Category: Lead Change Group

Students “Don’t Care,” Do they?

Have you heard this, thought this, or said this? As you glance in a classroom, talk to students or staff, you get an idea of this statement.

Sometimes we are quick to place a label on something without further examining the roots to discover a solution. Engagement is our go-to word. Students are not engaged in learning, so they do not care. Whoa, stop! This is a snap judgment call without really diving in to look at solutions.

I have included a link below to a great article from EL Magazine. It is a quick read packed with great insight on how to look at barriers students may have as they face learning.

Standing in front of the class and giving information in hopes students will receive it with learning, as a result, is not a reasonable expectation. Then to think they can take this information and apply it. Well…

Students are not always interested in what we want them to do in the classroom or to learn. This does not mean they do not care. We have not uncovered how to motivate them with their interests, ways of learning, removed barriers or found the right strategies.

Students need clear feedback, a success that is important to them and to know peers are not judging them. Helping students reach their full potential can be accomplished.

http://bit.ly/2WbJ2pK

#ConversationsForChange

Let’s start a conversation today about the world of work. This past week I had the pleasure of speaking with a community service group regarding their human resources and programs. I am new to their organization and wanted to gain more insight than project any thoughts.

I told them after listening to their difficulty in finding individuals to fill openings that I understood. I had observed so many help wanted; we are hiring and sign-on bonuses offered. I was amazed. A local fast food place was offering a $1,000 sign-on bonus. What is happening in the work world?

As we watched the news, we saw a report that a school district had the National Guard come in to help drive school buses to get children to school. What? The National Guard is having to help get our children to school? What is happening?

Reflect on your current work. How has it changed, remained the same, or is it now out of business? What is the #FutureofWork?

Our society has been through many things over the years, and these past years have been harsh. The rapid changes being thrown out are difficult to deal with at times. One thing I do know is we need to have work to keep us moving forward. If you can join many of us in helping to figure out what our world needs to look like, let’s start with this question:

“What’s the one thing you’d change about the world of work?”

My response to this question would be:

When you hold a job or position, no matter what it is, make sure you are the best. Lead always with a purpose, service, and understanding of what you do changes the life of another.

How can I make a statement like this? I have held many levels of jobs and kinds. It is what you put into the work that you will get out, besides the paycheck.

I see many people talking about their change would be working from home. I believe we need human, face-to-face, real-time together to free ourselves from this disconnected, connected world.

One thing I would change is working to serve a purpose to improve all lives positively as we honor our core foundations of values. #FutureofWork #Bethesolutiondaily

Please share your thoughts and include #FutureofWork #ConversationsForChange so others can see your contribution and thoughts. Let’s get these ideas going and conversations flowing!

Thinking vs Knowing

A thinking thought for today!

“There’s a difference in thinking you are a champion and knowing that you are.” Matthew McConaughey

What is the difference?

Is it because you hold a title?

A young mother fights breast cancer and becomes cancer-free. She is a champion. She knows what she has overcome and does not need a title.

How do you describe champions? Please share your thoughts.

It is a no-good, horrible nothing going right kind of day!

Have you ever had a day where nothing seems to go right? How does it make you feel? What do you do to get yourself back on the right track?

When I was little, my mom would tell me it was because I got up on the wrong side of the bed. “But yesterday was fine, and I got up the same way.” It just happens some days. You need to lay back down, take a deep breath, and get up on the other side, thinking positively.

I enjoyed reading the post from Jane Perdue. The link to her post from Lead Change is below on her “everything turns to crud.”

When Everything Turns to Crud

What to do:

When things are not going well…

  • Stop, think about your actions.
  • Take some deep breaths
  • Reflecting
  • Listening to music
  • Painting
  • Do something that helps you relax and refocus
  • Talk to someone you trust

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall…

If this is your first time reading a post of mine, let me please tell you I am not an ordinary individual who always does things the way you expect them to be done. So….I love Walt Disney, crazy acronyms, inspirational videos, music, and thinking way outside the box people feel comfortable being inside of with no complaints, well, a few. When asked, “Who else has tried this or is doing this?” No one, I don’t follow the paths of others; they follow mine. This needs to be your response to get things going!

I was an Assistant Principal in my hometown middle school with an enrollment of 300. It was not too long that I found myself as Principal of a middle school in a large unit district with an enrollment of 600. A very diverse group of students, low-economic and other challenges the students and families faced to thrive. Staff also faced many challenges as they had administrative changes often and did not have opportunities to connect for sustainability. The first words I thought of when I looked at the big picture for all of them was: relationships, trust, connections, and solutions. They all had been through so much and needed the essential foundations to build. We needed solutions that would not be complicated, simple to apply, gave all of us ownership, but most importantly, trust in ourselves, peers, staff, and community.

It takes work, time, and effort to make this kind of climate and culture change. It does not happen on day one. Consistency in what you say and do, today, tomorrow, and every day after. Believe entirely in what you are doing because the perspective of others is what counts in making the change!

On day one with the students, I asked them all to the gymnasium to sit in the bleachers to introduce myself. I asked all staff to leave. Say what? The looks on the faces of the staff matched that of the students. “This lady is crazy; she is not going to make it on day one!” I repeated, “It is okay staff, Take a 10-minute break.” Finally, they began to move. I could still see them standing in the outer hallway. Did they not trust the kids or me? Maybe both of us?

I raised my hand. I started asking kids to raise theirs. Soon everyone had their hands raised. No one was talking but looking at me, all 600. This is how I start to speak. I will raise my hand; you do the same and look at me with no talking so we can begin. I trust and respect you, so I do not want to yell. Could you show the same to me by following this procedure? Hands down

This is when I also tell them about only having two rules. We will talk more about how to implement these at a different time.

“How many of you looked in the mirror today? Come on; it is middle school. I know you did! In our main hallway, you will find a mirror I placed there. I will place some particular messages around it each week, so when you look in the mirror, you can think about my message.”

The one for this week is:

“Mind is a flexible mirror, adjust it, to see a better world.”

Amir Ray

I was placed here to be your Principal. Many people from my hometown thought I had done something wrong. I asked why? They said because this was a horrible school. No way. It is not, and we will show you!

Now, please think about their perspective. People have a perspective that this school is not good. I am looking at you and know we can change that perspective. All we have to do is make a few adjustments in their minds to see through the mirror the greatness inside this school. It will take trust, connecting with our community, building relationships, and working on solutions. This will take time, effort, and hard work, but this will be the best school ever!

Active lessons in the halls

The mirror in the hallway costs $3.00 on clearance. It was one of those dorm room mirrors for doors. It worked out perfectly in our hallway, hanging horizontally. All students passed this intersection so they could all look in the mirror and receive my message. I am happy to help you with messaging if you have a specific area you want to address. It did help and was successful, along with a few other things we did. Our staff, students, families, and community worked hard to turn this school around to find success.

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, what do you see? Students and staff working to achieve!

  • “The mirror reflects what you want to see, but those who see you reflect on what they see.”-Brenda Yoho
  • Integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is looking.
  • “Reflect what you want others to see and be.”-Brenda Yoho
  • Mirrors don’t lie. They only show part of the truth.
  • “What you see in others has more to do with you than them!”-Brenda Yoho
  • “Your words are a mirror of your character; choose them carefully.”-Venkat Desireddy

Imagine, what words would you choose?

In 2004 Rolling Stones labeled John Lennon’s song Imagine the third greatest song of all time. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rolling_Stone%27s_500_Greatest_Songs_of_All_Time The list was updated again in 2010, and it remains in its same ranked position.

I have utilized the theme of “Imagine” several times over my career in education in different settings and ways. It is a timeless vision of hope and inspiration. The word has been used in the last couple of years as “re-imagine” to view how things already established should be changed. Could manipulating the word imagine like this take the elements of hope and inspiration away?

I am guilty of getting caught up in the overuse of word verbiage and trying to do catchy phrasing to grab the attention of others. Creativity should never risk the foundation of the meaning. Imagine is creating “new ideas.” We need foundations as a world to stand on for us to begin to live as one.

The song Imagine by Lennon was recorded in 1971. During this year, society was feeling the turmoil of the ’60s as demonstrations were being held against the Vietnam War. Apollo 15 landed on the moon. Gloria Steinem spoke in America at the feminist movement. A hectic time in society.

Looking at our society today, we are living and feeling turmoil as well. We have experienced demonstrations, an established Space Force now, and a “Me too” movement to support women’s healing involved in sexual violence. In addition, dealing with a global pandemic, mistrust in government, clear divisions, continued rise of social and mental health needs, and the list could continue. Parents are apprehensive about their children’s education during this time of shutdowns, mask mandates, vaccination mandates, curriculum modifications, and how to address the needs of all children.

Music and education reflect what happens in society during the points of time in history. One of my favorite songs is Heal the World by Michael Jackson; he released it in 1991. It is a beautiful song and reminder of clips of history we have overcome but still work to keep moving forward in making things better for the next generation. This short video clip of Kids United is from 2016.

If you could write a song for today to help inspire those worldwide, what would be the key phrases you would use? Would you please share a few thoughts and impressions? I look forward to words of encouragement, wisdom, inspiration, and more!

A foundational piece we can stand on to move forward with improvements for the next generation and to fuel our souls with hope begins with_________________.

Teachers and Leaders, encourage failure!

This title may need to be explained! It is not that I am encouraging all of us to fail but to innovate and become resilient. The title is also not saying teachers and leaders encourage their students to fail. It is the approach and strategies we use to help children grow.

One year the theme I selected for our school year was “Failure is not an option at SVMS,” based on the book written by Alan Blankstein. In his book, he points out six principles that guide student achievement. It is a perfect book to utilize with staff to work on improvement plans, reviewing data on instructional needs, practices, and curriculum. I was and am impressed with Alan Blankstein because he shares his own stories of struggles and how educators do change the lives of others.

But my title says, “encourage failure?” You can utilize the theme and the practices by engaging in examples of why it is okay to fail but not stop. We have many examples in history of individuals who failed but continued to try and found success.

15 People who failed on their way to success!

https://www.lifehack.org/articles/productivity/15-highly-successful-people-who-failed-their-way-success.html

Children need opportunities to learn, explore and discover. It is acceptable to take risks, chances, make mistakes and fail. Is your classroom or school environment a place where children feel safe to make mistakes, or are they working in an “answer getters” mindset where the correct answer is the only way?

I want to repeat one of my phrases for you: “Education is something we do with children, not to them.” To help build a growth mindset, innovation, creativity, resiliency, and academic success, “encourage failure.” Suppose children focus only on reaching the correct answer without inquiring the why, how, and what; then the next level of learning is never reached. How will we find the next discovery, cure a disease, invent a new idea or solve a global problem if we do not help our children learn how to dig deeper in their learning.

Feel free to reach out to Alan Blankstein @AlanBlankstein. If you have not picked up any of his books please check out his latest book Breakthrough Leadership https://us.corwin.com/en-us/nam/author/alan-m-blankstein

Help children build resilience by embracing the understanding of failure and the lessons they bring to help make toolboxes to conquer more issues as they are part of their path.

Leadership is 360 degrees and 365 days

As we study math and science we learn a great deal about measurements. When we discuss 360 degrees, we can recognize this as a reference of measurement in angles, a circle’s circumference. If we compare to the temperature in Fahrenheit, it is above 212, the temperature of boiling water. If we include a calendar year, it contains 365 days. Leadership encompasses all of these components.

John Maxwell’s book 360 Leadership is a great book. His description of organizations needs leaders who can lead in every direction. Then Jon Lockhorst’s new book, Mission-Critical Leadership, reconfirms the importance of leadership at every level with the ability to support others at different levels.

The qualities and attributes of leaders identified as 360 leaders include:

  • Adaptibility
  • Discernment
  • Perspective
  • Communication
  • Security
  • Resourcefulness
  • Maturity
  • Endurance
  • Reliability

Leaders do not work every day, but their qualities are present 365 days a year. On some days the temperature of the situation they are working on can reach 212 degrees. This is when the steam pushes them on to reach extraordinary levels of accomplishment.

One of the elements missing in the description of a 365 leader is initiative. My favorite way to provide professional learning on this subject is through the book The Dog Poop Initiative by Kirk Weisler.

Action Plan

  • Call a team meeting
  • Prepare the meeting room with pooper scoops on the tables filled with candy (tootsie rolls).
  • You can tell the story as written or change it to meet the needs of your organization. I have retold the story utilizing slight variations.
  • Parts of the presentation provide pauses in asking questions to make choices and decisions. You can add: Pieces of litter on the floor, Empty bottles of drinks, money on the floor, chair with something on it (gum, spilled drink)
  • When you came in today, who noticed the _____ Who pointed? Who walked by? Who did something to clean it up?
  • Now you don’t want to call people out. This is shaming, bullying and can be a bad situation. We can do these as hypothetical questions. You can find video clips to use as examples to help reinforce the message. But as a presenter coming in we could get by with pushing the envelope without calling people out. They all know who they are!
  • Reinforce the importance from the story of the time lost, opportunities missed, and how one individual or group can impact the change needed to accomplish a goal (no pun intended.)

“Why you lead and the way you lead are important. They define YOU, your leadership, and ultimately your contribution.” -John Maxwell

As an organization, our goal is to be the best, serve others with high levels of respect and support each other to accomplish our goals.

Action Steps for leadership 360

  • Lead Self first- to lead in all directions, begin with mastering self-management. People will not follow you if you have not taken control of valuing your own time, have a clear focus and purpose. You are disciplined in handling your emotions. Could you make them want to follow you?
  • Lead in the middle-across- Leading in this position is a consistent state of developing and maintaining credibility. Individuals need to influence and build on relationships of trust. Providing peers with success, opportunities to voice ideas with allowing the best to achieve credit. Most individuals in the middle will not receive credit for the work they do, but they need to know others’ know-how valuable the work they do is.
  • Leading down- Learning about all of the staff is an excellent part of understanding how to serve your teams better. Know the strengths of the individuals to make sure they are working in areas to maximize the skills they have and prevent burnout. The goal of leadership is to help people succeed. Their success is our success. Inspire them through the vision and providing what they need to succeed.
  • Leading up-, It is important to remember we started with ourselves. To help lead up, we must be the best “us” we can be. This allows the entire team to succeed and provides upper leaders with valuable resources. When you perform well, you can step in to help with the responsibility of the top leadership to support the overall growth of the organization.

What Matters Most?

As a leader, especially during this time, the importance of “what we do,” “how we do it,” and “why we do it” are critical questions to ask. We have asked them before, but how does it help us to answer the biggest question of all? What matters most?

“Mother Norman, I am so sorry for the loss of your husband.”

“Oh daughter, I know, let me introduce you to my son.”

Going to the visitation of one of my co-workers from my early years was just like going to a family reunion to see relatives you haven’t seen in a while, even though you may not live that far from each other. “Mother Norman, ” as I have called her for years, was the teacher who I looked up to as I learned to be a teacher. She was one of many who helped prepare me for my journey through education. Her brother would become our Superintendent. He hired me for my first teaching position and then in my first administrator position. So many great learning opportunities and training. Thank you Mr. Tate.

I left the comforts of my hometown to travel a short distance to a larger school district up the road. My first year as principal was terrific. The staff, students, families and everything felt just right for me.

“Mr. Denman wants to see you in his office.”

I can remember hearing those words coming from the phone and the echoes of the voices telling me all day of the sudden leaving of the middle school principal. My heart sunk to my stomach. I could not let anyone see my feelings.

As I arrived to the office, it was true; I needed to move to be the principal of the middle school. I left the building headed back to my school processing all that needed to be done, when a call came asking me if I could return to talk to the Superintendent.

I entered Mrs. Mellen’s office, and she said, “ I am so sorry; I know I told you I would not move you, but I had no idea something like this would happen.”

I understand. Leaders have to make decisions based on what they believe is best. As part of this team and organization, I have to choose to be part of the problem or part of the solution. A great deal of work has to be done. One thing I ask is to have permission to talk with my current staff first before they hear it from the news.

“I don’t think you can get that accomplished before the board meeting tonight.”

I can and I will, if I have permission. “I will check with board president and a few others to get this approved.”

Thank you! Trust, my word and helping to guide them through this transition is essential to me. It will provide a better transition for all of us.

Telling news you do not want to give

  • Practicing solution-focused leadership provides a systematic approach to communicating any form of news you need to deliver.
  • First, identify the problem the organization faced. Point out the importance of the time of the year and the needs of all involved.
  • Then provide the possible solutions the organization could have selected from and weigh against outcomes. (In this situation, I was able to pull from the information I thought could be used. I had four years of positive middle school experience previously. Our team worked to secure a grant successfully to change the school to a middle school concept and turned it from failing to succeeding.)
  • Decision made and moving forward. Clear communication of the decision made and how you support being part of the solution is stated. We all must do this to continue the great work we are doing. Provide the connection between them and the decision and the overall mission. (In this case, the school was a feeder school to the middle school I was moving to.)
  • One last thing to remember!
  • We do all of our work together in all of these buildings as one. Students and sometimes staff move around from time to time, but one thing remains the most important. What matters the most? We love what we do for those we do it for and those we do it with because, in the end, what matters the most is the relationships we build along the journey.

Take-Aways

  • Practice solution-focused leadership
  • Relationships matter
  • Clear communication
  • Remember the what, how, who and why to understand What matters most!

Blessings, rights, freedom-multiple them

The alarm sounds, and we are off to a new day! The daily calendar is full! Every minute is scheduled with tasks to complete, meetings to attend, places to go, meals to prepare, messages to answer, decisions to make, and the list goes on. When is there time to notice the blessings?

Instead of focusing on the “what we have,” it seems we have enough time to focus on “what we don’t have.” A question was asked to me about another individual, “When do you think she will stop being mad at the whole world?” My answer is: Instead of focusing on our trials and losses, stop talking about them until all we can see on the horizon is darkness instead of light and begin to pay attention to recognize blessings. She and others like her will continue to believe they have no blessings at all.

Your blessings include life, family, friends, freedom, talents, possessions, and abilities. Daily you are blessed through these gifts you have received, and they multiply when you share them with others. My heart is filled full when I receive a message from someone that they have liked what I have written or will use it to share with others. Joy is in giving to others and hoping it provides them more.

I continue to work to put my blessings to work for others. My passion and purpose are to provide for others solutions. It is through a positive mindset and collaboration with others many accomplishments can be made.

Change your focus to see the blessings you have and could miss if you are not looking.