Connected Principals Posts

Working with a group of administrators in a workshop, the participants seemed to be evenly split into districts that were either “1 to 1” (1 laptop/tablet per students) and those…

Read More Finding the Good Problems

It’s ASCD weekend!  ASCD is a global community of educators dedicated to excellence in learning, teaching, and leading. Thier innovative solutions empower educators to promote the success of each child. They’re also one of the BIG places I turn to for my own professional learning. From books to their Educational Leadership magazine…they are a great resource. […]

Read More Can’t get to #ASCD16 this year? Have no fear! #thefirstyear

Outside of school, most people apply learning across disciplines, scenarios, and experiences. For a majority of our lives as students, we are taught in a system that creates blocks of…

Read More Learning Is Irregular

The Apollo 13 mission is one of my favorite stories of endurance.

Image Source: AlanBeanGallery.com
Image Source: AlanBeanGallery.com

On April 11, 1970 when Jim Lovell, Jack Swigert, and Fred Haise set off for their mission to the moon at speeds equivalent to 20,000 mph, they had entered a realm of record-breaking proportions.

When they were approximately 205,000 miles away from Earth, an oxygen tank exploded, and their mission to moon was immediately transformed to one of survival. Read More Remembering Apollo 13: Overcoming the Insurmountable





Being a teacher is challenging work. A recent blog post on TeachThought reports that on average teachers make 1500 educational decisions a day. And these decisions, when skillfully made, have the power to create amazing learning experiences for students. You are never just a teacher. This is complex work.




And it’s work that matters. Teachers have great influence on their students. It is not a responsibility to be taken lightly. Your words and actions can be life changing for your students.

But how do you make the greatest impact possible? How do you find your teaching superpowers? Every teacher has a unique set of gifts to bring to their work as an educator. The qualities you have that allow you to have the greatest impact are your superpowers. Here are four ways to build on your gifts and become the very best teacher you can be.






1. Focus on your strengths. No one is great at everything. To be our best we need to focus on our strengths and compensate for our weaknesses. Too many teachers feel ineffectual or less than because they aren’t like the teacher down the hall. They compare themselves to others and feel they don’t measure up. They may try to be like another teacher they admire. That’s not a bad thing. We definitely learn from emulating others, but we can’t sacrifice our strengths to be like someone else.






2. Exercise your gifts. Find the things that really make you and your students feel energized, curious, and fully engaged. Find what you do well, and do it over and over again. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t also be trying new things, but it’s wise to regularly practice the things you do well. Your students will thank you. If you are a good storyteller, use stories. If you are great at asking deep questions, do more of that. If you have a great sense of humor, work that into your lessons. We all have unique gifts that can be powerful. With practice, these gifts become your teaching superpowers.

3. Have the courage to be different. Unhappiness comes when you try to be like everyone else rather than embracing the unique person that you are. Again, it’s unhealthy to compare yourself to others. Instead, compete only with yourself. Set goals and compare how you perform compared to what you set out to do. Work to be better tomorrow than you are today. Bring your passions into your teaching and you will have more energy, be more effective, and have more enthusiasm than ever before.

4. Learn to cope with criticism. Have enough confidence in who you are that you can listen to others and be open to change without feeling you have to agree with their viewpoint or attain their approval. There will always be critics who try to pull you down. Learn to distinguish these from the voices of those who want to help you get better. They will offer constructive feedback that can help you grow. And always remember that even if you are striving to be your best, you will still encounter criticism. 



If you are doing these things consistently over time and still don’t find the effectiveness and joy in teaching that you desire, it could be you need to make a change. Consider moving to a different position or a different grade level. Or maybe look at working in a different school. You want to feel you are making an impact and reaching your full potential as an educator. 



This great video from Daniel Pink offers two questions to consider each day to find your purpose and find your teaching superpowers.




Two questions that can change your life from Daniel Pink on Vimeo.



Question: What others ideas do you have for becoming your best? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook.

      

Read More Finding Your Teaching Superpowers





Being a teacher is challenging work. A recent blog post on TeachThought reports that on average teachers make 1500 educational decisions a day. And these decisions, when skillfully made, have the power to create amazing learning experiences for students. You are never just a teacher. This is complex work.




And it’s work that matters. Teachers have great influence on their students. It is not a responsibility to be taken lightly. Your words and actions can be life changing for your students.

But how do you make the greatest impact possible? How do you find your teaching superpowers? Every teacher has a unique set of gifts to bring to their work as an educator. The qualities you have that allow you to have the greatest impact are your superpowers. Here are four ways to build on your gifts and become the very best teacher you can be.






1. Focus on your strengths. No one is great at everything. To be our best we need to focus on our strengths and compensate for our weaknesses. Too many teachers feel ineffectual or less than because they aren’t like the teacher down the hall. They compare themselves to others and feel they don’t measure up. They may try to be like another teacher they admire. That’s not a bad thing. We definitely learn from emulating others, but we can’t sacrifice our strengths to be like someone else.






2. Exercise your gifts. Find the things that really make you and your students feel energized, curious, and fully engaged. Find what you do well, and do it over and over again. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t also be trying new things, but it’s wise to regularly practice the things you do well. Your students will thank you. If you are a good storyteller, use stories. If you are great at asking deep questions, do more of that. If you have a great sense of humor, work that into your lessons. We all have unique gifts that can be powerful. With practice, these gifts become your teaching superpowers.

3. Have the courage to be different. Unhappiness comes when you try to be like everyone else rather than embracing the unique person that you are. Again, it’s unhealthy to compare yourself to others. Instead, compete only with yourself. Set goals and compare how you perform compared to what you set out to do. Work to be better tomorrow than you are today. Bring your passions into your teaching and you will have more energy, be more effective, and have more enthusiasm than ever before.

4. Learn to cope with criticism. Have enough confidence in who you are that you can listen to others and be open to change without feeling you have to agree with their viewpoint or attain their approval. There will always be critics who try to pull you down. Learn to distinguish these from the voices of those who want to help you get better. They will offer constructive feedback that can help you grow. And always remember that even if you are striving to be your best, you will still encounter criticism. 



If you are doing these things consistently over time and still don’t find the effectiveness and joy in teaching that you desire, it could be you need to make a change. Consider moving to a different position or a different grade level. Or maybe look at working in a different school. You want to feel you are making an impact and reaching your full potential as an educator. 



This great video from Daniel Pink offers two questions to consider each day to find your purpose and find your teaching superpowers.




Two questions that can change your life from Daniel Pink on Vimeo.



Question: What others ideas do you have for becoming your best? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook.

      

Read More Finding Your Teaching Superpowers





I’ve been reading Good to Great by Jim Collins. It’s one of the top business books ever, but it has so much to offer for educators and really for everyone. The principles apply to life in a variety of ways.



In the book, Collins shares the story of Merck, the pharmaceutical giant. At one point in its history, the company gave away millions of doses of a drug that cured river blindness. The disease was caused by a parasitic worm that ultimately caused blindness in victims. 



The point of the story was that Merck didn’t profit from distributing the drug charitably to remote places like the Amazon. Collins shared the story to illustrate that Merck had established a purpose for the company beyond profits.



Back in 1950, George Merck, son of the founder, explained the company’s philosophy:

We try to remember that medicine is for the patient…It is not for the profits. The profits follow, and if we have remembered that, they have never failed to appear. The better we have remembered it, the larger they have been.

Collins described how the great companies they studied all shared a commitment to core values aside from the desired end resultprofits. The companies all had different core values, but they were consistent in building these into the organization and preserving these values over time.



So how does this apply to schools? In recent years, schools have felt immense pressure to produce ever increasing standardized test scores. It seems that schools were being defined almost exclusively by how well students were doing on achievement tests. 



As a result, many schools lost sight of developing core values other than creating higher test scores. But raising test scores is not a vision for learning. It is not at the heart of what a school is or should be. We have, to an extent, created an identity crisis in education by allowing too much of our value to be defined by high stakes standardized tests.



But the purpose of my post is not to rail against standardized tests. In more recent days, it seems that policy makers have taken small steps to reduce the amount of testing and its exclusive role in defining successful schools. That’s all good news.



But what are we doing to establish core values in our schools? Every school has a mission statement, and most of them are quite alike. But do the mission statements really reflect the culture of your organization? What is it you want your school to do better than anyone else? What are your core values?



I’ve adapted the words of George Merck to education. It’s a brief statement about some of my core beliefs.

We try to remember that our school is about learning, and for the students. It’s about creating better opportunities. It’s about building on strengths and ultimately building stronger people. It is not about higher test scores. However, if we create a future-driven, learner-centered school, higher test scores will likely follow. But if we focus on test scores, we miss the mark badly and will likely fail many of our students.

I would like to see schools think deeply about the outcomes they are seeking for their students. I would like to see students, parents, business leaders, and higher education have a voice in the discussion. What do we really want for our bottom line? It’s obviously not profits. And it’s not standardized test scores either.



Every community has different needs and every school has different strengths, so I think finding a purpose and establishing core values should be closely tied to the individual school. But instead of focusing on outcomes like graduation rate, test scores, or attendance, maybe some schools would adopt one or more of these core values?



What if a school chose to make ending poverty a reality in its community?



What if a school’s purpose was to find a cure for cancer? Or solve some other pressing problem plaguing humanity.



What if a school’s purpose was to make learning as customized and personal as possible for students?



What if a core value was to make learning as creative as possible?



What if a core value was to construct learning on a foundation of each student’s passions?



What if a school involved students as co-creators of their own learning?



Those are just a few ideas. I think the possibilities are endless. Instead of the same old mission statements, wouldn’t it be great to see schools finding a unique mission to drive action and really make a difference in the lives of their students and in the world outside of the school?



Question: What are the core values you would want your school to embrace? What can your school do better than anyone else? I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment below or share on Twitter or Facebook.

      

Read More Our Mission is Not Higher Test Scores





I’ve been reading Good to Great by Jim Collins. It’s one of the top business books ever, but it has so much to offer for educators and really for everyone. The principles apply to life in a variety of ways.



In the book, Collins shares the story of Merck, the pharmaceutical giant. At one point in its history, the company gave away millions of doses of a drug that cured river blindness. The disease was caused by a parasitic worm that ultimately caused blindness in victims. 



The point of the story was that Merck didn’t profit from distributing the drug charitably to remote places like the Amazon. Collins shared the story to illustrate that Merck had established a purpose for the company beyond profits.



Back in 1950, George Merck, son of the founder, explained the company’s philosophy:

We try to remember that medicine is for the patient…It is not for the profits. The profits follow, and if we have remembered that, they have never failed to appear. The better we have remembered it, the larger they have been.

Collins described how the great companies they studied all shared a commitment to core values aside from the desired end resultprofits. The companies all had different core values, but they were consistent in building these into the organization and preserving these values over time.



So how does this apply to schools? In recent years, schools have felt immense pressure to produce ever increasing standardized test scores. It seems that schools were being defined almost exclusively by how well students were doing on achievement tests. 



As a result, many schools lost sight of developing core values other than creating higher test scores. But raising test scores is not a vision for learning. It is not at the heart of what a school is or should be. We have, to an extent, created an identity crisis in education by allowing too much of our value to be defined by high stakes standardized tests.



But the purpose of my post is not to rail against standardized tests. In more recent days, it seems that policy makers have taken small steps to reduce the amount of testing and its exclusive role in defining successful schools. That’s all good news.



But what are we doing to establish core values in our schools? Every school has a mission statement, and most of them are quite alike. But do the mission statements really reflect the culture of your organization? What is it you want your school to do better than anyone else? What are your core values?



I’ve adapted the words of George Merck to education. It’s a brief statement about some of my core beliefs.

We try to remember that our school is about learning, and for the students. It’s about creating better opportunities. It’s about building on strengths and ultimately building stronger people. It is not about higher test scores. However, if we create a future-driven, learner-centered school, higher test scores will likely follow. But if we focus on test scores, we miss the mark badly and will likely fail many of our students.

I would like to see schools think deeply about the outcomes they are seeking for their students. I would like to see students, parents, business leaders, and higher education have a voice in the discussion. What do we really want for our bottom line? It’s obviously not profits. And it’s not standardized test scores either.



Every community has different needs and every school has different strengths, so I think finding a purpose and establishing core values should be closely tied to the individual school. But instead of focusing on outcomes like graduation rate, test scores, or attendance, maybe some schools would adopt one or more of these core values?



What if a school chose to make ending poverty a reality in its community?



What if a school’s purpose was to find a cure for cancer? Or solve some other pressing problem plaguing humanity.



What if a school’s purpose was to make learning as customized and personal as possible for students?



What if a core value was to make learning as creative as possible?



What if a core value was to construct learning on a foundation of each student’s passions?



What if a school involved students as co-creators of their own learning?



Those are just a few ideas. I think the possibilities are endless. Instead of the same old mission statements, wouldn’t it be great to see schools finding a unique mission to drive action and really make a difference in the lives of their students and in the world outside of the school?



Question: What are the core values you would want your school to embrace? What can your school do better than anyone else? I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment below or share on Twitter or Facebook.

      

Read More Our Mission is Not Higher Test Scores

One of the things I encourage teachers to do when they consider the impact of their actions on student learning is to look at themselves through the eyes of the…

Read More Leading with Empathy in Schools





Brent Catlett (@catlett1) and Brad MacLaughlin (@IsdBrad) led a great session at #edcamplibertyWhat Great Leaders Do Differently in 2016. I really enjoyed the discussion. It was everything EdCamp should be. There was enthusiastic participation from the room. Lots of great ideas were shared. 



In fact, several ideas were actually applauded. How cool is it that educators are gathering on a Saturday morning to discuss leadership and cheer each other on? The session gave me plenty of inspiration for this post.



So what do great leaders do differently in 2016?



1. They lead themselves first. Instead of focusing on managing others, they lead by example and model the qualities they would like to see in others.

If I am going lead anyone, I have to lead myself first via @IsdBrad #edcampliberty

— Brent Catlett (@catlett1) March 12, 2016



2. Great leaders take risks. They view failure as an opportunity to learn and grow. Great leaders make others feel safe to try something new. They understand setbacks.



3. They come from every corner of the school (students, teachers, support staff, etc.not just admin). Leadership is more about disposition than position. Great leaders help develop new leaders and share leadership roles with others.

As a principal, I realize the best chance of sustainable, meaningful change only happens with strong teacher leadership. #edcampliberty

— David Geurin (@DavidGeurin) March 12, 2016



4. Great leaders are flexible. They see problems as opportunities. They are comfortable with ambiguity.



5. They are present. The entire school is their office. Traditional leaders might manage from behind a desk, but 2016 leaders can work from anywhere.

School leaders need to be visible and available for both teachers and students. #edcampliberty

— Scott Miller (@Miller_BHS) March 12, 2016



6. Great leaders are instructional leaders. They are out of the office for a reasonto be supportive of learning.



7. They are authentic. They admit mistakes. They are self-aware. They know their strengths and weaknesses. 



8. Great leaders are digital leaders. They recognize what it takes to succeed in a digital world. They are modeling the use of digital tools.



9. They are quick to give credit. And even quicker to shoulder blame.




Great leaders share the credit and shoulder the blame. Tweet this image.



10. Great leaders know their stuff. They are lead learners. They remain curious and are always seeking to learn.



11. They listen. And strive to understand. They lead with empathy. They lead with heart.

Leaders learning alongside teachers impacts change in school systems! It is about listening and the conversation! @catlett1 #edcampliberty

— Tracey Kracht (@TraceyKracht) March 12, 2016



12. Great leaders help others reach their goals. They don’t impose their own goals or organizational goals. They start with helping individuals grow.



13. They generate enthusiasm. They have a great attitude, have great energy, and inspire others to be stronger and more enthusiastic too.



A common theme seemed to be that schools should be ‘flat’ organizations instead of hierarchies. And leaders should be working alongside other team members, in classrooms and hallways, and not separate from them. We need more great leaders for 2016 and beyond. Judging by the group at #edcampliberty this shouldn’t be a problem!



Question: What are your thoughts on great leaders for 2016? What do they do differently? I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment below or share on Twitter or Facebook.








      

Read More What Great Leaders Do Differently 2016





Brent Catlett (@catlett1) and Brad MacLaughlin (@IsdBrad) led a great session at #edcamplibertyWhat Great Leaders Do Differently in 2016. I really enjoyed the discussion. It was everything EdCamp should be. There was enthusiastic participation from the room. Lots of great ideas were shared. 



In fact, several ideas were actually applauded. How cool is it that educators are gathering on a Saturday morning to discuss leadership and cheer each other on? The session gave me plenty of inspiration for this post.



So what do great leaders do differently in 2016?



1. They lead themselves first. Instead of focusing on managing others, they lead by example and model the qualities they would like to see in others.

If I am going lead anyone, I have to lead myself first via @IsdBrad #edcampliberty

— Brent Catlett (@catlett1) March 12, 2016



2. Great leaders take risks. They view failure as an opportunity to learn and grow. Great leaders make others feel safe to try something new. They understand setbacks.



3. They come from every corner of the school (students, teachers, support staff, etc.not just admin). Leadership is more about disposition than position. Great leaders help develop new leaders and share leadership roles with others.

As a principal, I realize the best chance of sustainable, meaningful change only happens with strong teacher leadership. #edcampliberty

— David Geurin (@DavidGeurin) March 12, 2016



4. Great leaders are flexible. They see problems as opportunities. They are comfortable with ambiguity.



5. They are present. The entire school is their office. Traditional leaders might manage from behind a desk, but 2016 leaders can work from anywhere.

School leaders need to be visible and available for both teachers and students. #edcampliberty

— Scott Miller (@Miller_BHS) March 12, 2016



6. Great leaders are instructional leaders. They are out of the office for a reasonto be supportive of learning.



7. They are authentic. They admit mistakes. They are self-aware. They know their strengths and weaknesses. 



8. Great leaders are digital leaders. They recognize what it takes to succeed in a digital world. They are modeling the use of digital tools.



9. They are quick to give credit. And even quicker to shoulder blame.




Great leaders share the credit and shoulder the blame. Tweet this image.



10. Great leaders know their stuff. They are lead learners. They remain curious and are always seeking to learn.



11. They listen. And strive to understand. They lead with empathy. They lead with heart.

Leaders learning alongside teachers impacts change in school systems! It is about listening and the conversation! @catlett1 #edcampliberty

— Tracey Kracht (@TraceyKracht) March 12, 2016



12. Great leaders help others reach their goals. They don’t impose their own goals or organizational goals. They start with helping individuals grow.



13. They generate enthusiasm. They have a great attitude, have great energy, and inspire others to be stronger and more enthusiastic too.



A common theme seemed to be that schools should be ‘flat’ organizations instead of hierarchies. And leaders should be working alongside other team members, in classrooms and hallways, and not separate from them. We need more great leaders for 2016 and beyond. Judging by the group at #edcampliberty this shouldn’t be a problem!



Question: What are your thoughts on great leaders for 2016? What do they do differently? I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment below or share on Twitter or Facebook.








      

Read More What Great Leaders Do Differently 2016

Listed below are some of the most popular posts from my site over the last month or so. By far, the article with the most views was 9 Ways to Make Learning Irresistible. In the post, I share ideas about finding a place of flow in the classroom, where the learner is totally engaged in the work. Check it out to see what you think about creating this type of experience for students.



The other posts were on a whole variety of topics. I tend to write about all sorts of things related to my work as a high school principal. And of course, one of the posts was from a guest blogger, Amber Dlugosh. She shared her experience getting students more fully invested in reading. We had a ton of feedback from readers, so that was exciting for sure.



If you see something here that looks interesting, I hope you’ll check it out. And be sure to leave a comment or otherwise connect with me on Twitter or Facebook. I would love to hear from you.

      

Read More Poplular Posts Everyone’s Reading #ICYMI

Listed below are some of the most popular posts from my site over the last month or so. By far, the article with the most views was 9 Ways to Make Learning Irresistible. In the post, I share ideas about finding a place of flow in the classroom, where the learner is totally engaged in the work. Check it out to see what you think about creating this type of experience for students.



The other posts were on a whole variety of topics. I tend to write about all sorts of things related to my work as a high school principal. And of course, one of the posts was from a guest blogger, Amber Dlugosh. She shared her experience getting students more fully invested in reading. We had a ton of feedback from readers, so that was exciting for sure.



If you see something here that looks interesting, I hope you’ll check it out. And be sure to leave a comment or otherwise connect with me on Twitter or Facebook. I would love to hear from you.

      

Read More Poplular Posts Everyone’s Reading #ICYMI