Friday, May 29, 2015

A message to School Leaders... Are Titles as a Leader Necessary...Darn it I just gave myself a title

I am a Principal because that is what the school community knows me as.  I am also a boss at times, such a short negative word, in my opinion.  I am a lead learner, but that sounds so untouchable, like I am better than you.  I have heard servant leader, again wrong connotation for me, if you know my personality. I have been called incompetent, slow, and other choice words... by certain people.  I would rather not go with those either.

I like What If... and WITH Learner.

Don't get me wrong, for the school community I am the principal, when I have to make tough decisions, I am the boss.  When I share something via twitter, Google+, Voxer, weekly email, meetings, I may temporarily be a lead learner.  When I rush to your class to problem solve a problem you are having, I am a servant leader.  When I make bad decisions and it blows up, I may appear incompetent for the moment.  I can own that, no worries.  Am I the first leader to make mistakes and wrong decisions ever? Who was the CEO of Blockbuster Video?

I just always want to live in What If... and WITH Learner.

That is such a great place to live.  I want to buy a house there and set up my family. HAHA.  I want to discover with you, I want to be learning WITH you.  There is no better professional feeling then being in a classroom and on the spot "live" problem solving or engaging in conversation in "real" time.

I also want to be told I am wrong, I want to be challenged, and questioned! It might hurt in the moment, or I should say it will hurt in the moment, but guess what, I will get over it.  I will sleep on it.  I will talk to my most trusted circle about it.  That is healthy discourse.  I will come back and realize that learning WITH is exactly what just happened.  A light bulb just went off, we learn collaboratively, just like we ask of our students! Share, listen, think, talk, repeat!

Bottom line, titles separate, titles distinguish, titles set a tone, titles are for movies!  Just be you, if you are not AWESOME yet, get there.  It is not hard.  I often listen to Aloe Blacc "The man" on the way to work, just to remind myself that I am okay and stop thinking so much and just listen a little more!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Response to FAIL, more the process in thinking....

This is in response to +Tammy Neil and @mathneil post today about FAIL = First Attempt In Learning.  

This is not a post that is going to analyze her words and break them down sentence by sentence.  Instead this is a post about how a process helped me change my vocabulary.  I used to speak to "failure" like it was o.k. in schools.  If you "fail" you try again and work harder, seems to make sense, even Michael Jordan made a commercial about how much he failed!

But Tammy is right, Michael Jordan did not fail over and over. If he failed he would have never tried or practiced or played at all.  That is failure.  Bottom line, no more explanation needed.

Here is Tammy's Blogpost - Tammy's Post

Thanks Tammy for helping me realize this.  +Justin Schleider and @schleiderjustin had a vox summing this up so well in 42 seconds.  Take a listen - Justin's failure summary

So how did Tammy come to this conclusion and this post.  It started a week prior with a statement from her, where she stated that she did not like the FAIL acronym.  A small group of us went back and forth on Voxer challenging each others' thoughts for a good 2 days or so.  We used the time tested speak, think, listen, speak, think, listen approach to working this out.  Tammy's post is the product of that conversation and lots of deep thought on her part.  Her thoughts are genuine and authentically her's.  After this conversation almost like lightning hitting Benjamin Franklin's kite, I saw what she was seeing.  And I believe now right on point.  A week earlier I did not agree with her.... I was on the Michael Jordan commercial side of thinking about this.

So whether it is FAIL or anything else in this world of education we debate and discuss, I plead with you to use the speak, think, listen approach to clarify, justify, defend, and eventually post your thoughts.  Tammy changed my meaning and use of a word as it applies to schools in a few short days.  I can't wait to challenge and be challenged again with my views!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Are "growth and "change" bad words? Not according to me!

I usually don't write two blogs in one weekend, but I felt inspired today.  It has been a personal inner mission of mine to figure out why "change" and "growth" sometimes is so difficult in schools and why this is grounded in fear.  Let me first define what I mean by "change" and "growth" in this context.  Or at least how I have seen it at times....

Here is how many perceive these two ideas:

Growth - Everything in education is circular, we did that 15 years ago! This is exactly the same.

Change - The feeling you get when "the next new thing" comes and you are in #initiativefatique. Easy to say, "this too shall pass" and close your door, or I have my own way of doing things.

So how do we "change" and "grow" the mindsets of these two ideas?  That is what I have been struggling with... So I went for a run, cut the grass, played bball with my son and tried to give myself some time to get away from my thoughts, to sort of reset to begin again.  This was just today, I have spent the last couple of months in the same cycle, constantly wracking my own brain to the point of exhaustion!!!

Growth - Alas some reprieve today! I was listening to a Tim Ferriss podcast (highly recommend) and was convince that the process of working through problems is "growth".  Talk to other people, I having a strong network of people that I rely on.  We bounce ideas off each other, which is essential.  We talk on a seemingly daily basis.

Realizing there is no finish line is also key.  Live and grow now, if you are always waiting for a sign, or for the stars to align, you will miss your chance.

My solution from that rant - Talk, share, think, talk, share, think, talk, share, think, talk, share, think, repeat.... Get the idea.  Flood people with that common language until it becomes routine for them to also talk, share, think, talk, share, think, talk, share, think.  Even if the new thing you are working on seems like it was recycled, make it better and grow! Like a bad Zombie movie, we need to INFECT others!

Change - This is a little harder.... How to get others to see "change" in a positive light.  If I go back to my definition of the problem, then I would say people don't want to be shaken and made to feel uncomfortable.  So how do we provide an environment where there is no threat of harm and the "change" seems fun?

My solution here is in finding those first followers, they will be there, guaranteed, and then celebrating their successes!  Allow the "change" naysayers to see this, put it out there for them to see, and then back away.  Let those that are being celebrated push the message. It will create a situation where the "change" naysayers will either get on the life raft and move forward, or be so separated from the rest of the group, it becomes very clear they are not willing to move.  This uncomfortableness and separation may lead to......???

The journey is the fun! It is a race, just not competitive, it is a race within yourself to never settle! The struggle is the work! The relationships and bond you forge with those in the struggle is what makes it worth it!  "Change" and "Grow" all the time, we all have a date of expiration, extend yours by challenging my initial definitions.  Promote this mindset and always speak to it and defend it!

Friday, May 15, 2015

We are here... Been here.... Lets tell you about it!

Another great week of sharing, learning, and experiencing with others.  How could I be so blessed to have this squad to go to with questions when needed, work things out, listen, and learn...

  • +Eric Sheninger jumped in some conversations this week which is always awesome! So much knowledge about how he deals with digital leadership. 
  • +Dwight Carter spoke to us about some awesomeness (not a real word) in his school.  
  • +Brian C talking about learning spaces on a budget. 
  • +Jay Posick and his full student assemblies to give teachers time. 
  • @joywright91 speaking about what she is trying with staff to catch that spark!
  • @tedhiff talking about parent involvement and unique ways to engage stakeholders.

I have died and gone to edutopia! Ha, not really, I have just found people that are not afraid to share (brag) a bit about what they are doing.  It makes me and all others be better.  The problem with people is we always compare ourselves to others. That is so surface level.  What is important is what you "take" form others and make your own.  That is learning, growing, and growth mindset.  I learned this week from all of them and more. 

I learned that I am not them, I may never do those things, but through their encouragement about what they were doing, I am doing what is right!  They don't have to say it, they only have to share... They have to take risks, chances, share their experiences.  

I am not afraid as +Justin Schleider would state, "I want to be the best... that is what I strive for!" There is no shame in that.  We all want that.  We are not playing a game, we are doing what is best for our kids, so you better want to be the best or else you are not doing your job. Share it, push it, make me jealous, it makes me/us better for "our" kids! LOVE my #pln for another week.  

Next week I might disagree with everything you say and write a horrible blog about how wrong you all are!  Just kidding! HAHA

Friday, May 8, 2015

Keeping up or Keeping it REAL...

This week was teacher appreciation week.  Lots to celebrate and thank your staff for... NO QUESTION!  Here is how my last 2 days went.... WARNING!!! this post is about my growth in trying to be a better leader...

  1. Then I heard @jethrojones speak about @gustafsonbrad and how he appreciates his staff every day!  You should have heard that @voxer comment, absolutely outstanding!  
  2. I read about @glennr1809 and the amazing "fake assembly" he had for his staff where students put together an assembly where student led the celebration and a video.  Link Here 
  3. @posickj did a Jimmy Fallon type "thank you" card routine. Link Here  
  4. Finally, there was @dwight_carter talking today about how he had his graduating class thank a teacher before graduation.... Storify Link
OH MY GOODNESS! Overwhelmed!  In my tiny world... to hear these amazing ideas!  I put them in the google doc I use to save good ideas (about 10 pages long now, need a new organizational tool!)

I believe all those examples are great because they were authentic to who they were at the moment. Authenticity (seems to be the latest buzz word) is one of the greatest gifts you can give your staff, bottom line, don't be fake.  I mess up everyday, sometimes really big mess ups.  I live with it, own it, deal with it, and this is might be my legacy to my staff, although not by choice.  I model "messing up" and "making mistakes".  I appreciate my staff by showing them that I mess up all the time, but I do it with the idea of improvement and passion towards the students in my school.

Below is my modest appreciation video, but it is who I am right now, where I am... bottom line. I mentioned great leaders in this post that I strive to emulate in many ways... But I also realize I am "me" where I am now, growing, naive at times, but passionate.  I try not to be discourage by all the great things I hear about and see.

Be "me" and be "me" the best "me" I can.  That is all I need to be as a leader and own it. Don't apologize to yourself for not being "that leader".  My PLN of great leaders are great! They push me beyond myself to strive for "that leader" status, but I also understand "that leader" is "ME", I just have to use their ideas and figure it out for myself.  Thanks to my great Leadership PLN for making me a better leader for my staff during teacher appreciation week!