The sweet and sour

yinYangThere is an old adage I reflect on quite often…  you can’t enjoy the sweet without the sour.

 

The sweet and sour aspects of leadership.

 

Recently, my co-hosts on the PrincipalCast  Podcast discussed how being a principal was the greatest job in the world. We were able to spend 45 minutes discussing how awesome it is being a principal, the rewards, and the responsibility.  I’m sure we could have went 45 more minutes discussing this topic. It was easy! But how do we really know the rewards without truly understanding the challenges. The sour aspects of being a principal.

 

For starters, being a principal is mentally and physically tasking. We work long hours, are required to wear many hats, and deal with a range of stakeholders who all have a say in the direction of the school. We are required to be part of a system, and many struggle with the fact that “our” school is not “our” school. If we are in public schools, then we have a Board of Education, State and Federal Department of Education that have a huge impact on our school. In the private education world, principals have Boards of Trustees, dioceses, and other governing bodies to consider.

 

It is often understated that principals are dealing with the pride and joy of parents. I’m sure it’s not hard to visualize the parent who couldn’t imagine their son/daughter engaging in behavior that would cause them to end up in your office. Or the parent that has waved the white flag even though their child is only 8 years old. Parents express their concerns with the school in many ways, and I am sure you have hear of the various “you can’t make this up” stories.

 

Principals are faced with many challenges that require a deeper understanding of the human condition. You never really understand the complexities of this until your sitting at your desk and someone comes in and closes the door because they need to “talk.” These closed door talks could range from needing to get out of work early to classroom management struggles, questions about an observations, or even to cancer, or even death of a family member. Life happens and teachers need the principal to be understanding, and aware of their staff’s situations. It always amazes me the responsibilities that are piled on teachers outside of the school day.

 

Accidents happen, mistakes are made, disagreements and challenges are thrown are way every day. Many on the outside walk by the principal’s office and say, “I would never want that job” while others say, “I could do that job so much better” and still others say, “I want to do what I can to make their job more enjoyable.”

 

Still we press on.

 

Sweet

and

Sour

 

 

 

 

The Greatest Job in Education

principalcastTonight on the PrincipalCast podcast we will be discussion the greatest job in education…. the principal…

Why is the principal the greatest job in education?

What do principal’s do all day?

Do we really need principals?

Join us for the discussion on why we feel the principal is the greatest job in education….

 

We (Jessica Johnson, Theresa Stager and Dr. Spike Cook) love our jobs because we get to:

  • Work with dedicated professionals who are committed to educating our youth
  • Interact with students (learners) who have the capacity to transcend obstacles and love coming to school
  • Collaborate with community members to improve the area surrounding the school
  • Watch students collaborate, question and connect
  • Listen to students creating music
  • Watch students creating art
  • Provide the opportunity for learning new ideas
  • Be the cheerleader, coach, leader, and model for an entire school

 

Want to add to the list? Challenge it?

 

Tune in tonight to www.teachercast.tv 

 

 

What time is it?

What time is it?

If I asked that question at home, my children would probably yell, “Adventure Time!” At work, I ask myself that question all the time (no pun intended).

source: czarto.com

source: czarto.com

 

There are a lot of old adages and cliche’s about time and I love everyone of them… I’m sure you have heard them too:
“Time swiftly passes”
“Time is of the essence”
“Time flies when your having fun”
“Time is an illusion”

 

With the increasing demands on school leaders, I think that this post is timely (pun again). How do we spend our time?

 

I struggle with time. I am not a morning person, but I know it is important to be at work early (although no one seems to care how late I stay). Throughout the day I am constantly juggling the responsibilities of observing, walking through classrooms, connecting with other educators, talking to students and parents. My time is precious. …. I can’t be everywhere all the time (pun number ?)

 

How do I manage my time? I have become reliant on my Outlook calendar. I have my calendar on my laptop, iPhone, iPad and anywhere else I need it. Someone asks me to do something or be somewhere, I usually whip out my iPhone to check my availability. I know I only have so much time (pun number ?).

 I have to make time to learn new time management tools

source: www.chicagonow.com

source: www.chicagonow.com

My PrincipalCast co-hosts and I just did a podcast on Time Management. Although the session was not recorded (due to technical glitches) we had an amazing discussion on technological breakthroughs that can assist educators with time management.

 

In preparing for the show, I read a wonderful post by Tony Sinanis who ended up stopping by to chat. In Put What Matters First, Tony discusses how he “prioritizes” rather than “manages time.”He is student-centered and remains steadfast that students are first on his list of priorities!

 

Jessica Johnson shared how she prioritizes her time. She uses the Four Quadrants of Time Management, a matrix popularized by Stephen Covey in his book 7 Habits of Highly Successful People. She also uses BILT (Before I leave today) to ensure she accomplishes her tasks before heading home.

 

I shared one of my favorite books, Eat That Frog, by Brian Tracy. In the book, readers are provided with 21 time saving tips to make sure that priorities do not get out of control. Here is a video that illustrates the main tenets of the book.

Other resources that were shared on the podcast:

Paperless Principal by Jethro Jones

Want to lose the 3 ring binder? Try Livebinders 

Want to connect with people without email? Printing? Try Google Docs 

Quickly becoming the best place to explore, share and contribute educational content… Educlipper

 

Like sands through the hour glass, so are the days of our lives

 

 

 

 

From Vulnerability to Action

source:www.kidpresident.com

source:www.kidpresident.com

In my previous post The Importance of Showing Vulnerability, I discussed how I was not a fan of “know it alls” or folks who were not humble in their interaction with others. Someone who had read the blog asked me this question (which lead to this post), ” Spike, I understand the concept of showing vulnerability, but don’t people take advantage of that? Also, what if you really know something? Isn’t it important to speak up?” All great questions….

 

Although there is power in being vulnerable, it is very important to ensure that others do not take advantage. For instance, you are in a meeting and people are arguing over something, and you know that you could add insight… It’s important for you to take action! In many regards, actions speak louder than words.

 

Here are my suggestions for turning vulnerability into action:

  • Turn questions or problems into action – Volunteer to get involved or to get a project started. Sometimes it is hard to add things to you plate, but if helps you or your organization then you will ultimately benefit.
  • Stand up for yourself when you feel others are being inappropriate – Know it alls, bullies and passive aggressive people are detrimental to organizations. Don’t let them speak for you or others.
  • Use your resources – If you don’t know the answer, make sure to look it up. Ask trusted collegues for advice, research, plan and put something into action.

Actually, I think Kid President’s suggestions are better than mine…. Enjoy!

 

A special guest on the next PrincipalCast Podcast…

principalcast

Have you heard the PrincipalCast Podcast? We’ve recorded 5 episodes now on the following topics:

#1 Social Media and Facebook

#2 Social Media in the School District

#3 You know you’re a connected educator when…

#4 Observing and Evaluating Teachers in the 21st Century 

#5 Evaluations and Observations

You can find PrincipalCast on iTunes or on Stitcher/Beyond Pod for Android.  If you watch us live (Sundays at 8:30pm CST) on teachercast.tv you can also chat with us in the live chat box or using the twitter hashtag #principalcast.

This Sunday we are inviting our first guest to the show and we are going all out by having Todd Whitaker join us.  We are excited to talk to him about his newest book coming out this month, The Secret Solution. Do you have a question you want us to ask him? Share your question with us HERE.

The importance of showing vulnerability

17029_qutote_albert_einstein_quote1Do you know a “know-it-all?” You know, the person who always has an opinion, never listens, seen it all, knows so much information… I am quite sure that a “know-it-all” is lurking in your midst… I’m actually surprised that we still have “know-it-alls” because of the ever changing nature of information.

 

I decided to do some research for this post (because I don’t know everything). First, I wanted to see what the “great” minds had to say about this concept of knowledge.

 

Here is what I found:

The more I learn, the more I learn how little I know. Socrates

The more you know, the less you understand. Lao-Tse

To appear to be on the inside and know more than others about what is going on is a great temptation for most people. It is a rare person who is willing to seem to know less than he does. Eleanor Roosevelt

If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself.  Albert Einstein

Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance. Confucius

Nobody knows enough, but many know too much. Marie Von Ebner-Eschenbach:

 

I like people who show their vulnerability. Sounds like the highly regarded minds thought the same thing.

 

Then, I did some research to see how information (and the universe) is growing in the 21st century.

 

Information

According to the Worldwide Information Growth Ticker from the Digital Universe study revealed that we have created 1,987, 262, 613, 861, 770,000,000 bytes of information since January 2011!

 

Universe

According to www.space.com, “Space itself is pulling apart at the seams, expanding at a rate of 74.3 plus or minus 2.1 kilometers (46.2 plus or minus 1.3 miles) per second per megaparsec (a megaparsec is roughly 3 million light-years).”

 

If you can keep up with all of that, good luck.

 

My advice for dealing with others in the 21st century is simple.

  • Show your vulnerability
  • Be humble and graceful in your interactions with other
  • Listen
  • Ask questions

 

By doing this, you will end up learning much more, and resonating with people in a deeper way.

 

And by the way, there is no way you know-it-all!

Micro-managing vs. sweating the small stuff?

In my previous post, We need to get down from the balcony and sweat the small stuff, I reflected on my evolving understanding of leadership in terms of being more connected with the details of student learning. Thankfully, the post initiated conversations both online and in person. I love it when a post can spark discussion!

source: https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&docid=B8kFPlGYq4n55M&tbnid=oZhFxm4QJ2GsLM:&ved=0CAQQjB0&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.kraniumhr.com%2Fwhat-is-micromanagement%2F&ei=b-RVUpXvN_a-4AOR2YGIAQ&psig=AFQjCNHrV16h16qZQv94715rCS7VBgf9iA&ust=1381447090761891

source: http://www.kraniumhr.com/

I felt like I needed to revisit some of the concepts in sweating the small stuff. My interpretation of the small stuff is that we have to place importance on those things that move the organization forward. Some of these specific details such as the teaching standards, learning needs of students and importance of espoused theories vs. theories-in-use. In one of the follow up conversations, I was able to explain myself much clearer. One of the readers wondered if I was going to “micro-manage” more. Ugh, I never want to be viewed as a micro-manager. I stressed to this person that I was not going to become a micro-manager.

 

Then, as reflected more, I really thought about this question….

 

So what’s the real difference between micro- managing and sweating the small stuff?

 

 Here are some common attributes of a micro-manager:

  • They can nor or do not like to delegate
  • They spend time overseeing the process
  • They like to place value on little details as opposed to the bigger picture
  • They do not like people to make their own decisions

 

In contrast (or comparison) here are the attributes of sweating the small stuff:

  • The details of a project are important and can lead to a more effective outcome
  • The process should be followed and people should be held accountable for what they say they will do
  • Problems exist, and should be addressed before they become bigger
  • Ask the question…why?

why

As an employee I do not like to be micro-managed! Not sure who really does and I will not micro-manage as a leader. As a leader, I will sweat the details, ensure that things get accomplished, and if not, I will ask….why?

Dig the well before you are thirsty ~ Chinese Proverb

We need to get down from the balcony and sweat the small stuff

source: http://www.fastcompany.com/1798504/box-ceo-aaron-levie-create-something-exceptional-do-sweat-small-stuff

source: http://www.fastcompany.com/1798504/box-ceo-aaron-levie-create-something-exceptional-do-sweat-small-stuff

How many of you read the book, “Don’t sweat the small stuff?” I did and I agreed with it…. Until I started my third year as a principal. Why the shift? Glad you asked…

Over the past 10 or 15 years the message to administrators has been something like this…. Don’t be a manager, be a leader; stay in the balcony so you can see the orchestra; empower people and give them  freedom to work… All sounds like great advice, but what happens when the results from the organization are not what you expect? Are teachers and administrators matching their espoused (what the say) with their theories-in-use (what they actually do)? These are the questions that I am wrestling with as an educational leader in the 21st century.

So how will I lead differently? My plan this year is to pay more attention to the details. As I enter classrooms I will be looking, listening and interacting differently. I will be looking for standards-based instruction, listening for common language among grade levels and asking higher order questions of the staff and the students. I will be placing more emphasis on lesson plans and checking plans against the implementation of those plans.

 

Are we doing what we say we are doing?

 

I want to know why more then ever.

Introducing the PrincipalCast Podcast

This post is by my friend, and twitter mom….  Jessica Johnson

principal castPodcasts have been a great tool for my personal professional learning, because it’s so easy to download and just listen while I’m getting ready in the morning, cleaning the house, walking the dog or in the car. I share with you several of the podcasts that I listen to on my Podcasts Page. For several years I enjoyed listening to the Practical Principals podcast, was sad that it discontinued and that I couldn’t really find any other podcast with principals that filled that void.

Principal Theresa Stager invited me to help her start a Principals Podcast, which we also invited Principal Dr. Spike Cook in on. Our first live podcast was quite interesting with many tech glitches, so Jeff Bradbury at TeacherCast.net offered to pick us up under his broadcasting network.

You can now find the #PrincipalCast Podcast live every Sunday night at 8:30 PM CST on teachercast.tv. You can join in the discussion on the chat box of that site or tweet using #principalcast in your tweet.

Each week we will be using the following format for our agenda:

  • What’s been happening?
  • Question from the newbie (new principal) or a hot topic for principals.
  • Something awesome
  • Keeping Current
  • Principals to Follow on Twitter

You can find the #Principalcast Podcast at principalcast.net Other ways to follow/connect with the podcast:

  • Email info@principalcast.com
  • Use the hashtag #principalcast on Twitter
  • Follow @PrincipalCast on Twitter

Who is going to be your Sadia?

keynote 2013I was chosen by my school district to deliver the Keynote Address for our Opening Day Extravaganza. My superintendent wanted me to share my insights on innovation. I spent many hours writing, editing my speech, as well as watching TED videos for inspiration.

Ironically, my inspiration did not come from the TED videos… I was inspired by a 10 year old girl who was brave enough to take some risks and think outside the box. We don’t always need the experts to inspire us, we can learn about innovation from our students. So I shared my story about Sadia.

 

Here are the notes from the section on Sadia:

  • I was chosen to give the keynote on innovation, but I want to caution you that I am not the most innovative person in this district. I am probably a middle of the pack.

  • Remember the trailer? Since last year I have made several imovie trailers. I always say it’s the best 4.99 I ever spent on an app

My idea of Innovation

  • Imovie trailers are easy, quick and clean. Simple right?

  • One day my guidance counselor brought her daughter to school. Sadia is 10 years old and is going into 5th grade. She was in my office with her ipad. I asked her what cool apps or cool things she does with her ipad. She showed me a video she had been working on for the last few weeks. My jaw dropped. I begged her to finish it and I told her I wanted to share her video to a bunch of educators. Her mom told me she worked tirelessly on the video over the summer. She finished it the weekend before the Keynote.

  • I was amazed and I think you will be too

Sadia’s idea of Innovation

  • Sadia and the rest of her generation are ready to flourish. And guess what? They don’t need us to teach them everything. They like to figure things out and when they can’t figure it out they turn to …. You guessed it… Social media.. facebook, twitter, instagram, youtube, tumbler, you name it….

  • Sadia is an entrepreneur

  • She has dreams

  • She has ideas

  • She has passion

  • Who is ready to step on those dreams, extinguish the passion, curtail the ideas?

  • Not me… and I am sure not you! That’s why we have to let people take chances. There have been a lot of people in my life that have allowed me to take chances.

How Sadia impacted an entire school’s welcome back video…

Who are you going to learn from this year?

Who is going to be your Sadia?