Sunday, June 26, 2016

The best productivity hack you need to try

Do you remember what you did yesterday at work? What short-term goals have you finished along your path to reaching your long-term goal?

If you have trouble remembering the small things you do (maybe because there are so many!), this productivity hack is going to rock your world!

Or maybe you have the intentions to keep a gratitude journal, but you get busy and forget... 

First, forgive yourself. Then, try the free productivity hack below.

The hack I'm sharing with you will be part of your morning routine that will 1) propel you to reach your goals and 2) help you stay positive daily (even when the dreamstealers are nipping at your heels.) 

Don't forget this: Productive people have morning routines.

Here's the hack: You will have an email sent to you each morning with a link to your Ta-da list & Gratitude Journal. This will be in the form of an electronic journal (aka Google Form) that you will take a few minutes to fill out each morning. Every 7 days, you will be able to look back and trace your journey and progress.

What's a Ta-da List? It's similar to a to-do list, but on it you list everything you've accomplished the day before, not what you have yet to accomplish. Sometimes we forget to celebrate our small victories and accomplishments along the way to reaching a goal... a "ta-da list" is a perfect reminder to keep us accountable to ourselves as well as a list of accomplishments.

A cool thing about this hack is that you choose the TIME it is sent to you... so if you want to do it as the first thing when you get to work, you can set it for your arrival time. If you get up before everyone else in your household and spend "me time" each morning, perhaps you will set it for that time. You choose the time that works best for you.

So let's get going! Here's how to hack your productivity:

1) Sign up for the free Boomerang extension for your gmail account.

When you install this, you will be able to schedule emails, including a recurring (daily) email to yourself. (I bet you will LOVE Boomerang and find other uses for it, too!)

2) Create your "Ta-da List & Gratitude Journal" as a Google form.

If you've been following me on twitter or my blog, you know how much I love Canva, so it's no surprise that I had to customize my List/Journal by using Canva! I chose custom dimensions of 800px X 200px and created a header for my Google form. 

There's only 2 questions to include on your Google form, and both should have "Paragraph" as the answer option. 

The first question is "Ta-da List" and the second question is "I'm grateful for..."

Now comes the hack!

1) Open your gmail account, and click on Compose. When the window opens up for a new email, type in the email address of the account you check each morning. 

2) On the subject line, type "Ta-da List & Gratitude Journal."

3) Then click on the Google Drive icon. Insert your Google form (Ta-da List and Gratitude Journal) you just created. It will embed your Google form into your email. 

4) Now, click on the red "Send Later" button at the bottom of the email window. It will take you to a scheduling window where you will choose your optimimum time for a "daily" email.

5) When you get your email each morning, take a few minutes to type in your "ta-da" list (what you DID the day before) as well the things you are grateful for. 

Make this part of your morning routine, and after 7 days check your responses in your spreadsheet and celebrate your accomplishments! Then send me a shout out on twitter or via email to let me know how this hack has changed your productivity. I love feedback, especially when I know I've helped someone reach his/her goals!

Pin this for future reference and for others who can benefit from this hack!

Friday, June 24, 2016

10 Surefire Ways to Keep your Cup of MOJO Full this Summer!

Mojo is the moment when we do something that's purposeful, powerful, and positive and the rest of the world recognizes it.
-Marshall Goldsmith

Summertime is the perfect time to fill your cup of mojo! Here are TEN surefire ways from the Compelled Bloggers Community to keep or get back your mojo this summer.

Exercise - @Jennifer_Hogan
I find that when I get to exercise, it keeps me motivated, energized, and confident. Exercise is a time when I can disconnect from the world and just be “inside my head.” It allows time for ideas to percolate without interruption... time that I value and appreciate. It also provides the whitespace I need as an introvert. For me, it encourages creativity and problem-solving while the endorphins are being released! Done consistently, it’s a true mojo-maker!

Connecting - @jon_wennstrom
For me, I draw energy from being around positive people. Connecting with educators during summer learning sessions, sharing and learning from others on Twitter about books we’ve read, and of course blogging and reading blogs. I’m definitely an extrovert and being around other educators helps inspire me and always leads to new ideas to implement and helps me keep my mojo! 

Theater - @sandeeteach
I love Broadway musicals, plays, and other theatrical productions. It’s a way for me to escape and immerse myself in a story. One of my favorite theaters spoofs popular shows. For example, this year two of the shows will be “Indiana Bones Raiders of the Wal-Mart” and “Captain American Fork The Worst Avenger”. (American Fork is the city where I grew up.) The actors and actresses are masters of improvisation which makes for a night of laughter. Another favorite theater performs in the round which is always a delightful experience. There are beautiful theaters in downtown Salt Lake City for Broadway musicals and outdoor shows in many local communities. For a few hours, I can lose myself in another world. But upon further reflection, I always relate the experience to teaching because that’s just what teachers do. We get ideas that benefit our students from everywhere. 

Find a good read, or two - @Vroom6
There are lots of ways to find joy and rejuvenate during the summer months. And, I am all about work hard, play hard. With that, one of the greatest joys I get from the summer months, and a way in which I keep my mojo running full steam ahead, is by catching up on some of that much needed reading that took a back seat during the school year. Often times the days we are in session with students and teachers are filled with more scripted reading and writing. So for me, it is the summer months that I get to find that much anticipated new release on best practices in our field. Whether striving to become a better leader, or a better learner, it is the books that I carry with me to the beach, the pool or the park that I enjoy the most.

Dream big together - @allysonapsey
When my mojo needs a pick me up, I dream about what could be for our students, but I don’t do it alone. Just like everyone else, I find myself focusing on the trees rather than the forest from time to time. When monotony sets in, I push back by collaborating with the amazing teachers I work with. I am astounded after each conversation--we feed off each other, we divide and conquer, and we multiply our creativity for the sake of our students. Through these type of conversations this year, we came up with an amazing service learning project, we started plans for a Makerspace, we piloted new 
reading initiatives, we shared professional reading that has inspired us and so much more. While we are dreaming big together, we are building stronger relationships, laughing, and challenging each other. 

Pause and Reflect - @KarenWoodEDU
When my mojo needs some rejuvenation, (and it sometimes does), I first take a few minutes to reflect.  I find that sometimes my initial desire to “rejuvenate my mojo” may have my efforts focused in the wrong areas or in areas which may not be productive for educators or students in the long run.  Reflection leads to focus and clarity.  From clarity goals can be set and then the fun begins!  Once my goals are established I jump in full force and do so with collaborative efforts.  It is very important that the shared vision of success is truly understood by all.  The last strategy I feel is essential for rejuvenating mojos is time to step away from work.  I admittedly do not do this well, however I find when I can clear my head (by going to the beach, going for a walk, kayaking, swimming, or practicing yoga/meditation, etc.) I return refreshed, focused, and ready to ramp up my mojo and the mojos of others around me. 

Get into some music! - @PrincipalStager
I was a music major in college and a music educator prior to becoming a principal. Whenever I need to get my mojo back or need to decompress, I find a piano and PLAY. I play in a group at my church so I have the opportunity to play rather often. I understand not everyone has the ability to sit down and play a musical instrument, but when I don’t have a piano to play, I drive in my car or just put my headphones in and JAM! There is nothing like a great playlist of uplifting and energetic music to get your energy back and your cup overflowing! This is my sure-fire way to get back on track.

Make a “bucket list” - @jodiepierpoint
I decided to make a “bucket list” of things I wanted to accomplish within a year, but I’m finding summer is a perfect time to accomplish them.  Things such as volunteering and baking cookies for friends have been real pick me ups! Training for a quarter marathon has led into a half, simply because I’m out with great friends chatting while I’m doing it.  I check my list all the time, call a friend, and pick an activity to do - it’s a great way to rejuvenate not only myself, but others too!

“What if People” & Quiet Time - @Debralcamp
I do my best thinking when I am with people that like to say “what if”.  There is something about the words “what if” that allows walls to come down.  When discussions are lead with the words “what if” it takes away the threat of there being wrong answers and allows for brainstorming to happen in a way that doesn’t in a lot of conversations.  I find it very motivating to be pushed and pulled by other people’s thoughts and ideas.  Positive energy comes when people work together and create as a group. There is a collective product that is created as well. I find on the flip side that quiet time and reflection after being with “what if people” takes me to a space in my head where more ideas can be generated. Revisiting and reflecting again with the same group consistently allows for new ideas to develop and to be tried. (They don’t always work but the process sure is fun and motivating.)

Balance - @Abond013
Often times when I am feeling overwhelmed, I find that I need to prioritize. It is important for educators in any role to find time to take care of themselves. We need to give students our best and that is challenging when we are running on empty. Besides exercising, traveling, and spending time with family or friends, I find that fueling my passion keeps me going. For example, if you are passionate about literacy, continue to take interest and learn more. Surround yourself with people who share your passion.

Be sure to pin this so you can refer to it later!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

10 ways to go from lurker to connected on twitter

“You should be on Twitter.”

“It’s the best source of PD, 24-7!” 

“Twitter is the best place to learn about trends, hacks, and best practices.”

Maybe you’ve heard these statements when someone is describing the “power of twitter.” I know that I myself have said these things, too. Being on twitter is great… but it’s not just from having an account or tweeting about what’s happening in one’s life or school. The POWER of twitter comes from the connections that are made there. But how does one move from being a “lurker,” or one who passively reads and watches conversations to being “connected?” 

Here are 10 suggestions on how to make the most out of a twitter presence and maximize your learning through the social platform. 

1. Participate in the #followfriday community. Each Friday, recommend several people to follow and use the #FF or #followfriday hashtag. 
2. Find a twitter chat that interests you and be a regular participant. Be sure to contribute to at least each question and retweet or comment on others’ tweets.
3. Share some inspirational or motivational quotes and images, and tag others in the tweets.
4. Regularly share links to blog posts from bloggers you follow. 
5. Occasionally share personal interests, such as hobbies, fun facts, or insights into your personal life. Let others know you’re human!
6. Use Tweetdeck or Hootsuite to easily follow hashtags. Be sure to retweet, comment, and share the tweets you like or find interesting.
7. Always talk back to those who want to engage with you.
8. Don’t SPAM or clog someone's feed with an overload of tweets.
9. Learn conference hashtags when you attend and share relevant quotes, questions, and photos while tagging them with the conference hashtag.
10. Remember that learning is a social activity. Share insights, ask questions, reflect and “think out loud” with others to tap into the opportunities for professional growth.

Which one resonated with you the most?
What would you add to this list?

Friday, June 10, 2016

Educators: Be in the Moment

Be in the moment. Pay attention. Care.

It can sound so cliché.

It seems too simple.

Lives can be changed by these three actions?

YES! It may the other person's, and it may be yours.

Across twitter, my PLN uplifts and encourages and reminds us all of the importance of our work.

We matter.

Every moment that we spend with kids is a moment to be a positive influence.

This summer, while you're away from your students, take some time to learn about you. Re-charge and refresh yourself, because you will have a new group of kids in the fall who are going to need your best you. They're going to need you to be in the moment, to pay attention, and to care. Kids won't remember days; they will remember moments.

A friend sent this poem to me a while ago, and I knew I wanted to share it with you.

The Cab Ride…

Twenty years ago, I drove a cab for a living. When I arrived at 2:30a.m., the building was dark except for a single light in a ground floor window. Under these circumstances, many drivers would just honk once or twice, wait a minute, then drive away.

But, I had seen too many impoverished people who depended on taxis as their only means of transportation. Unless a situation smelled of danger, I always went to the door. This passenger might be someone who needs my assistance, I reasoned to myself.

So I walked to the door and knocked. "Just a minute", answered a frail, elderly voice. I could hear something being dragged across the floor. After a long pause, the door opened. A small woman in her 80's stood before me. She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like somebody out of a 1940's movie. By her side was a small nylon suitcase.

The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets. There were no clocks on the walls, no knickknacks or utensils on the counters. In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photos and glassware. "Would you carry my bag out to the car?" she said. I took the suitcase to the cab, then returned to assist the woman. She took my arm and we walked slowly toward the curb. She kept thanking me for my kindness.

"It's nothing", I told her. "I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother treated". "Oh, you're such a good boy", she said.

When we got in the cab, she gave me an address, and then asked, "Could you drive through downtown?" "It's not the shortest way," I answered quickly. "Oh, I don't mind," she said. "I'm in no hurry. I'm on my way to a hospice".

I looked in the rear-view mirror. Her eyes were glistening. "I don't have any family left," she continued. "The doctor says I don't have very long." I quietly reached over and shut off the meter. "What route would you like me to take?" I asked. For the next two hours, we drove through the city.

She showed me the building where she had once worked as an elevator operator. We drove through the neighborhood where she and her husband had lived when they were newlyweds. She had me pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that had once been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a girl.

Sometimes she'd ask me to slow in front of a particular building or corner and would sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing. As the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon, she suddenly said, "I'm tired. Let's go now." We drove in silence to the address she had given me.

It was a low building, like a small convalescent home, with a driveway that passed under a portico. Two orderlies came out to the cab as soon as we pulled up. They were solicitous and intent, watching her every move. They must have been expecting her. I opened the trunk and took the small suitcase to the door. The woman was already seated in a wheelchair.

"How much do I owe you?" she asked, reaching into her purse. "Nothing," I said. "You have to make a living," she answered. "There are other passengers," I responded. Almost without thinking, I bent and gave her a hug. She held onto me tightly.

"You gave an old woman a little moment of joy," she said. "Thank you."

I squeezed her hand, then walked into the dim morning light. Behind me, a door shut. It was the sound of the closing of a life. I didn't pick up any more passengers that shift. I drove aimlessly lost in thought. For the rest of that day, I could hardly talk. What if that woman had gotten an angry driver, or one who was impatient to end his shift?

What if I had refused to take the run, or had honked once, then driven away?

On a quick review, I don't think that I have done anything more important in my life. We're conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments. But great moments often catch us unaware - beautifully wrapped in what others may consider a small one.

Be in the moment. Pay attention. Care.

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Sunday, June 5, 2016

Courageous Leaders Face their Fears

courageous leaders face their fears

Fear is an emotion that can sometimes go unrecognized. It can drive decisions and attitudes, and it can cause great unhappiness. Instead of running from fear or avoiding situations that cause us to be fearful, it’s important to recognize and own our fears. Fear can be paralyzing, controlling, and consuming if it is not dealt with. Fear can trigger action that prevents us from being or becoming our best, and it can prevent us from taking steps to create change. 

Fear is not an emotion that leaves once a person is in a leadership position. Nancy Anderson says,  “Courage is not the absence of fear; rather it is the ability to take action in the face of fear.” 

Where do leaders get their courage? What are the secrets to facing fears? 

Leaders recognize fear. They understand the triggers, the origins, and the symptoms of it. They use their fear to make them more alert and to achieve clarity. 

Leaders avoid avoidance. Fear can cause a person to avoid anxiety-producing situations. Leaders feel their fear and they are able to act in spite of it. 

Leaders are empathetic. They understand that they may be brave in some ways and not in others. They value other people’s courage and experiences, and they allow others to give support.

Leaders don’t compare their courage to someone else’s. They accept their own journey and understand that their life is a result of their decisions. They celebrate their own courage and work continually to understand and face their fears. 

Leaders surround themselves with others who face their own fears. It’s an intentional action on their part to create a circle of influence of people who model courageous actions. 

Courageous leaders aren’t without fear. Instead, they recognize and own their fear. 

Do you recognize and own your fears?
Where do you get your courage?

Want me to lead a book study with your group?

Have you ever been in a situation where you were filled with almost paralyzing fear? Maybe you were afraid to take a step into a new territory, make a career move, or try something new. In this short but powerful e-book, I share personal stories as well as what I've learned from over 10 years of studying leaders. You and your team will be encouraged and inspired to own your fears and step forward through courage!

If you would like for me to lead a book study with your group, please contact me via the form at the bottom of the About Me page. 

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Game Changer: Classroom Discussion

Grateful for the opportunity, I got to chat with Mark Barnes on the #hacklearning podcast. I shared with him my story about using a “backchannel” in my classroom over 15 years ago (although it wasn’t called backchannel then) and some examples of how I’ve seen backchannels used in classrooms today. 

The power in using backchannels is for the reluctant participator. Notice I didn’t call the student a “reluctant learner.” Great teachers know the importance of participation and collaboration for maximizing learning, they know who does and who doesn’t participate and how much, and they find ways to insure that all students participate.

I understand first-hand how empowering providing a backchannel can be, because I WAS the reluctant participator for many years in school. I believe that having been that type of student makes me more aware of the need for strategies to capture and hear student voice.  

When I read that Classroom discussion (equal parts talking by students and teachers) has an effect size of .82 on learning outcomes according to Hattie’s research (.40 is the hinge point, where scores above impact learning and scores below have little impact), I knew that I wanted our teachers to learn more about student-centered classroom discussion that maximizes student participation.


Backchannels aren’t the only way to increase participation in classroom discussions. There are ways to break down the class so that it’s not the typical “popcorn” questioning and answers. 

I created an online course called “Game-changer: Classroom Discussion” as part of the online professional learning course menu for our teachers this summer. Today I want to share three resources I used in creating the course. 

Strategies for Student-Centered Discussion (from the Teaching Channel)
The Teaching Channel provides guiding questions to consider while/after watching their videos. 

The Big List of Class Discussion Strategies, by Jennifer Gonzalez,
Jennifer divides her list into higher-prep strategies, low-prep strategies, and ongoing strategies, and there is a video of each strategy in action.

Never Assume!
In the following video, the teacher is working with ELL students on participating in classroom discussions.
For all students, we need to be explicit about and model our expectations for for academic discussions. How could “talk moves” could be adapted to your classroom or a classroom in your building?

If you have other strategies or resources for classroom discussion, I would love for you to share in the comments. 

Were you ever a reluctant participator?