Monday, April 25, 2016

May Matters! Join the #lastbell movement!

lastbellMay Matters! Commit to teaching ‘til the last bell rings!.jpg

In many schools, the countdown has already begun. The days until summer break... the days until the beach... the days until there’s *no kids.*  

Let’s throw that “tradition” on it’s head. Let’s re-evaluate the influence we have on students’ lives. Let’s all join together as an education community to celebrate the time we have left with students. Because, whether it’s August or May, every moment we have with students is valuable.  

Starting on May 2, and every weekday during May, the Voxer group for Women in Educational Leadership is leading a movement on social media to celebrate those who teach until the last bell. This movement includes school leaders, classroom teachers, counselors, and support staff, because in a school, we’re all a part of the group that influences children’s lives. We want you to join us for this incredible movement using the hashtag #lastbell!

Let’s celebrate those who bring it in May! It’s easy… just snap a picture, share a quote, and more to let the world know about those people in your school who make a difference for others. You can share this on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Vine, Periscope, and/or your blog. Be sure to use the #lastbell hashtag, since the hashtag will be the “hub” for sharing our celebrations!

Here are some ideas for the month of May to celebrate #lastbell:
  • Periscope an awesome lab, makerspace, breakout edu, or other creative activity led by an innovative teacher
  • Tweet out a picture of the teacher who keeps raising the bar, even in May, and makes sure that students get there!
  • If you’re a parent of younger kids, have them to fill out this free printable for their teacher.
  • If you’re a school leader, model #lastbell by leading a book study during the month of May
  • Snap a picture of a teacher who is a “rock” for his/her students and who understands that for some kids, summertime is not a vacation because school is the only consistent thing in their lives. Share on social media!
  • Create a slideshow of your staff in action as they teach to the #lastbell. Share at a May faculty meeting, end-of-year luncheon, on your school website or Facebook page, or in the parent e-newsletter.
  • Incorporate #lastbell into Teacher Appreciation Week, the first week of May!

  • Print these tags and attach to small thank you gifts such as highlighters, candy, or an apple for your staff, friends, or colleagues. Get your free download here: My gift to you!
  • Commit to learning something new - join a twitter chat, attend an edcamp, try a digital breakout at… Talk to your students about it; model the learning process!

Also, we’re hosting a live video chat! Be sure to join Lisa Dabbs, Becky Ince, Debbie Campbell, and me for our Blab video chat on Tuesday, May 3, 7:00-7:30pmCST.

It’s going to be a fun month of inspiration and celebrations, and we’re even doing giveaways, including books from authors Brad Currie and Mark Barnes!


Download this image and use on your blog, webpage, Facebook profile picture, and more. You can also share on twitter and tag the committed teachers you know. If you’re a school leader, consider printing it onto stickers for your staff!

May is going to be an awesome month of teaching and learning. Won’t you join us?

Friday, April 22, 2016

Comparison is the thief of joy

Last week I was asked to speak to our Girls’ Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) Club. I wanted to share a story with them that I felt that they could relate to as athletes, but also understand how it relates to what God calls for us to do. Sometimes athletes can compare themselves to other athletes, asking questions such as “Why is that person getting more playing time than me?” or “Why did she get that award?” or “Why was that person named captain?”

All of those questions represent comparison.

When I spoke with the girls in FCA, I first read to them the story of the Stone Cutter:

There was once a stone cutter who was dissatisfied with himself and with his position in life. One day he passed a wealthy merchant's house. Through the open gateway, he saw many fine possessions and important visitors. "How powerful that merchant must be!" thought the stone cutter. He became very envious and wished that he could be like the merchant.
To his great surprise, he suddenly became the merchant, enjoying more luxuries and power than he had ever imagined, but envied and detested by those less wealthy than himself. Soon a high official passed by, carried in a sedan chair, accompanied by attendants and escorted by soldiers beating gongs. Everyone, no matter how wealthy, had to bow low before the procession. "How powerful that official is!" he thought. "I wish that I could be a high official!"
Then he became the high official, carried everywhere in his embroidered sedan chair, feared and hated by the people all around. It was a hot summer day, so the official felt very uncomfortable in the sticky sedan chair. He looked up at the sun. It shone proudly in the sky, unaffected by his presence. "How powerful the sun is!" he thought. "I wish that I could be the sun!"
Then he became the sun, shining fiercely down on everyone, scorching the fields, cursed by the farmers and laborers. But a huge black cloud moved between him and the earth, so that his light could no longer shine on everything below. "How powerful that storm cloud is!" he thought. "I wish that I could be a cloud!"
Then he became the cloud, flooding the fields and villages, shouted at by everyone. But soon he found that he was being pushed away by some great force, and realized that it was the wind. "How powerful it is!" he thought. "I wish that I could be the wind!"
Then he became the wind, blowing tiles off the roofs of houses, uprooting trees, feared and hated by all below him. But after a while, he ran up against something that would not move, no matter how forcefully he blew against it - a huge, towering rock. "How powerful that rock is!" he thought. "I wish that I could be a rock!"
Then he became the rock, more powerful than anything else on earth. But as he stood there, he heard the sound of a hammer pounding a chisel into the hard surface, and felt himself being changed. "What could be more powerful than I, the rock?" he thought.
He looked down and saw far below him the figure of a stone cutter.

At the end of the story, I asked the girls to think to themselves about a time when they’ve compared themselves to other athletes.

I had given out 5 bible verses that are about comparing ourselves to others, and I had the athletes to read those out loud and talk about how it applies to them as athletes.

Then I said,

“God doesn’t make a mistake. Maybe your gift is athletic ability. Maybe your gift is to be an encourager. Maybe your gift is to be coachable. Maybe your gift is to be a good teammate. Whatever your gift is,  you don’t need to compare yourself to others but to live fully in the gift that you’ve been given. You are all powerful, and you need to live in that power.”

We can all get caught up in comparison as educators… as bloggers… as parents… as people.

I’ve had people tell me that they could never start a blog because (they make a comparison to mine or another experienced blogger). I’ve heard people say that they don’t measure up because of what they see people post on twitter (comparison). Have you ever heard parents comparing their children to someone else’s? Or maybe you’ve heard parents just talk about another person’s children and the comparison is implied?

We are all on our own personal journey. Instead of comparing, let’s celebrate each other. Let’s be joyful in our gifts, and show gratitude in everything we do. Together, we can accomplish incredible things!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

A Work Schedule that Works

Back in January, I shared my 3 words for 2016. One of my words is FOCUS. I like to be busy problem-solving, creating, and learning, but I want to make sure that I am ALL IN on each project that I’m working on. One of my secrets to success is that I like to follow routines, and I’m self-disciplined (mostly!) when it comes to finishing projects and following through on ideas. 

I recently discovered Henry Miller’s daily routine that he adhered to while working on his first published novel, Tropic of Cancer, in 1932-1933. His 11 Commandments are timeless, and I think they’re applicable to the busy life of an educator. 


Work on one thing at a time until finished. There’s a lot of research that shows that multitasking is a myth. We actually start/stop tasks quickly, and the start/stop process is not efficient and saps our energy. It can also lead to more mistakes, which can end up costing us more time.

Start no more new books, add no more new material to ‘Black Spring.’ Don’t start one project until the first one is finished. My husband and I can fall into this trap, because we love doing home projects. Sometimes, we start another one before we’re finished with the one we started. We have to intentionally (and out loud) tell ourselves no. In education, sometimes we want to jump to the “next new thing” because it’s exciting/new/interesting/helpful. It’s important to finish what we start and devote the necessary time to it.

Don’t be nervous. Work calmly, joyously, recklessly on whatever is in hand. Attitude is a choice, and the attitude we choose as we work will affect the outcome. Choose to face your tasks with positive energy, so that the ripple effects will be positive to those around you. 

Work according to Program and not according to mood. Stop at the appointed time! This quote reminds me of coaching. I would tell my players that they can’t work only when they feel like it. We had to stick to a schedule and work joyously because we wanted success as our outcome. When learning something new, solving a problem, writing a blog, coaching other educators, or more, be consistent in your efforts or you will be faced with failure.

When you can’t create you can work. Truth is, we aren’t inspired all of the time. This is not a negative thing, but it’s reality. Instead of focusing on not being inspired, focus on the work.

Cement a little every day, rather than add new fertilizers. There are so many awesome ideas that are circulating in the education world right now. From applying entrepreneurship ideas to incorporating technology in creative and engaging ways, it is easy to get caught up in trying the new latest idea. When you find a good one, get great at it. (Focus)

Keep human! See people, go places, drink if you feel like it. This applies to the importance of relationships in education. It’s important to build relationships with students as well as other educators. Students want to learn from an adult who they knows cares about him/her. Learning is social, and as educators, we should be the greatest advocates and models for lifelong learning.

Don’t be a draught-horse! Work with pleasure only. A draft horse is a large horse bred to pull heavy loads and do hard tasks. Don’t get so rigid with your schedule that you lose the joy in what you do. And as another saying goes, “When you love what you do, you never work a day in your life.” 

Discard the Program when you feel like it—but go back to it next day. Concentrate. Narrow down. Exclude. There may be times when you need to step back and reevaluate your goals and your path to those goals. When you step back, re-evaluate your efforts and determine if you need to make changes. Perhaps you start down a path of implementing a new teaching strategy, and you realize that you are achieving the goals you set out to reach. It would be time to approach your plan with fresh eyes and make changes that will lead to success.

Forget the books you want to write. Think only of the book you are writing. Don’t lose focus on your current project. Honor your commitment to the current project and see it to success. Being present in the moment and giving your all to a project is one of the most respectful things you can do for yourself. 

Write first and always. Painting, music, friends, cinema, all these come afterwards. Distractions will always be available and tempting. None will compare to the satisfaction of completing a project to its completion. Keep your focus and practice self discipline.

Monday, April 11, 2016

The One Requirement for True Professional Growth

This morning I led the first face-to-face meeting of a group of teachers at our school who are learning about Student-Centered Classrooms. As we discussed the article everyone in the group had read prior to the meeting, one teacher made a point about shifting to a student-centered classroom. She said,

“It’s all about mindset.” Then she continued to discuss making changes in the classroom. 

I was so happy that she made that point to the group, because mindset is the foundation for any change we want or need to make. For instance, the people in the group already have a mindset that accepts a student-centered classroom. This mindset, in turn, allows them to think positively about the new ideas they are studying. It also gives them courage as they look to step out of their comfort zones and try something new in their classrooms in these last few weeks of the school year. 

Mindset is the foundation for any change we want or need to make.  

Professional growth is sometimes about personal growth. Learning new people skills, communication strategies, and increased self-awareness are all non-content-based professional learning that every educator must face. Sometimes the “stretch” to what we believe about ourselves can be uncomfortable. Also, the fear of failure can be overwhelming. Sometimes change is scary.

Mindset can be used to make positive changes. If you believe, “I am an adaptive teacher,” your actions will be those of a teacher who responds to the needs of his/her students. If you believe, “I am curious and love to learn,” your actions will be those of someone who will embrace the opportunity to learn and face missteps as part of the learning process. 

To fully embrace professional growth, it starts with mindset. Where is yours?

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

12 Quotes: Technology in the Classroom

“Technology is just a tool. In terms of getting the kids working together and motivating them, the teacher is most important.” - Bill Gates

Teachers need to stop saying, “Hand it in,” and start saying “Publish It.”                      - Alan November

(For your convenience, I've linked Alan November's book here)

Technology will not replace teachers, but teachers who use technology will replace those who do not. - Unknown

"The need for students to memorize states’ capitals or battle dates disappeared when Siri learned them." - Jennifer Hogan

"The principal goal of education is to create men and women who are capable of doing new things, not simply repeating what other generations have done." - Jean Piaget

"Classrooms don’t need tech geeks who can teach. We need teaching geeks who can use tech." - David Geurin

(For your convenience, I've linked David Geurin's book here)

"…the thing is 'mobile sets learning free' and we can now learn virtually anything, anywhere and anytime and that's amazing." - RJ Jacquez

"If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow." - John Dewey

"Technology in the classroom is NOT the end goal. Enabling learning everywhere is the goal."  - Andrew Barras

“Technology can bring the real world into the classroom, which means that as teachers we can better prepare kids for the exciting adventures that they will face in their future.” - Dan Roberts

“Teachers need to integrate technology seamlessly into the curriculum instead of viewing it as an add-on, an afterthought, or an event.” 
                                        - Heidi Hayes Jacobs

(For your convenience, I've linked Heidi Hayes Jacobs' book here)

"I’ll take an excellent teacher in a non-tech classroom over a terrible teacher in a high-tech classroom any day!" - Jennifer Hogan

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Sunday, April 3, 2016

What do we need to STOP doing?

Did you know that there's an official Spring Cleaning Week? Spring Cleaning in homes has been traced back to different origins, but it marks a season where windows and doors can be opened to enjoy the pleasant weather and beautiful growth outdoors. It's a time to wash, shine, dust, and de-clutter.

Even though the official week has passed (March 14-20, 2016), it marks a good time for us to discuss the need to de-clutter our teaching lives. It's a good time to reflect and decide if there are some things we need to STOP doing as educators. 

The weekly twitter chat I co-host, #ALedchat, is discussing this topic this week. We "meet" each Monday night for a discussion with educators from across the globe, and we would love to hear from you this week about what you think we need to STOP doing as educators. 

Here are some suggestions to get your wheels turning. Some of these will be in question form in the #ALedchat twitter chat. 

What do you think about stopping....

  •      Semester or final exams
  •      Turning in lesson plans
  •      One-size-fits-all PD
  •      Assigning grades
  •      Assigning homework
  •      No teacher collaboration time built into school schedule
  •      Giving student awards for Honor Roll
  •      Teacher evaluations based on student test scores
  •      "Grading" homework for "completion"
  •      Teachers being the sage on the stage
  •      Meetings to deliver information that could be delivered via email
  •      Classrooms that never publish work for a public audience
  •      Ideas that technology in schools will go away
  •      Underestimating the power of what we do each and every day


Everyone is welcome to join us Monday nights 9-10pmCST for #ALedchat.  We value the insights, perspectives, and experiences of those in our PLN.

**Here’s a time converter to assist all of you around the globe in converting 9pm CST to your local time. 

TIP: If you have never done a twitter chat before, you may find it helpful to go to and enter the hashtag #ALedchat. Sign in with your twitter account. The website will "filter out" all of the other tweets except for the ones with the hashtag #ALedchat. The website will automatically add #ALedchat to your tweets, and you will see a scrolling list of tweets from the chat on the page. (P.S. The hashtags are NOT case-sensitive.)

I'm one of the founders and hosts of this chat. If you have any questions, feel free to email me

Everyone is welcome. I hope you will all join us Monday night for #ALedchat.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

When teachers don't know what they don't know

Traditionally, teaching has been an isolating profession. In some buildings, teachers see themselves as independent contractors, in charge of their classrooms. They close their doors, and their "customers" are their students. 

Teachers are learners just like their students. They should be constantly learning about best practices, most effective ways to motivate their students as well as learning about themselves. To teach means to motivate, explain, create, design, persuade, organize, manage, model for, and empathize with students. 

To be able to be the best teacher a person can be, he/she must have a high emotional quotient and self-awareness, along with a willingness to be vulnerable while learning and trying something new.

How do teachers know if they need to improve? What measures do they have to know if what they are doing is successful? What about tenured teachers who reject constructive criticism from evaluators? How do proficient teachers move to expert?

Teaching today doesn’t have to be an isolated practice. With the development of Professional Learning Communities or even online Personal Learning Networks, teachers have access to others who can share ideas, listen and give feedback, provide support and encouragement, or act as lesson design teams. Is there a reason for teachers to not know anymore?

The four stages of learning are Unconscious Incompetence, Conscious Incompetence, Conscious Competence, and Unconscious Competence. What does this mean for teachers, and how do we help them move up the ladder?

Stage 1: Unconscious Incompetence
“50% of my students did poorly on the last unit test. It’s a hard unit; why would I want to change anything?” (Additionally, teachers will sometimes “scale” tests at this point, thinking that the concept was so difficult that they should give a little “padding” to the grades.)

Stage 2: Conscious Incompetence
“I found out in the PLC meeting that the other teachers’ students did well on the last unit test. I’m not sure what I need to do to get better results, but I want my students to be more successful on their test.”

Stage 3: Conscious Competence
“I asked the teachers in my PLC how they taught that unit, and I attended a workshop on better instruction using student-created rubrics during the unit. I don’t know the steps to leading students to creating their own rubrics, but I refer to the information from the workshop when I’m teaching a unit.”

Stage 4: Unconscious Competence
“My students’ test scores have really gone up, and my understanding of their learning stages during the unit has increased dramatically by creating a feedback loop with the rubrics. I’m getting so good at the process, my administrator has asked me to lead a workshop for our other teachers.”

Here are some ways teachers can move from Stage 1 to Stage 4:

~Teachers visit other teachers’ classrooms
~Article Studies
~Reading blog posts
~Participate in Twitter chats
~Learn from Voxer group
~Evaluation feedback
~Ask students for feedback 

~Attend workshop
~Video/Article studies
~Video self while teaching and review with colleague, coach, or administrator
~Online learning - e-course, webinar, etc.
~Ask students for feedback on progress

Growth and learning follow a continuum, and both are a fluid process. Some days may feel like a step backwards, and those are the days that an encouraging coach or mentor is extremely valuable. Moving from Stage 3 to Stage 4 takes time and persistence, which require self-motivation. It also requires a culture of risk-taking, trust, and opportunities for feedback and sharing.

So if your teachers don’t know what they don’t know, take a look at the culture, too. Does it support growth and learning in your teachers as much as it does for the students?