Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Do You Want Things FROM Your Students Or FOR Your Students?


I'm guessing many students feel like school is a place where someone is always wanting something FROM them. 

Turn in your homework.

Stop talking.

Get busy. 

Walk in a straight line.

Follow instructions.

Pay attention.

Don't forget.

All of the demands can really weigh heavily after a while. For some, I'm guessing school starts to feel like a huge burden. They don't see the relevance. They feel like teachers are constantly wanting more FROM them, and they may not feel adequate to meet the expectations.

But maybe students don't understand the why behind all the expectations and requests. Maybe they don't realize that the best teachers, most teachers in fact, don't really want something FROM students. They want good things FOR their students.

The expectations and demands are intended to help students succeed now and in the future. The demands aren't because teachers want to make things easier for themselves or want to make things harder for their students. Teachers are successful when students are successful.

So I think we should spend more time and effort showing students what it is we want FOR them. And maybe we should spend a little less time talking about what we want FROM them.

Of course, expectations are part of life. And if students are going to be successful, there will be accountability. But they should always be reminded that the accountability we provide is because we care. It's because we want good things FOR them.

Teachers who get the best FROM their students are the same teachers who show their students how much they care FOR them. 

Try reminding your students you want these things FOR them...

FOR them to be leaders.

FOR them to develop strong character.

FOR them to believe in themselves.

FOR them to never stop growing.

FOR them to be more excited about learning when they leave us than when they started.

FOR them to demonstrate empathy and concern for others.

FOR them to learn from their mistakes.

FOR them to make the world a better place.

FOR them to learn more about who they are.

FOR them to build on their unique strengths.

FOR them to have hope.

FOR them to develop a great attitude.

FOR them to be adaptable to change.

FOR them to reach their potential.

FOR them to realize their dreams.

FOR them to feel like they belong.

FOR them to have healthy relationships.

FOR them to never give up.

FOR them to be curious, creative, and compassionate.

Question: How can we help students see school as a place that wants good things FOR them and not just FROM them? I want to hear from you. Leave a message below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

What's Most Valuable Attitude or Technique?



Your team just upset the #3 seed, and for the first time ever, your school will advance to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament. And then you're asked this question by a 13-year-old reporter from Sports Illustrated Kids.

SI Kids reporter: “When you coach or teach your team defense, what’s more important, technique or attitude?”

South Carolina Coach Frank Martin: “First of all, a lot of respect to you. That’s a heck of a question. I’ve been doing this a long time, and that’s the first time anyone's ever asked me that, that's a heck of a question. Attitude comes first. We gotta have guys that are gonna believe in our mission, that are going to believe in what we do. Once they believe, then we can teach them the technique.”


Kudos to Frank Martin for how he fielded this question from the kid reporter. It was a great moment. The coach showed the kid all the respect and sincerity he deserved in that moment.

But it was, after all, a great question.

Our school has enjoyed its own March Madness story this year. Our boys basketball team made it all the way to the state championship game. It was an incredible run with some unbelievable comeback victories along the way. We didn't win the championship game, but our players played like winners.

Our coach has a mantra he uses to outline the core values of his program. E-A-T.

E - Effort

There is no substitute for consistently trying hard and giving your best effort.

A- Attitude

Your positive attitude is a gift to yourself and others. Your attitude will determine your impact in life.

T- Team

Be a great teammate. Care about others ahead of yourself. Be unselfish.

The messages from Frank Martin and from Robby Hoegh (our coach) are essentially the same. Attitude is more important than technique. You might not have the greatest talent level or the best technique (...yet), but you can always show up with great effort, enthusiasm, and energy.

It's hiring season for schools all across the country. What is most important to you about who joins your team? Do they need to have the most sophisticated teaching strategies, the best understanding of subject content, and the most proven track record? Those things aren't bad. In fact, they are all important.

But what's most important is that you bring people on your team who are winners. You want people with winning attitudes. You want people who are on a mission to make a difference. Who are good teammates. Who bring positive energy every day. Who will continue learning and growing. And who want the best possible learning experience for EVERY kid.

If those qualities are in place, it's impossible to NOT grow in your technique, knowledge, and effectiveness.

Developing these aspects of your CHARACTER is more important than your PRACTICE. Who you are is more important than what you do, because what you DO will always flow from WHO you are.

Question: How can we generate more focus on Effort, Attitude, and Team in our school cultures? What is your school doing to promote these qualities? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Don't Wait To Be Excellent...Start. Right. Now.


I just finished reading the latest book from Todd Whitaker, Jeff Zoul, and Jimmy Casas—Start. Right. Now.: Teach and Lead for Excellence. The authors have packed the book with wisdom and insight from their collective experiences. The end result is a book for educators that is an excellent guide for becoming a stronger leader.

Something that caught my attention right away is the idea that every educator who is effective is also an effective leader. Leadership is not just for those in formal positions. Every teacher must grow as a leader, too. And conversely, every leader should aim to be an effective teacher as well. These roles are very complimentary and are both essential to creating outstanding schools. This idea reminded me of a recent post from this blog, 7 Reasons 'Classroom Leadership' Is Better Than 'Classroom Management.'

So while Start. Right. Now. is definitely a leadership book, it is equally relevant to teachers or formal leaders like principals or directors. The authors share a framework of four qualities important to all educators who strive for excellence. These qualities are adapted from leadership guru John Maxwell.

1. Know the Way

Excellent leaders must pursue and possess knowledge of their chosen field. For educators, that means knowing content, best practices, strategies, and how to influence people. Knowing the way means knowing what works based on experience and based on knowledge passed along from others. 



2. Show the Way

Showing the way involves coming together to develop a vision for learning and then building capacity in others to reach for and achieve that vision. To show the way, leaders must be future-focused, always preparing for what is to come, while simultaneously doing the work today that will lead to a brighter future tomorrow. Always be present in the moment to create brighter moments ahead. Where some people may see only problems, great leaders see possibilities and they focus their energy accordingly.



3. Go the Way

Your example is your most powerful influence as an educator. Students and peers are always watching to see if what we say corresponds with what we do. It matters how we live out our values, and it matters how we treat everyone we meet. Every interaction counts. The following list exemplifies educators who go the way. These staff members:

  • Believe in giving back
  • Invest in others every day
  • Find time to greet children every day
  • Possess a "whatever it takes" mindset
  • Want to be pushed by others
  • Find a connection with kids each day
  • Go out of their way to share a bit of kindness with others
  • Accept that teaching is calling, not a job
  • Take time to show gratitude to others
  • Make time for others, but also make time for themselves

4. Grow Each Day

Great educators make their own personal and professional growth a top priority. The recognize that change is inevitable but growth is optional. However, failing to make efforts to grow results in certain failure. Surround yourself with excellence, invite feedback, and be open to reflecting on areas you can improve. Connect with other committed educators who can support you in your efforts to grow. The only way to reach your potential is to start right where you are and focus on getting better every day.



The book is filled with many stories, examples, and resources to support these essential leadership principles. At the end of each chapter, ideas from other outstanding educators are featured. You might recognize a number of the ones included. They might even be part of your PLN. Some of my favorites include Pernille Ripp, Neil Gupta, Glenn Robbins, Bill Ferriter, Jon Harper, Jennifer Hogan, and Heidi Veal. These short contributions add another dimension to the book.

You'll also find specific actionable strategies at the end of each chapter with links to resources to help you get started. For instance, there are suggestions to write a personal mission statement, create a vision statement, attend an EdCamp, and participate in a Twitter chat. It's packed with great ideas every educator is sure to find helpful.

Question: How are you growing in your leadership as an educator? Are you getting better every day? If you want to do something to level up your leadership, consider reading Start. Right. Now. 

I want hear from you. Be sure to leave a comment on the blog or share on Facebook or Twitter. Your thoughts and ideas take the discussion deeper.

You can snag a copy of the book at the link below. 



This post contains Amazon Affiliate links. If you visit Amazon via the links and purchase items, I receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

What Happened When We Launched Student-Led Senior Citizen Tech Support


We have a group at Bolivar High School known as the SWAT team. SWAT stands for Students Working to Advance Technology. The club started in 2015 to support our 1:1 program that was just getting off the ground. 

SWAT provides valuable support related to how we use technology in our school. For instance, they have presented how-to workshops for teachers during our annual PD day, the past two years. And they've been involved in parent open house to demonstrate ways technology is being used for learning in our school. They also help out in the library with issues students are having with their Chromebooks.



Most recently, the group offered tech support for senior citizens in our community every Thursday after school in February from 4-5:00pm. We publicized the opportunity in our local newspaper and on Facebook. It was a simple concept. We had some digital natives (our students) on hand to help the older crowd in our community with anything tech related we could help with.

The senior adults could bring their own device (most of them did) or the students used their Chromebooks to help with Facebook, Gmail, or whatever tool they wanted to learn.

We didn't really know what to expect. It was our first time trying something like this. But it was a huge success. We had customers every single Thursday, and several of our guests came back week after week.




This activity was beneficial on several levels. 

1. It was helpful to the senior citizens we served.

Our students helped with Macs, PCs, iPads, Android devices, multiple smart phones, and a Kindle Fire. I don't think there was a single question that our students didn't handle effectively. In one case, it took about 45 minutes to research a solution, but in the end, they resolved the issue.

2. It was a fantastic opportunity to connect with our community.

I think it's great when students can go out into the community or we can bring the community in. In this case, we had quite a few people into our school building that might not normally stop by for a visit. 

3. It was a great learning experience for our students.

Our students had the opportunity to give back and lend a helping hand. They got to practice communication skills, empathy, patience, and problem solving. It gave them the opportunity to serve others.

4. Everyone seemed to love it. 

Our students enjoyed this experience so much, they asked me if we could keep doing it each week. For a variety of reasons, I made them take a break for the month of March. We'll see after that. But I was proud they wanted to continue. And the senior citizens seemed to have a great time too. Some of them asked me if we could keep doing it, too! Okay, after reading that I feel like a scrooge for making them take a break. :)

Here's a 2 minute video that includes some student voice about how they experienced this project...



Question: Is this something you might try with your students? What questions do you have about this activity? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Hottest Posts Everyone's Reading this Winter

The last few months have been incredibly busy. It seems like it was just Christmas, and somehow we are almost ready for Spring Break. I hope you're having the best school year ever. But even if you're not, keep in mind you are growing, learning, and contributing every day. Your work matters, and you are making a difference.

I'm just reflecting a little here on some of the posts from the winter months. Thanks for being loyal readers, for all of your comments and shares, and for your desire to partner with me to learn and grow. I appreciate your commitment and dedication to students and learning.

So without further adieu, here is a list of the most popular posts from the past few months. If you missed something that looks interesting, take a few minutes to read it and let me know what you think. 

Sunday, February 26, 2017

15 Reasons #EdTech Is Valuable Beyond Student Achievement



When we were planning for 1:1 at Bolivar High School, we had numerous community meetings and invited feedback and questions from our stakeholders. One of the questions that was raised went something like this, "How can you be sure student achievement will increase as a result of every kid having a device?"

And that's a very good question, at least on the surface. It would seem reasonable that if a school is going to spend thousands of dollars on devices, there should be a direct correlation, even causation, in the research to demonstrate a positive effect on measurable learning outcomes. 

That question comes up again from time to time. Our middle school is now also working toward implementing their own version of 1:1.

The research on the impact of 1:1 programs is mixed. Some studies point to flat achievement or even declining achievement, especially with low-income and minority students. Other studies, like Project Red for instance, have found that schools implementing a 1:1 student-computer ratio along with key implementation factors outperform other schools.

But I'm a bit skeptical of studies on either side of this issue. It is very difficult to isolate any single factor or group of factors to show direct impact on measurable student achievement outcomes. There are so many moving parts in what students learn and to what extent they learn it.

I do believe that technology implemented properly CAN have a positive impact on student achievement. But I would also argue that there are many, many reasons to go digital in schools besides student achievement. And I mean student achievement in the narrowest sense. Everything we do is related to student achievement in my view, but researchers and bureaucrats usually examine this factor through a narrow lens of standardized test results.

Since I believe so strongly in the benefits of technology for students, I asked my PLN for feedback on what they believe are the most important reasons to go digital beyond strictly academic outcomes. I summarize the ideas below, and you can also check out their responses in the Twitter Moment embedded below.

15 Reasons #EdTech is Valuable Beyond Student Achievement

1. Essential to learning in a modern world.

Technology is just as essential to learning in today's world as the school library. To be an effective learner in today's world means you're going to be using digital tools to learn.

2. Encourages lifelong learning.

Our school's motto is Learning for Life. We believe in the importance of developing skills that will translate to life. If we want our students to be lifelong learners, they need to understand the role of technology in that.

3. Connects students and schools with the outside world.

These tweets from Ellen Deem and Kevin Foley summarize it nicely. Technology allows us to bring the world into our school, and take our school into the world.

4. Reflects how work gets done outside of schools.

Almost every career, project, or activity will involve technology in some way. Having stronger skills related to technology brings value to most every area of life.

5. Allows for practicing digital citizenship.

How can we expect students to make good decisions and develop into responsible digital creators and consumers if we don't give opportunities for practice in school?

6. Important for teaching digital literacy.

Students need to understand digital literacy as part of overall information literacy. It's not enough to be able to read and write. You need to know how the digitally connected world works.

7. Important for practicing the 4 C's.

If we are serious about teaching communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking, technology is a great vehicle to explore those skills.

8. Kids like it.

I love this response from Melinda Miller. If we are serious about kids becoming independent learners, then learning needs to be exciting and fun.
9. Improves communication.

We gain opportunities to communicate and connect within and outside our school through the use of email, social media, shared documents, etc. 

10. Improves student engagement

Technology can play an important role in increasing student engagement and creating more student-centered learning opportunities.

11. Provides an authentic audience for student work outside the school.

Student work shouldn't be destined to finish in a trash can. It can be saved forever and shared with the world using digital tools.

12. Allows new ways to differentiate learning.

Technology is great for meeting individual learning needs. 

13. It can personalize learning.

Technology can create opportunities for students to pursue passions, make choices, and have their voice heard.

14. It creates efficiency.

With technology, we can use less paper, save time, and overcome the limitations of when and where we learn.

15. It supports curiosity.

Students have questions. A connected device provides the means to search for answers. Someone made the comment that tech has made us less curious. I don't necessarily think that's true.

Question: What are your thoughts on ways #EdTech impacts learning beyond student achievement? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter. 

Also, be sure to check out all the tweets from my PLN in response to this topic. Thanks everyone for contributing!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

11 Apps That Help Me Manage My Social Media Life



I use my iPhone to do most of my connecting through social media. I guess that trend is common since mobile device use is up while use of laptops/desktops is down worldwide. This chart illustrates how that trend is expected to continue.


Retrieved: http://digiday.com/media/mobile-overtaking-desktops-around-world-5-charts/


Social media has been transformational in my work as an educator. The connections I've made and the ideas I've encountered have pushed me to grow and learn in ways I never could've imagined.

But I also don't want social media to take over my life. I work very hard to maximize my productivity and get the most out of my online work without compromising other important areas of my life.

These are 11 apps I've used that I've found most beneficial to managing my social media life. They aren't in any particular order, and they serve a variety of purposes.

1. Twitter-I use the Twitter app to read tweets and post to multiple accounts (school and personal/professional). I sometimes even participate in Twitter chats using my iPhone. 

2. Buffer-This app is fantastic for scheduling tweets and managing multiple social media accounts. I like to read and share relevant content to my followers. I've found Buffer is the best way to do this. One of the things I like about it is the ability to follow RSS feeds within the app. It brings some of my favorite content right into the app so I can review and share.

3. Facebook Pages-I help manage content for our high school page, and I also have a Facebook fan page for my blog. I can take care of both accounts through this app's interface. It works great!

4. Nuzzel-I use Nuzzel to read the hottest stories from my Twitter feed. Basically, it ranks articles that have been shared the most by my friends. I always find content here I want to share with others. It also works with Facebook. You just have to connect your accounts to the app.

5. Evernote-Anything I don't want to forget goes in Evernote. It's a great app for taking notes and staying organized. I keep a list of possible blog topics here also so I always have something to think and write about.

6. Juice-This app is another way I get content to read and share. It analyzes my Twitter and then generates new articles to read every 24 hours. I don't think very many people know about this one, but I really like it.

7. Flipboard-I use Flipboard semi-regularly, but it often frustrates me. It's supposed to aggregate relevant links and stories based on my interests. It's algorithm is supposed to learn my preferences and habits. The problem is I don't find helpful content there as often as I'd like. Am I doing something wrong? 

8. Vanillapen-This app is great for making quick and easy quote images. I like to share inspiring images or quotes and this makes it a breeze.

9. Pexels-You might share this app with your students too. It's a great online platform for finding Creative Commons licensed photos to use in projects and presentations. You don't want to violate copyright laws by choosing any photo from a Google search. The photos on this site are free and there are new pics added daily. 

10. Canva-I use Canva to create images for blog posts or to share on social media. Some of the graphics and images are fee based, but I use it often and rarely pay for anything.

11. TweetDeck-This tool is my favorite way to participate in Twitter chats. The simple column view allows users to monitor multiple accounts or hashtags all at once. For a chat, I typically have a column for the hashtag and one for my notifications so I know when someone has mentioned or tweeted at me.

I always enjoying new apps and have really benefited from the ones I've shared in this post. Having the right app is like finding the right tool in my shop. It makes every project turn out better!

Question: What are your favorite apps right now? I'm curious what works well for you. You can leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.
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