Empowered Leaders Empower Learners (#IMMOOC Season 3, Week 4)

I am participating in a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) with hundreds of other educators across the globe, about The Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros. These are my reflections for Season 3, Week 3 of #IMMOOC, and the prompt:

Relationships and collaboration are crucial to innovation, but what about working in isolation? Where does that come into play?

As I reflected on George’s words, and this prompt, I was thinking about the importance of the relationships between a teacher and his or her principal/ administration. If a teacher wants to take a risk in her classroom, to try to innovate, she needs to know that she has the support of her administration. If a teacher feels she might “get in trouble” if she steps out of the typical box, she will be less willing to even consider taking a risk. And if that is how a teacher feels, how will her students feel about innovation?

Our school leaders need to be empowered in order to empower innovative learning in their school systems.

“Demanding compliance will not effectively prepare learners for being productive citizens today, nor in their future.” ~ p. 103, The Innovator’s Mindset

The quote above jumped out at me, not just about K-12 students, but also about educators. If administrators demand compliance from educators, they will demand compliance of students, and we will perpetuate our current system. If teachers feel supported and empowered to take risks on behalf of student learning, student and adult learners will benefit!

So as I work with and coach administrators, I hope to inspire them to empower teachers, through collaborative, trusting relationships. Taking risks is… risky! I want to create systems where learners feel confident that they are not risky anything life-shattering by trying something new and different. And as I talk about in my video reflection, posted to Twitter earlier today (and linked below), I hope that my young nephews end up in classrooms where they are empowered in their own passion-based learning!

My video reflection on engaged vs empowered learners and my hopes for my 3 & 4-year old nephews! 

 

 

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Good Leaders Don’t Do It All Alone

In my Time Management for Leaders Series I try to share advice for new leaders, leaders in new roles, and leaders who are working to get organized and efficient with their time, in order to serve as instructional leaders. In order to coach like an instructional leader, you need to control your time and not let it control you! You can see the entire series at the end of this post.

Today I want to be transparent about something that might be a secret to new leaders – good leaders don’t do it all alone. You may see a good leader and think:

  • she is always so together!
  • he is so organized!
  • I wish was as efficient as she is!
  • how does he do it all?!?!
  • I could never be as good as she!

The secret is that most of the good leaders you admire have a strong support system behind them. You may not see all of their system, but know that a system is there, supporting each and every strong leader. None of us can do this amazing and challenging work alone.  Here are some of the support systems that you can develop to help you grow as a leader. The stronger your support system, the better you will be able to manage your time.

  • An assistant – I dedicated an entire post in this series to working with an assistant. Please read it here for more details. Your assistant can and should be a huge part of your support system, keeping you organized, on schedule, focused on the work, meeting deadlines, and available for your community.
  • A way to keep notes – Have you ever walked down the hallway, had a teacher ask you something, and by the time you got back to your office you forgot what you needed to do? Every leader needs a way to keep notes, so that deadlines are met, communication happens consistently, and you are known as reliable. I personally use Evernote, because it is an app that I can access on any device at any time. I often only have my phone with me when I am visiting sites. I can take notes in Evernote on my phone and review the notes on my computer when I return to my office.  I know other leaders who carry one notebook with them everywhere. They have color codes and post it notes to help them find their To Do lists and keep track of the notes they keep. Where you keep your notes is only important to you; how you use and access them to follow through is important to those you lead. If you don’t have a system to keep notes yet, ask other leaders what they use.
  • A mentor – Very few leaders have gotten to their positions without the coaching support of a mentor (or a few!). Mentors can provide us with constructive feedback, advice, and support in our current roles and development to help us achieve future goals. I have found it helpful to have mentors in the positions to which I aspire, as well as long-term mentors who have watched me grow as a leader.
  • Job-Alike Peers – Your peers, in job-alike roles, can provide you support in how to do specific tasks, how to handle challenging situations, how to work with a difficult colleague, and they can cover for you when you need to be in two places at once. When I was an Assistant Principal, I worked with number of other AP’s. Having a positive, trusting, working relationship with the other people in your office can help you, as a leader, continue to manage your time and be organized. You can also rely on peers in other schools to help you better understand your role or the day-to-day challenges. Sometimes it is helpful to hear how someone else handles the same situations you face in your role.
  • Family & Friends – I hope that every leader has family and friends he or she can rely on. These are the people you are happy to see at the end of the day, the people who encourage you to take time off during the weekend to play, and the people you want to spend your free time with.  If you work 24/7, you are not making time for family and friends. Your life can be richer thanks to these people.
  • Physical & Mental Health – A good leader knows that in order to take care of others, you must take care of yourself. While many of us struggle to find time for our own physical and mental health, this is important. Part of time management is carving out specific times for you to engage in activities that support your physical and mental health, whether they be trips to the gym, walking dates with friends, meditation, exercise classes, mindful coloring, art classes, or anything else you need.

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What else is in your support system? 

Time Management for Leaders Series

Calendar 911

No More Inbox Ailment

Making Time for Classroom Visits

Organizing Resources to Share

Working with an Assistant

Taking Time to Build or Strengthen Relationships

 

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Changes in Practice (#IMMOOC Season 3, Week 3)

I am participating in a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) with hundreds of other educators across the globe, about The Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros. These are my reflections for Season 3, Week 3 of #IMMOOC, and the prompt:

What is one thing that you used to do in education that you no longer do or believe in? Why the change? 

Over the course of my career, I have changed jobs, schools, and districts, so there are many things that I used to do that I no longer do. Most of those changes are due to the change in my role, as each new position brought new dimensions to my practice.  However, there are a few big ideas that came to mind as I reread Chapters 4 and 5 of The Innovator’s Mindset this week.

I no longer keep ideas to myself. 

Thanks to Twitter, blogging, and being a networked learner and leader, I realize the value and power of sharing my ideas outside of my own office. Even though it can still be scary to hit “publish” on a post and wait to see if anyone reads it, or to think that my thoughts don’t matter much, I take the risk. I recognize that my ideas may be the spark someone else needs to make an innovation a reality in their work.  This video (Obvious to you. Amazing to Others.) illustrates this point perfectly – what is obvious to me may be amazing to someone else. You’ll never know unless you share.

I no longer expect people to ask for permission.

I wrote a post about asking for permission back in 2012. I reread it and added an update in 2016. It is still something I see people struggle with all the time. George writes about the need for trust in relationships so that people can feel free to take risks and innovate. Many years ago, as a principal, I think I expected people to ask my permission if they were going to try something new. I no longer do that and I wish I could go back to my younger self and explain the error of my ways. By trusting our colleagues to be professional, we can open up the doors to innovations that truly impact our students, if we just give it a chance.

I no longer believe that expertise needs to be shared by talking AT people.

Whether I am in a classroom, noticing the balance between student and teacher talk, or in a professional development, noticing the balance between presenter and participant talk, I believe that talking AT people is detrimental to learning. There are many ways to help people learn a new procedure, explore a new topic, or understand a new concept. We can engage learners in reading, viewing, writing, reflecting, discussing, and authentic learning opportunities in order to expand their knowledge. None of these methods require one lone expert to talk AT the learners. I know I was guilty of this as a teacher and as a presenter at professional development, but I work hard now to facilitate interactive learning opportunities for the adults with whom I work. I respect them too much not to.

 

These are a few of my practices I have changed over my career. I look forward to reading other #IMMOOC reflections about this topic. I’d love to hear in the comments about other practices my readers have changed.

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Characteristic of My Innovative Mindset (#IMMOOC Season 3, Week 2)

A colleague and mentor recently called me a “path-finder”.  This came in the middle of a discussion about my future career goals and aspirations. When I asked what else I could be doing to further my own leadership development in preparation for future roles, this person said to me, “I’m not worried about you. You are a path-finder. You will find your next role, or you will create it!”

This has stuck with me for a number of reasons, one of which is my rereading of The Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros, and my participation in this Season 3 of IMMOOC. When I reflect about the 8 characteristics of the innovator’s mindset (see graphic below), I believe that I have cultivated many of these as I have grown into my leadership.

8-characteristics-of-the-innovators-mindset

I think the idea of me as a “path-finder” represents my ability to take risks (#3), to be networked (#4), to be observant (#5), to be a creator (#6), to be resilient (#7) and to be reflective (#8). I could probably make a case for characteristics #1 and #2, but I won’t do that… today!

When I began my journey to become a teacher over 24 years ago, I had no idea I would end up where I am (the location or the position!), nor did I have a plan for the path I took to get here. I think this is one of the joys of living a life driven by an innovator’s mindset! I have loved every job I’ve ever had. I have learned ways to improve as a teacher, a coach, a leader, and a learner. I have also learned things that I never want to do as an educator.

There have been times in my career when I decided that my path was going to diverge, because my ethics, my personal beliefs, and my core values, were driving me to make a change. Each time this happened, I really did become a “path-finder,” seeking out an opportunity that would align with my values and allow me the chance to positively impact student or adult learners. My current job was one that didn’t exist before me. I’ve had the honor to create the position and the work over the last two years and it’s been amazing!

I may not exhibit all 8 characteristics of the innovator’s mindset every day, but those characteristics live within me and drive me to make personal and professional decisions regularly. If I never listened to those characteristics whispering to me years ago (long before George labeled them for me!), I might still be in a very different place in my professional life. I am so grateful for the opportunities I have created for myself, as each new experience as helped me grow. My leadership is stronger because of the paths I found and took along my educational journey.

I am participating in a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) with hundreds of other educators across the globe, about The Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros. These are my reflections for Season 3, Week 2 of #IMMOOC.

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September ’17 Reading Update

I’ve been a reading slacker this year!  Because we had a Fall Break this month, my schedule was lighter than normal and I got through a few more books than in previous months. Here is what I read this month.

  • Social Leadia: Moving Students from Digital Citizenship to Digital Leadership by Jennifer Casa-Todd – I am so glad I read this book! This was an incredibly inspiring lesson in the value of social media and the leadership opportunities we provide our students. There are children all over the world who are leaders at a young age, doing amazing things and sharing their gifts through social media. We are not yet taking advantage of these tools in schools as much as we could, for the benefit of student and adult learners. Jennifer’s definition of digital leadership “is the belief that students can use the vast reach of technology (especially the use of social media) to improve the lives, well-being, and circumstances of others”. I have no many notes and pages tagged in my book, from all of the great ideas she shares and the students she introduces throughout the book. One of my biggest takeaways is the recognition that it is our (all of us, educators, parents, citizens) job to teach students the power of positive social media use to benefit others. There are negatives to be aware of, and to help students understand. However, if we avoid the lessons because of our fears, we are not helping students learn for themselves the value of their own digital safety and their digital tatoo. When our students Google themselves, they should have something positive present before they leave high school. We have a long way to go in this area, but I am inspired to get started! I highly recommend this book to every educator and parent!
  • The Best Place to Work: The Art and Science of Creating an Extraordinary Workplace by Ron Friedman – A colleague in HR mentioned this book was one of her absolute favorite professional reads, so I had to add it to my to-be-read list It’s taken a LONG time for me to get to it (and I listened to the audio version*), but I’m glad I finally read it. The author shares various research studies that relate to job satisfaction, workplace friendships, interviewing techniques, and employee appreciation.  I enjoyed hearing how the research highlighted the importance of creating welcoming, open work spaces that provide people freedom to do their work in the way in which they prefer.  *On a separate note, I do NOT recommend you listen to the audio version of this book, as it sounded like it was read by a robot and was not pleasing to listen to during my commute!
  • Collateral Damage (Stone Barrington Series #25) by Stuart Woods – Woods is always my go-to for a quick mystery! After not much reading and some nonfiction, I needed this easy read. I enjoyed that this story was a continuation from #24, with Holly Barker, from the CIA, playing a central role in NYC with Stone Barrington, as they sough Jazmin, the sister of the terrorists who almost blew up LA in #24. I love that Dino and Viv, friends of Stone, were actually the big heroes at the end of this book.
  • Unintended Consequences (Stone Barrington Series #26) by Stuart Woods – After the last book, I had hopes that Stone and Holly would end up in a real relationship. But this book took a very different take, with Stone ending up in Europe with memory loss, chasing missing days and Russian criminals! I love Dino and Viv’s new marriage mixed into Stone’s adventures.
  • Empower: What Happens When Students Own Their Learning by John Spencer and A.J. Juliani – I loved the first book, Launch, by these authors, and I loved this new adventure too! This is a new publishing format that is easy and fun to read, with concrete, real examples of how to empower students to own their own learning.  Similar to The Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros, this is another inspirational read for any educator ready to take student learning to a new level!
  • Conversational Intelligence: How Great Leaders Build Trust and Get Extraordinary Results by Judith E. Glaser – I must confess that I read the majority of this book back in July, but just finally got around to finishing it this month. One of the biggest messages of this book, to me, was about trust. The author describes three levels of Conversational Intelligence. You can only achieve Level III, which is optimal communication, with high levels of trust. She describes a TRUST method that includes: transparency, relationship, understanding, shared success, and testing assumptions and telling the truth.  I found the examples of conversations and group work that succeed or failed very enlightening.

What do you recommend I add to my reading list next? 

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Leveling Up

I am a stats junkie. I love to check the stats on my blog, seeing the number of views spike when someone like George Couros or Dave Burgess retweet my post. I also love to see where I rank each week in my list of friends on Fitbit. Though I am never in the top, I feel a need to check regularly just to see the list and where I stand.

Sometimes these checks motivate me to write another blog post or get off the couch to get in a few more steps.  Other times they make me reflect on where I’ve been and commit to new goals moving forward.

I am equally addicted to “leveling up” on a variety of mindlessly entertaining games that I play on my iPad at night (Tap Tap Fish, Best Fiends, and 1010! are my top three right now). I am competing with no one but myself, but I love the feeling of completing a level and moving onto the next challenge. I must admit that I can play these games for hours (while watching TV or listening to a podcast or audio book). I often have to tell myself, “You need to turn this off as soon as you level up”.

Today I found myself thinking about what “leveling up” looks like for educators.

A big level up might be:

  • a promotion
  • a new job title
  • a salary raise

A smaller kind of level up might be:

  • written or verbal praise from a supervisor for a job well done
  • a thank you note from a student or a parent
  • a note of appreciation from a colleague
  • recognition of your work via a tweet from your school’s or district’s account
  • your supervisor giving you additional responsibilities
  • a Digital Badge for completing a task
  • earning a MicroCredential

What else might “leveling up” look like for an educator?

I’ve read about gamification, and how we can use our students’ love of video games to make learning more exciting for them in our classrooms. Are there other ways we can support teachers to level up in professional learning and collaboration? I am not a Millennial, mainly due to the actual year of my birth, but I am pretty much a digital native and I love video games as much as the next teenager. I’m just wondering how we might use these passions in more ways in education.

These are my thoughts today.  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

 

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The Time to Innovate is Now! (#IMMOOC Season 3, Week 1)

I am participating in a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) with hundreds of other educators across the globe, about The Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros. These are my reflections for Week 1 of #IMMOOC and the prompt:

Why is innovation in education so crucial today?

I have been an educator for over 20 years. Throughout my career I have witnessed a number of initiative, advertised to:

  • raise test scores
  • improve student achievement
  • boost attendance
  • engage students
  • energize teachers
  • transform education

Some of those initiatives produced small positive growths, others ended up frustrating students, staff, and/or parents.

When I think about the future of education, I have a strong desire to see a new method, an innovation, that will make a difference in the lives of students and educators. I have not just a sense of urgency, but a “sense of emergency”, a phrase I recently heard Dr. Anthony Muhammad use, to innovate on behalf of our great profession.

I’m tired of hearing people say we need to get into the 21st Century, when we’ve been in it for 17 years. I’m sad that we still aren’t preparing many students for the jobs that exist today, much less the jobs we don’t yet know about in the future.  Most importantly, I’m ready to empower our students to do and be more, each and every day they are with us in school.

After recently reading Social Leadia by Jennifer Casa-Todd and Empower by A.J. Juliani and John Spencer, in addition to The Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros of course, I am driven to help educators strategically do less for students.  It’s time to shift the balance of teacher versus student talk in our classrooms and to shift to the cognitive load from the teachers to the students. It’s time to use innovation to transform the way we plan lessons, deliver content, assess student mastery, and engage students in their own learning process.

I look forward to participating in #IMMOOC this Fall. Reading about and seeing innovations other educators are trying is inspiring! Sharing how to innovate within a box (or a school or a district system) is powerful for others to see. The time to innovate is now, where you are, with what you have.  Are you ready?  I am!

couros

Image credit: georgecouros.ca

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