Mr. Cooper, regional director with the Toastmasters
Our school is fortunate because we have parents who are dedicated to assisting students with whatever they need. One of our new parents, Mr. Bruce Cooper, proposed a public speaking group for our students. As a Toastmaster Mr. Cooper has competed at the highest levels of public speaking. As a regional director, he had the idea that we could create a similar experience for our 3rd, 4th and 5th graders to grow future leaders.
In fact, after some research, we found that there is no public speaking group focused on students this young. We are also planning on having a culminating, TED-like talk this spring featuring the students who participate in the group. It will be epic!
In our first meeting we had 20 students and 3 parents attend. The students were excited (and a bit nervous) about having to speak in front of people. We are following a process and we realize that the students are only beginning. Just by showing up, though, they showed an amazing courage. If they stay focused, and dedicated they will be on center stage in the spring of 2015!
Want to learn more about the Toastmasters? Checkout this video:
Here is the deal… if you are not modeling life-long learning as a leader in your organization, than how can you expect your teachers to learn? Adult learning is the key to improvement, and lets face it, the staff meeting is your time to lead or it is your time to lose. The choice is yours… How can you lead the learning….
Questions to ponder:
- Organization – Do you send out agendas ahead of time? Does your meeting have a purpose? Are there time limits? Areas for input? Do you allow suggestions for further improvement? Do you have a note taker?
- Instruction – Are your staff meetings displaying the type of instruction you want to see from your staff? Do you use a combination of collaborative, whole group, pairs, and individual learning opportunities? Do you use higher order activities that require them to apply, analyze, evaluate or create?
- Technology – Do you model use of online formative assessments such as Kahoot, Plickers, or Google Forms to gain insight? Do you use videos to allow for a deeper connection or to flip the instruction? Do you encourage a back channel on Twitter, Today’s Meet or Poll Everywhere? Do you blog about your organization? Do you have a PLN?
- Follow up – Do you send the notes out in a timely fashion? Do you include resources?
How do you lead the learning in your organization?
If you have been on a walk….then you have stepped on somebody’s toes. As leaders we make decisions all the time, and without even know it, we step on people’s toes. The difference that great leaders make is they know the difference between stepping and stomping on toes.
I know this is short today, but what do you think? Do you realize you step on toes? Do you realize if you stomp on toes?
If you never stepped on anybody’s toes, you have never been for a walk ~ Elaine McEwan
I was reading Seth Godin’s blog today and he was talking about when things ‘blow over’ in organizations. The last line of his post especially caught my attention, “Action or inaction are both forms of leadership and standard setting.” He has written about this before, and I think it bears repeating that leaders send messages to their staff by what they allow or don’t allow. Every decision has an impact on the organization.
How do you send messages to your staff?
What do you take action on?
What do you take no action on?
As we are planning for an upcoming PrincipalPLN podcast, we got on the subject of School Leadership teams. We put the idea into our voxer chat and it elicited a lively discussion.
There are some schools with a a large leadership team and other schools with a small leadership team. No matter what size the team is, it is important to understand a few things about the team first.
Here are a few things I gleaned from the conversation and preparation for our upcoming show:
- What are the long term goals of your leadership team? For instance, if you are a teacher-leader, coach, or perhaps a guidance counselor, do you plan to stay in that role or are you seeking experience for further advancement? As a leader, how can you help others improve the school and at the same time set them up for future career advancement?
- Do you have the opportunity to have structured meetings that encourage collaboration, questioning and open discussion
- Establish norms – how are you going to participate in the meetings on school improvement?
- Establishing two types of teams – 1 team could be for the administrative and immediate needs of the teaching staff and the 2nd could be for a school based team to tackle issues in the building and prepare for the future.
As a leader, I feel that is important to model the expectations, and there may be times where people need to be honest and open with criticism. In that same scenario, the leader needs to also be able to have the important conversations about expectations and improving the team (no matter what type of leadership team).
What would you add?
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I had the opportunity to lead a conversation on Growth and Fixed Mindsets based off the work of Carol Dweck at Parent Camp. The parents who participated in the session were very interested in this concept and how it relates to their children. The conversation began with a few general questions to consider:
Are we born smart or stupid?
Is intelligence fixed from birth?
Do we have ‘built-in’ talents as a baby?
Or… do talents, abilities and intelligence itself grow from experience?
We then reviewed the concept of Fixed vs. Growth mindset and how that plays out at home and at school. I showed this clip from the Khan Academy that really helped to drive the conversation:
I shared a few stories from my tenure as Middle School Guidance Counselor. For instance, I used to deal with a lot of students who were Gifted and Talented in Elementary School yet they struggled in Middle School. As I was sharing the stories, I looked at one of the parents and I could tell she was having an “Aha!” moment. Afterwards a few parents continued the conversation and I asked the women about her epiphany. She told me I was describing her son who is in Gifted and Talented and doesn’t really try that hard. When faced with challenges (in this case it was reading and homework) he always wants to give up. According to her, it appears as though her child already has a fixed mindset because of how easy math is for him. I suggested to start praising his process, not the end product.
So how does this play out in school? What the research from Carol Dweck shows is that we have to praise the process not the product. For instance, if a student gets a 100 on a test, as a parent or teacher you would want to say,”You must have worked really hard for that or you are putting in a lot of effort” as opposed to saying, “You are so smart!” If you praise the process, you will be creating a life-long learner, and someone who value growth.
How are you going to change the conversation?
I went into a class the other day and the kids showed me a flyer (the image to the left). I was curious about it so I asked if I could read it. I was hooked by the first two lines…. Houston, we have a problem! We attempted our project once, but we are learning from our mistakes. We will be trying to build a house out of newspaper for our group of 4 friends to fit in. We are only able to use newspapers and tape. We are asking for newspaper and tape to help gather enough material for our next attempt. Ask your child about the 1st attempt and failure!
I think you need to read those first two lines again…..
Houston, we have a problem! We attempted our project once, but we are learning from our mistakes.
In implementing a Genius Hour project for the third grade students, the teachers acknowledged that they failed and had to abort mission. They are reaching out to the parents for more supplies, and more importantly they encouraged the parents to ask their child about the first attempt and failure. Wow, just Wow!
There are so many positive aspects to this simple little flyer. The lessons that the kids are learning (and being modeled by the teachers) is exactly what we need to see in education. Acknowledge when something didn’t work, and plan to do it better! It is perfectly OK to FAIL!!!!!!!!!!!!!
In the meantime, if you could send us newspapers and tape, the 3rd grade would appreciate it 🙂
501 South 3rd Street
Millville, NJ 08332
Anyone who donates will be featured in the Genius Hour project and could win the new #rmbacon t-shirt!
Last we implemented PLCs to address the areas in our school that needed improvement. Based on the feedback from the teachers, who for the most part enjoyed the PLCs, we made a few changes. In the process, teachers drove the conversation to get us to the next level(I am calling PLC 2.0). Some of the feedback I received was that the PLCs last year were too broad (we used the vertical alignment approach through subject matter) and that they were not meaningful (how does this relate to me?). All of this “data” helped me use my resources to improve the process. I had to LISTEN…. So, then what did I do?
First, I sought out experts in my PLN. I talked with numerous educators in various states about how they organize PLCs. We talked about the similarities and differences regarding the schedule, data, and mission/visions/values of our schools. Then I did some reading and researching on sites such as All Things PLC, ASCD, and YouTube. I found some local experts and attended a workshop at the EIRC. Along the way, I would check in with our teachers to share what I had learned. It all started coming together.
This year we didn’t kick off PLCs in September (hard to schedule with the gazillion opening activities and precious little time) and I wanted the teachers to have time to know their kids and collect data. What made PLCs 2.0 in our school different? Using the Reflective Practice approach (Plan, implement, reflect, change and repeat) we addressed the concerns from last year, and began down the path again…. together.
Here is what we did:
- Re-focused on what an effective PLC should look like
- Re-established norms
- Ensured that everyone had a role
- Improved the reporting mechanism
- Set new goals for teams
- Made the PLCs grade level focused
- Organized our Year at a Glance to provide sequence to the assessment process
- Improved our data collection, reporting and analyzing by creating a much needed Data Dashboard
- Re-allocated more time
One of the most important things I learned along the way about effective PLCs is the role of the principal. As a principal, I need to be the support mechanism that allows teachers to accomplish their tasks. I need to continue to ask, “How can I help?”
How are you doing with your PLCs?
Unless you are living in a bubble (no pun intended) your teachers are probably feeling deflated? Why? Well, you need to talk to them because I am sure they will tell you that teaching has changed. For instance, as the accountability measures have increased, so has the workload, and the demands. Yet, the issues that are out of their control have increased immensely. What to do as a school leader?
As I reflect on this subject, I think it is important to talk about. I have blogged a great deal about the challenges that teachers are facing. School leaders play a big role in this. I think it is our duty to ensure that teachers are still having fun, being creative, and taking risks. We must keep our doors and ears open. We must listen. We must help them determine when enough is enough. We must support them if they need help with discipline, curriculum, or whatever they need. Sometimes, we need to just get out of the way.
So, what are you doing to help your teachers who are feeling deflated?