Category: #Education, #Leadership, #Resurces,

Making it Meaningful, Making Proffesional Development Stick @EducationalLeadership

I have found the essential way to support staff to continue to grow, offer them precisely what they want. Why would we continue to do our professional development in the same way we tell our staff they should not teach in the classroom? We need to differentiate!

Jim Knight is an expert! The article he has written for the edition in Educational Leadership is a great one to utilize as you plan your professional development. It also provides you with an understanding of the implementation stages for staff.

Change takes time, and we all know from our experiences it can be met with challenges, unforeseen issues, a little craziness, and then all of a sudden, things start moving in the right direction. Well, sometimes.

One of Knight’s points is people are hesitant to make a change because they do not think it will make a difference with “their” students. He hits this precisely right! I have heard these words for many years. “Sure that looks great but it won’t work in my classroom.” “I would like to see him do that with my students!”

As the Director of Educational Support, my team wanted to improve our writing and overall language arts programs K-12. We worked to coordinate the training so teachers would have it simultaneously, and it was tailored to what was needed.

Understanding all of the needs for an effective writing roll out I needed to work with my team to plan this out accordingly. So I handpicked a group to attend a workshop of the lady I wanted to present to our district. I selected the presenter because of several reasons. They included her energy, enthusiastic approach, her background and overall ability to make the transition we needed! Her name is Kristina Smekens

The group went to her workshop and began texting me from the conference. They were sold! We invited her in and we worked together to make the time exactly what staff needed. As the individual in charge and being nicknamed Hallmark, you know my inner Oprah came out! We worked with Kristina to find where she would have a break in her training and something the staff would need to apply in their classroom. So when she finished demonstrating for staff she would pause and say….everyone gets one. Then we would walk around to give each staff member what they needed to take back to the classroom to implement immediately.

Now, as you read in the article, staff need to know it works with their students. So as a follow-up, we invited Kristina to come in and do a model lesson in a classroom. We would hire floating subs so teachers could watch and then debrief. Then we would have staff create a lesson, draw names, and one person would teach the lesson in someone’s classroom, and they would assess the lesson. We utilized floating subs again to support the learning. We repeated this process until the teaching teams felt confident. They loved the way we made this approach to a new initiative.

I recommend Smekens to your school! It will be one of the best professional development you can provide for staff. Jim Knight is an expert, and he gives you so much knowledge and expertise to guide you through your leadership.

Will you be my friend? Finding Friends on Friday

“Childhood lies at the very heart of who we are and who we become.” Fred Rogers

Mister Rogers was not afraid to talk about difficult social issues, tackle them head on and make it a priority to support children in the best way he knew how! He talked about divorce, assassination, death, racial issues and talked honestly and openly about subjects adults were often afraid to speak about, but which children often silently wondered and worried about. He utilized his platform to help children, and adults too, know that there are some things no one can understand. “Some things I don’t understand.” However, with honest, open and continued conversations in positive, optimism for solutions are found. We are one nation working together to make a great neighborhood for all.

We are all friends! I want to thank my best friend in kindergarten, Tammy! We enjoyed many years growing up in a confusing time, but never for us! She helped to button my coat when I couldn’t and I can still remember her being crowned queen in high school. Children only see differences when they are taught to see them. I was never taught to see anything but friends.

Although children’s “outsides” may have changed a lot, their inner needs have remained very much the same. Society seems to be pushing children to grow faster, but their developmental tasks have remained constant. ~Fred Rogers

Children could turn on the television and find security in the voice and words from Fred Rogers. He could influence how they felt about themselves and others by the words of encouragement he had. Each time the child tuned in, he consistently shared the message of self-worth, hope, security, stability, and confidence, as he ensured trying is okay even if you fail. You are perfect just being you!

I want to pose this question: What resources do children have to turn to daily for this kind of reinforcement?

Next question: What are ways we can help children have this kind of reinforcement daily?

Finally: Children and adults are spending countless hours online in Zoom meetings/virtual classrooms, no real face-to-face interactions with others, and facing hours of negative news. How can we help address fears, calm emotions, reduce the negative effects?

People need people! We need to have opportunities to talk, engage in fun activities in real-time, and enjoy the company. Isolation from others is difficult. Think about all of the children who went from being gone every day involved in multiple activities to now sitting staring at a computer screen.

Do you know anyone who retired and then was miserable? If you do, then you know it is because they did not plan out how it would be when all of their “work friends” would still be busy in their work-life and they found themselves with nothing to keep themselves focused on or a purpose in life.

Stages in life provide us with the lessons to form our foundation. I focus a great deal on words and actions. Even when we believe no one is listening or watching, they are. I have gained this from my own experience and from the children I have served.

My hope is if you have chosen to read this blog, you will be my friend and provide me with your thoughts on how to create better neighborhoods for all children. How can we stop all of the negatives and replace them with positives? I promise together we can gain solutions!

Feedback and comments needed, please! @CorwinPress, @ASCD, @ELmagazine, @NAESP, @NASSP, @Humanex_dij,, @IllinoisASA @beckyrbnsn, @WeavingInfluence, @teacher2teacher, @JennyGRankin, @bethesolutiondaily, @PeterMDeWitt, @Robyn_Mindsteps, @ToddWhitaker, @ByronErnest

Wednesday Words, What words inspire you?

Stop doing that! Get up! What were you thinking? Why are you so slow?

I can hear the tone behind the words. How you start your day impacts your way! As the day goes by, all of the impacts of the interactions weigh on your emotions. At the end of the day, if you have stored up all of these emotions, it can come out as an explosion!

Helping others understand how to handle the words they encounter throughout the day will help process the emotions to express appropriately. Self-regulation is an effective tool for everybody to have.

There are many new tools available to address the needs we all have right now to reduce the stress we are experiencing. I have seen advertising for apps to purchase, books, music, painting, coloring but the most essential tool is words.

Words we hear, speak, repeat, read and continue to dwell on each moment. Negative self-talk comes from a seed placed we continue to water until it grows into a depression that gets out of control or a fountain of beauty.

There is a commercial on TV my entire family laughs at because it reminds them of me. A man is leading a group on how not to become your parents. His question, “Do we need all of these signs to tell us to Live, Laugh, and Love? The answer is, no.” He throws the sign in the garbage. I have positive words and phrases everywhere! I have had them for years! It kills me when he throws it in the trash.

Surrounding yourself with positives cannot be wrong, I tell myself. I recognize that too much can be overwhelming, but a few is all I need! I am not planning on inviting this guy over to my house anyway.

Try for one week to use some of the words from the word lists I provide and to share a couple of inspirational video clips. See if it makes a difference, did people make comments, notice a change or what did you learn from it?

Video clips you will enjoy! The last one is one of my favorite ones because I believe every individual is different and unique; that is AWESOME!

Tuesday Teaching Talk, on target

Making efforts daily to increase learning growth is the goal of every educator. As we walk by classrooms, visit a Zoom classroom or watch an online performance of the band learning is visible when teachers have strategies in place to enhance the classroom to meet the needs of all students.

Every school has a curriculum in place with units and pacing guides to support teachers. As the principal of an at risk school it was important for me to not only be an instructional leader, but also a leader who supported staff to take risks and to be innovative in their approaches. However, we needed to work collaboratively in order to narrow a focus to understand the gaps we had in our curriculum. Our students were not mastering the standards they were being assessed on to achieve. This was a reflection on our curriculum, practices and strategies. What can we do better to serve our children?

Instructional objectives guide instruction. Learning targets guide learning. As a teacher planning lessons you need your objectives to guide your instruction, but the learning target is important for the students to understand. When the learning target is posted, clear, and explained so students understand what they are to do; learning will take place.

We were able to partner with a company Evans Newton Incorporated located in Scottsdale , Arizona. At the time we did a program called Target Teach to address our language arts needs. It was very successful for us and helped us turn around our school. A lot of work was done! I will break down a few steps each week, but I want to add that we also included our students as we progressed in our improvement process. My philosophy is: Education is something we do with children, not to them. I strongly believe in student lead conferences so please keep that in mind as I introduce this next piece.

So as a review first:

Instructional objectives guide instruction so this is for the teacher.

Learning targets guide the learning so this is for the student.

Assessments, observations, and interactions in the classroom provide evidence of the students learning so the teacher can record their growth. This process helps in feeding students forward in their learning process. Keeping in line with the philosophy of students being in charge of their learning STEP is next. STEP (Students Tracking Educational Progress) is what is needed as students create a portfolio of their work to monitor, set goals, and indicate the growth they achieve. This helps each student take charge of their own learning and opportunities to discuss with others how they are doing on their educational journey.

STEP will utilize the framework of the learning target. As the lesson progresses through the unit, the student will use time to complete a reflection piece, a goal page, what I need help with page and what I would like to learn more about. Many teachers already utilize the I can statements which fits perfectly. Students taking ownership in their learning and talking about it reinforces the learning.

If you are interested in learning more about learning targets I recommend the book Learning Targets you can find at ASCD

Stan Tall and Bea Proud, a great couple!

A loving couple to send the right messages today! Love, respect, compassion, understanding, and support.

Many years ago, I began my career in education as a teaching assistant. I genuinely love all of the children I served and have a strong passion for making each day better than before. It did not take long after encouragement from others; I made my way back to school to gain my teaching degree and then my masters to become an administrator.

The needs of the children I served were always my priority. Seeing early in my career the issue of bullying, I was allowed to develop approaches to address these social-emotional needs early. I thank my principal Susan Riggle for believing in a teaching assistant to bring programming to her school.

Shining Stars was born and with the assistance of our social workers we expanded. This is when I first met my dear friend Dr. Dorothy Espelage a worldwide known expert on bullying. The assistance she provided helped to improve our student’s needs and how they responded.

My career moved me to a position as Assistant Principal of the middle school. I had always been in elementary, so people did not think my elementary style would work. Well, children are children was my response.

So when I asked for help in constructing two large giraffes named Stan and Bea in our main hallway, people began to wonder. But, there was a significant reason for this project and the details would soon be disclosed.

“Welcome, everyone! Many of you I know from the elementary and now we are here in the middle school together! Did you love those awesome giraffes as you came in? The one on the left is Stan and the one on the right is Bea. They are part of the giraffe project to remind us of the importance we each play in our school, family and community. See Stan is all about standing tall and taking risks when it means sticking up for what is right! He knows standing by and letting someone or a group say or do something wrong is not right. He will stick his neck out for what is right and get help. Bea is all about being proud. She takes pride in how her school, household, community looks. When someone throws trash on the floor or ground she does her part in picking it up. Always remind others to keep our places clean as it is a reflection on us. But sometimes accidents happen, so when we see it, pick it up, we become part of the solution, not the problem.”

“Do you know why giraffes have such a long neck? Well, it is because one day, a father went to the top of the hill to keep an eye out for danger while the families grazed. He kept stretching, stretching, and stretching so he could see to warn the others. He was Stan’s great, great, great grandfather. This is where the saying, stick your neck out comes from!”

My purpose in telling this story is in setting up how you can begin a fun non-threatening way to talk about service-learning, bullying awareness, expectations and a culture of pride and respect. I have always had two rules, a consistent phrase I use and a signal to utilize to begin to speak no matter how big the crowd without raising my voice. I discuss all of this more in my book I hope to have out in the future.

How did the giraffe project go? We did well with it in our middle school. We raised our academic scores, decreased our amount of behavior issues and identified additional areas to support children.

Learn more about creating a giraffe project in your school and community at the link below. Many materials are free. If you need information on bullying, please feel free to connect with Dr. Dorothy Espelage on Twitter @DrDotEspelage

Time to talk about your why and Research


Data, data and more data. Data-driven decision making is what drives improvement. Are we doing this? Are we seeing results? Do we hear our teams saying, “we are data rich and information poor”? Is the data we are collecting the right data? Is it the data making the difference?

Professor John Hattie has conducted research, written several books, completed many talks, and has shared significant findings to help all educators. I had the honor of listening to him talk again last night and have enjoyed all of my learning from him the past few years. His goal of finding the greatest impact on student achievement provided us with Visible Learning.

Visible Learning research identified over 250 factors influencing student achievement. He calculated an average effect size of these factors to find 0.4 as a marker for one-year growth.

Education research can feel overwhelming and can be something people want to avoid. The work has been done for us by Hattie; now we need to look at where we are in order to make decisions to improve. How to apply the work he has done with our why?

Visible Learning research provided a great deal of information for us to examine. The first influence to focus on is how teachers think about learning and the impact of their role.

“The important thing for successful leaders is not what they do; much more important is how and why they do what they do.” -Simon Sinek—understanding the “why” is essential in all we do in and out of the classroom. When the “why” drives what we are doing, outcomes are different. It is the passion, heart, inspiration, and foundation of our core values driving our purpose. Please watch as Simon Sinek explains the why. simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action?utm_campaign=tedspread&utm_medium=referral&utm_source=tedcomshare

The book 10 Mindframes for Visible Learning Teaching for Success by John Hattie and Klaus Zierer is an excellent choice for your instructional team. The chapters are designed with the ten mind frames, a reflection piece, questions at the conclusion, and a checklist. Investing in the time with your instructional team is essential in feeding forward positive results.

Education is something we do with children not to them. Helping teachers understand their impact and guiding students into their ownership in learning is my goal as we work together through these blogs.

Next week during our Tuesday Talk, we will focus more on teaching and learning with Visible Learning. I will leave you with additional resources to have to begin your discussions with teams. Please drop me a comment if you have specific areas you want to focus on, questions you have or ideas. I will get the information you need to help you and your team.

Thank you for #Bethesolutiondaily

Resources for Visible Learning

Gears turning


Are your gears turning? What gears am I talking about? As a child, you may have heard; I can see those gears turning.

We know they were referring to our thinking ability. I may be showing my age! I am hoping someone has heard it!

In my husband’s business, it means those big motors you see in big industry plants or motors farmers use to help their crops. It can be busy at times.

In my world, gears connect to a shaft, which is the vision of the district. Vision is the solid foundation to maintain the focus of what we are doing as a group. It is who we are.

The gear is put into place, and the work begins. Gears are the mission that indicates the importance of what we do to accomplish the vision. The clarification of each gear ensures a focus on the action steps’ to achieve the vision. It is like the Cheshire Cat saying, “If you don’t know where you want to go, then it doesn’t matter which path you take.”

Core values and beliefs provided by the staff is the oil used for the gears to fit into place with support. When the fuel from family and community turn the gears in the right direction, it can all come together.

Vision, Mission, Core Values, Collaboration with family and community you will have students achieving. Building a system focused on this structure positive outcomes follow.

I had the opportunity to hear Robyn Jackson speak today and it was terrific. She has a great plan on how to look at Vision, Mission, and Core Values as a way to anchor your district or school to handle anything. You can get through this pandemic with those three Anchors and a focused approach! Please check out Robyn Jackson’s books and her website @Robyn_Mindsteps


Always Grow

Have you ever planted something? Maybe you have a house plant you care for daily? Watching what you planted grow gives you a special feeling. Take a few minutes to look around at everything someone has planted and you see growing. It may take some imagination if you have lots of snow!

People have so much power in the process of growth. It is not only the seeds we place in the soil but the words, actions, ideas, and resources we put in the paths of others or provide for ourselves, which develop.

We are always growing because we are always learning. Some of the lessons we receive are tough, but it is through those we can find our true direction.

Children need to learn this process as they grow. I have had this debate for it seems decades. I will continue to plead students who fail an assignment or test should not just move on and a grade is placed in the grade book. In addition, homework not completed should not receive a zero and be forgotten.

Children who live in poverty or difficult situations may not have the ability to complete the homework. This then becomes an assessment of the support system and not the student’s ability. When students are not able to redo work they failed many messages are sent to them maybe without the teachers intent, but it still happens.

There is no growth happening when children are just pushed forward without taking ownership in their learning. Mistakes are the best way to learn!

Please read the attached article from Education Week by Angela Duckworth. It is absolutely an excellent example for all learners as we build self-efficacy as students lead their learning. #Bethesilutiondaily