Category: School Leadership 2.0

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.

Do you know what they think?

We live in a society where we are always seeking others’ thoughts, or are we? Do we want to know? Will we change anything based on what they tell us? We enjoy seeing that like on a post we make on social media!

We know what we believe, and it is the truth for us. Our beliefs and values are what we work hard to stand up for daily. As we work in our organization, we do the same but add a layer to deliver a service to those we serve.

The delivery of the service takes input from the customers receiving the service. Addressing solutions always begins with conversations and input from those involved. Every time I visit one of my doctors or a healthcare facility, I receive a survey by phone to answer questions about the service provided. I believe more and more companies and organizations are seeking input from customers on how to continue to improve their services.

As teachers and administrators, do you think about the need for feedback? Evaluations are completed, but are we getting direct feedback from those we serve daily? Are we getting feedback from our colleagues?

A group of students came to talk to me one day in my office. I gathered them around my conference table. They were already well trained in my problem-solution-based system. They began with their stated problem. “Mrs. Yoho, we believe our teacher is racist.”

What facts do you have for this problem? Because you know I do not see this in any of the staff members.

“She acts differently when you come by or are in the room. She picks on kids of color. The other kids can get up without her saying anything. She is constantly nagging on us.”

I listened to all of their concerns. I knew there had to be a misunderstanding, but these are real feelings. A change had to happen because even if the teacher was not racist, the students perceived her to be. How would you respond?

I talked with the teacher, and I told her I did not think she was racist. However, some of the students believed she was. I told her of a time I was accused of the same thing. This helped in our conversation.

When I was accused, my first reaction was anger. I was mad. How in the world could anybody think that about me? Then I settled down and took some time to reflect. Have I allowed them to get to know me? Have I had the opportunity to get to know them? We do not know each other, so it is easy to misunderstand if we do not know.

Start using feedback tools to help understand how you can improve, what is working, what is easy and difficult. You can do a SurveyMonkey poll, do quick post-its to stick on the door on the way out, put up posters with prompts kids can vote on, and so many other ideas!

Acquiring information is the key to improving, focusing on what kids need, and turning problems into solutions. I often said, “We don’t know what we don’t know.” I had some staff members puzzled by some of the crazy things I said until they found themselves in a situation like this. We don’t know what we don’t know until we know, and then we need to know more!

Everyone has a story. Learn the stories and share yours. Gather all of the feedback you can to continue improving, adjusting, and serving the best you can. We all need you!

Input vs. Output

I have questions about the title of this post. Do you have more input or output in your day? In other words, are you receiving (input) information more than you are producing (output)? What are the sources of the information you receive?

Accountability has leaders focused on the source of output and making sure there is a high volume daily. Depending on the field of work, I question the quality of the volume of output measured by the input. Should leaders focus more on the input their staff is receiving?

I spend 60% of my day reading. What are the sources of this reading? I select books based on recommendations from other leaders, also from the organization I work with to help authors with book launches, blogs, podcasts, webinars, articles from professional organizations I belong to, emails, and my daily devotionals/bible. This input is valuable to me, but most importantly, it influences my thoughts.

I wrote a book about school improvement; it’s not good enough. My opinion! I took time to learn more about how to have a quality book, what the steps are, what do you need to do, know, and so many other things. I was gaining lots of input! During this seeking input time, I had opportunities to meet, listen to and gain wisdom. It is a blessing to have taken the time to do this and to write a new book.

Time is a non-renewable gift! I always say, “Unwrap today as a gift. It can not be returned, exchanged, or saved. Use the hours wisely.” The time I have spent on writing has provided me with healing, sharing, ways to serve a purpose, and opportunities to provide support to others.

Take aways

  • The quality of the work we do depends on the inputs of information we allow to influence us.
  • Output accountability should be measured on quality and not quantity.
  • Leaders can support individuals by providing quality resources for input.
  • Time is non-renewable!

Review your calendar, agenda, or schedule. How much time is allowed for input? As a leader, what are you providing to staff to enhance the quality of the input others are receiving? Remember, time is non-renewable! Make all communications quality and not just quantity!

Be the solution daily! Others count on the quality of your output to influence the input they receive!

Praise with Purpose

In the attached article you will find information on positive praise, especially for middle school students. “When middle school teachers praised students at least as often as they reprimanded them, class-wide on-task behavior improved by 60% to 70%, according to a BYU study.”

One of the most important things I stressed to staff was always to address the child by name with a positive greeting before you addressed a behavior. Children want to know that you know them, see them hear them before you ever try to teach them anything.

“Researchers observed 28 classrooms across five middle schools. They noted that teachers gravitated toward criticizing statements four to nine times as often as they used statements giving praise.”

Action steps

  • Challenge yourself to “praise pays.” When I was a teacher, I had some challenging students. So I made up little games I played they no one else knew about. I would place ten bingo chips in my right pocket in the morning. Every time I gave praise, I moved a chip to my left pocket. When I gave a critical comment, I moved one to my right pocket. (If I did not have any in my left pocket to move to the right, I would have to get one from the jar on my desk.)
  • Some days I needed to focus on specific individuals. I would then use a little clipboard with all student’s names. I would use symbols that was code for me to help me track my praise and critical comments.
  • One of the additional things I did was as a class we did a praise party pop’in pot! It was a can decorated as a popcorn pot! When it was full we would enjoy a praise party. It worked the same way my bingo chips did. If I heard a student giving praise they came up and put a chip in, but if I heard critical stuff one came out.

As principal at a middle school we did some of the same things. We had a clear tower by the front office and students could drop off praise tickets they received. We did drawings and when it was full we had a building party.

What do you do to praise? Building a positive work, teaching, and learning climate and culture takes planning. Planning does not mean it is not authentic but intentional with purpose.

Praising students works better than scolding, study finds

Cultivating Culture with Gratitude

Many of the posts and articles I have written speak about gratitude. One of the most important aspects of a leader’s responsibility is providing, modeling, and supporting this character trait.

Authenticity is the approach to everything you do. The worse thing you can do is to fake your approach to an appreciation for others. Then next is to overdo the gratitude approach by making it feel “expected” or “not special” and just like saying “great job.”

The following article from Edutopia is a great one to read as you look to add gratitude to your culture. In my history of gratitude, I have done:

  • Shout outs by email about individuals to all staff
  • Personal notes, cards, and gifts
  • Pictures in positive cards home!
  • Poems created for individuals
  • Mailed home personal postcards over Christmas break to all staff and students (675 postcards handwritten)
  • Themed celebrations

Share your gratitude ideas with us as we lift all in times of critical need.

https://www.edutopia.org/article/cultivating-culture-authentic-gratitude

“Art-full-heart”

“Art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life.”-unknown.

When dealing with trauma, difficult stress, and many unknowns, we need to find ways to reduce these levels from harming our health. Many are providing ideas for self-help, but one of the universal ways to help all ages is through art.

Art is an expression of our emotions or a way to release the tensions we have. Everyone is an artist! It is connecting with something you love to do! Like baking, sewing, painting, drawing, construction, being a good friend, solving puzzles, playing an instrument, and my list could go on!

Experiencing art produced by someone else is an opportunity to experience life through their lens, explore their time, learn about their culture and history. Art provides unlimited access to learning if we open our hearts, minds, and imagination.

One of the first things eliminated during educational budget cuts is the art programs. It is encouraging to see more creativity, engagement, and opportunities for expression be included in the offerings for children. Children need hands-on learning with ways to be able to express themselves.

Take away thoughts

  • No matter what organization you are in, try this activity to create an “Art-full-heart” to support you, me, us!

Give each staff member or student a piece of paper. (Before you give out the papers decide where this big heart will be displayed. You will have an outline of the heart. Inside the heart will be what the individuals design. You will then place them inside the heart.) at the top of the display will be your title or message. You can use my suggestion above or one you prefer.

Shape your paper to fit inside your heart to equal the number of people making one. The instructions for making the design can be this:

As we begin to work together, we still have Covid-19 and the variant causing health issues. The paper you have provides you with an opportunity to send a message to others on how to__________during this time. Use any prompt you want to help share a message you want and to help others in need.

This becomes more than an art lesson. It is so much more. It is about the history of the pandemic, social and climate changes, power struggles, and dealing with mental health needs.

We have used art (painting, drawing, poems, and other forms) as ways students can open up about mental health suicide, drugs, alcohol, and more. It is therapeutic for all involved.

There are many ways to support others through the use of art! I hope you try out this and other ways to boost support, understanding, and encouragement. Helping to make mental health needs a priority and not something to hide helps everyone.

Who’s Talking?

Have you had a great conversation lately? Who was it with? Did you do more talking or listening? When do you feel more uplifted? Is it when you are talking or when you are listening? Who are you listening to?

I work at home with my writing. I have no media on at all. My house is entirely silent, except for the birds you can hear outside. My husband says it would drive him crazy he has to have the outside world’s noise on when he is home.

It is the chatter from others that can quickly change our moods and outlooks. However, it is our voice we have to control inside ourselves at times. The negative self-talk we listen to impacts the decisions we make and the outlook we have.

When you woke up this morning, did you have thoughts running through your head? Maybe the thoughts were reminding you of something you said or did yesterday that was not good. Did you continue to listen? Was it making you feel bad about starting your day? Maybe you should talkback!

Instead of listening to the negative thoughts, you receive talkback. You do not need to receive negativity; speak to yourself in positive, solution-focused ways. Mistakes happen in our lives. We are not perfect or without sin. Once we recognize the wrongdoing, we learn the lesson and correct the wrong. This is the solution-focused way. Those who continue to dwell on a problem are not living and leading the best life. “Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart sad? I will put my hope in God!”-Psalm 42:11

My heart breaks for many in the world today. I pray each day during my daily devotions. It is essential not to be discouraged but to place our trust, hope, and love on the one so many seem to have forgotten. Are you listening to yourself today or talking to yourself?

Remind yourself often of the true things. Take a little time each day to list all of the things we can have gratitude for having. A critical reminder is to review this list and do all you can to protect these rights, gifts, and treasures.

Many blessings.

Because I am Happy

Pharrell Williams’s song Happy is great! Tap your foot, clap your hands, smile, and sing along. However, are people happy? Did we forget what it is that makes us happy?

How do you define happiness? The dictionary simply defines it as “the state of being happy.” Happiness is that feeling that comes over you when you know life is good, and you can’t help but smile. It’s the opposite of sadness.

Do you relate to any of these definitions of happiness?

  • Making six figures before I am forty years old.
  • Knowing I made a difference in the lives of others.
  • Living a good healthy life.
  • Enjoying family.
  • Having a home, food to eat, clothes to wear, and family to share it with.
  • Hearing my children laugh.
  • Watching the birds, smelling the flowers, and the warmth of the sun.

How do you define happiness? We live in a world where people perceive happiness in terms of wealth, status, or title. People tend to look at material things for happiness. What is the longevity of happiness? Can happiness be defined in one sentence, or do you need many components to your happiness?

“Positive psychology is the scientific study of what makes life most worth living, focusing on both individual and societal well-being. It studies positive subjective experience, positive individual traits, and positive institutions…it aims to improve quality of life. It is a field of study that has been growing steadily throughout the years as individuals and researchers look for common ground on better well-being. Positive psychology began as a new domain of psychology in 1998 when Martin Seligman chose it as the theme for his term as president of the American Psychological Association.” From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Can we teach happiness? “People are only as happy as they make themselves be.”-Abraham Lincoln. I believe we can help provide the teaching and experience of the components to lead to sustainable happiness. We can do this by teaching gratitude.

Gratitude is defined in many ways, but let’s focus on gratitude—the act of giving back to acknowledge what we have received. When we can connect gratitude with action, it becomes authentic and benefits us at a deeper level. There is one book our team did with our middle school students called: We Beat the Streets by Sampson Davis (Author), George Jenkins (Author), Rameck Hunt (Author), Sharon Draper (Author). These three boys grow up to become doctors and give back to their neighborhood. We used it to talk about bullying, social issues, hope, and many other aspects.

Today, we face many barriers, challenges, social issues, and darkness of negativity slipping in the cracks of our lighted homes. Can we teach happiness? We seem to be teaching negativity, contempt, dislike, bitterness, and animosity.

“To laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and affection of children, to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends, to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others, to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition, to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Can we teach happiness? Smile, let’s give it a try!

Decisions-How do they look?

When we make decisions, do you think about how they impact your health? Depending on your position and the level of decisions you make, it is not just the impact on yourself at risk.

Leaders have to lead. Decisions have to be made. What are the ways, strategies, and thoughts in decision-making? It is easy to evaluate after a decision has been made and speak up, saying, I would have…..

Thoughts? When I die, I think I will look like me.