Category: School Leaders

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.

Back to School 🍎

Fall is my favorite season! It is the time of year where you begin to harvest the fruits of your labor as a farmer. Pumpkins, corn, apples, marshmallows and chocolate, scarecrows, and school supplies are the best! The sounds of the shoppers looking for just the right color of a folder, the best bookbag, and don’t forget picking out the first day of school outfit.

My school year in 2010 changed forever for me. I barely escaped losing my life and was left with lifelong deficits to remind me of the gift of life daily. Children felt impacts to their lives as schools shut down, mask mandates, isolation from others, and a change no one was prepared to handle in their school year 2020.

Now 2021-2022 school year is upon us, and the memories of the previous shutdowns with mask mandates are looming. Illinois has just passed on information that all K-12 students and staff will wear masks as they return to school, even those who have been vaccinated.

Safety is always the priority of all school leaders. Safety means many things when we discuss children—the safety of body, mind, and spirit. Science directs us in our decision-making regarding health and wellness. Children are fragile and essential to all of us. As a mother, grandmother, educator, and loving human, what we do to them concerns me always. They are not able to make decisions for their overall safety for themselves, and that task is left to us.

There seems to be a great debate regarding vaccinations, masks, and everything related to Covid-19. Why? It is no longer about science but politics. I am not taking a political side, but the children who can not decide on their own.

Would you please push the political views aside? Doctors, scientists, pediatric specialists, and psychologists need to be heard to provide the guidelines for children. What are the best ways to protect the body, mind, and spirit?

I have included an article about the importance of connecting. My previous post about the Artifact Bag also talks about the importance of connection. Let’s not let 2021-2022 be a repeat for our children. We can find creative ways to embrace things we cannot control with stuff we can by connecting better.

Would you please focus on the magical joy of teaching and learning by connecting at the levels we need after all we have been through with Covid-19? “Education is something we do with children, not to them.”-Brenda Yoho

https://www.edutopia.org/article/rekindling-sense-connection-new-school-year?utm_content=linkpos1&utm_campaign=weekly-2021-07-28-A&utm_source=edu-newsletter&utm_medium=email

Reasonable Conversations

Do you find it challenging to have conversations with others? When I say challenging, do they start friendly, and before you know it escalates into an argument, disagreement, or worse? I can expect it maybe at holidays when all of the family crowds into small places and everyone is stressed, but not on a day-to-day basis.

It seems impossible to have a “reasonable” conversation in today’s society. Everyone has a strong opinion on many hot topics like the police, education, Covid-19, vaccinations, safety, racism, and patriotism. It does not matter what platform you select to use to bring up questions, talk about a news item from TV or newspaper, or mention one of the heated topics, and dialogue shuts down.

I have always encouraged others to ask questions, but I admit I am guilty when I feel strongly about a topic and the passion for defending my position. So what is the difference now?

We are no longer having discussions with all sides having the opportunity to provide their points of view and the other to do the same. We need to listen to the facts, gather the truth, restate the accurate findings to reach an agreement. Right now, emotions drive the conversations with no “reasonable” solution to the conversation as the frustration sets in and insults begin. In the “cancel culture” parts of society has created, it is worse than any bullying interventions I have mediated. In just one click, a message is sent, received, and shared by thousands targeting one individual with a label to crush them.

How will you help staff and students navigate through difficult conversations? Do we have debates anymore with content we can fact check for truth and not just opinions? Where do you check for facts and information? Do students know how to research for facts? Are we teaching how to have debates and to discuss different points of view?

We have been fighting bullying for decades in our society. I have lost a former student who moved to a different school to suicide over bullying. I am looking at these conversations through the lens of students growing in this society and how to manage all of this and wonder what we can do to help. Who has the power to change the conversation tones in our communities? I will start with me, and you start with you and maybe will reach the who that makes the change. It is a ripple effect, I believe. If we continue to say something, repeat it over and over, it becomes part of what we believe and think. I know this is true because, sometimes you feel like a nut and sometimes______ ______. You finished it because it was part of a marketing campaign. “Just do it” you know this one as well! “Its the real thing.”

Thank you for being the solution daily where one voice, one ear, and one heart make a difference today.

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!

Snap judgments or decisions

Making snap judgments and quick reactions seem to happen more often than I realized. Our society works at a fast pace, and it continues to speed up. I know I am getting older, but it is still speeding up no matter what age.

It should come as no surprise to me that we are working faster with the advancements we have made with technology. However, our human bodies and minds are not going to change. Our processing speeds and reaction times will remain the same on the trajectory of our life spans.

When we make a snap judgment, we are evaluating something or someone. We look at an individual and determine many things quickly. Our snap judgments tell us if they are trustworthy or not, safe or dangerous, friendly or mean, and can you think of more?

Growing up, we accumulated many experiences which provided us with a basis to influence us in how we view the world. Can we change our minds? Our environments and experiences affect us a great deal, I believe. What do we consider our environment? Our home life, education, community, media, church, and society in general. So as we move through our life journey, our environments change as our relationships change.

Have you made a snap judgment or decision? Can you remember being told this advice: “You want to make a good first impression at your interview.” What did or does that mean to you?

During the past decades of work in the educational world, I can tell you what I advised students what this meant by talking, modeling, and listening.

Every day I wore a suit to work, dress pants, a blouse, blazer, and heels. Sometimes I had flats depending on the suit pants length. (Yes, I could run in those heels if I needed to do so.) I dressed for success and modeled for others what I expected. I respected them and the work I did.

Next, I did every job. There was not something I would not do or ask my staff to do something I was not willing to do. I was visible to everyone picking up trash, serving lunch, riding the bus, covering a classroom, coaching a game, and the list goes on. We are all part of a team working together to serve.

Communication was vital as I spoke to everyone and by name. Saying thank you, excuse me, you are welcome and modeling the character we want to see and hear. Repeating my famous phrase of “You can be part of the problem or part of the solution; the choice is yours to make.” Maintaining a positive communication environment helps to keep the environment positive.

The best lesson came when I was able to go to school with most of my teeth missing, black eyes, and around 50 stitches. “Does the way I look now change who I am?” Students could see my willingness to stand before them, looking like a different person, a pretty scary look. A great lesson is to not judge a person by the way they look but to take the time to get to know who they are first. Standing in front of middle school students takes courage in the first place; try doing it with a name like Yoho and with most of your teeth missing. It’s okay if you just laughed out loud. It happens.

It is my hope as you start back to school, back to work face to face or if you have started a new position, take some time to learn about the place you are and the people you are with before you make a snap judgment. Think about these things as you start to compare or judge:

  • Accountability more than Ability
  • Character more than Color
  • Brains more than Beauty
  • Quality more than Quantity
  • Effectiveness more than Effortlessly
  • Humble more than High Achiever

The list can be expanded to include more things to consider. The critical thing to remember is to pause and not to use snap judgments. You could miss out on important people and things by not waiting.

My concern after working so hard with students on the importance of not placing judgments, including all individuals, and being kind to all, we are taking steps backward at a faster pace. The conversations being held about possible curriculums seem to place students in positions to judge others, just as our society is doing this daily. As I have stated, our environments influence our thoughts, actions, and behaviors. Take a pause and reflect on what is currently happening by exploring all aspects of the places I indicated influence us: homelife, education, church, community, media, and society in general. A solution-focused mindset allows for positive ideas to guide changes, where a problem-focused agenda fills the minds with negativity and not allowing solutions to move forward.

Leaders are essential in leading this fast pace environment. Thank you for being the solution daily.

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.

ABC’s to Leadership

LEADERSHIP

Writing each day is a blessing for me. I enjoy each day in finding ways to spark a fire of excitement, light a lesson of inspiration, shine enthusiasm on kindness, plant a seed of hope, and turn a problem into a solution one post at a time.

Leadership is daily, 365 days a year, and even 24 hours a day. We have thoughts, ideas, visions, dreams, and hopes throughout the day. No one sets out to be “the leader,” and many will tell you this if you ask. It just happens as they work, and a passion builds inside that can be explained by my ABCs.

  • Authentic learning, leading, and listening.
  • Building relationships daily.
  • Communicating and connecting first before correcting.
  • Daily inspiration for all, lifting spirits each day.
  • Encouraging others and engaging as we work.
  • Fueling others with energy for success. (maybe chocolate and lots of snacks! I find these to work best!)
  • Gardening throughout the day, planting seeds for growth, and maybe pulling a few weeds.
  • Heart full of kindness, celebrating birthdays and good deeds. (Always keep cards of all kinds and small gifts in case you need them.)
  • Inviting feedback and questions.
  • Joining in collaboration, diversity, and teams.
  • Keeping an open mind.
  • Leading by example. (Model for others what you expect to see.)
  • Motivating others. (It is the small things you do that count.)
  • Never giving up, especially on you! (Special dedication to one of my students who thanked me for not giving up on him. He was shot and killed at the age of 19.)
  • Open door policies!
  • Praise for jobs well done!
  • Quick to put others first, especially kids.
  • Recognizing problems, focusing on solutions.
  • Shared leadership, roles, and responsibilities. (Teach everyone how to do your job, you never know when you will not be there!) -Thanks Robin
  • Time to listen, learn and explain.
  • Understanding (Everything!)
  • Validation! Others, feelings, viewpoints- You do not have to agree but validate them.
  • Welcoming environment, friendly, safe, opinions can be shared.
  • Xceed expectations when limits are placed on you and expectations are low.
  • Your purpose-the why you do what you do!
  • Zest to be the best!

Mistakes, Do you make them?

It is so important to teach children it is okay to make mistakes. We do not make them with intent or to cause harm. Mistakes occur when we dare to try something new, utilize our creativity or innovation, attempt to solve a problem, and the list can continue of examples. It all leads to the same factor…we are human!

Can you imagine where we would be today if all of the great inventors decided not to take a chance? If that were the case, then the device you are using to read these words would not be around.

Celebrate the lessons mistakes bring to us. It is so tricky when the mistake may have brought harm to you or someone else. I have experienced all of those mistakes, and it is hard to accept and not to wonder why.

I can think of many people in sports, entertainment, politics, and everyday life who have experienced a mistake that cost them something valuable in their life. Still, they have utilized it to bring even more to an already gifted life.

I am blessed. I would not have said that several years ago. I could only see the mistake, problems, and losses. However, now I can see that my words can fill this page and, with a click, could help someone see the mistake, a problem, or a loss can bring you to a new place to provide for others and breathe new directions for you.

Thank you for reading, following, sharing, and being a solution daily. The goal only needs to be one individual and if it is more, then job well done!

Let’s Continue to learn!

We have many opportunities to learn daily. As educators, professional learning expectations are tied to specific mandates of topics to be covered and a required amount each year to maintain your certification. However, this is not all we need as we desire to be the best we can be for those we serve.

The article, Taking Control of Your Professional Growth written by Lauren Kaufman, Stephanie Rothstein https://www.edutopia.org/article/taking-control-your-professional-growth. Provides an excellent plan to help with your ownership of professional learning. There are many free resources available, books, podcasts, and individuals who share your passion.

Reach out to others as you strive to find solutions to questions, issues, and problems you want to address. Together we can be the solution daily for those we serve.

Thank you for being the solution daily! Always share out with others and add to the list of great resources to help.

Embracing Messy Leadership in Schools and Beyond

The Case of Embracing Messy Leadership in Schools By Sean Slade and Alyssa Gallagher Jul 7, 2021 @https://www.edsurge.com

A great piece to read! They list the benefits of messy leadership as follows:

Messy Leadership has many benefits: 

  • Multiplying Perspective – in short taking the broader view of an issue and of the potential outcomes. It is moving away from a short term or myopic view of an individual problem.
  • Emotional Connection – bringing emotion and empathy back into leadership and into decision making.
  • Seizing Momentum – being prepared to adjust or alter course and be not stuck in a predetermined path or process. This requires flexibility in thinking and a willingness to admit mistakes.
  • Sensing the Future – being open to new ideas, solutions, and processes, and testing them quickly. Leaders create quick learning loops with rapid iterations where ideas are prototyped and tested without going through full committee cycles.
  • Your Ego – being comfortable with “I don’t know” and putting your ego and your role as the traditional leader aside.

My thoughts:

During the global pandemic, and even as we share ideas today, it is messy. There are many points of view, guidelines being shared, professional opinions that contradict each other making clear decisions difficult.

At this time, we can recognize no matter what workforce you belong in; the world is changing at a rapid pace. We can only expect some “messy” points. Maintaining a solution-focused mindset to your leadership keeps the focus on the pathway to results.

When you can focus on solutions, you will see possibilities. Possibilities drive positivity for opportunities. When you focus on problems, you only see more problems. Problems cause negativity and blame. To be the solution daily, you can see the choice you and your team need to make. Will it be “messy?” The answer is yes! The recommended acronym is excellent! I love doing acronyms. They are fun to remember and to do. However, we tend to have too many of them in education.

Enjoy looking at your messy approach and see what works. It is easy finding problems, but solutions take creativity, thought, and collaboration.