Monday, June 29, 2015

Professional Development is not a session for 1 hour... I am sorry

If you are addicted to being an educator, then you understand the below.  If not, just hit the X and sign out....  Because what you possibly think and what I am going to write about are not going to match.

PD and PLC is not a 45 min. or a 1 hour session at a conference like ISTE.  Go to an all day session and still that is not true professional development.  Don't get me wrong these serve a purpose and are needed.  There are definitely times to push your vision where everyone needs to be together doing the same work or learning new ideas.  I pull all my staff together, but I always try to make sure there is a purpose for everyone there.

I have spent day 2 at ISTE talking to lots of people and sitting in a few sessions and realized that so many "presenters" package their "method" for content delivery.  Then I went to @gcouros session on innovative mindset.  Finally a session where it was not about regurgitation of a canned product or some idea that may be good, but the way it is told is just dull.

He pushed us to think, we laughed, he asked us to challenge him, he played music, and I sat there waiting for one more nugget of information to put in my bag for later.  His words made sense to me, they connected, and I left feeling good, thinking that my mindset was on the right track!

All that being said, this blog is not about mindset, or ideas or maybe it really is?  I believe everything is about mindset, the lens you view the world, and the framework with which you speak.  This blog should be about PD and PLC not being 45 min or all day.  Going off in tangents is something I need to work on, but within that hour of sitting there I realized the following:


  • Mindset is king of all professional development.  Every time you speak it should be framed within the correct mindset otherwise the message is not meaningful.
  • Professional development as much as possible should be open 24-7 like 7-Eleven.  This means social media (all forms) stops by the office, happy hour (be responsible), driving to work, real time feedback, observations, walkthroughs, walkabouts (something I do, just to get out of office), texting your principal, podcasts, books, blogs, you name it. 
  • When PD does not fit the vision or purpose of the school, you need to tell someone.  I put myself out on a limb here as I deliver a lot of PD.  I will say it again, if the PD does not fit the purpose or the vision of the school, you need to tell someone!  It can not always be fixed as there are still some things we have to do, but you need to at least be heard!
  • Great quote from today with George Couros, "Teachers need to go from A to B or F to G, their movement is specific to them, and as much as possible as a leader we need to account for that".  I agree and #cddolphins might remember a PD about 6 months ago where I very crudely drew a stick figure moving from A to Z within the same framework.
  • We need to be addicts of improvement.  This does not mean you think about school 24-7, but as an idea "hits" you while you sing in the shower, you make sure to write it down and explore it further with someone else.  I am sure @jessica_hoban and @sjones1016 can tell you about the pictures of post-its from the car and random emailed voxes of ideas that I have shared. 

I think you get the message after the list of 5. School is a habit, teachers and administrators need to be fed good food.  If not we turn into savages looking for heads to cut off.  I work hard and try to model good practices of being connected and striving to improve simply to not have my head cut off!  That is my motivation, not really, but ending it that way it is funnier than my original plan.

Here is how I spent my first day at ISTE at an Ignite.  Not great quality, but you should feel the #cddolphins passion!  I put this in here as only evidence of my conviction to make Carrie Downie the best school in the world!


Sunday, June 28, 2015

Totally overwhelmed with gratitude.. That is my struggle...

Over the past 5 days I have done 2 presentations at #ppi15, #tct15, and one ignite session at #ISTE2015.  Well somehow I was given the opportunity and blessed to be able to do this.  I am very thankful and appreciative of all these opportunities.  Today, I was one of the last speakers at ignite, which is not the point, but gave me a lot of time to think and realize how lucky I am.  I got to listen to others go before me.  It was special, created a lot of anxiousness, and reminded me of my days playing team sports.  I was beyond nervous as I had 5 minutes to tell my message and then had to walk off the stage.  No extra time, and no mulligans.  None of this is the point...

I question myself internally all the time.  I think that is normal, but why do these feelings keep coming up?  I think it has to do with what I see from so many leaders out there.  They get this idea that they are bigger than their message.  It is not hard for me to stay grounded, but I don't want people's perception of me to be anything other than someone that is grounded in what is important.  My students, bottom line.  It is a slippery slope and a double edge sword.  How do you tell the message of your school and at the same time, not make it about you.  This is my struggle...

I think it comes back to what I know "WE" do!  "WE" tell the story of our kids all the time, we are authentically not perfect, and I love it.  We tell a great message, because that is what our students deserve.  We give them voice and an opportunity to speak for us.  I realized that again today as I spoke.  Their message is my message.  My staff's message is my message.  I defend it and hold it close.  We have just begun and I can't wait for the next step in our journey.

I want to truly thank the following for today:  My social media eduheroes backstage today like @pernilleripp @ideaguy42 and @rafranzdavis.  They were there with me in the same space, living the moment with me.  Showing me how to share a message that is so important not just for our students, but more importantly for our society.

I also have to thank: @sarahdateechur periscoping @kitty_tripp recording the feed from a monitor and posting it on youtube.

I also can not forget @mathneil and @theedsaneT in the audience and giving me confidence before the event.  Their support today can not be understated.

Most importantly I have to thank all my true eduheroes from here to the end of the paragraph for the past 5 days!

Last week I was accompanied by @bennettsbunch @gabephillipsde @dmimaginatorium to deliver a session on social media at #leadsde. @peteleida and I presented our story at #tct15 and I think helped a lot think differently about technology integration from district to school to classroom.  @katy_corey @cdroom103 for sacrificing and being there early today for the ignite session and then sharing the moment afterwards.  Our newest #cddolphins @rosy_burke watched the feed on periscope and also tweeted me out congratulations.  @stacy_mcmullen and @cdroom504 watched it as well and tweeted me well wishes.  Through it all we got great feedback at every turn.  It is overwhelming and I really don't take it all well. This is my struggle...

This might be a good struggle and I know the current and future #cddolphins will keep our message real.  Even if that involves grounding me with issues about bathrooms (inside joke).  I thank you and appreciate the level of support everyone has given.  I am truly humbled and lucky to be where I am. We are a tribe as Seth Goden might describe.  Let's keep pushing our message and supporting each other.  There is truly no limit to our ability to grow and influence.  We are our only barrier!






Thursday, June 18, 2015

Why are we addicted to education?

As a school administrator you always try to find ways to motivate your staff and get them bought into the vision of the school.

Why are we trying to get them bought in? Do they really need buy in? Do they really need to be convinced that engaging and empowering students is important? Do they really need to be told to try and motivate and connect with students? Is asking those questions actually degrading to the profession and practice?

Education is an addiction, somewhat like some of the vices that many seek help to solve. Why question or challenge this addiction? Why question a teacher's motives to want to create that perfect lesson?

I taught 5th grade, and I know what it was like to have that perfect lesson, where all the student seemed engaged, empowered, and excited while having fun.  The work was hard.  It did not happen everyday, but when it did it was magical.  I tried to make lessons rigorous, still standards based, where the products were student created and chosen by them (students).

How do we as leaders foster this, and promote this?

I have asked a lot of questions so far... Let me give you some answers.


  1. Create a culture where risk taking is the norm.
  2. Create a culture where you are embedded in planning and can give real time feedback when possible
  3. Create a culture where teachers want to come to you with their ideas to flush them out and make them better through collaboration.
  4. Coach them constantly with specific feedback that address the real needs that they are seeking.
  5. Push them to make the lessons relevant and where pace and path for students are recognized and explicitly planned for. 
  6. Quite simple, be there for them, the teachers, to learn WITH them and try to experience the experiences WITH them as much as possible.
That last point is most important.  Our job is difficult as an instructional leader.  You want to be there all the time, but your time is also valuable.  There are many things that pull your attention away from this focus.  Don't lose focus!  Email, budget, management, processes, all these can be put on hold when a staff member has an idea they want to run by you.  That is most important, regardless of what is going on.  Make time for that, feed that addiction and the addiction of teachers wanting to be better will reward you each time.  

I don't make many promises, but I promise this will move mindset and school culture more than anything else you do!

Friday, June 5, 2015

Feedback and Conversations are all about talking, listening, thinking and then repeating...


After spending a day, actually about 10 days total this year, learning about giving good feedback to teachers, coaches, and all instructors I think I have come to a realization that all conversations are crucially important.  Equally important is the approach you take.  Your approach to these conversations drive the message.  You must talk, listen, think, and repeat.  If decisions or conversations do not take this path, mistakes and poor decisions will be made.

Starters like:

I wonder why you did..... (sends a message of questioning)
I liked how you.... (sends a message of assurance)
Tell me more about... (shows genuine interest)
What if you... (sends a message to push one's thinking)
What did you mean when you said/did... (more clarification needed)


There are many more, but those first few lines when you are giving feedback or having a conversation are so crucial and important.  Those are what really drive that conversation/feedback.  They need to be well thought out as your message to follow is driven by your approach.

When having a conversation a message is going to be sent, make sure it is the message that you want to send.  Don't derail your conversation/feedback before is starts by picking the wrong approach or having no approach at all.  This is so crucial as we try to build trusting relationships with those we work WITH.  

Allow those we are talking with to talk.  Push their thinking with questions, but it is that act of talking, thinking, listening and repeat that filters out what is truly being attempted or tried.  Teaching has always been called a practice, treat conversation/feedback the same way.  We are practicing to be better every day, but remember the more you practice the better you always do.  Being too direct or too wishy washy degrades the message and the conversation.  Through practice we get better, it is the only way.  "The Power of WE" is alive in this process as we are in this together, we learn together, we grow together, we laugh together, and every once in a while we challenge each other.  It is all healthy and needs to be practiced.