Friday, September 30, 2011

Finding Traction


Image Source Page: http://www.oup.com/oxed/primary/storiesforwriting/what_it_includes/traction_man/
Have you ever led an effort to launch a new initiative at your school only to see this idea slowly loose its traction towards implementation?  In an effort to be thorough and prudent, you formed your committee of important stakeholders and set out to discuss and plan it implementation.  As time goes on and discussions uncover new issues that need addressing, you begin to wonder if the idea is still worth the time and effort being put into it.

The challenge with many ideas is not coming up with the idea, it is actually launching it.  At some point, you either need to make it operational or scrap it for a new idea.

There is a simple test I use to determine if the idea still has some merit.  I look at a calendar and assign a launching date to put the idea into action.  A real date.  Not a reference to "soon."  A day, month, and year.  If I want to be real specific, I put a time.

After assigning a date, I check how I feel about the launch. 

Energized?  Continue working with renewed vigor.

Ambivalent?  Scrap it (or revise it) and stop wasting your committee's time.

Most of the time, assigning a launch date will energize you to continue.  No amount of committee planning can make an idea better than actually putting it into action, observing how it is working, gathering feedback, and making necessary adjustments.

If you are "spinning your wheels" on an idea you have been discussing for awhile, give your initiative a specific launching date and a mandate to either make it happen or stop wasting valuable time on an idea that is no longer supported.

Your project may get the traction it needs to begin making a difference in your school.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Establishing a Collaborative Class with One Word


Image Source Page: http://icoblog.wordpress.com/page/2/
Read these three statements.  A variation of each of them can probably be heard in your school as you walk through the hallways.

  1. "I want you to take out your notebooks..."
  2. "You need to open your book to page..."
  3. "We need to continue our discussion of ..."
Which of the three sets up the class for a collaborative and inclusive lesson?


If you said #3, congratulations.  You are correct.


Using "we" in place of "you" or "I" immediately sends the signal that the culture in the class is collaborative.


Collaboration as an essential skill.  Few people argue against building collaboration in their class, but many have trouble getting any traction in establishing a culture in the class that supports collaboration.  Trying to use "group work" fails and teachers are left frustrated.  Many times, this causes teachers to abandon collaborative exercises and return to the "I or you" class.  As with any successful change, establishing a strong foundation helps support the effort.  Students who were accustomed to the "I or you" class will not adjust well to a sudden shift to collaborative lessons.  Shifting the class to "we" begins to build that foundation.


How do you know the class has bought in?

My advice is to pay close attention to the language they use.  When you start to get more questions from students with "we" as the subject instead of "me or I", you probably have a foundation form which to successfully work collaboratively.

One of the best things about making this shift from "I or you" to "we" is that students should take to it very quickly.  Students, with few exceptions, are very social beings.  They WANT to be part of a team or group.  They feed off of one another and, given the chance to do real work in a collaborative setting, they will perform well.


A word of caution, though, students have highly sensitive "fauxnometers."  Fauxnometers are the internal devices that sense when someone is not being genuine.  Students are among the best at using them.  If you are truly not interested in changing your class from "I or you" to "we", it will be obvious to them - no matter how often you use "we."  You need to believe in "we."


In reflecting on this shift from "I or you" to "we" I cannot help but wonder if such a shift has any noticeable impact on student performance.  Is it possible that the simple act of using inclusive language and creating a collaborative mentality in class have noticeable benefits on student achievement?


In order to test this idea, I am going to challenge a few of the teachers I support to make an adjustment during their next lesson.  I will follow up with them about any noticeable change in student engagement, performance, and achievement.  After doing so, I will report their findings in a future blog post.


You, too, are welcome to test this out.  If you do, I am intersted in hearing your results.  Feel free to comment below or send me an email.

Monday, September 26, 2011

In Memoriam: My Friend Stanley Rauch

It is probably safe to say that few, if any, of you knew Stanley Rauch.  Stanley was a friend, colleague, and mentor of mine.  After a long battle with multiple health issues, I learned today that Mr. Rauch passed away.

  
Stanley's death was not unexpected.  As a matter of fact, he had been in the hospital and, eventually, in hospice care for about a month.  I spoke to him last two weeks ago.  At that time, we said all there was to say and he ended our final conversation with, "Enjoy life."


My last words to him were, "Thank you."


Stanley began teaching back in the late 1960's.  After a long stint working at various public schools on the Westbank of New Orleans, he started working at Archbishop Shaw High School.  Stanley worked at Shaw for around 20 years.  It is there that I met him and worked along side him in the Social Studies Department from 1997 - 2000.  Stanley continued to work at Shaw until this past year.


I can't say that I learned much about pedagogy from watching Stanley work.  By the time I met him, he was pretty much set in his ways.  What I did learn from him was the art of student relationships.  I have never met another teacher who went to such measures to connect with his students.  It was always about the kids - and that was Stanley's philosophy (even if he wouldn't openly admit it).


Stanley Rauch's passing leaves a void in the educational community of the Westbank of New Orleans.  He had no immediate family, yet he was at home in any restaurant, school building, or ball field from Belle Chase to Westwego.  He dedicated his life to the youth of the Westbank and will be missed.


He knew everyone's mother and taught many of his students' fathers.  When out at dinner, it would be expected that at least one or two former students would come to his table and ask him how we was doing.  He called them all, "Slick" and wished them well.


Stanley also:
  • bought doughnuts daily for students to eat in his room before school
  • provided drinks for the football team after every game
  • took a number of seniors to Cancun each summer after graduation as a gift to them (until his health prevented his travelling)
  • made us all laugh
  • told great stories
  • loved to go to "church" (those who know him well know what I mean)
  • helped us all forget our cares and enjoy a good meal
  • gave me the money to buy my wife her engagement ring (I tried to repay him.  When I did, he simply said that I already had.)

Like an aging ball player determined to have one more good day in the sun, Stanley Rauch never considered retiring.  He worked through serious health conditions over the past few years, but always finished to watch another class walk the stage.  Though he did not start this year at school, it was all he talked about when we talked over the summer. 


Stanley Rauch was the most generous educator I ever met.  His gifts to his students and friends will last a lifetime.  You may not have ever met him, but caring/student centered educators everywhere lost a friend today.


God bless you, Slick.


Thank you.


Sunday, September 25, 2011

Guest Contributor Sarah Fudin - PD for Educators: Becoming a Better Leader

This post was submitted by Sarah Fudin who currently works in community relations for the University of Southern California's Master of Arts in Teaching program, which provides aspiring teachers the opportunity to earn an online teaching degree which has proven very helpful in obtaining teaching fellowships.  Outside of work Sarah enjoys running, reading and Pinkberry frozen yogurt.



Professional development for teachers can't take place in a vacuum. It requires the support of school leaders and administrators who support instructors and who have the ability to facilitate change. Principals, superintendents and other school administrators who are passionate about professional development create an environment that encourages growth and learning among their staff. Education leaders can also personally benefit from professional development. Creating a network of professional contacts keeps an educator current and opens the door to new opportunities. When education leaders seek out the work of experts in their field and exchange information with other professionals, both their teaching staff and students will benefit.  
Conferences, seminars and workshops have traditionally been one of the best ways for educators to build professional networks and increase their knowledge base. However, budget and travel often limit access to these live events. Fortunately, technology is now fundamental part of professional development. The Internet and social media applications allow educators to connect with like-minded professionals on a local and global level regardless of time and money constraints. Virtual online events and webinars support professional development with minimal disruption to an educator's personal and professional schedule.


One of the best ways for an education leader to plug into the online conversation about education is by reading some of the many blogs that their peers have established. The Amplify website has published a list of the Top 100 School Administrator Blogs. At the top of the list is the National School Boards Administration's Board Buzz. This blog is updated daily with news items, event announcements, article summaries and links to articles related to school administration. Connected Principals, which is hosted by a group of school administrators, is a popular source for thoughtful articles about educational practices, leadership and professional development. Another top blog is LeaderTalk, a blog for principals, superintendents and other school leaders that publishes a wide variety of authors and opinions on education issues.  
After browsing through Amplify's list of blogs and finding some favorites, educators can save time by setting up RSS feeds or subscribing through email so that blog updates are automatically sent to their browser or email account. These feeds and subscriptions allow a busy educator to stay up to date with minimum effort.


Edchat (or #edchat in Twitter) is another great resource. A community of educators, administrators, parents and students, edchat members collaborate, share resources and raise questions about how to improve the educational process, all through Twitter. Several hundred edchat members take part in live weekly Twitter discussions that cover topics that have been voted on by the community. These topics are relevant for both classroom teachers and school administrators; recent examples include whether mandatory homework policies are in the best interest of students and the impact of classroom design on student learning. The edchat website contains information about the edchat community, including a directory of members and their blog addresses, and edchat discussion transcripts.


The importance of the Internet as a tool for communication has required educational institutions to establish their own online presence in the form of school websites, blogs and Facebook and twitter accounts. At the same time, mobile devices on campus have created new challenges and opportunities for school leaders. Now more than ever, school leaders and administrators need an understanding of current technology and an awareness of the issues involved in order to best serve their learning community. Using technology for professional development will help educators become more familiar with the benefits and challenges that technology itself provides.

I want to thank Sarah for asking about being a guest contributor to The Art of Education.  If you are interested in also being a guest contributor, please go to my Guest Contributors Page for more information. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Is Your "Stuff" Broken?

If it isn't broken, don't fix it.
(If it ain't broke, don't fix it.)


Everyone likes their "stuff" to work.  In schools, the "stuff" can be any number of things.  As a classroom teacher, your "stuff" is generally limited to the classroom itself and your lessons.  Once you move into more formal leadership roles as an administrator, the "stuff" begins to grow.  As a department chair, the "stuff" is anything related to your department's curriculum.  As a division head or assistant principal, the "stuff" may include only your division or your building.  As you move further up the chart, as a headmaster or principal, your "stuff" becomes the whole school.  A superintendent's "stuff" is the whole district.


One things about having more "stuff" is that as you get more, you still "own" the stuff you already had, but now are sharing it with more people.  Which means as you get more, you will hear from more people about your "stuff."


As we get more "stuff" it becomes even more important that it work properly.  For many, working properly means not having any problems.  The challenge is often that you may be too close to the "stuff" to notice any problems.  This is why feedback is so powerful. 


So, at what point should you begin thinking that some of your "stuff" may be "broken?"  When should you at least start looking at a practice, event, lesson, text book, activity, venue, etc. with a more critical eye?  How do you know that something may not be working as well as you think it is working, especially if you are very close to that particular piece of "stuff?"

It is useful to have a filter system for such issues.  A filter system is helpful in separating the truly useful feedback from the gossip-type negativity.  The filter identifies constructive criticism from venting and complaining.

I use the "rule of 3" as my filter.  The "rule of 3" is very simple.  If I hear it from 3 people, the issue is probably valid and needs to be examined in more depth.

For example:
You have an annual event at the same venue each year.  You have had a good experience with the venue and like the SOP (standard operating procedure) for this particular piece of your "stuff" works - or at least appears to.
In the planning sessions leading up to the event, a few people ask about moving the event to a new venue.  You are perplexed as you haven't heard any complaints and wonder why anyone would suggest a move. 
 Use your filter.
If three people mention it, you may need to begin asking questions about why they feel the venue should be re-examined.  Maybe you are too close to notice some issues others are beginning to notice.  Its time to put on your problem solver hat and listen.
Most of the time, I hope, the "stuff" works well.  There are times when it doesn't, it is obvious, and our filter can be used another day. 

On the other hand, educators also have a tendency to get very involved in their "stuff."  That is a good thing.  Therefore, being aware of when the "stuff" needs some attention may help prevent a bigger problem later. 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Maintaining Student Connections: 7 Tips for Future and Current Administrators

It is normal for school administrators to examine their leadership as a function of leading and supporting teachers. The logic is simple to follow:

School leader supports teacher.
Supported teacher is more effective in class.
Students learn more (and better).

The above logic highlights a reason why some teachers do not make the move to administration.

Teachers who consider making a shift into administration sometimes worry about loosing their daily connection with students. 

This is natural.  After all, realizing that your daily focus from guiding and teaching students will move more towards leading and managing teachers can be a cause for some anxiety.

If you are a teacher who is considering adminstration or if you are an administrator who is finding it difficult to maintain connections with students, here are a few suggestions.

  1. Mark off "student time" on your calendar.
  2. Make it a goal to visit at least one class a day.
  3. Eat lunch in the dining hall with students as much as possible.
  4. Greet students at drop off and see them leave at pick up (same for bus lines).
  5. Hold small student group discussions during lunch.
  6. Take an active interest in the work of your student government group.
  7. Go to their games and activities.  Refer to those activities when you see the students at school.
These are only a few ideas about how to maintain your connection with students as yo umove into administration.  While you may not have the same time with them that you had when you taught them, you can certainly keep a connection with them.
 


Friday, September 16, 2011

Supporting Teachers' Classroom Management Decisions

One of the more stressful parts of teaching is classroom management.  This is particularly true with newer teachers.  As a school leader, you may be called upon to not only handle the student in question, but to also support the teacher involved.

School leaders sometimes fall into the trap of dealing with the incident and moving on.  Doing so leaves out one important piece to handling a difficult situation - making sure the teacher is ready to go back in the class and teach that group again.  In order to best support the teacher, school leaders need to take time shortly after the incident to follow up with the teacher.  This follow up meeting is very similar to a post observation meeting during a cycle of clinical supervision, but in the case of a classroom management issue, the leader did not observe the action.

Here are a few tips on how to hold such a meeting.

Establish trust

Classroom management issues are often emotionally charged.  Passionate teachers may feel hurt by the student's actions.  Without trust, the teacher is not going to feel free to fully share what happened.

State up front YOUR purpose for the meeting


Your purpose is important because it may differ from the teacher's.  Stating up front why YOU need this time establishes up front where you are and eliminates the "guess work" on the part of the teacher.  You may want to say something like this,
Thank you for taking some time to meet with me concerning the recent incident in your class.  Let me state up front that this time is very important to me.  It is important NOT because I am looking to critique your decision or micro-manage your class.  It IS important because one of my most important roles is in supporting your work.  Taking time to review what happened will allow me to better serve your needs.  I view this meeting as an opportunity for me to support you better. 

Give the teacher an opportunity to add to the meeting's purpose


Once you have established why you need this meeting, give the teacher a chance to add to the purpose.  Sometimes, teachers have related challenges that they can now bring to your attention.  Be sensitive to these needs and allow them to surface.  If additional time is needed to address those issues, make it part of your follow up plan (see below).

Begin at the beginning


Sometimes, classroom management issues begin the moment a student walks in the room.  Teachers may not realize this because they become focused on the actual incident that occurred later.  Asking teachers to describe the class from the very beginning may provide some clarity.  The beginning of class is not when the teacher begin talking, it is the moment the student walks in.  Beginning at the beginning may help formulate a good plan for how to move on.

Ask questions


As much as possible, explore the details of what happened.  This may require a number of questions.  Asking questions helps fill in the gaps as well as sends the message that you are genuinely interested in supporting the teacher.

Recap what you heard

Once you listen and ask questions, retell the events as you understand them.  Ask if you got it right.  If there are parts that do not line up, clarify them.  If the teacher agrees that you understand, ask once more if there is anything else that just came to mind.

Discuss what is needed to move forward

Ask the teacher what support they need to move forward (go back in that class and teach that student again).  If the teacher gives you a specific answer, take time to reflect on those needs.  Share with the teacher your suggestions for how to move forward


Establish a follow up plan

Before the meeting ends, work out a plan for following up.  The follow up should take place a few weeks after the plan to move forward begins.  This allows the plan to gain momentum and for the parties involved to get accustomed to the new arrangement.  Part of the follow up should also include keeping the door open" to revising the plan or setting a schedule to examine whether the plan needs to be continued.

Check in periodically

Finally, with any situation, frequent and informal check ins are a great way to support the teacher.  These demonstrate your commitment to helping and also sends the message that you are personally invested in the success of the teacher's classroom management.

If you have either needed to support a teacher or if you have been a teacher needing support, feel free to leave a comment below to share your wisdom with other readers.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

3 Common Practices Educational Leaders Should Avoid

A few common practices that educational leaders should avoid.

1.  Using possessive language

I am not a big fan of using terms such as "my teachers", "my school", or "my class."  It is not that you shouldn't take ownership of your responsibilities, but you shouldn't want to "own" teachers, class, or schools - you should want to lead them.  Ownership and leadership are not the same thing.

2.  Manipulating the frame to get your way

Leaders, for the most part, view their situations from a few frames: structural, political, symbolic, and human resource (for more about these frames check out Reframing Organizations by Bolman and Deal).  Effective leaders use more than one frame to view situations and make decisions.  When the wrong frame is used to evaluate an issue, decisions may be misaligned to the actual problem and the decision is not as effective as it could have been.  Another concern is when leaders manipulate the frame to promote their agenda instead of learning and adjusting their decisions.  This is often the result of single frame use and the leader's desire to make a quick decision and move on.  For example, a leader is asked if teachers can have a "casual day" on Friday makes a quick decision to say, "No."  He is gently challenged and instead of trying to view the situation from the human resource frame (may be a good chance to lighten the mood after a particularly stressful week), symbolic frame (send the signal that we can learn and relax at the same time), or political frame (allowing the dress down day this week may earn some credit with the faculty I can use when we have a tough project facing us); he simply uses the policy manual (structural frame) to state faculty dress code and the need to follow policy.

Justifying a selfish decision by invoking a tangentially appropriate frame of reference is manipulation, not leadership.

3.  Missing the trees for the forest

Yes, I know the saying goes "missing the forest for the trees" but I flipped this to highlight the point.  In an effort to maintain a big picture view, you may find yourself feeling disconnected from the daily operations of the school.  Take time to be among the students, greet families, and visit classrooms.  I have found that my best "big picture" thinking occurs when doing those things anyway.  The act of "recognizing the trees" helps focus on what is essential, thus ideas that emerge from observing the essentials are often the better ideas - they are not formed in a vacuum, they are formed from observations "in the field."

If you have any items to add to this list, feel free to leave a comment.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The "Essential Chords" of Education and Educational Leadership

Being a father of two young children, husband, dog owner, school administrator, teacher, writer, blogger, social network contributor, voluminous reader, and founder of the American Society of Independent School Educators (ASISE); you may wonder what I do with all my free time.  Well, let me put your curiosity to rest.  This week, I decided to begin teaching myself guitar.

Yes, my fingers are sore and I continue to mute the high e when trying to strum the D chord.  On the other hand (figuratively), I'm having fun, my kids enjoy watching me learn, and once in a while I hit the chord right - progress!

One of the important lessons this week was the introduction of the eight essential beginner open chords (shown in the picture).  No song is played with only one chord.  Even in beginner songs, at least three chords are used (from what I can tell).  Working through these beginner lessons got me thinking about education and educational leadership.

Here's what I like about the chords and what their "educational" equivalent should also provide.
  1. There are few to remember.  It makes the learning feel attainable.
  2. Feedback is immediate.  When you strum the chord incorrectly or have the wrong finger placement, you hear it.
  3. Once you learn a few of them, you can begin playing beginner level songs.  It may not sound great, but at least it is recognizable.

What are the "essential chords" for teaching? 
What are the "essential chords" for educational leadership? 
Do these "essentials" change as you move from beginner to experienced to master levels?

These are my thoughts.  You are certainly welcome to agree with or add to these items.  Feel free to leave your comments below.

No two educators are exactly alike.  You may be better at some of these essentials than others.  That is "ok."  Keep learning.

The essentials will help you serve your students well, but you need to master more than a few of them before your class begins to flow with a rhythm of an expert.  Soon, you will move from beginner to experienced teacher and, hopefully, one day be considered a master.

For those of us who have moved past the beginner stage of teaching, let us not forget to mentor, coach, and support the efforts of those who have just begun their journey.

Also of interest:  If you are looking for a good web site for learning guitar, I have been using justinguitar.com and find it very useful.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Supporting Teachers Who Wear Multiple Hats

As in many schools, our teachers "wear many hats."  Teachers, obviously, teach their classes.  In addition, most do at least 3 or 4 of the following:
  • monitor study halls
  • coach athletic teams
  • sponsor clubs
  • perform before/after/lunch duties
  • hold tutorial sessions
  • serve as a student advisor
  • assist with theatre performances
A number of these teachers also work in more than one division of the school (lower: PS-5th, middle: 6-8, and upper: 9-12), mostly crossing between middle and upper school.

In our middle school ,we have various conversations and meetings scheduled each month.  These include division wide meetings, grade level conversations, and advisor meetings.  With all of these moving parts, leading a division and supporting the teachers in that division can become a little hectic at times.

As a school leader, one of your top responsibilities is to support the teachers in your area.  When teachers cross divisions and/or are pulled in different directions, school leaders must be ready to support their teachers with empathy and provide guidance that helps alleviate the teachers anxiety while demonstrating that your priorities are aligned with the teacher's.

One great way to do this is to clearly articulate what the priorities must be and then take action based on those priorities.  Once you do so, when teachers come to you with issues of schedule conflicts, you are prepared to provide clear and consistent advice and support.  For my division, I advise teachers to use the following priority list:
  1. Teach your class
  2. Hold your tutorial session
  3. Advise your student advisees
  4. Coach your team (or guide your theatre production as the case may be)
  5. Lead your club
  6. Monitor your study hall
It is important to point out that all of those functions are essential.  The suggestion is based on a simple guiding question - What function is most difficult to assign to another person for a day?  I routinely will support cross over teachers by filling in for them.  In the example above, it is easier (and more appropriate) for me to monitor a study hall than it is to hold a tutorial session for a class.

Teachers experiencing scheduling conflicts or who are serving multiple areas are valuable to the operation of the school.  Sometimes these teachers need the support of school leaders by reminding them that it is 'ok' to prioritize and ask for help.  As the school leader, make sure you take time to remind teachers that you are on the same page and are ready to provide support where needed.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Being a Responsive Educator

Being a responsive educator is an important quality.  It is important because, as much as you may want to be "preventative", you cannot account for every possible scenario.  Thus, a responsive educator is in a great position to provide immediate help and guidance.

It is not only a matter of answering questions.
Responsive educators...
  • are vigilant in seeking opportunities to help.
  • expect students to ask good questions.
  • are aware of clues that signal lack of understanding.
  • are outstanding listeners.
  • are flexible.
  • serve as "guides" for "lost" students.
  • embrace change as a means to add to their instructional "tool box."
  • reflect on their daily responses and make adjustments as necessary.
  • think themselves successful when they meet the needs of the student rather than finishing a textbook or covering a certain amount of content.
  • is able to lead students in active learning that involves skill building as well as content mastery.

An additional note:
Being responsive in one of the 5 factors of an Open House Culture (along with friendly, trustworthy/reliable, interactive, and good presentations).



Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Are You An Inspired Educator?

Content above provided by

Encarta® World English Dictionary[North American Edition] © & (P) 2009 Microsoft Corporation.All rights reserved. Developed for Microsoft by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.











 

One of the more common descriptions of effective educators is that they inspire their students.  Based on the definition above, an educator who inspires her students is certainly going to be effective.  The challenge, though, is that you rarely know how inspirational you are 

Are you an inspirational educator?  You are if your students are acting inspired.  Let's examine what it looks like to teach inspired students.

The inspired student "makes art."  In other words, she engages in the learning process in a manner that creates something new and makes a difference.  This creation and resulting difference need not be on a global scale; it could simply transform that class, that lesson, that discussion.  Educators are inspiring "art" when a student suggests a new solution to a problem.  While this solution may not be new to the teacher, it very well may be new to the other students.  Having given "birth" to this new idea and shared it with the class, the student has thus added to the collective wisdom of the group - she has created knowledge!

How much this idea makes a impact on the lesson may determine its brilliance.  Some ideas are valuable in that they serve to simply clarify older ideas.  Some ideas are off target.  Off target ideas still have value.  Other may have been thinking the same way and by bringing them to the surface, everyone can now "scratch them off the list."  Brilliant ideas are usually synthesized from multiple ideas, sources, or observations.  These are the "light bulb" moments - the "ah-has!" that emerge from the inspired student's intellectual warehouse.  Inspirational educators help unlock and open the door to this storage locker.

As a force that opens students' minds and guides them to uncover and share new ideas that have an impact on the class, the inspirational educator acts as the students' muse.  The inspired student operates in a state of heightened awareness and thoughtful reflection.  When students are free to think about, create, and share ideas they are in a state of intellectual stimulation that is far beyond the realm of "drill and kill" learning and testing.  

Now that you have explored the idea of an inspired student, you need to ask:

Can educators inspire students if they themselves are not inspired?  In other words, can we expect educators to inspire students if the educators themselves are lacking inspiration?

Reflecting on how inspired you are involves the same criteria.  While specifics may vary, in general inspired teachers are:
  • are creative problem solvers.
  • share their talents with the world.
  • are aware of and draw ideas from their colleagues, environment, and students.
  • try new methods, means, and ideas.
  • are not afraid to fail because failure is an opportunity to grow and learn.
  • appreciate and use design, symphony, and flow in their classes.
  • are liberated by the freedom that comes with doing work they were born to do - work that changes lives (the opposite being oppressed by work that is solely for the benefit of oneself).
In the end, the inspired educator is obvious.  They are public with their craft and willingly share it with the world.

Monday, September 5, 2011

You Are Empowered to Determine How Well Your School Year Goes

Many schools have already started the 2011-2012 year.  Many others, like mine, start tomorrow - the day after Labor Day.

Whether your first day has come and gone or your first day begins in about 10 hours, it is important to remember the importance of first impressions.  You set the tone for the year on day one.  When day one ends, guess what?  You get to keep it going on day 2, 3, 4, ...

Every day will not work the way you planned.  Some will be better than expected.  That's life.  Some things are outside of our control.

Choose to not worry about those things.

Rather, be wise enough to determine what you DO control and focus your efforts there.

What do you control that will have an impact on how well your day goes?

You control...
  • how friendly you are.  Smile.  Greet students at the door.
  • how responsive you are.  Do not ignore the student in front of you because you are fixated on an issue away from the present situation.  Communicate timely.  Provide feedback in a manner that supports learning.
  • how trustworthy and reliable you are.  If you said you would do it, then do it.  Only make claims you are prepared to back up.  Leave no doubt that you are there to serve the needs of the student under the guidance of the mission of your school.
  • how interactive you are.  Who asks more questions, you or your students?  Are your students actively engaged or passively engaged?
These things you cannot relinquish control of because they belong only to you.  They are powerful and empowering.  Once you accept that you control these qualities and decide to use them, you will be amazed at how well your year may go.

Have a great 2011-2012.
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