Tag: Commitment



In a previous post, I discussed some possible distinctions between excellence and success, and why schools should aim for excellence. When success is defined only by the end results, it doesn’t honor the process and how not all aspects of our “success” are within our control.

I think about the Olympic athletes who will compete in Rio in just a couple of weeks. Not all of them will be successful as competitors there. In fact, someone is going to finish last in every single event.

But clearly, these are excellent athletes. At least I can’t imagine any of these elite athletes not demonstrating courage, heart, determination, hard work, and discipline. One would expect every Olympic athlete must exhibit these qualities just to make it to the games. These are qualities that embody excellence.

But in spite of their excellence, not all of these athletes will experience the same level of success. The same is true of teaching and schools. Sometimes, we do our best work in situations that may not appear to result in outward success.

Below are a few quotes that capture the spirit of excellence I am seeking to describe. For students, educators, and schools, a new school year is filled with possibilities. However, we can’t always control our level of success. But we can control our level of excellence.

“Excellence in education is when we do everything we can to make sure they become everything they can.” 

–Carol Ann Tomlinson

“Excellence is not an accomplishment. It is a spirit, a never-ending process.” 

– Lawrence M. Miller

“Strive for excellence, not perfection.” 

– H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit.” 

– Aristotle



“We should not judge people by their peak of excellence; but by how far they have traveled from the point where they started.’ 

– Henry Ward Beecher

“Excellence is to do an common thing in an uncommon way.” 

– Booker T. Washington

“Strive not to be a success but rather to be of value.” 

– Albert Einstein

“If you are going to achieve excellence in big things, you develop the habit in little matters. Excellence is not an exception, it is a prevailing attitude.” 

– Colin Powell



“The secret of living a life of excellence is merely a matter of thinking thoughts of excellence. Really, it’s a matter of programming our minds with the kind of information that will set us free.”

– Charles R. Swindoll

“Mediocrity always attacks excellence.”

– Michael Beckwith

Question: How will you demonstrate excellence as an educator? How will inspire your students to strive for excellence? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook.

Read More Top Quotes on Excellence for Educators



In a previous post, I discussed some possible distinctions between excellence and success, and why schools should aim for excellence. When success is defined only by the end results, it doesn’t honor the process and how not all aspects of our “success” are within our control.

I think about the Olympic athletes who will compete in Rio in just a couple of weeks. Not all of them will be successful as competitors there. In fact, someone is going to finish last in every single event.

But clearly, these are excellent athletes. At least I can’t imagine any of these elite athletes not demonstrating courage, heart, determination, hard work, and discipline. One would expect every Olympic athlete must exhibit these qualities just to make it to the games. These are qualities that embody excellence.

But in spite of their excellence, not all of these athletes will experience the same level of success. The same is true of teaching and schools. Sometimes, we do our best work in situations that may not appear to result in outward success.

Below are a few quotes that capture the spirit of excellence I am seeking to describe. For students, educators, and schools, a new school year is filled with possibilities. However, we can’t always control our level of success. But we can control our level of excellence.

“Excellence in education is when we do everything we can to make sure they become everything they can.” 

–Carol Ann Tomlinson

“Excellence is not an accomplishment. It is a spirit, a never-ending process.” 

– Lawrence M. Miller

“Strive for excellence, not perfection.” 

– H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit.” 

– Aristotle



“We should not judge people by their peak of excellence; but by how far they have traveled from the point where they started.’ 

– Henry Ward Beecher

“Excellence is to do an common thing in an uncommon way.” 

– Booker T. Washington

“Strive not to be a success but rather to be of value.” 

– Albert Einstein

“If you are going to achieve excellence in big things, you develop the habit in little matters. Excellence is not an exception, it is a prevailing attitude.” 

– Colin Powell



“The secret of living a life of excellence is merely a matter of thinking thoughts of excellence. Really, it’s a matter of programming our minds with the kind of information that will set us free.”

– Charles R. Swindoll

“Mediocrity always attacks excellence.”

– Michael Beckwith

Question: How will you demonstrate excellence as an educator? How will inspire your students to strive for excellence? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook.

Read More Top Quotes on Excellence for Educators

“I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.” -Stephen Covey



Making good decisions is important for all us. Whether we are working with students, with parents, or even with colleagues, our decisions ultimately define our success. And the key to better decisions is better thinking. We must never make a key decision in haste. Instead, we should consider the problem from everyone’s perspective, collect advice, and ask ourselves the questions that will help us make the wise choice.



Our decisions can have a big impact on the school, learning, and ultimately our students. So it’s very important to make the best decision possible. Of course, I often make decisions and then come to realize later that with different information or a different perspective, I might have acted differently in the situation. When we make decisions we are doing the best we can with the information we have at the time.

That’s why it’s so important to ask tough questions to make sure the decision is the best one possible with the available knowledge. I want to think through my decisions and test my thinking with questions that help me clarify my values and ensure that I’m acting in a way that is congruent with my beliefs. I want my actions to line up with what I believe and what I profess to others.



These seven questions have helped me make better decisions. I’m sure there are others you could add to the list as well, but these are the ones that I keep going back to.

1. How can I help you? 



This first question is the essence of servant leadership, the leadership approach that recognizes leadership is service and turns the old paradigm of leadership on its ear. Leadership is not about power over others, or being in charge. Instead, it is about helping followers be successful. It’s about helping others reach their goals. Robert Greenleaf coined the term servant leadership, and he described it as a type of leadership that strives to help followers be healthier, wiser, freer, and better able to be leaders themselves. Leadership does not just create followers who are dependent on the leader, but it creates new leaders who are able to extend their influence and become change agents.

So as I make decisions, I must always remember this question, “How can I help you?” This question begins with empathy, the ability to see things from another person’s viewpoint in a caring way. Sometimes I need to speak the words aloud and offer to help. Other times my actions and attitudes may demonstrate this mindset even if the words go unspoken. But my goal as a leader must always be to help those around me be the best they can be. If someone in my school needs anything I can help provide to be successful, my job as a leader is to try to move mountains to get it done.



“The secret to success is good leadership. And good leadership is about making the lives of your team members better.” -Tony Dungy.

2. Is this good enough for my own child? Would I want this for my own child? 



As a parent I will do just about anything to support the success of one of my kids. I want them to have the best opportunities possible. I want them to have the best teachers, and I want them to have experiences in school that cultivate a love of learning and lead them to find who they are as people and as learners.

As I consider situations in my school against this high standard, there are times when I realize we’re not quite there yet. There are things that need to improve to best meet the needs of students. I guess there will always be areas to improve, but I don’t find this discouraging. Instead, I find it exciting to know that we can create better opportunities and continue to grow so that every student finds optimal success.

I will share that this question has helped me to find clarity on tough decisions in the past. When there are times the task may seem too big or the obstacles insurmountable, asking this question has helped me stay focused. I’ve also used it with others in my school to help frame a situation on a personal level. Parents don’t want excuses about why something can’t be done, they want heroic action that overcomes any hindrances and ensures that their student is receiving the best.

3. Will this decision preserve or attack the dignity of a child? 



Our words are very powerful and can do great good or great harm. By considering this question, it helps me focus on the humanity of a child in each situation. We must always strive to build up and not tear down. We must treat others with dignity and respect. As Todd Whitaker writes, great teachers and principals treat every student like they are good. We must presume positive intentions and come alongside students to help them succeed. 



There is never a place in a positive school for cutting sarcasm, public humiliation, or harsh treatment of a student. Even the best teacher will occasionally make a mistake in how they treat a student, but we should work quickly to restore any break in the relationship. When everyone in a school makes decisions that consistently preserve dignity and respect, the culture will be one of mutual cooperation and shared success. I explored this topic in greater depth in a previous post.

4. As I make this decision, what am I ultimately hoping to achieve? 



Part of effective decision-making is the ability understand how decisions are going to impact the goals of the individual or organization. I may be justified and have good reasoning for a decision, but if it is going to ultimately hinder the mission of our team, maybe I need to reconsider my decision. There is great finesse and wisdom in knowing how to help others be successful. Sometimes it means overlooking things that might be personal pet-peeves of the leader.

As we make decisions, we should always consider the purpose of the decision and if a particular action will lead to the purpose being accomplished. We should also consider if the decision will do any harm beyond the main purpose. Many schools have implemented policies to try to fix a specific problem, but have unwittingly harmed culture or created distrust. You must consider if the purpose is large enough or is there a higher purpose that might be jeopardized in this decision? Effective leaders see the big-picture.



5. How does this decision impact learning in our school? 



Some decisions or situations may not affect learning greatly or at all. If this is the case, why make these decisions important in your school? We spent too long trying to solve the issue of whether students should be allowed to wear hats in our building or not. Ultimately, most everyone agreed it really didn’t affect learning so why make an issue of it. Other decisions, however, greatly impact learning. We need to have tough discussions about our schedule, course offerings, assignments, and grading. Are we making decisions based on what’s best for learning or what’s convenient for adults?



I would add one other part to this question. Does the decision have the potential to transform learning in this classroom or school? I think we spend too much time trying to incrementally improve the same stuff we’ve always been doing. We should all be thinking about how we can do things that could be a complete game-changer for our students. We need to think big!

6. If you had no fear, what would you do? 



Sometimes change can be frightening even if we truly believe change is necessary. Fear causes us to hesitate, to think small, and to avoid difficult conversations. We are all governed by fear to one degree or another, but nothing great was ever accomplished without risk and a possibility of failure. We must practice taking risks in small ways and build confidence in our risk-taking to reach for our really big dreams. If a decision is good for students and will improve learning, what are you waiting for? If you had no fear, what would you do?

7. In any situation, how will the best people respond to this decision? 



There will almost always be critics of any significant or meaningful decision. We cannot please everyone. What’s right is not always popular and what’s popular is not always right. But in any situation, we should consider what the best people will think. If my very best teachers will not support a decision, then perhaps I need to consider why I feel this is the best decision in the first place. If the best teachers are unable to support a decision, then maybe I need to go back to #4. What exactly do I hope to achieve if even the best people in the building are not on board? Conversely, how often do we delay or lower our expectations because of the worst people in the building (students or teachers)? We shouldn’t aim lower or expect less because a few people seem to find a problem for every solution. If the best people are supportive, then even in the face of some criticism, a school can successfully move forward.



Question: What other questions would you include to guide effective leadership decisions? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.



This is an update from a previous post published here in April 2014. 

Read More 7 Questions To Guide Decisions Of School Leaders

“I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.” -Stephen Covey



Making good decisions is important for all us. Whether we are working with students, with parents, or even with colleagues, our decisions ultimately define our success. And the key to better decisions is better thinking. We must never make a key decision in haste. Instead, we should consider the problem from everyone’s perspective, collect advice, and ask ourselves the questions that will help us make the wise choice.



Our decisions can have a big impact on the school, learning, and ultimately our students. So it’s very important to make the best decision possible. Of course, I often make decisions and then come to realize later that with different information or a different perspective, I might have acted differently in the situation. When we make decisions we are doing the best we can with the information we have at the time.

That’s why it’s so important to ask tough questions to make sure the decision is the best one possible with the available knowledge. I want to think through my decisions and test my thinking with questions that help me clarify my values and ensure that I’m acting in a way that is congruent with my beliefs. I want my actions to line up with what I believe and what I profess to others.



These seven questions have helped me make better decisions. I’m sure there are others you could add to the list as well, but these are the ones that I keep going back to.

1. How can I help you? 



This first question is the essence of servant leadership, the leadership approach that recognizes leadership is service and turns the old paradigm of leadership on its ear. Leadership is not about power over others, or being in charge. Instead, it is about helping followers be successful. It’s about helping others reach their goals. Robert Greenleaf coined the term servant leadership, and he described it as a type of leadership that strives to help followers be healthier, wiser, freer, and better able to be leaders themselves. Leadership does not just create followers who are dependent on the leader, but it creates new leaders who are able to extend their influence and become change agents.

So as I make decisions, I must always remember this question, “How can I help you?” This question begins with empathy, the ability to see things from another person’s viewpoint in a caring way. Sometimes I need to speak the words aloud and offer to help. Other times my actions and attitudes may demonstrate this mindset even if the words go unspoken. But my goal as a leader must always be to help those around me be the best they can be. If someone in my school needs anything I can help provide to be successful, my job as a leader is to try to move mountains to get it done.



“The secret to success is good leadership. And good leadership is about making the lives of your team members better.” -Tony Dungy.

2. Is this good enough for my own child? Would I want this for my own child? 



As a parent I will do just about anything to support the success of one of my kids. I want them to have the best opportunities possible. I want them to have the best teachers, and I want them to have experiences in school that cultivate a love of learning and lead them to find who they are as people and as learners.

As I consider situations in my school against this high standard, there are times when I realize we’re not quite there yet. There are things that need to improve to best meet the needs of students. I guess there will always be areas to improve, but I don’t find this discouraging. Instead, I find it exciting to know that we can create better opportunities and continue to grow so that every student finds optimal success.

I will share that this question has helped me to find clarity on tough decisions in the past. When there are times the task may seem too big or the obstacles insurmountable, asking this question has helped me stay focused. I’ve also used it with others in my school to help frame a situation on a personal level. Parents don’t want excuses about why something can’t be done, they want heroic action that overcomes any hindrances and ensures that their student is receiving the best.

3. Will this decision preserve or attack the dignity of a child? 



Our words are very powerful and can do great good or great harm. By considering this question, it helps me focus on the humanity of a child in each situation. We must always strive to build up and not tear down. We must treat others with dignity and respect. As Todd Whitaker writes, great teachers and principals treat every student like they are good. We must presume positive intentions and come alongside students to help them succeed. 



There is never a place in a positive school for cutting sarcasm, public humiliation, or harsh treatment of a student. Even the best teacher will occasionally make a mistake in how they treat a student, but we should work quickly to restore any break in the relationship. When everyone in a school makes decisions that consistently preserve dignity and respect, the culture will be one of mutual cooperation and shared success. I explored this topic in greater depth in a previous post.

4. As I make this decision, what am I ultimately hoping to achieve? 



Part of effective decision-making is the ability understand how decisions are going to impact the goals of the individual or organization. I may be justified and have good reasoning for a decision, but if it is going to ultimately hinder the mission of our team, maybe I need to reconsider my decision. There is great finesse and wisdom in knowing how to help others be successful. Sometimes it means overlooking things that might be personal pet-peeves of the leader.

As we make decisions, we should always consider the purpose of the decision and if a particular action will lead to the purpose being accomplished. We should also consider if the decision will do any harm beyond the main purpose. Many schools have implemented policies to try to fix a specific problem, but have unwittingly harmed culture or created distrust. You must consider if the purpose is large enough or is there a higher purpose that might be jeopardized in this decision? Effective leaders see the big-picture.



5. How does this decision impact learning in our school? 



Some decisions or situations may not affect learning greatly or at all. If this is the case, why make these decisions important in your school? We spent too long trying to solve the issue of whether students should be allowed to wear hats in our building or not. Ultimately, most everyone agreed it really didn’t affect learning so why make an issue of it. Other decisions, however, greatly impact learning. We need to have tough discussions about our schedule, course offerings, assignments, and grading. Are we making decisions based on what’s best for learning or what’s convenient for adults?



I would add one other part to this question. Does the decision have the potential to transform learning in this classroom or school? I think we spend too much time trying to incrementally improve the same stuff we’ve always been doing. We should all be thinking about how we can do things that could be a complete game-changer for our students. We need to think big!

6. If you had no fear, what would you do? 



Sometimes change can be frightening even if we truly believe change is necessary. Fear causes us to hesitate, to think small, and to avoid difficult conversations. We are all governed by fear to one degree or another, but nothing great was ever accomplished without risk and a possibility of failure. We must practice taking risks in small ways and build confidence in our risk-taking to reach for our really big dreams. If a decision is good for students and will improve learning, what are you waiting for? If you had no fear, what would you do?

7. In any situation, how will the best people respond to this decision? 



There will almost always be critics of any significant or meaningful decision. We cannot please everyone. What’s right is not always popular and what’s popular is not always right. But in any situation, we should consider what the best people will think. If my very best teachers will not support a decision, then perhaps I need to consider why I feel this is the best decision in the first place. If the best teachers are unable to support a decision, then maybe I need to go back to #4. What exactly do I hope to achieve if even the best people in the building are not on board? Conversely, how often do we delay or lower our expectations because of the worst people in the building (students or teachers)? We shouldn’t aim lower or expect less because a few people seem to find a problem for every solution. If the best people are supportive, then even in the face of some criticism, a school can successfully move forward.



Question: What other questions would you include to guide effective leadership decisions? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.



This is an update from a previous post published here in April 2014. 

Read More 7 Questions To Guide Decisions Of School Leaders



It’s been a couple of years now since I started blogging here. Starting a blog is not really the hard part. Continuing to blog is what’s tough. To be successful, you must constantly remind yourself why you started in the first place. And I think for many people, they don’t really have a clear vision of why they are blogging.



It seems to be the thing to do. It starts with Twitter. You feel the excitement and support of being connected to other educators. You really start to think about things in new ways. Ideas are flowing. Others in your network are sharing posts from their blogs. You get some encouragement, and you’re on your way.



But the newness wears off soon. It doesn’t seem like anyone notices what you write. You get discouraged or distracted and pretty soon your blog is a distant memory.



Years ago, I had more than one failed experience with blogging. They were failures in the sense that I didn’t continue to add new content, and I don’t think anyone ever read the content that was created. I had some vague notions of why I wanted to blog, but I didn’t have the commitment to continue.



Writing is hard work. And to create writing that is valuable to others is extra hard. I think many people view blogging like it’s a public journal. It’s a way to work through their thoughts. They write for personal reflection and self-expression, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.



However, your audience will demand more. If people are going to read what you write, it needs to be valuable to them. As educators, we face many of the same challenges. So you have valuable things to share from your knowledge and experience. When you are able to share something that is helpful to another teacher or principal, that is powerful. Together, we can solve more problems, offer much needed encouragement, and challenge one another’s thinking.



It’s also helpful when you make learning in your classroom or school more visible to your community. There are amazing things happening that deserve to be noticed. It’s not self-promotion, either. I know you don’t want to come across as bragging. But bragging on your students and promoting learning is part of what we do as educators. We need to sell learning.



So even though personal reflection and self-expression are valid reasons to blog, it’s important for the ideas we share to be received. Someone needs to see them. If you don’t see growth in your audience or at least consistent response from your audience, it’s tough to stay motivated.



Blogging is ultimately about the audience. It’s not about how big the audience is, but it is about how you bring value to the audience, whatever the size, through what you share. The sense of audience is one of the reasons blogging is so helpful for personal and professional growth. It forces you to really clarify your ideas and how they might be beneficial. You want your writing to be relevant and helpful to your readers. 



I realize this is vulnerable turf I’m treading. It’s really scary to publish something you really believe in and to have the response be underwhelming. It happens to me all the time. I can never predict how an idea will be received. It requires the willingness to take the risk and put yourself out there. I often read over a post later and find mistakes and wonder why I thought that was a good idea in the first place. Not everything you share will turn out the way you’d hoped.



The important thing is that you are sharing. You should be proud of that. It’s really a shame when outstanding educators don’t share what they do with others. I’ve known some amazing teachers who really didn’t share their work with anyone, even in their own school. They were completely focused on their students and their classroom and didn’t seek to have an impact beyond that circle.



But other teachers do amazing work in the classroom, and then have tremendous influence as leaders in the whole school, and even make an impact beyond their school. Blogging is one way to do that. You can share your journey with others in ways that make an impact on your profession. You can contribute to making education better for all of us.



You may feel like you have nothing to contribute. You are selling yourself way too short. Everyone…and I mean everyone…has knowledge and wisdom that is valuable to share. I am reminded of the Bill Nye quote, “Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t.” Your thoughts matter and can help your audience succeed! You have incredible experiences, talents, and perspectives to contribute!



Blogging is about better thinking. When I am working on a blog post, it really pushes my thinking. I have to consider if my ideas make sense, will they be helpful, are they worth sharing? I spend time thinking about the ideas I want to share in my blog. When I have an idea that I want to write about, I make some notes about it. I get inspiration for posts from reading books and blogs, from interacting on Twitter, and when I’m just going about my day. I never know when something will trigger a thought or idea.



There is a creative process in all of this that is valuable to me. It requires my sustained thought. I am always harping on my own kids about creating vs. consuming. I don’t want them to constantly be consuming YouTube, Netflix, Instagram, etc. and never creating anything. I have to walk the walk if I’m going to expect this from them. 



I guess in a way I’ve always viewed myself as a writer, but for years I was writing very little. As educators, we all know how important literacy is. If our subject matter is important enough to learn, it is worth writing about too. If our classrooms and schools really matter, aren’t they important enough to write about? We need to model this for our students. Find your identity as a writer. How many teachers and administrators are not writing anything, ever? I wrote a post earlier about how important it is for educators to be readers, but they should be writers too. In fact, I think we should be writing alongside our students as they write too. 



I cannot imagine giving up on blogging again. I’ve found it to be incredibly valuable. And I really look forward to the day when I can look back over a period of 5 or 10 years or longer and see how my thinking has changed over time. Because I should be able to trace my own growth in a way that I couldn’t before.



I recently heard Pernille Ripp speak at the Model Schools Conference in Orlando. It was a thrill for me to introduce myself after her presentation. Pernille is one of my favorite bloggers. She is truly authentic and transparent in sharing her work as a 7th grade English teacher. She doesn’t come across as a person who has it all figured out (even though she is brilliant), but she generously shares the work she is doing in her classroom. She has created tremendous value for her audience. I observed other educators greeting her with stories of her impact. It’s amazing what can happen when you decide to share.



If you are considering blogging, summer is a great time to start. You can write some posts and also plan for some later posts you might want to explore when you have a classroom full of kids again. Pernille is constantly sharing what her students have to say about learning. She uses her blog to give them voice. If you are thinking about blogging, I would urge you to visit her blog. I’m sure you’ll find it inspiring.



I would also like to hear from you. How can I help you on your blogging journey? What’s standing in your way? What passions can you share through your blog? Leave a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook.

Read More Why Blogging Isn’t What You Think It Is



It’s been a couple of years now since I started blogging here. Starting a blog is not really the hard part. Continuing to blog is what’s tough. To be successful, you must constantly remind yourself why you started in the first place. And I think for many people, they don’t really have a clear vision of why they are blogging.



It seems to be the thing to do. It starts with Twitter. You feel the excitement and support of being connected to other educators. You really start to think about things in new ways. Ideas are flowing. Others in your network are sharing posts from their blogs. You get some encouragement, and you’re on your way.



But the newness wears off soon. It doesn’t seem like anyone notices what you write. You get discouraged or distracted and pretty soon your blog is a distant memory.



Years ago, I had more than one failed experience with blogging. They were failures in the sense that I didn’t continue to add new content, and I don’t think anyone ever read the content that was created. I had some vague notions of why I wanted to blog, but I didn’t have the commitment to continue.



Writing is hard work. And to create writing that is valuable to others is extra hard. I think many people view blogging like it’s a public journal. It’s a way to work through their thoughts. They write for personal reflection and self-expression, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.



However, your audience will demand more. If people are going to read what you write, it needs to be valuable to them. As educators, we face many of the same challenges. So you have valuable things to share from your knowledge and experience. When you are able to share something that is helpful to another teacher or principal, that is powerful. Together, we can solve more problems, offer much needed encouragement, and challenge one another’s thinking.



It’s also helpful when you make learning in your classroom or school more visible to your community. There are amazing things happening that deserve to be noticed. It’s not self-promotion, either. I know you don’t want to come across as bragging. But bragging on your students and promoting learning is part of what we do as educators. We need to sell learning.



So even though personal reflection and self-expression are valid reasons to blog, it’s important for the ideas we share to be received. Someone needs to see them. If you don’t see growth in your audience or at least consistent response from your audience, it’s tough to stay motivated.



Blogging is ultimately about the audience. It’s not about how big the audience is, but it is about how you bring value to the audience, whatever the size, through what you share. The sense of audience is one of the reasons blogging is so helpful for personal and professional growth. It forces you to really clarify your ideas and how they might be beneficial. You want your writing to be relevant and helpful to your readers. 



I realize this is vulnerable turf I’m treading. It’s really scary to publish something you really believe in and to have the response be underwhelming. It happens to me all the time. I can never predict how an idea will be received. It requires the willingness to take the risk and put yourself out there. I often read over a post later and find mistakes and wonder why I thought that was a good idea in the first place. Not everything you share will turn out the way you’d hoped.



The important thing is that you are sharing. You should be proud of that. It’s really a shame when outstanding educators don’t share what they do with others. I’ve known some amazing teachers who really didn’t share their work with anyone, even in their own school. They were completely focused on their students and their classroom and didn’t seek to have an impact beyond that circle.



But other teachers do amazing work in the classroom, and then have tremendous influence as leaders in the whole school, and even make an impact beyond their school. Blogging is one way to do that. You can share your journey with others in ways that make an impact on your profession. You can contribute to making education better for all of us.



You may feel like you have nothing to contribute. You are selling yourself way too short. Everyone…and I mean everyone…has knowledge and wisdom that is valuable to share. I am reminded of the Bill Nye quote, “Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t.” Your thoughts matter and can help your audience succeed! You have incredible experiences, talents, and perspectives to contribute!



Blogging is about better thinking. When I am working on a blog post, it really pushes my thinking. I have to consider if my ideas make sense, will they be helpful, are they worth sharing? I spend time thinking about the ideas I want to share in my blog. When I have an idea that I want to write about, I make some notes about it. I get inspiration for posts from reading books and blogs, from interacting on Twitter, and when I’m just going about my day. I never know when something will trigger a thought or idea.



There is a creative process in all of this that is valuable to me. It requires my sustained thought. I am always harping on my own kids about creating vs. consuming. I don’t want them to constantly be consuming YouTube, Netflix, Instagram, etc. and never creating anything. I have to walk the walk if I’m going to expect this from them. 



I guess in a way I’ve always viewed myself as a writer, but for years I was writing very little. As educators, we all know how important literacy is. If our subject matter is important enough to learn, it is worth writing about too. If our classrooms and schools really matter, aren’t they important enough to write about? We need to model this for our students. Find your identity as a writer. How many teachers and administrators are not writing anything, ever? I wrote a post earlier about how important it is for educators to be readers, but they should be writers too. In fact, I think we should be writing alongside our students as they write too. 



I cannot imagine giving up on blogging again. I’ve found it to be incredibly valuable. And I really look forward to the day when I can look back over a period of 5 or 10 years or longer and see how my thinking has changed over time. Because I should be able to trace my own growth in a way that I couldn’t before.



I recently heard Pernille Ripp speak at the Model Schools Conference in Orlando. It was a thrill for me to introduce myself after her presentation. Pernille is one of my favorite bloggers. She is truly authentic and transparent in sharing her work as a 7th grade English teacher. She doesn’t come across as a person who has it all figured out (even though she is brilliant), but she generously shares the work she is doing in her classroom. She has created tremendous value for her audience. I observed other educators greeting her with stories of her impact. It’s amazing what can happen when you decide to share.



If you are considering blogging, summer is a great time to start. You can write some posts and also plan for some later posts you might want to explore when you have a classroom full of kids again. Pernille is constantly sharing what her students have to say about learning. She uses her blog to give them voice. If you are thinking about blogging, I would urge you to visit her blog. I’m sure you’ll find it inspiring.



I would also like to hear from you. How can I help you on your blogging journey? What’s standing in your way? What passions can you share through your blog? Leave a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook.

Read More Why Blogging Isn’t What You Think It Is



A recent article came across my feed that caught my attention, Why High Schools Are Getting Rid of Valedictorians. It was especially timely since I’d just had a conversation about this topic with a principal from another school in our area. He was interested to know if we still recognized valedictorian or not. We do not. In fact, we haven’t had a valedictorian since before I arrived on the scene 8 years ago. I’m not sure how long that decision had been in place before my arrival.




Why High Schools Are Getting Rid of Valedictorians

According to a recent article in The Washington Post, American students today are unmotivated and apathetic about their schoolwork, and teachers actually care more about students’ grades than the student. Teachers are expected to make lessons more engaging and fun, and to serve more like entertainers than old-fashioned teachers.



The author of the article contends that schools are ending the valedictorian award “because it might make others feel badly about their GPAs.” According the article, this decision is just more evidence that schools are lowering expectations. The author seems to draw connections between elimination of valedictorian and student apathy, mediocrity, and even the performance of the United States education system in international rankings. Those are sweeping generalizations with very little evidence to support the claims.



In truth, the school leaders I’ve spoken with have very different reasons for dumping valedictorian than those presented in the article. Valedictorian recognizes the top student in the class based on GPA. However, GPAs are a terrible way to determine one student as being the best. Often, the difference between the top few students can be less than one-thousandth of a decimal point. And the factors that determine that difference usually have more to do with what classes the students did or did not take than actual academic performance. 



For example, we had a student a few years ago who was a National Merit Scholar finalist and had perfect grades in high school. That’s right, straight A’s. However, his class rank was not even in the top 3 or 4 of his graduating class. How can that be? Well, he was an all-state musician and took multiple music classes every semester. These classes are not weighted in the GPA. Fortunately, he didn’t play the GPA game to be the “top of his class” or we would have missed his outstanding musical contributions in our school.



And it is a mathematical game. I could go on with more examples of how the system can be manipulated and often results in students taking classes strategically to have the highest GPA instead of taking classes because they are beneficial to their own future aspirations.



So the decision to get rid of valedictorian has nothing to do with lowering expectations or protecting other students’ feelings. In place of valedictorian, our school honors the highest performing students with a cum laude system, so students who earn above a certain GPA are recognized for their academic achievements. Our students wear medallions at graduation to note this distinction.



Moreover, we no longer provide information to students on class rank. It’s no longer on the grade card or the official transcript. We only provide the class rank information if it’s needed specifically for scholarship purposes.



And that decision is based on a purpose larger than the fairness of the GPA system. We want to encourage students to learn from mistakes, explore a variety of interests, and become better people as a result of their schooling. The GPA system does not reward growth or risk-taking. It rewards perfection and right answers. Stanford Professor Carol Dweck’s research on growth mindset is clear that labeling performance is not healthy for improving performance. Instead, the focus should remain on effort, improvement, and dealing with setbacks. 



Students cannot always control the results or outcomes in life, but they can always control their effort and their attitude. The loss of valedictorian isn’t harmful for motivation or performance. However, labeling students can be harmful for motivation and hurtful to healthy attitudes about learning. One mom shared how the pursuit of valedictorian was not beneficial to her perfectionist daughter.




The trouble with high school valedictorian awards – The Boston Globe

When educators talk about why their high schools have given up the award, they note the negative message it sends to the kids who lose by a fraction of a point, or the kids who are never in the competition. I am here to argue that it’s not even necessarily good for the valedictorian.



The pro-valedictorian author seems to imply that the valedictorian award is important as a celebration and reinforcement of achievement. But is a simple GPA formula appropriate to determine who is achieving the most?



Consider the student who is a victim of abuse, practically raises younger siblings, serves as designated driver for dad, and still manages to make B’s and C’s in school while holding down a part-time job. Anyone want to question this student’s merits as “high-achieving?” Again, effort and attitude are hard to quantify, but there are lots of students overcoming incredible odds to succeed in school. These inspiring students deserve to be recognized too.



That’s why schools should focus more on effort, enthusiasm, and attitudes. Rewarding only the highest achieving students won’t improve apathy in schools.



Question: What are you thoughts on schools ending the valedictorian honor? How does your school handle recognizing student achievement? I would like your feedback. Leave a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook.

      

Read More Why High Schools Are Getting Rid of Valedictorians (Response)



A recent article came across my feed that caught my attention, Why High Schools Are Getting Rid of Valedictorians. It was especially timely since I’d just had a conversation about this topic with a principal from another school in our area. He was interested to know if we still recognized valedictorian or not. We do not. In fact, we haven’t had a valedictorian since before I arrived on the scene 8 years ago. I’m not sure how long that decision had been in place before my arrival.




Why High Schools Are Getting Rid of Valedictorians

According to a recent article in The Washington Post, American students today are unmotivated and apathetic about their schoolwork, and teachers actually care more about students’ grades than the student. Teachers are expected to make lessons more engaging and fun, and to serve more like entertainers than old-fashioned teachers.



The author of the article contends that schools are ending the valedictorian award “because it might make others feel badly about their GPAs.” According the article, this decision is just more evidence that schools are lowering expectations. The author seems to draw connections between elimination of valedictorian and student apathy, mediocrity, and even the performance of the United States education system in international rankings. Those are sweeping generalizations with very little evidence to support the claims.



In truth, the school leaders I’ve spoken with have very different reasons for dumping valedictorian than those presented in the article. Valedictorian recognizes the top student in the class based on GPA. However, GPAs are a terrible way to determine one student as being the best. Often, the difference between the top few students can be less than one-thousandth of a decimal point. And the factors that determine that difference usually have more to do with what classes the students did or did not take than actual academic performance. 



For example, we had a student a few years ago who was a National Merit Scholar finalist and had perfect grades in high school. That’s right, straight A’s. However, his class rank was not even in the top 3 or 4 of his graduating class. How can that be? Well, he was an all-state musician and took multiple music classes every semester. These classes are not weighted in the GPA. Fortunately, he didn’t play the GPA game to be the “top of his class” or we would have missed his outstanding musical contributions in our school.



And it is a mathematical game. I could go on with more examples of how the system can be manipulated and often results in students taking classes strategically to have the highest GPA instead of taking classes because they are beneficial to their own future aspirations.



So the decision to get rid of valedictorian has nothing to do with lowering expectations or protecting other students’ feelings. In place of valedictorian, our school honors the highest performing students with a cum laude system, so students who earn above a certain GPA are recognized for their academic achievements. Our students wear medallions at graduation to note this distinction.



Moreover, we no longer provide information to students on class rank. It’s no longer on the grade card or the official transcript. We only provide the class rank information if it’s needed specifically for scholarship purposes.



And that decision is based on a purpose larger than the fairness of the GPA system. We want to encourage students to learn from mistakes, explore a variety of interests, and become better people as a result of their schooling. The GPA system does not reward growth or risk-taking. It rewards perfection and right answers. Stanford Professor Carol Dweck’s research on growth mindset is clear that labeling performance is not healthy for improving performance. Instead, the focus should remain on effort, improvement, and dealing with setbacks. 



Students cannot always control the results or outcomes in life, but they can always control their effort and their attitude. The loss of valedictorian isn’t harmful for motivation or performance. However, labeling students can be harmful for motivation and hurtful to healthy attitudes about learning. One mom shared how the pursuit of valedictorian was not beneficial to her perfectionist daughter.




The trouble with high school valedictorian awards – The Boston Globe

When educators talk about why their high schools have given up the award, they note the negative message it sends to the kids who lose by a fraction of a point, or the kids who are never in the competition. I am here to argue that it’s not even necessarily good for the valedictorian.



The pro-valedictorian author seems to imply that the valedictorian award is important as a celebration and reinforcement of achievement. But is a simple GPA formula appropriate to determine who is achieving the most?



Consider the student who is a victim of abuse, practically raises younger siblings, serves as designated driver for dad, and still manages to make B’s and C’s in school while holding down a part-time job. Anyone want to question this student’s merits as “high-achieving?” Again, effort and attitude are hard to quantify, but there are lots of students overcoming incredible odds to succeed in school. These inspiring students deserve to be recognized too.



That’s why schools should focus more on effort, enthusiasm, and attitudes. Rewarding only the highest achieving students won’t improve apathy in schools.



Question: What are you thoughts on schools ending the valedictorian honor? How does your school handle recognizing student achievement? I would like your feedback. Leave a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook.

      

Read More Why High Schools Are Getting Rid of Valedictorians (Response)

As a principal, I realize the best chance of sustainable, meaningful change only happens in our school with strong teacher leadership. Programs come and go. So do principals. But teachers are consistently in a position to create change and positively impact their classrooms and the entire school. 



We often think of teacher effectiveness as what happens with classroom instruction. And that is one very important part of how teachers lead and exert influence. But there are many other ways teachers can contribute to positive change.








Teacher leadership is not limited to a title or role, such as department head, instructional coach, etc. While it is great to have teachers in formal teacher-leader positions, it’s important to recognize that leadership is more about actions than defined roles and responsibilities. 










Leadership, in essence, is concerned with making the lives of your team members better and doing what is best for them in the long run. Here are 11 ways teacher leadership can drive change in your school.




1. If we want to empower students, we need to empower teachers. Students need greater voice and choice, so do teachers. Teachers are more likely to offer student-driven learning experiences if they have the same opportunities to drive their own experience.


2. Teachers understand the challenges and the opportunities. Too many ideas for education have been imposed from outside sources, sometimes originating from bureaucrats with little knowledge of a classroom. Teacher leaders know first-hand the complexities of learning, and how to develop solutions that work.



3. Teachers influence other teachers. When teachers take risks, it encourages others to take risks too. Change can be difficult, but with support from other teachers, it’s much easier.








4. Solutions developed by teachers are more likely to succeed. Why? Because if we believe in something, we will find a way to make it successful. Whether it is the best idea or not might not even matter. We’ll make it successful because we believe it is the best idea. 



5. The closer the goals are to the classroom the better. We get maximum results when students and teachers are developing goals together. 








6. Teacher leadership builds teamwork, trust, and shared ownership. When teachers lead, it creates greater interdependence. Team members play to their strengths and contribute in ways that make the whole greater than the sum of the parts.



7. Teachers are professionals and deserve to make professional decisions. Too many schools have a culture of permission, where teachers feel they must clear decisions they believe will be best for students. We need a culture of intention, not a culture of permission.



8. Leadership provides opportunities to grow. We cannot effectively explore our talents or potential without opportunities to lead. Using our talents to serve others is leadership. If we hope to create positive change, we have to be willing to grow and have the courage to challenge our own assumptions. We aren’t the school we used to be, but we’re not the school we want to be. 



9. Teacher leaders are culture builders. Nothing is more important in our schools than developing a strong culture. When teachers see themselves as leaders, they recognize how their voices matter to help set the tone for a caring, productive, learning-focused culture. Changing culture isn’t always easy to quantify, but it’s one of the most important things we can do. Every school should strive for a stronger culture.

10. Teacher leaders change lives. I’m constantly amazed at the ways teachers go above and beyond to make a difference in the lives of students and colleagues. Every time I see this type of commitment, I see leadership in action. Change happens in a school one person at a time.



Question: What are ways teacher leaders drive change in your school? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook.

      

Read More 10 Ways Teacher Leadership Drives Change

As a principal, I realize the best chance of sustainable, meaningful change only happens in our school with strong teacher leadership. Programs come and go. So do principals. But teachers are consistently in a position to create change and positively impact their classrooms and the entire school. 



We often think of teacher effectiveness as what happens with classroom instruction. And that is one very important part of how teachers lead and exert influence. But there are many other ways teachers can contribute to positive change.








Teacher leadership is not limited to a title or role, such as department head, instructional coach, etc. While it is great to have teachers in formal teacher-leader positions, it’s important to recognize that leadership is more about actions than defined roles and responsibilities. 










Leadership, in essence, is concerned with making the lives of your team members better and doing what is best for them in the long run. Here are 11 ways teacher leadership can drive change in your school.




1. If we want to empower students, we need to empower teachers. Students need greater voice and choice, so do teachers. Teachers are more likely to offer student-driven learning experiences if they have the same opportunities to drive their own experience.


2. Teachers understand the challenges and the opportunities. Too many ideas for education have been imposed from outside sources, sometimes originating from bureaucrats with little knowledge of a classroom. Teacher leaders know first-hand the complexities of learning, and how to develop solutions that work.



3. Teachers influence other teachers. When teachers take risks, it encourages others to take risks too. Change can be difficult, but with support from other teachers, it’s much easier.








4. Solutions developed by teachers are more likely to succeed. Why? Because if we believe in something, we will find a way to make it successful. Whether it is the best idea or not might not even matter. We’ll make it successful because we believe it is the best idea. 



5. The closer the goals are to the classroom the better. We get maximum results when students and teachers are developing goals together. 








6. Teacher leadership builds teamwork, trust, and shared ownership. When teachers lead, it creates greater interdependence. Team members play to their strengths and contribute in ways that make the whole greater than the sum of the parts.



7. Teachers are professionals and deserve to make professional decisions. Too many schools have a culture of permission, where teachers feel they must clear decisions they believe will be best for students. We need a culture of intention, not a culture of permission.



8. Leadership provides opportunities to grow. We cannot effectively explore our talents or potential without opportunities to lead. Using our talents to serve others is leadership. If we hope to create positive change, we have to be willing to grow and have the courage to challenge our own assumptions. We aren’t the school we used to be, but we’re not the school we want to be. 



9. Teacher leaders are culture builders. Nothing is more important in our schools than developing a strong culture. When teachers see themselves as leaders, they recognize how their voices matter to help set the tone for a caring, productive, learning-focused culture. Changing culture isn’t always easy to quantify, but it’s one of the most important things we can do. Every school should strive for a stronger culture.

10. Teacher leaders change lives. I’m constantly amazed at the ways teachers go above and beyond to make a difference in the lives of students and colleagues. Every time I see this type of commitment, I see leadership in action. Change happens in a school one person at a time.



Question: What are ways teacher leaders drive change in your school? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook.

      

Read More 10 Ways Teacher Leadership Drives Change





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





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