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.


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!


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What do we really know about teacher leadership?

Teacher leadership is an area I have been focusing on more and more lately. Not only have I reflected on the ways in which I did not build enough capacity in my teacher leaders when I was a principal, but I am currently co-designing work in my district to support teacher leadership development.

I recently read a research article, thanks to a colleague who always shares relevant research with me.  The research:

The Theoretical and Empirical Basis of Teacher Leadership: A Review of the Literature by Julianne A. Wenner and Todd Campbell

Some points that stood out to me:

  • “Researchers have concluded that teacher leaders have the capacity to lead the school via increasing teacher collaboration, spreading best practices, encouraging teacher professional learning, offering assistance with differentiation, and focusing on content-specific issues”
  • Teachers get leadership training through professional development (more frequent) and/or college courses (few and far between); it is important to include leadership skills and strategies in any teacher leadership program
  • Teacher leadership within a school contributed to feelings of empowerment and professionalism for all teachers
  • Teacher leadership was defined by the researchers as “teachers who maintain K-12 classroom-based teaching responsibilities, while also taking on leadership responsibilities outside of the classroom”
    • Most of the studies they reviewed had no clear definition of teacher leadership
  • Administrative support seems to be paramount if teacher leadership is to be successful – providing teacher leaders with autonomy led to success

So what?  What does this research us tell us?  How we do better, be better, on behalf of the students we serve?

I believe it is important for any school, district, or system to define teacher leadership.

I believe that locally-created teacher leadership development programs need to include elements that support administrators to work with and support teacher leaders on their campuses.

I believe that teacher leaders can support site and district visions, missions, and goals, through strategic planning.

I believe that teacher leaders should be at the table when discussing teaching and learning at all levels within an educational system.

I believe that there are teachers waiting to be given an opportunity to lead, to be given a voice, to be empowered to step up… we just need to recognize and support them!


What do you believe about teacher leadership? 

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Challenge (OLW 2017) Update

My word of the year is challenge. In January I wrote this about the focus this year:

Here is what challenge means to me and what I hope it will bring in 2017.

  • Professionally, I want to challenge myself to continue to expand my skills and grow as a leader
  • Personally, I want to challenge myself as a writer, to get more focused on writing a book and using my writing as a form of action
  • As a citizen, I feel we will face many challenges in the coming year and I am ready – I feel like these challenges will be a call to action and I’m prepared to take action

Now that I am almost 3/4 of the way through 2017, I wanted to check in on my challenges this year.

Professionally, I have challenged myself:

  • by speaking at our Women’s Empower Hour about my leadership journey.
  • to attend a 6-day seminar on Women in Educational Leadership through our county.
  • to be a mentor, both formally and informally, to other women leaders.
  • to create a new teacher leadership academy for our district.
  • to continue to explore future leadership opportunities.

Personally, I have challenged myself:

  • to get focused on my book writing! I have my outline complete and the first 35 pages are drafted. I’m excited for what’s to come!
  • to write an article for the AASA monthly journal.

As a citizen, I have challenged myself:

  • to avoid political commentary at work.
  • to use my abilities (whether they happen to be time, monetary donations, or communication to my elected officials) to support causes that are challenging the issues I am most concerned about at this time in our country.
  • to stay current on the issues without getting so bogged down that I can’t see the through the negative haze.

I think that challenge was so fitting for my word of 2017.

On a related note, I recently had a weekend full of mindfulness, which was my word of 2015. I happen to listen to a lecture all about the value and importance of mindfulness for educational leaders. I was so proud that since 2015, I have continued a number of the healthy habits I created. I have a semi-regular meditation practice. I use mindful breathing regularly. I know how to slow myself down. I don’t go to sleep every night with a racing mind. This is still huge for me! Mindfulness really became a part of my daily life and continues to be important to me personally and professionally.

I wonder what 2018 will bring into my life…

Do you have a word of 2017? What is it? How has it impacted you so far this year?


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August ’17 Reading Update

This month I read 2 books, making my 2017 total 26.

  • Severe Clear (Stone Barrington Series #24) by Stuart Woods – Once I get on a roll with a favorite author, I can’t stop myself from plowing through a series. I am trying to alternate between Woods’ books and others so I don’t go through them too quickly and so that I read other things! This was one another fast-paced mystery. The main story took place in L.A., at the opening of The Arrington hotel, that Stone opened in honor of his late wife. There was a terrorist plot to blow up the hotel and most of L.A. I liked that as the reader, I knew about the plot before the main characters. It was interesting to know the specifics and then watch as they unfolded.
  • The Lying Game by Ruth Ware – I saw this book on celebrity and bloggers’ lists of must-read books this summer, so I had to add it to my list. This is the third book I’ve read by the author, and they’ve all been good mysteries in different ways. The Lying Game is invented by four teenagers at boarding school. Though it starts off as a way to ease their boredom and loneliness, it turns into a life of torture, as they are forced to keep a deadly secret that causes them to lie to everyone for decades. All of the characters were hard to love or even like, throughout this story, but I was glad when Fatima, Thea, and Isa figured out the lies that Kate had told them to keep them save over the years.
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