Category: #Education

Solution Weekly May 15-21, 2022

Getting Back to Center

Have you ever felt like you were off-balanced? A change happened in your life, and now things as you knew as “normal” are now the opposite. Oh, yes, the pandemic! The Covid-19 pandemic is one example. Can you think of more? Many things can impact us in positive and negative ways, which cause us to feel off-balanced and not centered; how do we handle it.

Word of the Day

I am a big believer in vocabulary! We do not spend enough time exploring, providing, and giving children time to explore “words.”

It could be because I come from a home where my parents did not know how to read. When I would go to school in my early years, I can remember my Kindergarten teacher saying, “I am sure your parents have read this story to you, but I am going to read it today again.” Nope, my parents had not, and I heard it for the first time. We forget many children do not have rich conversations or have exposure to reading materials or opportunities to visit other places. How can we help to improve their vocabulary for them?

Are you facing “Drainout”?

In our current situations, we have all faced many critical, unpredictable conditions not seen before. We have dealt with in our years of service overcoming what many have referred to as “burnout”, not motivated, exhausted, and leads me to what I believe is replacing all of these words in our workplaces today: “Drainout.”

Think about how you and your co-workers feel right now. How do you feel overall? “Drainout” is not something that happens just at work, it can happen in every aspect of life. We will discuss more this week.

Donuts, Veggies or Ice Cream? Choices

Do you hold meetings? If you do, do you provide a snack? When people walk into your meeting, do they find chocolates or candy on the tables? What do you think about offering food or something for meetings?

I am curious about this idea. I know I have, it seems, always had candy on the tables and offered snacks. During my career, I never used a line budget for my building expenses. I thought doing this was my choice, and I usually paid for it myself. Sometimes I had vendors who would send stuff, but mostly me or sometimes my Assistant Principal would get things.

Fast Forward-Future Skills Needed Today!

As we have witnessed in the past three years, leaders have shifted to rapidly respond, react and realign approaches to meet the needs of change. Change is not something new to leaders, but a change at this level of magnitude left leaders scrambling. We have not seen this level of change happen at his rapid domino pace.

What do we need from leaders based on the experiences from the past three years to prepare for our future? How can we be readily prepared for rapid changes? Can we give this some thought and reflect on what we have learned as we move forward?

Flexibility and Engagement

It is May, and the end of the school year is fast approaching. As the weather begins to warm up, so do the temperatures of everyone. We see a wide variety of changes happening as the end of school closes in on all of us.

Many teachers face life changes as some are retiring, some are taking on leadership roles, and others are moving to different locations. These are life changes that spark genuine emotions even if we do not feel like they impact us in any way.

Our students are feeling the stress of the timeline as well. Many will be heading off to start a new life journey with college or careers. Some will be facing issues of what they feel like is a safe place for them being removed, or ending a structured time with friends, a regular time of receiving meals, and knowing they will not have others to be with each day they can trust and count on daily.

These emotions still do not distract us from our purpose of teaching and learning. We have until the last bell rings to engage in and be flexible in our teaching and learning. It takes some out-of-the-box thinking, but the creativity we all have can capture the moments we have with amazing things.

Helping our students to engage in learning is essential to reaching the academic goals we establish and meeting the needs for their learning. Our expectations can offer significant benefits to the learning environment but not eliminate the high expectations. I am referring to the need for choices, providing students with a clear understanding of the “how” and “why” the expectations relate to them and “what” they can do.

Reflecting on my own teaching experiences, I can recall being transferred to another building with a principal who did not know my teaching style. The first time he walked into my classroom, the look on his face was priceless. He did not find the desks in a row with students all sitting quietly with me at the front of the room giving an instructional lesson. Instead, he found: A group of students in the back of the room with one of my volunteers reading, three students at computers, a student with me at my desk, and students with books and folders at their desks. Some students took papers to trays to turn in, and others selected new books.

I excused the student I was working with and told him he was ready to move forward. I walked over to speak to the principal. “Good Morning!”

“This classroom looks very busy, and everyone looks like they know what they are doing. I have never seen anything like this before.”

“Oh, I am sorry. This is how I teach and work. I can provide you with a more detailed plan for organizing our time. Each student has a mailbox. Inside their mailbox, they have folders for their subject areas color-coded. Right now, we are working on Language Arts and our Reading Logs. Students are working through the stations. We have a reading station with our volunteer today, Mr. Lucas; three students come back to take a test on their book and record it on their log, others are working through their assignments, and I individually call up students to do a progress check. The clothespins on the daily assignments bag indicate to everyone what station they are at. When a task is completed, the students change their clothespin to the station they will be in so others can see the openings.”

“I can see they know what they are doing. It seems like it is working.”

“Please feel free to check in on any of them to ask them about what they are doing and the goals they are working on.”

My teaching was many years ago, but I knew the choice formstudents was a big part of allowing students to take ownership. I need to mention at this time in the ’90s, grouping by abilities was a “thing.” I was the “new teacher” on the block, so my students were at risk primarily, but my Homeroom students were a mixture of students. It did not influence how I approached teaching and learning. I had high standards, and we worked the same way and accomplished goals.

Movie Making

At the end of the year, we still had lots to cover in our social studies books. I decided to let the kids take control. I put the subjects/topics on the board. Students wrote down what they were interested in learning or teaching to give to me. Then we talked about a unique group project to end our year.

I divided the students up into teams based on their interest levels. Then they worked together on the chapters to develop the vocabulary list, discussion questions, answers, vital information to know, and a short assessment.

Finally, we would turn this information into a History Rocks at RidgeFarm Elementary Radio Show. We would watch a couple of episodes of the Schoolhouse Rocks videos to get an idea of how the format could be and how to make a design set.

The kids were engaged, we were flexible, and we could show it to our grade level. Then we even showed it to the 4th graders to prepare them for 5th grade.

We took the assessments that the students made, we learned the vocabulary and everyone learned so much at the end of the year!

Know yourself- Do you?

I have written about growth several times. It does not matter what age you are, where you are in the process toward “retirement, or if you are retired. As an individual who is getting up each day to be part of the glory of the day, you are growing!

No, I am not talking about the scales for your weight or the tape measure for your height! Although, my granddaughter has set the goal to be 5 feet tall. I hope she makes it! The growth I am referring to is in your mind and spirit.

We are constantly doing things in our lives to enrich ourselves daily. We use the intention to focus on the things that enhance areas we desire to improve. Longevity of life is sought after, but it is the quality of the life we live that matters the most. What are we doing in the time we are blessed to enjoy?

What are the strengths you have? What are the areas you would like to grow in? Is there something new you would like to learn?

Know Yourself

“In Ancient Greece, the philosopher Socrates famously declared that the unexamined life was not worth living. Asked to sum up what all philosophical commandments could be reduced to, he replied: Know Yourself.”

Understanding ourselves is a first step in avoiding mistakes in several areas of our lives and is also essential in our abilities to establish goals. If we cannot identify our strengths and weaknesses, it isn’t easy to move forward. When we are true to ourselves, our relationships and work improve—getting to know ourselves better increases our growth over time.

The answer is hidden in the question!

Do we take the time to get to know ourselves? Are we so busy in our lives pleasing others, taking care of things, and doing tasks we forget to take note of ourselves?

Begin or end each day with a question for yourself. Keep a journal with the answer to the questions. This is how you begin to understand who you are and to get to the why of what you do. Being self-aware is critical to the success of life.

  • What is your favorite movie?
  • What is your favorite color
  • Do you like cold, hot or warm days?
  • What is the biggest mistake you have made?
  • Who or what comforts you?
  • What do you do for fun?
  • If you had only one wish, what would it be?
  • What are you worried about?
  • Name something you like about your job?
  • What is your happiest memory?
  • What values do you have?
  • What do you believe in?
  • Where do you feel the safest?
  • If you were not afraid, what would you do?
  • If you could travel anywhere, where would you go?
  • What are you grateful for?
  • What matters most to me?
  • What short-term goals do I have? Long term?
  • What is my favorite food?
  • If I am feeling stressed, I_________?
  • When am I angry I_________?
  • Who are my support people?
  • I am ashamed of_______?
  • Am I a night owl or a morning person?
  • Am I passionate about___________?
  • I like being around people, or I’m not too fond of it.
  • My thoughts tell me I am not good enough or can do it.

Keep adding to your questions to dig deeper into who you are as you get wiser in understanding how to continue to grow.

Thinking-we all need to see it

Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

Colossians 3:12

Thinking is what we need more of today! In whatever job you go into, you need to problem solve, think critically, and make connections between different areas. There is not just one way to believe, but many ways. When looking at a problem, we need to see the different ways we have to think to solve it.

Yesterday I posted a quote. It makes you stop to think about how you listen and speak. Do you have those eager to talk to you because you listen? Do you have others who always want to hear what you have to say? Do you think about what you say and hear?

As you move through your day, pause to see and watch; what are people thinking? Can you see thinking? How do you know? What does it look like? Would you be able to describe it? What are you thinking now?

The world moves in many different directions and at a swift pace. I think at times, so fast, we do not give enough time to the process of thought. If we are allowing time to think through issues, looking at all of the possible solutions, and asking all of the questions, it will take time to find the correct answer. If we do not allow the time for thought, mistakes will be made, opportunities lost, discoveries missed, and ideas overlooked.

Take some time to think about these questions and discuss them with your group. See what you come up with and share some thoughts for all of us to ponder.

  • Cancer is a broad subject area. I just finished my radiation treatments, and during my time, I found myself thinking about many things. My first thought was about how many people have died of cancer, fought the battle and won, survived one cancer, and then it returned. We donate money to continue to support cancer research and finding a cure. Has there been any cancer that has been cured? What is the progress with curing cancer?
  • Daily driving to my treatments made me realize how much construction and road repairs are needed and being completed. How do they go about determining this road construction? Why are so many roads torn up at the same time? Can’t they focus on one area and complete a job before moving on? Have they worked on creating a better formula for the materials used for the roads, so it does not break down so fast?
  • Help wanted signs with advertising sign-on bonuses made me pause to think. What is happening? We have teacher shortages, soon principal shortages, no one to work in the restaurants, nursing shortages, and the list contiues. Are people choosing not to work, not working because of the vaccine, or something else?
  • I was thinking about the future. My thoughts and thinking are about what are the things I can do today to help the future be brighter for others—sharing my thoughts, sparking possible solutions, adding value to others, and inspiring all to bring all of the opening quotes to everything they do.

Listen, speak, love and spark the qualities for great thinking!

Five Ways to Lift Learning

The school year is winding down, but improvement plans are being worked on. We should be looking at this time all of the ways we can begin to lift learning, close gaps, and review standards. Setting standards, assessing progress towards standards, and are standards being met are common areas to focus. These are essential areas but are not the primary focus to lift learning.

Standards are the guide we utilize in helping to develop curricular goals. In 2012, a study conducted by Tom Loveless at the Brown Center at the Brookings Institute concluded: “no evidence that is raising academic standards lifted academic performance on a large scale.” A more recent report by the American Institutes for Research and Vanderbilt University mentioned in the article Common Standards Are Not Enough indicates standards are not enough. Further, in the article, several points are made to reference the confusion about using standards.

We know standards can influence learning outcomes and provide guidance in the direction of the development of the curriculum. Our challenge is to utilize standards in ways with the most significant impact. There are five ways we can leverage standards to make a positive difference in learning.

Five Ways to Leverage Standards

  • Development of authentic and purposeful curriculum
  • Standards are in Student-friendly language
  • Formative and Summative Assessments
  • Feedback for students as benchmarks
  • Student tracking of learning (Plan, guide, goal setting)

It is no secret in my beliefs about education. “Education is something we do with children, not to them.”-Brenda Yoho. Students respond positively and will invest more effort when presented with a choice, learning tasks that are challenging and meaningful. When we set standards to guide curriculum development to be rich, relevant, engaging, and with a purpose to grow, our students will rise to higher levels.

One of the first tasks I asked our team to do when we received these new standards was to bring in a group of students from grade levels. I wanted a variety of students represented. Students needed to know what the standards meant-How to read the standards. So we helped to teach them how to break the standards down so they could understand how to read the standard and what it expected them to be able to do. Then when they understood, they could teach their peers.

Next, we needed to work on how to assess the standards. We moved to a standards based report card and used the same format of explaining how to read the standards to present the report card to others. It is essential to help others see how the standards progress and build on learning—alignment across standards and learning experiences and how this continues to provide a solid foundation.

Feedback is an essential piece to the standards as we work to continue to lift learning. Standards are the foundational blocks, but it is in the learning processes students gain the skills to enhance and connect learning. They will continue to move forward as they identify areas they have mastered, proficient skills, and those they need to work on to improve. Students do not all learn at the same pace. They do not all have the same strengths or weaknesses. Students taking charge of their learning build more than just a learner.

The best value I see is the value students give to themselves. We can coach, mentor, and facilitate learning, but when they take control, the learning process becomes more. The purpose of education is to help students grow, and when they follow these guidelines there is no stopping them in the growth they will have. When students understand the value and leverage of the standards, they will develop learning plans we would not have thought to provide. I believe in our children and never give up on any of them.

Be the solution daily by volunteering at a school, mentoring or coaching a child, or simply helping in any way you can so students can develop learning plans to drive their purpose for growth and success.

Give it your best!

To gain high levels of learning we need commitment, focus and flexibility. It is the end of the year and if we have not yet captured our students commitment to learning, they have already missed so much. Why are we allowing it to continue? “It is too late, there is nothing I can do now to turn this around.” I have heard this before, my response always is: Give it your best!

Accepting to learn

We have to guide our students into accepting factors to move forward in the learning process. Even as adults, we need to revisit these steps to take to manage our level of learning.

  • Face challenges-do, do not avoid challenging situations or problems. Handle these first and work through them.
  • Making Mistakes is an essential part of the learning process. We need to learn from our mistakes and work through them to gain a complete understanding.
  • Accepting setbacks in our learning process. We will have setbacks along the learning journey. One glove does not fit all, and we all get to the finish line at different times.

Our traditional instructional strategies provide students with the opportunities to be consumers of the information supplied by the teacher. The pacing is already established, and the routines are based on not allowing for a different pattern of time to include other designs. Students become information receivers, problem getters, and answer givers. No time is set aside for reflection, analysis, questioning, or learning from mistakes or creation.

Role Play

My middle grandson is in first grade. He is an exceptional child and enjoys learning about everything. We were excited when we were asked if we could help him by making a cart for him, he could use to take to school for a social studies project. He was developing a business plan for items he would be selling to his classmates for a profit. Then he could also buy from his classmates as well.

Now I think he is pretty smart! After all, I am his grandmother, but his business plan so far sounds pretty good. He has no cost in the cart. Grandpa and I are using things we have here at home. We did have to buy a couple of things, but they were not much. He has his sister paint pictures of animals for him he will be selling. When she asked if she could have half of the profits from the sales of her paintings, he said no, that was not in the plan. He has stuffed animals donated by family members at no cost. His dad is going with him to help with the setup. He is in great shape for this social-studies project.

This hands-on project has engaged all students in learning about trade, managing money, business, marketing, etc. The teachers have done a great job creating an exciting project at the end of the year. The students will set up their stores and sell to each other next week. I will let you know how it goes. He is currently decorating his stand and making some final adjustments.

Adding value to learning and opportunities allows it to be more than superficial learning. Helping to see the purpose of learning can be an essential step in building the foundation for commitment and dedication.

Opportunities

Providing learning with choices, authenticity, connecting to purpose, and giving opportunities to apply new skills is a great way to help children share their best. So many teachers are creative in how they approach keeping students engaged and excited about learning.

Learning energies of students can help to build their persistence and instill the value of learning. They have opportunities to learn from errors, mistakes, and setbacks when they are provided with a safe place and can contribute freely and create. The best way to learn is when we students can use what they learn to teach others, solve real problems and provide solutions to issues. Learning opportunities are transformed as students are responsible for their learning.

Solution Weekly May 8-14, 2022

Happy Mother’s Day to all of the Mom’s

Wishing all of the mom’s today a special blessing. It is a day to celebrate those who have given us so much! My middle grandchild had a mother’s tea at school. He did a skit with a classmate for all of the mothers, all of the kids sang, he made a hat for his mom Kentucky Derby style, a little book and enjoyed the time with his mom. So special for both of them.

This week is full of great topics! What suggestions do you have for next week? Comment with topics you would like to discuss.

Give it Your Best!

Convincing students to give their best effort is a struggle all year, but at the end of the year it is even harder! We have to persist in the face of learning challenges, learn from mistakes and all of the setbacks causing a struggle.

To gain high levels of learning we need commitment, focus and flexibility. It is the end of the year and if we have not yet captured our students commitment to learning, they have already missed so much. Why are we allowing it to continue? “It is too late, there is nothing I can do now to turn this around.” I have heard this before, my response always is: Give it your best!

Lifting Learning

Learning happens at all levels, in all places at all times. How are we helping to lift learning in ourselves, others and working to ensure learning is an essential part of life? How do we see lifting learning works in your environment? What are ways we can improve?

Different Ways-Thinking

Thinking is what we need more of today! In whatever job you go into, you need to problem solve, think critically, make connections between different areas. There is not just one way to think, but many ways. When looking at a problem, we need to see the different ways we have to think to solve.

Flexibility and Engagement

Helping our students to engage in learning is essential to reaching the academic goals we establish and to meet the needs for their learning. Our flexibility of expectations can offer significant benefits to the learning environment, but not eliminating the high expectations. I am referring to the need of choices, providing students with a clear understanding of the “how” and “why” the expectations relate to them and “what” they can do.

Know yourself? Do you?

Several points in your life journey, you are asked or you reflect on who you are. When getting to know yourself you dig deep into the depths of your heart, soul and core in an honest search. This is done in an accepting way as you look at past experiences, areas of strengths and weaknesses. We have to remember to also take time to forgive during this time. Forgiving ourselves and others helps us to move forward.

Hidden Blessings- Lesson 5 Blindspots

Lesson 5: Blindspots exist. You must get connected.

Many of us say: Get connected, utilize networking, talk with peers and join groups to gain insights. However, you cannot do all of it! If you try to be active on every social platform, you will not be present for essential parts of life. Being connected does not mean multiple devices.

I am not a perfect leader and have gained a great deal of knowledge over the past decades. I am still learning! I still have significant influences in my life I can seek out to guide me when needed. I do continue to reach out to meet new people and continue to expand my network.

Getting to know others personally is the best way. Getting likes and comments on posts on social media is engaging, but having honest conversations takes it to the next level. Deeper conversations help to find real solutions and understanding.

Maybe it makes sense to join a mastermind that Danny offers at Better Leaders Better Schools. He would love a chance to serve you and live out his mission “to connect, grow, and mentor every school leader who wants to level up.” Maybe you want to grab his book and begin an online group to share thoughts, have a Mastermind group in your area, or you may have other ideas. His take on professional development is as easy as ABC.

ABC’S of Powerful Professional Development

  • Authenticity
  • Belonging
  • Challenge

Learn more about the ABC’s from Daniel Bauer author of Mastermind, Unlocking the Talent in Every School Leader. https://www.betterleadersbetterschools.com

When you integrate authenticity, belonging, and challenge into a professional development program, anything is possible, including eliminating blind spots. Blind spots in leadership according to Robert Bruce Shaw, author of Leadership Blindspots, are unrecognized weaknesses or threats that can hinder a leader’s success. As leaders we may not know our weaknesses. Weaknesses aren’t likely to derail us from our goals. However, those we are unaware of are the dangerous ones.

Blindspots

  1. Going it alone (being afraid to ask for help)
  2. Being insensitive of your behavior on others (being unaware of how you show up)
  3. Having an “I know” attitude (valuing being right above everything else)
  4. Avoiding difficult conversations (conflict avoidance)
  5. Blaming others or circumstances (playing the victim; refusing responsibility)
  6. Treating commitments casually (not honoring the other person’s time, energy, resources)
  7. Conspiring against others (driven by a personal agenda)
  8. Not taking a stand (lack of commitment to a position)
  9. Tolerating “good enough” (low standards for performance)

Are any of the above Blindspots hitting you?

As leaders, we need to choose to identify blind spots, actively work on them and learn to overcome them. This helps everyone and impacts the experiences of everyone.

Evaluating behavior is challenging. When you are considering your own, it is more complicated. You need to be able to have different lenses looking at it. Keep these ideas in mind:

  • Seeking help from another lens. Get another individual (Coach, Mentor, School Administrator Manager, Secretary) who can help you get a feedback assessment completed by those who work with you for a better perspective.
  • Be prepared for feedback. Accept feedback constructively. Set aside emotions and egos. Look for common themes.
  • Appreciate the help. It isn’t easy to receive feedback that identifies Blindspots, but it is also challenging to provide it. Individuals who give constructive feedback are trying to help. While you will always have some who are just trying to hurt you, most want you to be the best you can be.
  • Routines create comfort. We are blind to the things around us when we become set in comfort routines. Having things done our way, how we engage others, how we react to issues, run our meetings, or support our employees become habbits. When they are not good ones, we need to make significant changes.
  • Take action by priority. Give importance to these leadership behaviors! Become better at them and continue to review, reflect and renew! When you get better, so does everyone else!

I do not think we can ever eliminate all of our blind spots; we are human. It is part of human nature to have these happen. However, we can routinely focus our efforts to self-reflect and monitor ourselves to become exceptional leaders. If we do nothing, the Blindspots will grow in their strength, and our employees will lose faith in our abilities.

The leader in you is ready to always grow! I am always here to support! We need you! Prioritize your plan for the Hidden Blessings as you work to be better today than yesterday and to continue to grow.

Hidden Blessings- Lesson 4 Reap what you sow

Lesson 4: You reap what you sow.

When I was growing up, my mother and father were known for their giant garden. We were a small family, so why raise this kind of garden?

The lesson they taught me is about the work you put into serving others which brings you the most profound love. I was no lover of vegetables, but I helped take care of the garden when I could. Then I would watch as my mother shared these vegetables with others. The joy reflected in her face always made me happy as well.

My parents were loved by so many, and they told them often. When they passed, people came to share stories with us, and we could remember how much they enjoyed the gift of giving to others. The feedback we received matched precisely to who they were. All feedback does not reflect the true you.

“It would have been easy for me to accept my supervisor’s judgment of my leadership skills and worth. But her words didn’t align with the feedback I was getting everywhere else.”-Daniel Bauer, author of Mastermind, Unlocking Talent Within Every School Leader

It is difficult for a leader to receive mixed messages. When you have many voices speaking to you, it is hard to cut through the noise to hear the voice of reason truly. You have to step back and make hard choices to regain your footing, adjust yourself and take chances. Being self-aware, developing confidence, and remaining true to your core values will always see you through.

“The seeds you plant will one day harvest. The fruit will be positive or negative, so be mindful of what you plant. You are planting every day with your words and actions.”-Daniel Bauer. We have such power in our words and actions. People do not realize this power. We have choices in everything we do. “As you care less about what people think of you, you will care more about what others think of themselves.”-Stephen Covey

Look at every situation, both positive and negative, as an opportunity. They are all part of growth. Each one provides lessons, ways to improve, and an idea to expand on to move forward. As Danny stated, “The seeds you plant will one day harvest.” Just like my parents and the garden, it takes daily work. These seeds need much care to reach their full potential, and you have to pull the weeds in the garden, so the seeds have room to reach out.

What happens to leaders who are pushed out of their positions? What do they do next? It is all about choices. It took Danny a year to believe the false narrative, and it interfered with his life. Then he was able to pull back the curtain to see his truth. I took a little longer. My injuries, age, and stubbornness got in my way. I have to say; I still have triggers due to injuries. Danny has accomplished so much, and I am slowly working my way each day to serve others better.

Hidden Blessings needs

  • Take the advice of Brené Brown- Develop a square squad (a group of people who are willing to tell you truthful feedback no matter what!) (Lesson 1)
  • Remember to follow your true north (Lesson 2)
  • Obstacles are opportunities (Lesson 3)
  • Let your words, actions, and work speak. (Lesson 4)
  • Connecting, Networking, Developing, Building solid relationships with other leaders. (Lesson 5)

If you are not following Daniel Bauer, he is a great one to connect with to help with building a professional community. I have always been with Illinois Principals Association. Follow my blog, connect with me at http://www.linkedin.com/in/brendayoho or on Twitter @BrendaYoho

Seeking to get back or create additional disruption serves no purpose. We choose our reaction to our situation and respond in how we want to take action when we are ready. It does not matter the time-frame only that you are able to continue to move forward.