Thursday, October 27, 2016

Voice - Who should it belong too?

Here is my Ignite in video format (Words although not exact to ignite below)

Are you tired at night?  

Do you sometimes leave the job dragging and wondering if you can make it another day?  

Do you drive home and say to yourself maybe I need different work?  

Do you know that you are working too hard and yet don’t know what to do?

Do you think of education as a package you need to deliver?

What if rather than a unit or plan you thought of lessons as collection of experiences with multiple opportunities for students to show you knowledge with creativity in their own method.  

Besides we are all aware of how we have shorter attention spans than ever! Some of you have already started to tune you out.  I know, I am beginning to see it right here! Already!

I don’t see this as a bad thing, I see this as an opportunity, but we have shift our thinking around what we put in front of students.  

I was told once and once believed that I was an entertainer and needed to be one as a teacher.  

This is inherently a disaster.

Which like a snow storm, may be fun to watch until you have to dig out afterwards.  If you are always needed to drive everything, on days when you are off, the whole train runs off the tracks.   


You must give voice to others and in turn give up power.  You may have to show them how and you may have to push them a bit, but your ultimate goal is to give voice to others.   


You must give the voice to the student.  You will need to ask good questions and need to have good tasks for them, but ultimately, get out of the way and let them speak, write, solve, or do whatever.    

You must make them do the work not by yelling or demanding, but by showing them there is no other way.

You must establish an atmosphere of creators.

You must foster an environment where students know to seek each other out or go through a feedback process independently before claiming, “I am done!”

Just stop talking so much!  

Don’t be that person that you all have seen speak. The person that after, “hello my name is….” you have already tuned them out.  

Trust me, no matter how captivating you think you are as an educator and how great you think your jokes are, by November even your most loyal student is beginning to say, “why don’t they just shut up”.

Create activities that require them to explain verbally, write reflections or observations, record their thinking, conference with them one on one, ask them good questions, and a million other ideas.

Not only about the content they are learning, but also how they “feel” about that content.  Always try to bring it back to a feeling, where they have to think through their own experiences and history to explain.  

No matter the age, they will never get tired of telling you what they “think”!


Here is an example of what I am talking about.  What does he mean “feel”, that makes no sense to me.

What would keep your interest more?

A typical pool is 5.5 feet deep and 10 X 20 feet wide and long. How many cubic feet is that?


Are you a diver or a lap swimmer? What is important to you in a pool?  What would the dimensions of your pool need to be to satisfy your needs.  Label each dimension and identify the cubic feet so we know how much water to have delivered.

You won’t get a standard answer.  You may not know the answer right away, this is a good thing, ask them to prove it and explain why they chose those dimensions.  They now have to apply some emotion and opinion to math.  

This is a very basic changes in wording to a question.  I would challenge you to come up with much more creative multi-tiered tasks.

Remember standards do not require answers.  They require you to think, explain, share, and apply what they learn.  Please remember that.  


It is not good enough to stop or only allow students to tell you what they learned.  I can ask Google questions and it can literally tell me what it has found.  Ask them to tell you from different perspective including their own.  

I want to know how they “feel” about what they have learned.  
I want them to “explain” in their own words what they learned.
I want them to “apply” to a new medium what they learned.
I want them to “share” what they learned, possibly with a link.

If we can get them to that, a link, then they can share it with anyone.  I want them to know that what they share is important, what they share does matter, and what they share should be shared.  The creation of something as simple as a link is proof that you have confidence in their message.

As I speak on the mic, I ask you to give up yours.  I am tired, I am working too hard, I have already said too much, I need to hand this off!  

You need to show students they are going to change the world, not us.  But in order for that to happen, we have to get them ready to lead their own voice, not be told what to say.  

We just want to allow, push, maybe even hard at times, and help them just develop their own voice.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

What is the difference between now and then?

Pens used to be the only way to say
Station to station you moved information

Touch and delivery, the methods of the day
Conversations and stories were the only way

Opinions and thoughts were farther apart
Never heard and never dropped

Digital advantage has come to stay
Say what you say, the ability to save

Don't need to be present, don't need to be there
Now, where you are, no one cares

Video and recordings change the conversation
How is this changing human evolution?

Actions have not really changed
Movements and growth is still the same

What is different is the reach and speed
Just more to hear and see

This rate of change and information is good
Some argue that conversations are a lost art

Disagree with premise just not as private
Openness reveals ugly truths
Now that all sides have a voice
Social Media is that proof

Monday, October 3, 2016

What question do you wish your admin would ask you?

Educators are Dreamers
Educators are Believers
Educators are Changers
Educators are Leaders

If you believe all of those, then you understand that at times teachers want to be asked questions that do not have easily to recall questions.  They want to be asked things that may be out of reach, things that may push their thinking, things that "in a perfect world" may actually happen.  Things that they can hold on to as inspiration to move forward.

As a principal I often ask my staff questions and provide feedback that is very specific to their practice.  I often ask them to explain their thinking, which many times probably comes off as challenging their thoughts.  This is always left up to perception, the relationship you have built with them, and how previous interactions have gone.  I also understand that this separates me from them, and the closer I am to them the more it might hurt.

Side Note - I think so many on social media talk about getting feedback, and want you to respond to a blog, grow together, blah blah blah, it is easy when you have no personal connection with someone.  It is totally different getting feedback from "SM person" than from someone that knows the name of your kids, has been to your parents funeral, understands your Starbucks order, knows the name of your sister, and has shared moments of deep thoughts and sorrows.  So for all those SM folks "seeking feedback", is just getting a critique or a suggestion you can easily ignore.  Realize that we are giving deep and personal feedback to our teammates that goes so far beyond what anyone on social media claims to be feedback. just saying... 

That all being said, I have a job to push people, challenge people, and do what is best for "our kids" in as much a non-judgmental environment as I can.  So we have a process, I have written about in previous blogs.  It is multi-tiered, just understand that.  Sometimes small tweaks, sometimes as we are doing now, deep dives with instructional rounds.  

I also know that I can not flip the switch from critical specific feedback person to tell me how you think that went, without a little bit of questioning of my motive or intention.  I understand this, and it is okay, because at the end of the day improvement from all angles is the ultimate goal.  Which in the end will benefit the students.  Then there is the human aspect, the constant feedback cycle wears you down, even the most growth mindset educator you have ever met.  They get worn down from constant questions about why they chose to do this or chose to do that.

What if you from time to time you change the question from; "Why did you choose to do that in your lesson?" to "What do you want me to ask you or wish I asked you about your lesson?"

What if I asked, "What is it that you want me to know about your class set-up?" vs. "Why do you have your class set up this way?"

What if I asked, "What do you want me to derive from this reading data?" vs. "Why do you think there are so many kids that struggle with reading?"

You tell me what to ask you, it is definitely a switch, and certainly can not happen all the time, but does it not sound better and isn't ownership more shared in this approach?


I can tell you flat out that if you ask me what I wanted you to ask me, it would require me to reflect.  It would require me to be honest with myself.  It would require me to give myself feedback at a level that would better prepare me to answer any follow-up questions.

I tend to be honest with my supervisor +Peter Leida and we have a relationship that is strong.  I know I have faults, he knows what they are, I work on them.  He does not judge me, he works with me, we figure them out together.  I am also brutally honest, tell on myself constantly, and because of our situation, I never feel like I am not supported.  I consider myself super lucky in this way.  He knows I have kids, he knows my wife's name and he still pushes me, knowing I may hate him for a few minutes, but his intentions are pure, therefore, I forgive him for his position and who he has to be to make me better.

So make a switch at times... Give honest feedback to those you care about deeply, but also ask them to ask you what they want...


For example:  If I was asked - What is one question I wish my supervisor would ask me? It would unveil immediately what my real beliefs and passions are in education.  It would reveal what I value, what I think about, and what I spend most my energy on.  

If my supervisor just asks me - What is one thing I find important right now? My answer is already tainted by my previous interactions, what I know about their beliefs in education, job security, how they might react, etc.  It is already loaded and tainted, not 100% authentic.  Even with the fact that I feel 100% supported.

I need to do this for my staff.  I need to know what they want me to know about them, about their class, and about their beliefs.  We created a belief poster at the beginning of the year, it is time we revisited that.

It is time they told me what they want me to ask them. 

Obviously we can not live in this "WISH" world forever, nor should we... It is not always reality and our "WISHES" may not actually be in line with what is the highest leverage action steps to help kids. But, until we identify and feel that our "WISHES" have been heard, do you ever get past feeling like you are ever heard?  Can you ever feel like you can commit to what you are passionate about? 

Rub the lantern leaders, grant just one "wish" ask your staff one question that I got via +Peter Leida 

"What question do you wish your admin would ask you?"

This whole train of thought was generated by that one question above.  You never know where a "WISH" will lead you!