Thursday, February 25, 2016

Will This Attack or Preserve the Dignity of a Child?


Lori and I are blessed with four kids, and over the years our family has been blessed by many great teachers who have helped our children grow and learn. Our oldest, Drew, is now in his first year of college. Cooper is a high school senior. Maddie is a high school freshman. And Emma is in 6th grade. All four kids have had so many positive experiences in school thanks to their teachers and principals.

But there have also been a handful of times that were not positive. You don't really ever forget when you feel your child's dignity was compromised. If you feel he or she was embarrassed by a teacher, it's hard to let it go. I think parents are just wired that way. We want to protect and defend our kids. And it angers me on a professional level, too.

As educators we are charged with always building stronger kids. Sometimes that means we have tough love and set them straight. Sometimes we have to discipline them. Not every situation is positive, but every situation can be used to build dignity and avoid tearing a child down. Every situation can be handled in a positive manner.

Using sarcasm. Cutting remarks. Public humiliation. No student should ever have to endure this type of behavior from an educator. All schools should work to create a culture where it is not acceptable to steal anyone's dignity. Schools should be a place where adults are committed to do everything possible to preserve respect.

I should also note that I understand teachers and principals are human too. We all make mistakes. I'm not angry about the times when I felt one of our kids was treated poorly. And I'm not accusing anyone of being malicious. I don't think there are many teachers who come to school and think today I'm going to make it my goal to ruin a kid's day. It's usually just a careless word or deed or a bad moment. It can happen to any of us.


Image retrieved: http://rongelok.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/power-of-words.jpg

In fact, I'm sure there have been times I've said things that were not helpful, and that made a student feel less than. But that is never my intention. And I work very hard to communicate a high level of respect for all students. In fact, I always start the school year visiting with students about respect. I tell them up front, "I will never intentionally disrespect you. If I ever say or do something that makes you feel disrespected, please let me know so I can apologize." I then challenge them to treat their teachers and each other the same way. If nothing else, let's make sure that respect is important here.

Is it ever okay to take a child's dignity? Every reasonable person would likely say no, so why does it still happen? Teachers can lose patience, feel disrespected themselves, or just be having a bad day. We want to save face, feel in control, be shown respect. But we have to get past that. We can't let our feelings cause us to act unprofessionally. When you can respond to disrespect with love and care, it only makes you stronger. We must always model kindness, compassion, and humility. 



Recently I was in a situation where I felt a student's dignity was being compromised by an adult, and I was present. I was completely caught off guard and didn't really know how to respond in the moment. The student didn't seem too bothered by it, but I was very uncomfortable. Thankfully, the conversation turned in another direction. I later followed up and asked the adult about what happened, "How do you think (the student) felt when you said..." The adult was open to the feedback and seemed to understand how the words might have been hurtful. We had a good conversation.

I think we also have an obligation to step-in when we observe students stealing each other's dignity. There are a number of ways to do this without further embarrassing anyone. We can change the direction of the conversation, pull the student aside, or simply give a disapproving look to the offender. I had a teacher tell me once they didn't want to get involved when this type of thing happened. They said students need to learn to navigate these situations themselves to develop their social skills. I completely disagree. Our job is to create emotional safety. Students should be able to count on teachers to stick up for them.

There have been a few times I can remember where a teacher was openly critical of a student in front of the class, while the student was not present. Of course, this information made it back to the student, who was not happy. If the same information had been shared directly to the student in a private manner, there would be no concern. The teacher would be giving the student valuable feedback. We can never be too careful with our words. We should ask ourselves, "Will these words be beneficial to this situation? Will they serve to build-up or tear-down?"






Sometimes it's very obvious that dignity is being attacked. Other times it is more subtle. We need to question any practices in our schools that might chip away at dignity. Intervention programs are extremely popular right now in education. But I question the wisdom of endless remediation of students. I think it can be a constant reminder of a student's deficits and lead to feelings of despair and hopelessness toward school. I think we should give students extra support when they need it, but we need to be careful about how we do this. We need to build on students' strengths and help them find things they are passionate about. I think that's just as important as any of our academic goals.

Every teacher should be intentional about contributing to a culture of kindness and respect. We should always ask the question, "Will this attack or preserve the dignity of a child?"

Can you think of other examples of practices that might chip away at students' dignity? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below to respond. Or, share on Twitter or Facebook.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

9 Ways to Make Learning Irresistible



True story. The bell rang and nobody moved.

They were completely focused, totally engrossed. They probably didn't even hear the bell because they were so focused on what they were learning. Amazing, right?

How often are students counting down the minutes of each class? They have their eyes on the clock. They start packing up early, preparing themselves for the transition to the next class. Sometimes they are even lined up at the door, waiting for the bell to ring to move on to the next thing.

But not on this particular occasion. The students were so into what they were learning, the teacher had to remind them it was time to leave. You can work more on this tomorrow. You'll be late for your next class. It's time to go.


via @silviaduckworth

How often does this happen in your classroom? How often does the learning in your classroom elicit this kind of passion and commitment? If your classroom is like most, it happens infrequently.

I remember when I was teaching high school English, I would tell my students, "If you work hard all hour, I'll give you the last five minutes to relax and just visit with your friends." That was a terrible idea. I would never do that now. I tried to be an engaging teacher and was doing the best I could with what I knew at the time.

But the underlying message was that learning is "work" and unpleasant and you need a break, so I'll give you some time later to visit. We should create conditions where students are disappointed there isn't more time to work on whatever they are learning. As for my promise of social time, my students should've been interacting throughout the whole class. I don't have to reserve time for you to visit. You will be talking with your classmates as part of the process. You will be sharing the amazing things you are learning.

We have all experienced moments of flow. It's during these times that we feel we are completely immersed in what we are doing. We are in the zone. Flow is a mental state where we have intense focus, complete involvement, and enjoy the process entirely. It can happen in learning, play, work, or a variety of activities. When we find our flow, it probably feels more like play even if it's not. It's amazing what we can accomplish when we feel this sense of full absorption in what we are doing. It's where we find our genius.


Image retrieved: http://www.pursuit-of-happiness.org/wp-content/uploads/flow-notebook3.jpg


It seems obvious to me the classroom full of students that didn't budge when the bell rang was experiencing flow. When I heard this report from one of our teachers, I was thrilled. Let's celebrate! That is so cool. We want this type of learning experience for our students.

But should this be a rare happening? Shouldn't every student experience this type of full engagement, at least on a semi-regular basis?

While it's likely not possible to maintain flow at all times, shouldn't it be something we seek to help our students achieve often? Why isn't this a priority? Shouldn't we aim for this type of full engagement? Wouldn't our students be stronger learners now and in the future if they knew the feeling of complete immersion in what they are learning?

But instead, we settle for on-task. If students appear engaged and participate in the lesson, we have achieved success. Or we hear demand for rigor. That communicates a positive outlook on learning. Rigor does not sound fun. It sounds just a little painful. 


Image retrieved: http://www.pursuit-of-happiness.org/wp-content/uploads/flow-notebook3.jpg

So in the name of rigor, we feel the need to assign homework as sighs and groans echo around the room. I'm calling for a culture where students are so excited about what they are learning, they want to extend the learning on their own. They give themselves their own homework, because they are curious and what they are learning is interesting to them.

So what are we afraid of? Why are we covering content and teaching lessons without aiming for more? What teacher wouldn't want a classroom full of students who are so into what they are learning, they don't want to stop?

Maybe we are afraid to give up some control. Maybe we're afraid we won't be the purveyors of knowledge? Or that we won't cover as much curriculum? That students won't be prepared for standardized tests? Or that it just won't work for these kids? Blame, blame, blame. We blame the system. We blame the parents. We blame everyone possible, and just continue to play school and make sure we are good enough.

But it's time to stop playing the blame game. We can have amazing learning that can work for all kids, and we don't have to wait for someone else to change. There are places where this is happening now, even in schools that are quite traditional. What it takes is an innovative teacher. It takes you. You can create more and more experiences of flow in your classroom. You can make learning irresistible.

But it does require sacrifice. You have to choose different priorities. The first priority is to really know your students and what excites them. It's about relationships. The second priority is to see them fully engaged, and finding moments of flow, as often as possible. And then, your curriculum becomes the third priority. I realize the curriculum is important, but if you have great relationships and a culture of learning, students will exceed your goals for the curriculum.

So all of that reflection brings me to these ideas for creating flow in your classroom.

9 Proven Ways to Make Learning Irresistible (How to find flow in your classroom...)

1. Learning involves choice. Learners need greater ownership and opportunities to make choices regarding time, place, path, and pace. 

2. Learning involves student conversations. Whoever is doing the talking is doing the learning.

3. Learning that is creative. Creativity is one of the best ways to find flow.

4. Learning makes a difference. When learning is making a difference for me, for others, or for my community, it matters so much more.

5. Learning involves play. Play involves fun, laughter, imagination. These are great ways to find flow. Making learning a game can be a great way to make learning irresistible.

6. Learning is filled with discovery. Constructivist learning promotes true understanding and appeals to a learner's sense of wonder and curiosity.

7. Learning involves community. Connect with experts. Invite the community in. Go out into the community. Break down the classroom walls.

8. Learning that is visible to real audiences. Learning is more relevant and meaningful when I know my work will be valuable to a real audience.

9. Learning that is challenging. Not rigor. It means arduous and severe, and it makes you want to have an ice cream cone. But learning that is challenging pushes you on. Why can a teen spend hours trying to conquer a video game? That's challenging. And that involves flow. Capture this in the classroom and watch it transform the culture of learning.

Question: How do you find moments of flow in your classroom? How do you make learning irresistible? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

11 Positive Tips for Dealing with Difficult Parents


It's often the most dreaded part of a teacher's job—dealing with difficult parents. When you have "that parent" it's so easy to just avoid picking up the phone to make a call home. It doesn't seem worth it. Death and public speaking are counted among people's greatest fears. Many educators would add calling an angry parent to the list.

It's especially true for those new to the profession, even though I think all teachers struggle with this to an extent. Most people don't enjoy dealing with negative emotions or unreasonable expectations. But avoiding the problem won't make it go away.

But the right approach can make working with any parent a more positive experience. And if you win the parents' support, it will make your job so much easier and help the child be more successful. Here are 11 ideas for making parent interactions more productive.

1. Be Proactive

Don't wait until there is a problem before you start to build a relationship with parents. Reach out to them and let them know that you are committed to helping their child succeed. If certain parents are known to be critical or unreasonable, communicate early and often to prevent misunderstandings and build some positive feelings. Rik Rowe has been a leader in promoting #GoodCallsHome on Twitter. The idea is to make regular phone calls to share good news with parents. Then if there is a problem, it won't be the first time you've called.

2. Find Common Ground

When having a difficult conversation with a parent, do everything you can to establish shared purpose. Parents want their kids to be successful and so do you. Focus on how the problem is impacting their child, not how it's impacting you, the classroom, or other students. While those are all important areas of concern for you, parents tend to focus on the success of their child. Let the parents know you want to work with them to address the issue.

3. Focus on the Positive

Every kid has positive qualities that need to be recognized. It's important to focus on these first in communicating with parents. It takes several positive comments to overcome one negative one. It's also important to focus on communicating positive intentions. Work together with the parent to establish some improvement goals that will benefit the student.


4. Listen

When difficult conversations turn to damaging conversations, it's usually because the school is more interested in being right than trying to understand the perspective of the parent. LISTEN. Don't be quick to judge. Be curious. What is eliciting this idea or emotion from the parent? Show you are listening by paraphrasing what the parent is saying before you add something new. Ask clarifying questions to make sure you understand.

5. Show How Much You Care

When parents know how much you care about their child, it builds trust and makes the teacher and parent relationship stronger. You can show how much you care by getting to know your students, taking an interest in their activities and hobbies, and making extra efforts to help them. Parents know you care when they feel you completely, and unconditionally accept their child and want what's best for him or her.

6. Don't Lose Your Empathy

Even when parents are angry, demanding, and unreasonable, commit to keep your mindset in a place of empathy. Don't take the negative emotion personal. It's not about you. Even if it is, it's not helpful to take it personally. Strong emotions are often elicited because parents want the best for their kids. Sometimes, the parents are dealing with other trauma or hardship and the frustrations of life get released on you. Not fun. But stay with empathy. It's tough to be a parent, especially when life is painful and filled with hardship.

7. Stay Firm

Just because you start and end with empathy doesn't mean you should give in to whatever demands the parent has. Ultimately, you have to make decisions based on your professional experience and what's best for the child. Although parent input is a must, the final decision rests with you. So be firm about what options will work and don't offer something that isn't a wise choice.

8. It's Okay to Negotiate

Although you must be firm on some decisions, it's also okay to negotiate with parents. Some give and take is necessary to maintain a spirit of cooperation. If you turn down every request a parent has they will view you as rigid and uncaring. In education, our end users are the students and parents. We should do everything within reason to ensure they are satisfied and having a positive experience.

9. Ask for Support

One of the best things you can do is share your parent struggles with your principal or a colleague. The can provide support and encouragement to you. And, they may have information to add to the mix to help you understand how to proceed in a situation.

10. Don't Get Backed Into a Corner

It's always best to keep multiple options available and not get backed into a corner. Instead of making promises you may not be able to keep, take a tentative stance that will allow for some wiggle room if you need it. It's always best to underpromise and overdeliver. 

Probably the quickest way to get cornered is to say or do something that is disrespectful to the parent or child. Clearly, it's not a good idea to ever act unprofessionally. But it happens. And as soon as the teacher (or principal) has made this mistake, that issue will take center stage over any of the issues that need to be addressed with the student.

11. Set Boundaries

Most parents respect boundaries because they are kind and considerate. But difficult parents can plow through without any concern for you, your classroom, or good manners. When boundaries are crossed, it's important to politely, but directly establish expectations. If you clarify boundaries and still don't get cooperation, you should involve your principal.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Good Leaders Know How to Get Out of the Way


I'm a lifelong Kentucky Wildcat basketball fan. Every year I follow the Wildcats and anything short of a national championship is somewhat disappointing. Growing up in Kentucky did this to me. My biggest childhood heroes were all UK basketball greats.

Yesterday, Kentucky coach John Calipari was ejected from the South Carolina game just moments after the opening tip. The Wildcats, who have struggled at times this season, went on to dismantle the Gamecocks 89-62, a convincing road win.

After the game, Calipari tweeted saying he had never been more proud of a team, adding that they don't need him anymore.



Some fans speculated that Cal intentionally got himself tossed from the game to motivate the team. I have no idea if it was on purpose or not, but his post game tweet had me thinking about leadership and empowerment.

How often are school leaders standing in the way of something great? Like Calipari, do we need to get out of the way of our teams? How often are we making decisions for people that they could make more effectively on their own? And how often do we hesitate or say no because there might be some risk in saying yes? Something could go wrong.

There are all kinds of reasons leaders get in the way of their teams. But in general, a micromanaging leader is usually one who is either arrogant, afraid, or both. Giving power away and allowing followers to choose their path takes faith and trust. But only when the team is empowered can the full capacity of the organization be known.

If we want schools where teachers are making the greatest impact, we must give them the opportunity to make more decisions and have more autonomy. Teachers understand better than anyone the challenges in classrooms, and they also have the power to address these challenges like no one else.

So let's be clear. Leadership is not coercion or control. It is service and support. I challenge you to get out of the way. And, of course, you don't have to get thrown out of the game to empower your team!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

17 Powerful Leadership Thoughts from #METC16


I was thrilled to attend my first METC (Midwest Education Technology Community) conference, and it was a great experience. We took a team of six from our school, and I think everyone felt it was very beneficial. We really enjoyed sharing what we learned in the different sessions and dreaming about new possibilities for our students and school. Now it's time to take action!

Although the conference had incredible information on a variety of digital tools, the ideas on leadership and change were outstanding. As principal, it's very important to me that we provide the leadership and support to see technology efforts thrive, and ultimately to have the best learning environment for students. Here are 17 ideas I can take with me from this conference. 

1. If students leave school less creative or curious than when they came, we have failed them. -George Couros

Creativity and the desire to learn should be top priorities as outcomes for schooling. And yet, those aspects of learning have not been emphasized in most cases. Student achievement on standards has taken priority over developing passionate learners.

2. Technology in the hands of an innovative teacher is transformational. 


Technology is not optional. Students are going to need to use tech in creative and powerful ways to create the greatest value now and in the future. But technology alone is not enough. Teachers must use their professional skills to use technology to increase learning.

3. Isolation is the enemy of improvement. Sharing is learning.

One of the best ways for new ideas to emerge and then spread is by teachers sharing with each other. The best voice for change is a teacher for whom a change or idea is working for them.

4. Help students be problem finders.

Take problem solving a step further. Let your students have experience identifying problems themselves. When students identify problems, they will have greater investment in finding solutions.

5. Innovation starts and ends with empathy.

Students will be better at finding problems when they start with empathy. When they understand how someone is suffering or how something isn't workingwhen they really feel the needthen they will begin to innovate and use their talents to find ways to make the world better.

6. If you want to be a master teacher, you need to be a master learner. -George Couros

It's time for all teachers to take charge of their own professional development. Professional learning shouldn't be the obligation of the school. Every teacher should try to improve themselves for the good of their students. They should model the type of learning they want from their students.

7. Stop talking about kids as leaders of tomorrow. Our students can be amazing leaders right now.

Even the words "student" and "school" have become associated with hints of passiveness and boredom. We need learners in real situations, demonstrating real opportunities for leadership. Get students into the community. Ask them to make change happen and make the world better now.

8. Learning is messy. Change leadership mirrors this also.

Leaders shouldn't try to control every aspect of learning or change. If we create supportive conditions that value risk-taking and new ideas, learning and change will thrive.



9. Leaders help support what others want to do, not what the leader is pressuring them to do.

I think this is a big statement. Pressure is not an effective strategy. Let's get behind the hopes and dreams of teachers who are doing the work, and help them reach their goals.

10. Start with strengths and build from there.

Is data-driven really code for deficit-driven? No one is inspired by having the weaknesses pointed out. The leaders who inspired us the most, saw our strengths and made us feel 10 feet tall, and then they challenged us to get even better.

11. Make decisions based on the end users (students), not the providers (admin, teachers).

Let's remember that our purpose is helping students reach their dreams. And then let's make decisions that support those dreams. Too many decisions are made based on a narrow view of education and the convenience and comfort of administrators and teachers.

12. If you truly want to empower people, give them power. -Rafranz Davis

It's not enough to talk about empowering others. If people don't have the opportunities of choice and voice, it's going to inhibit change.

13. Don't point out problems unless you are willing to offer solutions or seek answers.

Pointing out problems without being a problem-solver is just blaming and complaining. 

14. Trust and relationships are crucial to learning and change.

Relationships, relationships, relationships. It's worth repeating. We must make people our priority. Only when we value people will we see progress. The trust that is established in healthy relationships provides the foundation and safety for giving yourself to a cause.

15. Access is agency.

Access and opportunity go hand-in-hand. When students have access to a connected device, they have the opportunity to make a positive difference, both for themselves and those around them. But, it's a choice. Access provides the opportunity. It doesn't guarantee every student will make great choices, but there is opportunity for learning in that too.

16. Content can change over time but the ability to learn is forever. -George Couros

Maybe learning how to learn should be the greatest desired outcome of schooling?



17. If you aren't facilitating a digitally literate classroom, you are becoming irrelevant.

So much of the way the world gets things done is through digital means. If you aren't embracing this fact in your classroom, you are quickly becoming irrelevant. Our students need to see how technology can help them make an impact in the world. And they need you to model it for them. Be a connected educator.

These ideas represent my notes and takeaways from the conference. Thanks to George Couros, Rafranz Davis, and other presenters for making it a great learning experience.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Guest Post: 6 Assumptions That Were Killing Reading In My Classroom


Guest Post by Amber Dlugosh


After four years of teaching novels and short stories from classroom sets, I daily stared into the eyes of students who collectively looked like they were slowly mummifying. I found myself exhausted and at the end of my rope, knowing that most students weren’t reading and those who were traversing all of the assigned content were not loving it. The learning climate of my classroom demanded a change, so I took a semester to fly south for the winter. In less poetic terms, I crafted my personal learning plan around reading instruction and led a small book study over Penny Kittle’s Book Love. After implementing many of the strategies Kittle discusses at length in her book, I was in awe at how easily the reluctance and apathy in my classroom melted away.

After much reflection, it's clear my previous classroom practices were hindered by flawed assumptions about reading. Below I trace how my assumptions have changed in recent months.

1. Students will not honestly engage in dialogue about their own reading habits.

Before making any changes in my classroom, I took an entire day of instruction to host a roundtable discussion with each of my classes. Students were very aware and very honest about their perceptions of reading and how the structure of previous schools/classrooms impacted these perceptions in both positive and negative ways. The biggest take-aways from those discussions? 1) Choice. Choice. Choice. Kids want the freedom to choose their books, 2) Testing reading comprehension kills the love of reading and promotes cheating, 3) Requiring kids to read at their Lexile level severely dampens the love of reading for all readers, especially skilled readers, 4) The love for reading typically died around middle school, with high school driving the final nail into the coffin, and finally 5) Most kids want to be readers. They voiced the desire coupled with feelings of inadequacy to call themselves such.

2. Teachers must focus on rigor, so students should not be allowed to read below their personal level.

Adults frequently read for pleasure. The majority of Barnes and Noble is stocked with books created to entertain, yet somehow, teachers started assuming that the main goal of reading was to boost reading levels, and the only way to do so was to read a tad above where you’re currently testing. When students are reading as frequently as mine are, there is no worry in allowing texts lower than grade level, because they are exercising their reading muscles and critical thinking skills that will be needed for more difficult texts. It is my job to monitor their reading habits and push them toward more complicated texts, but there is no harm in re-reading The Hunger Games and noticing new details that were missed the first time through, which causes students to hunt for those things in future, unfamiliar reads.

3. Teachers must utilize class-wide texts to monitor and assess properly.

Class-wide novels, short stories, and articles have their place. However, when they are the main source of reading in a classroom, students can easily participate without ever having read a page. Trust me. They told me. Quizzes and tests felt like necessary assessment, but I think I overlooked the power of conversation. Before, I was always wary that my kids weren’t actually reading. Now, I am certain students are reading because they can’t stop talking to me about characters, stories, authors, movie comparisons, real events, news articles relating to their reading, etc. I no longer have to waste my time with comprehension quizzes; instead, we are able to plunge deeper into other content goals that require critical thinking.

4. The majority of students will not read by choice.

I am now entirely convinced that students do not read for one main reason: they have not found the right book. Students know reading is valuable, and even those who struggle, still long to build their skills. Once they find the right book, it is hard to get them to stop. Now, I rarely have issues with technology distraction in my room; instead, students are sneaking more reading time in during my instruction. One young lady who openly admitted to reading frustration due to her low skill level asked to sit in my room after school and read. Every day, I write passes for kids who are begging to come to my academic help time, which is now 30 minutes devoted to quiet reading. Students WANT to read; we must help them gain the proper tools to do so.

5. Expecting every student to read the same assignment is perfectly reasonable. 


When I started calculating my own reading rate for each book I consumed, I noticed an alarming issue: I do not read at a consistent pace. My background knowledge, my interest with the content, the author’s style, the author’s word choice, and my own distractibility all played huge roles in my reading speed. If that is true for me, someone who is a skilled reader, how much more so does it vary for my students? It was foolish of me to think every kid could read the same novel at exactly the same speed and enjoy my class simultaneously. Now, students calculate their own weekly page goals by configuring their reading rates.

6. It doesn’t matter if students read books, as long as they’re reading.

Because the majority of my students weren’t reading, I used to feel like any amount of reading they conquered was considered a victory. I caught myself saying things like, “If I can’t get them to endure through a novel, we can read articles and short stories and still see gain.” No. I am no longer convinced of that because I now see what great trait I was neglecting: endurance. A beautiful thing happens when students complete an entire book! Their confidence flourishes, and their appetite for more increases.

I am continuing to learn from this new classroom endeavor, and my students challenge me each day with new book recommendations and interesting discussions. However, I feel the overall learning climate could be summarized by a quote I overheard a student saying to the class at the start of the day:

"I used to stay up late playing video games, and now I read. I’m like an adult or something."



Amber Dlugosh teaches 10th and 12th Grade ELA at Bolivar High School. She also serves as a member of our building leadership team. Currently, she is working on a Master's Degree in Secondary English Education at Missouri State University. She has been closely affiliated with National Writing Project as a participant and presenter.

Question: How do you bring life back into reading for your students? What practices do you need to lay to rest? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook

Thursday, February 4, 2016

What Gets Noticed Gets Done

In a recent post, I described how every teacher and classroom in your school deserves to get noticed. There are so many good things happening. When we feel noticed and appreciated, it always makes us want to do more than what's expected.

But what types of things should we notice? That matters too. Whether you are a teacher or a principal, the things you notice help build the culture of your classroom and school. We communicate what's important and what we value. When you recognize certain actions and attitudes in others, it encourages more of the same.

Popular advice says, "What gets monitored get done." While this might be okay management advice, it might not be the best leadership advice. We can monitor certain things and maybe get improved behaviors and results we want in the short term. 

But if we really haven't invested in the people and their capacity, it probably won't last. The desired behaviors and outcomes aren't sustained. Leadership is about influence and change that endures and empowers. 

But when we notice the good work other people are doing, it is affirming to them. It builds them up and helps them reach their potential. If we want lasting change and to help people build their capacity in a personal way, we need to notice their strengths.

So while there may be a place for data, assessment, and accountability, why aren't we talking more about opportunities, commitment, and responsibility? 

What gets monitored
What gets noticed
Data driven
Learning driven
Assessment work
Creative work
One-size-fits-all
Personal touch
Someone else’s idea
My idea
Deficits
Strengths
Implementation
Innovation
Strategy
Culture
Outcomes
Opportunities
Accountability
Responsibility
Compliance
Commitment


I want to hear from you. Does your school focus more on monitoring or noticing? It could be, and maybe should be, some of both. Share a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Popular Posts Everyone's Reading #ICYMI

In case you missed it (#ICYMI), here are a few recent articles that were most popular with my readers. The top post lists several things educators should try to communicate to students as often as possible. In the next post, I give some advice that I actually think teachers should ignore. Some of these may surprise you.

One of the posts I enjoyed the most highlighted the differences between excellence and success. Is your school successful, excellent, or both? Next up was a list of reasons educators should embrace change. And then I considered what teachers really want from principals. How is trust built?

Our school has really been focused on reading of late. I shared several ways to promote reading no matter what you teach. Listed next is a post listing some of my favorite blog posts and bloggers from 2015. Finally, I reflect on creating a student centered classroom where student voices are valued and heard.

I hope you see something here that catches your eye and might prove helpful to you. If you like something, give me some feedback by leaving a comment or sharing the post on Twitter or Facebook.

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