Category: School Improvement

It takes Wisdom, Wit and Essential Skills to Lead

Leaders are essential to organizations now more than at any other time. The skills needed for leaders to help staff and students grow include: Organizing Cultivating Motivating Empowerment Encouragement Vision Commitment Dedication Balance Trust Collaborative Influence Inspiration Courage There are several more you could add … Continue reading It takes Wisdom, Wit and Essential Skills to Lead

Measuring Meaningfulness

I constantly measure the meaningfulness of the messages I send, the information I share, and how I impact those who choose to read my posts. I intend to always help with driving solution-focused thinking and increasing the positives we share in day-to-day interactions.

One thing missing is an opportunity for others to share what they would like me to focus on to help them in what they are doing. I want to pause and organize this blog to work for those who need it to work for them. My idea is to dedicate each day to a particular topic. Examples could be: Monday: Motivation, Inspiration, Meetings Tuesday: Teaching, Thoughts, Talking Points, Communication Wednesday: Wisdom, Wit, Things to Ponder Thursday: Takeaways, Things to Share, Activities for team building Friday: Facts, Factors, Leadership Saturday: Solutions, Strategies, Plans. Sunday: Spiritual, Social-Emotional, Mental Health

Maybe you don’t want to read something daily. What if you wanted something in one post? If this is your desire, what day would you choose to receive it, and what do you need the content to include?

Be the solution daily is for you. I want to thank all of my followers and those who have invested their time. Starting today, I will take a two-week break while I gather information on the direction of this blog.

Keep being the solution daily for all as we serve others in making the world better one day at a time.

Ambition

Ambition is the germ from which all growth of nobleness proceeds.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson, writer and philosopher

Cultivating Healthy Ambition

Ambition is an essential element to an organization and individual. Ambition begins with understanding the desires, aspirations, and goals you have for yourself and your team. What exactly are your desired outcomes for yourself and those of your team?

Knowing and understanding how far to reach is key to harnessing healthy ambition. Setting goals that require just the right level of difficulty push and struggle helps ensure to reach beyond your current abilities. Suppose the challenge is too great; a risk of giving up or becoming discouraged when target goals fall short happens. If the challenge isn’t significant enough, a risk of disconnecting, not being engaged, and never reaching the levels of total performance is accomplished.

I worked with a young ambitious leader who was very talented. His desire to accomplish was greater than the skill levels of himself and his team. They pushed full steam ahead, but lacked the ability to sustain all of the components of their plans. Piles of data was collected, but being able to utilize it wisely with a targeted purpose was missing. They could accomplish some small wins, but the frustration levels grew with trying to maintain the action plans. Creating the action plans was difficult to establish because the data seemed to become outdated by the time they reviewed it together. It became overwhelming with the stacks of data collected.

There is more to accomplish than performance with ambition. We need to think about growth, achievement, sustainable and solution-focused ambitions. Each of these requires more in-depth conversations we can continue in future blog posts. We need a balance for ambition to find the formula for success. In the meantime, ponder these questions with your purpose of performance:

Questions for Focus

  • What are our current performance goals?
  • What goals can you reach with your efforts?
  • What goals can you help guide your team in accomplishing?
  • How can the efforts of “all” work together to accomplish the goals?
  • Do the goals need to be prioritized?
  • Have you assigned timelines, responsibilities, tasks, or other ways to accomplish them?
  • What do I wish was different today?
  • What frustrates me the most?
  • Have I asked the team any of these questions?
  • Do I listen to the team, data and information?

When we work only on performance ambition, our teams may look to us in different ways. If our goals seem unattainable, they will look at us as being “unrealistic.” Maybe you have set too many or too high of goals. The team believes you are setting them up for failure.

What if you do not take any risks and have too few of goals? The team thinks you do not believe in them, you are not a risk-taker and you have low expectations.

We do not want to lose our sense of purpose. Our team must believe in the goals, values, and beliefs we establish. It is essential to keep a check on the level of ambition we have and to maintain high sustainable energy to develop the accomplishments we want to achieve.

Hook, line and sinker

Do not spread false reports. Exodus 23:1

The coach spots a little boy in the stands with a glove waiting to catch a baseball. The coach decides he will toss a ball to the little boy. Then suddenly, a man swoops in and catches the ball. Cameras snap the picture; video cameras record the moment, and the story goes viral.

Everyone could not believe what this man did to get this ball. He took a baseball meant for a little ball for himself. The pictures and video were shared with comments about this man. How could he take this ball away from this little boy?

As these video clips were shared, no one ever thought to ensure all the information was factual. Everyone could see he jumped in front of the boy and caught the ball. Case closed!

Except viewers watching the clip and the live scene didn’t know the whole story. Earlier in the game, the man had helped the young boy snag a foul ball. They agreed to share any additional balls that would come their way. Unfortunately for the man, it took twenty-four hours before the actual story emerged. The media mob and citizens had already done their damage, demonizing an innocent man.

The world we live in today deals with fragments of information and twists it to meet the narrative they try to push. Facts seem to be few and far between as you try to listen to any media source. The baseball story is factual from 2018 a Chicago Cubs game. This is one example of thousands; I am sure of people who have been judged with fragments of information.

Hook, line, and sinker, we take fragments of information as the whole truth. The evidence is clear before us daily. We must do everything possible to confirm the truth before leveling accusations and going along with the beliefs. We need complete facts making sure not to participate in lies. We should be cautious whenever passions ignite and waves of judgment swell. We want to safeguard ourselves from “following the crowd in doing wrong” In this “gotcha” “cancel culture” time, we see more and more divisions than unity.

Please take the time to look at the bait on the “hook.” Is it fragments or complete? Use the “line” to trace the sources of the story and research the evidence. Is this a “sinker” to bring down someone or everyone? Don’t just swallow it hook, line and sinker! We have ways to help us rise above together, to overcome any hardships, and to float to the top! Be the solution daily in an ocean full of sinkers! Rise up!

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.

It only takes a spark!

“The power just went out; I can’t see a thing.”

“Hang on, I know I have candles somewhere. Oh no, only one match! I hope we can get the candle going with one match. Then we can start the others.”

Moving to the country on our own as a young family took a little getting used to. Planning out what was needed in emergencies like power outages, snowstorms, ice, and so much more!

Listening to the evening news, we hear about fires out west. It only takes one spark to get a fire going, and it spreads fast. This message was loud and clear.

“Please take out the red hymnal books and turn to page 495 and the song Pass it on.” My favorite song! “It only takes a spark to get a fire going. That’s how it is with God’s love.”

Putting the spark in Leadership

I have utilized these messages about a spark to light my path igniting the fire in others for many years. It is what leaders do. At first, I did not recognize it as a leadership trait, but it is! The best kind of leadership trait. It is support, passion, authenticity, relationships, and knowledge-SPARK, all in one!

As leaders, we do not recognize things as part of a “formalized” plan of skills. We do what we feel natural in doing. However, with this being said, leaders are constantly learning and absorbing ways to improve. They pass this on to those they serve, lighting a fire to ignite success.

In my solution-focused approach to leadership, it is natural always to look for solutions. When you focus on solutions, positive mindsets are the results. Supporting those you serve as they work to provide solutions is a positive part of the day. Positive support naturally creates a positive work climate where everyone feels safe, supported, and confident.

Showing our passion for what we do is a contagious attribute. The love we have is something we do not want to hide. Providing and sharing this passion with our team helps to keep the spirit going. Opportunities to try new things, ideas and to enjoy what we do.

During our time of support and showing others the passion we have for what we do, it is in how we do and not always what we say. Being authentic in what you say and do brings authenticity to how we lead. Authentic leaders and teams bring truth, honesty, and the spirit of collaboration. These components secure loyalty and lift the team to reach higher levels. This weaves into the natural building of relationships as the level of trust has been established through the work of support, passion, and authenticity. These components are all needed to work together to begin to flicker the spark.

The last piece most feel is essential. Leaders think they need to have the most knowledge to lead. It is not the leader who holds the knowledge; it is within the team. Each member brings their knowledge, strengths, and talents to support the passion for achieving success. The leader knows how to help get the team to the end goal as the team works together.

Take away

  • Support- Provide your team with the support they need to accomplish the goals. Keep the positive mindset with always a positive solution-focused approach.
  • Passion- Share the love for what we do! Celebrate the tiny, small, and big wins daily. It is contagious! Spread it!
  • Authenticity- It is what we say and do that helps to inspire trust in our teams. As this is established, loyalty follows as well as a foundation for our team.
  • Relationships- Building positive relationships focused on solutions keeps mindsets positive and establishes collaboration to accomplish set goals.
  • Knowledge- Recognizing the knowledge and skills of the team further enhances the foundation for collaborative success. Leaders only need the understanding of how to help the team utilize their talents together to accomplish success.

It only takes a SPARK to get a fire going, and soon all those around will: warm up to its glowing, grow within its light, shine brighter and be thankful for the spark! Thank you for being part of the solution daily!

Turning Gears into Action

One of my first posts was about gears. I made this reference as it was part of the original writing in my book. I did not know everything I needed to know about publishing a book. So even though my gears were turning, I did not have all of the ones I needed to move forward successfully. A rewrite was done, and it will be coming out soon I hope.

The goal I have is to help other leaders in their journeys of success. I will share all of my information, ideas, practices, actions, and everything I have with those who want to continue to be the solution daily for those they serve. Today I want to revisit the thought of gears as you begin to develop an action plan to address your planned improvements.

I utilized my conversations with my husband to talk about the motors he worked on for companies and local farmers, as they compare to the work in education. The importance of these motors for the work being done is critical to the whole process. If one gear is not working, damage can happen, and work is stopped. A farmers’ work depends on the weather conditions; it is critical to get back to work when the weather is good. In education, we weather all of the storms that come our way.

In our educational system, we have gears as well that are critical to the work we do. I divided the gears into the following:

  • Leadership
  • Instruction
  • Curriculum
  • Assessments
  • Professional Learning/Collaboration
  • Culture/Climate
  • Communication
  • Community/Partnerships
  • Systems/Program Evaluation

Gears are connected to a shaft. This cylinder shaped piece of rotating machine element, is used to transmit power from one part to another, or from a machine which produces power to a machine which absorbs power. Compare this to your organization.

Gears are the identified areas of focus. Our focused areas are those in need of attention to produce the successful energy we need. Often my husband has spent time completing a rewind of motors because they have burnt up and need an overhaul. Sometimes they are beyond repair and are scrapped out. New motors are purchased if it is cheaper to do this than to fix the motor.

In education, it seems at times we have situations or things that are beyond repair. However, we cannot scrap them out and purchase new things. We have to make adjustments to try to make it work. I can think of textbooks, programs and curriculum. We spend a great deal of money, time, and energy in the selection of these materials. Our budgets do not allow us to throw things out. However, when new shiny things are the buzz, we through out and turn our attention to the new. Examples could be: Whole Language, Touch Math, Cursive Writing, Phonics, Sight Words and more.

We intend that we will produce enough energy our students will absorb the learning. However, it is not the energy from the materials and tools but those teaching our students producing the energy. It is when our students are engaged and have ownership in their learning the energy sparks.

The shaft is our mission as a foundation. It is what we are doing defined by our vision. Our vision is inspirational and connects emotionally with what we do. A well-oiled, lubricated, or greased machine keeps it turning. This is our values and beliefs. Working together and turning in the right direction is fueled by families, communities, and stakeholders. We have focused leaders, collaborating staff, engaged families, supportive community, and stakeholders, producing achieving students as outcomes are the results.

As you begin your work, identify your focus areas. Which gears do you have in your plan? What do you think at first glance needs your attention first? Be careful not to burn out all of your bags and destroy your shaft. Some things are not repairable, and we do not have enough time to repair them all. We cannot afford to throw anything out.

Counting on you to be the solution for those you serve today as they will serve tomorrow!

My way, Your way, Our way….

I grew up really as an only child. My brother and sister are 16 and 17 years older than me, respectively. I have always said I was a gift from God to make sure someone could help this family.

My siblings, especially my sister, did lots of things with me. I think I was like a doll. The best adventure I can recall was going to see Elvis Presley in concert. I loved his music, but I was more fascinated by the way grown women were acting. So exciting to watch! He did it his way!

Watching my grandchildren play, I learned a great lesson. They span in age from three years, six years, and 13 years old. The two younger boys play together and are not always easy to handle. Their sister is quick to help settle disputes and monitor the playtime.

While vacationing at the beach, everyone found their place. Each one has a special interest in what they wanted to do. There were enough adults that each child had one to help them in whatever they wanted to do.

When they decided to play together after having their time, the conversations were so interesting.

“Hey, look, I found a purple-colored shell. Would you want it?”

“Yes, thanks!”

“Do you want me to help you find more shells?”

Fantastic how they were working together to collect shells. Now it lasted a short time as you know, attention spans do not last long and brothers, well are boys.

We took the shells back to the house to sort, identify and talk about them. We like to do art projects and make things; this is what they do with me. They each had a container to place their shells in, and all was good.

How does your team work together on projects? As a leader, do you begin with your way of approaching the task or situation? Are there opportunities to identify and sort out target points? Can individuals discuss freely and offer ideas?

In dealing with finding solutions, it is essential to have all voices heard and illustrate possible solutions. People need to see, hear, talk, and sometimes “touch”(move items) to understand the process.

If the solution is “my way,” the problem will stay. It stays because, most likely, I am the only one who believes in the solution. The same is true if the solution is “your way,” which most likely comes from the loudest one. It should be “our way,” providing ownership from all.

Think about the structures of your problem-solving teams. How do you handle issues that come up? Do you have a process to follow? Who is involved in making decisions and finding solutions?

Thank you for being the solution daily! It takes each of us working together focused on solutions.

Transforming before us

Noise

Can you hear it?

The “white noise” of the world “darkens” the “brightness” of our thoughts, deafening our ears preventing us from hearing the wisdom of our father.

Vision

Can you see it?

Our vision is “clouded” by the distortion of the images presented as we question softly with muffled replies of lies. We are transforming; we are patterns in a world being changed unrecognized by our eyes. The sounds become louder, the sights become larger, and our world became smaller as we seek less from it.

Core

Do you know it?

Do not conform to a world, but renew your mind. Morals, values, beliefs, and united together as one are what needs to be done. We live where a click of a button identifies us as a follower in the social media world, limiting the idea of leadership. Where are the leaders?

Yesterday we lived, it is gone, but lessons remain. We cannot live backward, only forward with lessons to apply. The mirror reflects an image of the one who can choose for today to stand to prepare for tomorrow. Live for today, conquer fears no matter the fractures created, focus on the future, the unfailing love for faith, family, and the country as we prevail. The choice, of course, is always yours to make; the solution daily is the one we hope you make.

The Message

U.S. Students Show no improvements in Math, Reading, Science.

When did that headline message appear? The news may not read the same, but it clearly states the facts. Our students have not and are continuing to not perform at a high level compared to other countries. You can find these headlines from 2013 to the present time.

In December, 2013, Greg Palkot reported American high school students slip in global education rankings.

“Overall, according to the U.S. Department of Education, American students rankings in math have slipped from 24th to 29th compared to the last test in 2010. In science, they’ve gone from 19th to 22nd, and from 10th to 20th in reading.” “When the last study was released, Education Secretary Duncan said it was a “wake-up call for education administrators.”

Yes, I was part of the administration during this time. As I say to my students, “You can be part of the problem or part of the solution.” I can look back at all of the efforts and things I know we worked hard to do right. I also know we could always do better. In the end, I know many schools were just like us.

Everyone focuses on the problems or “root causes” of these headlines. However, it is when we change our mindsets we can see solutions. The first thing people want to do is throw money at the problem. Money is not the issue when you look at all of the countries. We spend more per student than any other country.

Our next choice when we focus on problems is placing blame. It is poverty, diversity issues, high levels of immigration-nope the other countries have these attributes as well.

U.S. Students show no improvements in Math, Reading, Science on International Exam December 3, 2019, U.S. News by Lauren Camera The most troubling among the results was that an international performance gap in education is widening.

Washington Post also ran an article (I have provided the link to the article) written by Moriah Balingit and Andrew Van Dam

Can we stop what we are currently doing in the headlines with education? The message being sent is not the focus of what is needed for the success of our children. I have some additional headlines and things to consider for another day. As a country, what do we want for our children as they prepare for a global working world? Read about the thoughts of how U.S. students are not as engaged, motivated, or had the endurance.

What are your thoughts on education?

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/us-students-continue-to-lag-behind-peers-in-east-asia-and-europe-in-reading-math-and-science-exams-show/2019/12/02/e9e3b37c-153d-11ea-9110-3b34ce1d92b1_story.html