught at the high school level. Why or why not? (And I hope you don't say because you did them when you were in school) :-)
I'm looking forward to seeing how our teachers respond to this new information about professional learning. It's a different way of thinking about PD, especially for our PE teachers and coaches. I hope they will take advantage of this opportunity to learn and stretch themselves - the very things we ask of our students!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Using Student Voice in a Twitter Chat

At many schools, there are Engineering Academies, STEM Academies, Finance Academies, and other career academies. After all, we are preparing students for life after high school. We want them to have a strong foundation for their chosen college major and prepare them for the career that they may pursue post-high school. 

Where would we be without teachers to prepare the students? After all, "Teaching is the one profession that creates all other professions."

At Hoover High School, we offer students an opportunity to be a part of the Education Academy. When I recently visited the class of Year 3 students, I asked them, "Who in here is 100% that you will become a teacher?" Almost all of the students said that they were definitely going to become a teacher. 

Currently, the class is reading and discussing 12 Characteristics of an Effective Teacher, by Dr. Robert J. Walker. When I visited two weeks ago, I popped in on a day that the teacher was leading a graded discussion on the first two chapters, Prepared and Positive. I was so impressed by their insight, I asked the teacher if she thought the class would want to participate in the weekly #ALedchat of which I am a co-founder. Her students said they would like to participate, so I visited their classroom today to practice a small mini-chat prior to Monday night's chat. 


First, I surveyed the room, and almost all of the students had a twitter account. I explained how a twitter chat works, the format, pace, and how to use to "filter out" all of the other tweets from the people they follow. We used the hashtag #HHSTeach16 and practiced a mini-chat to prepare them for Monday night. 

The students were amazed at the guests who popped in from other parts of the country.

I asked 4 questions, related to the chapters they had read in their book, and asked for responses. Their insight was amazing and powerful, and I'm really looking forward to Monday night's #ALedchat! 

Q1: What three words would you use to describe an effective teacher?
Q2: How important is communication between home and school at the HS level?
Q3: What do teachers do or say that shows that they are passionate about their students' learning as well as their subject?
Q4: What do teachers say or do that let students know they (teachers) have high expectations?
Final Question: What have you learned from a teacher that you will DEFINITELY do/be when you are a teacher in the future?

Click HERE to read the tweeted responses and discussion from the #hhsteach16 chat!

I even heard one student ask her teacher, "Can we do our next discussion like this (twitter chat)?"

We can learn a lot from our students; all we have to do is ask!

We hope you will join us Monday night!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

10 simple ways to assess student learning

I recently observed a classroom teacher at our school. He started class when the bell rang, students were in their desks, ready to get started. It was obvious that he had established a routine with his students and set expectations about starting class once the bell rang. 

He quickly pulled up a few problems as a bellringer activity, and his students got to work. While they were working, he took attendance and circulated the room to make sure students were on task. 

Much of the class went this way. Compliant students, good explanations by the teacher, examples on the board, and guided practice. 

Near the end of class, he had the students to do a problem independently. When students were finished, he solved the problem on the board and explained the process. 

Then he asked, "Does everyone understand? Are there any questions?"


He looked around, satisfied that no one asked questions, and moved on to talk about homework. 

How did he know if his students understood or not?
How did he really know if all of his students could do the problem independently?

By using the method of asking the whole group, "Are there any questions?" he forfeited the opportunity to have students to prove that they didn't have any questions.

Below are 10 simple ways to assess students and have them to "prove" their learning. Feel free to share other strategies in the comments.

Exit tickets. A quick strategy where students answer a question or prompt and write it on a sticky note, index card, or piece of paper. Sticky notes can be placed on a white board for easy scanning and sorting by the teacher.

Index cards can be sorted easily. 
Green = I totally understand, Yellow = I sort of understand, Red = I don't understand

Google Exit Tickets. Teachers can create a short Google form with 3-5 questions. Answers go to a Google sheet where the teacher can see results quickly.

Personal white boards. Use 10x13 white boards for each student to show work and hold up for the teacher. The teacher is able to quickly scan the room for misconceptions and/or errors.
          **No white boards? Two options: Laminate white card stock or place white card stock in clear sheet protectors. Students can use dry erase markers.

Think-Pair-Share. Have students turn and talk to a neighbor, sharing their answers and discussing any differences. 

One-Minute Paper. in one-minute, write everything you can to summarize what you've learned.

Tweet the answer. Explain the answer in 140 characters or less. This can be done on sticky notes and posted to the door, whiteboard, or other area where they can be seen and read.

Fist to Five. Students can hold up a hand to their chest, using fingers to indicate level of understanding. A closed fist would represent zero understanding, and 5 fingers extended would indicate the highest level of understanding. Teachers can use flexible grouping based on ratings, and can also determine if re-teaching is necessary.

Use a T-chart. Have students to use a T-chart to write on one side what they know and feel confident about and what they still have questions about on the other side. the teacher can walk around and scan the T-charts or have students turn them in a "tickets out the door" at the end of class.

Kahoot! Kahoot is a game that can be played on students' phones or devices. Teachers can ask a 5-question quiz to check for quick understanding. Kids love the competitiveness of the game!

Stoplight Method. The last strategy is one that one of our teacher uses in her classroom. Here's a short video of the strategy by The Teaching Channel: 

What strategy have you used or seen being used effectively in a classroom? 

Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Monday, February 1, 2016

4 ways to strengthen your resolve and reach your goals

Have you ever made a resolution or promise to yourself that you were going on a diet and you weren’t going to eat sweets, only to be confronted by a plate of cookies or box of doughnuts at work?

Or maybe you said you were going to stop a bad habit, then a series of events occur that take up your time?

Over the years of coaching and leading, I’ve noticed this phenomenon to happen over and over again. It’s as if once a person puts her intention out into the universe, a test appears. It’s a fight or flight opportunity. It’s a test of whether a person is on the “want to” plan, or the plan to do the work.

This constant test of commitment to our goal is the test that separates those who have positive self-talk and those who have negative self-talk. The positive or negative messages that we send ourselves are what feeds our level of self-discipline. The first step to using positive self-talk is having awareness when faced with a difficult or challenging situation. Pay attention to the messages that your brain sends to you about your potential or ability. Intentionally use positive words and encouragement once you notice any negative messages your mind sends you.

What else can you do to strengthen your resolve and reach your desired goal?

     2. Find an accountability partner. When we have someone to “check in” with, our chances of success increase.

     3. Hire a coach. A coach will know how to motivate, encourage, and help you stay true to the path towards reaching your goal.

     4. Fail forward. A failure is a convenient reason to give up on a long-term goal. Expect failures along the way, and use them as learning opportunities.

You have the ability to strengthen your resolve and quiet the negative voices in your head. Knowing that challenges will appear along the way, using positive self-talk, and having a support system in place can help you can turn a roadblock into a speedbump and achieve success.

"The Universe favors the brave. 
When you resolve to lift your life to its highest level, 
the strength of your soul will guide you to 
a magical place with magnificent treasures."

- Robin Sharma