Thursday, March 31, 2016

Student teachers aren't supposed to take risks

Did I get your attention with the title? I'm excited to share the story of one of our student teachers and a risk she took this spring!

Student teaching can be a scary time. It’s a time when student teachers want to showcase their strengths, display confidence, and demonstrate that they are ready for the challenge of being a leader in their own classroom. 

A few weeks ago, our Family and Consumer Science teacher along with her student teacher, Ms. Pursley, met with me about an idea that Ms. Pursley wanted to explore. 

Ms. Pursley was going to be teaching in the next two weeks, and she wanted to hold their class debate on twitter even though she was a novice twitter user and had never participated in a twitter chat. While she had a lot to learn about the process, she felt like twitter would be a perfect platform for giving her students an authentic audience while introducing them to a way to use social media for educational purposes rather than purely social reasons.

At our first meeting, I asked her the topic of the debate (Genetically Modified Organisms, or GMOs), her goal for using twitter, and what she had in mind for the format. After a good discussion about her vision for the debate, she left with a “to-do” list. She was going to create a graphic (on to use to “advertise” the chat, create a twitter account to use for the chat and other professional endeavors, tweet experts in the food industry inviting them to join the chat, sign up for Storify, and write the questions for the debate.

Ms. Pursley came back to see me the next week to review where she was at in the process and to get clarification on the format of the online debate/chat. I offered to come to the class the day before the chat and teach her students how to participate in the online debate. Since she had four periods that would be participating, I offered to come to her second period class (First Period was an Interior Design class that would not be participating) and model for her how to teach the students about participating. Third period we would co-teach, and 5th and 6th periods she would do it on her own. 

We taught the students that the twitter chat would be a public discussion. We explained that it was different from Snapchat that they used for personal communication. We wanted them to know that this would be a professional debate and that they needed to be professional in their responses, especially if they disagreed with a person’s stance in the debate. We explained how to use as well as the debate hashtag. Then we practiced. We asked general questions, asking students to respond to the question and each other. We projected the conversation on the screen, and we would read some tweets aloud and comment on others, praising students for their insight and participation. 
Here are the warm-up questions we asked on Thursday: 
Q1: What surprises did you find in your GMO research? 
Q2: Does your family have conversations about the quality of food? What would you say if they did, what do you say if they do? 
Q3: Should High Schoolers read food labels? Why or Why not? 
Q4: What are you looking forward to most about tomorrow’s twitter debate?
During third period I made feedback notes for Ms. Pursley, and during 4th period I shared my feedback with her. I made suggestions and asked her to video herself in her afternoon class and watch the playback. She was being observed the next day by her University supervisor, and I wanted her to be wildly successful during that observation.
Here are the questions for the debate: 
Q1: Are GMO foods safe and healthy for consumers?
Q2:Do GMO foods use less pesticides? 
Q3: Should GMO foods be labelled? 
Q4: Do GMO foods affect the environment? 
Q5: Should companies be allowed to patent their seeds, require farmers not 2 reuse seed, but purchase the seed every year?
I was able to participate in several periods of the debate on Friday, and I saw that it went extremely well. 

The class even had participants from the twitterverse to give input.

It was so cool to see the quiet or reluctant students “speak up” in the debate. The students were well-prepared for their questions, and they were able to provide links to the research to support their positions. 

During the debate, one of her students reached out to national farming organizations, asking them to give their input. 
This sort of request could not have occurred if the debate had only been held in class with teachers and students as the audience. 

Ms. Pursley shared with me that she got terrific feedback from her University supervisor, saying that her review had been the best one she had gotten. 

I’m so proud of Ms. Pursley for taking a risk and learning something new because she thought it was what would be best for her students. We all have something to learn from her.

Update:The learning never stops! During Spring Break, Ms. Pursley got this tweet from Kavin Senapathy, which she plans to share with her students after Spring Break.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Do small things with great love

Many of my Saturdays are spent at a gym, watching either my oldest daughter play basketball or my youngest daughter play volleyball. Yesterday, I didn’t get to go (we forgot to make arrangements for our dogs), so I was bummed about not getting to see my daughter play. After a busy week at work, though, I was looking forward to catching up on some things for work and having time to do some housework.

On Friday, we had just wrapped up the second week of “15 Days of Inside Out Leadership,” a free email course that Lisa Dabbs and I created. Throughout the course, I've found myself reflecting on my leadership beliefs and practices as I enjoy the quotes, images, insights, and actions from the daily emails (we only mail on the weekdays).

Do small things with great love and you can change the world! #InsideOutLead 

During the first week, I tweeted the image above for our participants using the course hashtag, #InsideOutLead. Since then I’ve used it as my mantra at home and at work. It reminds me of The Fred Factor, a story I cherish for its simple and profound message.

Last weekend, I tweeted it again, with a different message.

I was sent almost 60 names by people across the country and Canada. I was thrilled! Armed with a stack of Thank You cards and stamps, I looked forward to the week of writing thank you cards. 

Fast-forward 5 days to Friday. Since the week at work had been busy, which included doing some work at night at home, I had not written any cards yet. I had planned to take them to the volleyball tournament with me and work on them between matches. 

Because attending the volleyball tournament was no longer an option yesterday, I sat at my dining table in my quiet house with a cup of coffee to write thank you cards. It was truly a blessing to thank so many educators and school support personnel for doing small things with great love. 

When I read about one person who visits a local shelter when she travels, or another who created a food pantry at her school for students in need or the person who does routine, mundane, and monotonous tasks with a smile on her face… it inspires me to give more, do more, and be more.

My day started with disappointment of not getting to see my youngest daughter play in her tournament, but it quickly changed to joy as I addressed each envelope. What a simple gesture... a note dropped in the mail to express gratitude. I will be forever changed.

Take the time this week to send a thank you card to someone you work with who does small things with great love. Let them know their actions don’t go unnoticed. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

One more reason to create a school hashtag

I’m a huge fan of underdogs. To be an underdog means that you go into the battle and you are expected to lose. I’m also a fighter, willing to fight the good fight unceasingly. I will never give up the battle of fighting for public education, educators, and the students we serve. 

We all know that public education is an easy target for the brokenness in society. World-wide, we can fight the negative perceptions and images by increasing the number of positive messages about what teachers and students are doing each and every day in schools.

With the power of social media, a school can help to turn the tide of negativity with the use of a school hashtag. A hashtag is a keyword or phrase, preceded by the “number sign” or “hash mark” (#), that allows the message to be searched or followed. Three big social media platforms, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram all allow the use of hashtags to identify specific messages. 

If school stakeholders simply tweet positive messages about their school into the twittersphere, the messages can get diluted. The hashtag can aggregate the messages into a critical mass, building a positive brand and image for the school. Every school should create a hashtag and use it on social media platforms.  

I love getting to tell our school’s story on twitter. There are so many terrific things that take place inside a school, and it’s up to us as educators to share those events. I always say, The magic is not in the over-the-top, "newsworthy" activities... it's in the consistent, small moments that happen at school based on consistent, positive relationships and high expectations. But... recently, we had a newsworthy event at our school. One that deserved the news attention that it got.

Our school was able to grant a little boy a special wish. Our Student Government Association coordinated fund-raising at our school, and we raised $15,000 for Make-A-Wish to grant a trip to Disney to an awesome kid named AJ.

We also learned that Disney would donate $5 to Make-A-Wish for messages on social media that contained the hashtag #ShareYourEars.

Our students and staff were challenged to post pictures and tag them with #ShareYourEars and our school hashtag #HooverPride on the day of and the day before we had our school-wide assembly for AJ.
It was awesome to be able to help raise money for Make-A-Wish through the generosity of Disney and the power of social media. By using our school hashtag, too, it created one place where the excitement grew, the story was told, and the strength of the community celebrated.

If your school doesn’t have a hashtag yet, talk with your principal. Volunteer to lead the charge. Create a committee. Involve students. Invite all stakeholders to use the hashtag and share positive stories about your school.

David killed Goliath with a rock. Public education supporters can use social media to dilute the negative messages about education. Be the change.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

5 courageous actions all leaders should be modeling

courageous leadership

Last week, I had a graduate student to shadow me for a day, and over lunch she asked, “What do you believe are the characteristics of a good leader?” I shared with her several qualities that I believed to be important for leaders, including courage.

Later that day, she commented that she had been thinking a lot about the word courage. She said that courage as a leadership trait had not been mentioned in any of her graduate work. She appreciated my sharing it with her, and she said she was going to give it more attention and bring it up in her graduate class that evening. 

Leaders today must be courageous. They must model courageous action in the workplace and prepare aspiring leaders for the demands of the role. Courageous action and risk-taking builds trust, an important part of a positive culture. Actions that help develop positive cultures are among the many things that need to be shared with aspiring leaders as they prepare to transition into leadership roles.

Here are 5 courageous actions all leaders should be modeling.

Try something new. Learning something new creates vulnerability in the learner, and courageous leaders are willing to be vulnerable through the learning process. Courageous leaders step out of their comfort zone and push themselves to continually grow.

Speak honestly. Courageous leaders speak their opinion, and don’t dance around issues. They don’t look for conflict, but are willing to face it if necessary and have crucial conversations to address important issues.

Challenge the status quo. It’s comfortable and easy to do what’s always been done. Leaders step up and lead necessary change. 

Walk the walk. Courageous leaders held themselves and others accountable. It takes courage to call someone out when they don’t follow through. Courageous leaders stick to their commitments, showing courageous persistence in working towards a goal.

Don’t have all the answers. Courageous leaders are okay with saying “I don’t know,” and they encourage others to challenge them on their ideas. They look for diversity to strengthen the team, believing that “we” is better than “me.”

“A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others. He does not set out to be a leader, but becomes one by the equality of his actions and the integrity of his intent.”                                          
                                        ― Douglas McArthur

Courageous leadership is not bravado. It’s leading from the heart, and aligning one’s actions with beliefs. It’s doing the hard stuff because it has to be done, and being truthful through the process. It’s one of the most important qualities of a leader. 

Saturday, March 5, 2016

"Be More Dog" - My personal story

If you met me now, you wouldn’t believe what I’m about to tell you about me as a kid. Growing up, I was the shy, quiet kid… I didn’t raise my hand in class, speak up, or call attention to myself. Yes… it’s true. And hard to believe if you know me now, because I’m not that person anymore. 

Recently, Craig Vroom and I got to present “Blogging Bravely for Impact and Community Building” at the NASSP Ignite Conference in Orlando, Florida, and the theme for our presentation was “Be More Dog.” 

Be More Dog is also the theme for our Compelled Bloggers Community this week, so I thought I would share with you my story of becoming more dog in my own life.

I still remember a moment from my freshman year of college. I had met and become friends with Chris, a member of the men’s tennis team. We had calculus together, and I remember that he asked another student what he had gotten as an answer to one of the homework problems. I admired his ability to ask the other student the question, because at the time there was no way I would have done that. I wouldn’t have asked a question to someone that I didn’t know... or even admit that I didn’t know how to solve the problem for fear that I was the only one who didn’t know how to solve it. (Thank goodness I know differently now!)

I was then, and still am, a leader by example. I thought that my actions were more important than my words. I didn’t value my voice, and I had a lot of fear about living fully as a strong, independent, bright, friendly, athletic female. I have learned since then that my voice is as important as my actions and an important part of what makes me an authentic leader.

After three years of playing college volleyball, I ended up quitting the team because of an injury that wouldn’t allow me to fully play 100%. Through a series of events, I transferred to another college and played two years of softball. 

Another keystone event in my journey happened the summer when I was transferring to my new college. I told myself that I was going to be more like my sister. She was outspoken and friendly, but didn’t worry about what other people thought of her. People loved her, and she seemed to have such freedom in who she was. I wanted that in my life, too. That summer I made an intentional decision to face and conquer my fears, and since then I haven’t looked back.

My friends are surprised when they learn about my shyness as a kid/teenager, because that’s not who I am now. My daughters always comment that I will talk to anyone, and it’s true. 

Everyone has a story, and I’m interested in them, especially those of leaders. 

It’s usually not a straight and successful pathway into adulthood and leadership positions, and I’m interested in the stumbles, sprints, and sidesteps that make us who we are. I’ve had my share of stumbles, and since I’ve learned to ask for help and reach out, I’ve grown as a person and leader. I enjoy getting to know others and celebrate in their successes, learn from them, and walk this life together. I’m glad I took that risk during that long-ago summer; the reward has been incredible!

What story do you have to share about your journey into adulthood and/or leadership?