Category: Student Leadership

Helping others focus on solutions

Be the solution daily isn’t something I decided one day sounded good; it is a daily practice I have used professionally and personally for decades. It is my hope to help and guide others into this practice for success.

Where we place, our focus is crucial for our success. It seems we are quick to point out a problem, mistake and place blame. Have you had a finger pointed at you?

When our focus is on the problem, anger shadows the thinking. Your mind can only give it’s full attention to one thing at a time. Negative thoughts overtake you when your focus is the problem.

Solution-focused turns back control to help you positively resolve troubles. By looking for solutions in every situation, problems will disappear and happiness returns.

Now this sounds a little like one of what my granddaughter calls, “cheesy stuff.” However, when following the guidelines it really is how it works.

Helping others focus on solutions begins with mindsets. Focusing on solutions creates a very different climate and culture. The thinking, actions, and behaviors will change.

Let’s begin with these steps:

  • Problems we face are usually self-inflicted. Would you please take a deep breath and tell yourself it is my responsibility? Then you may have issues directly impacting you, and maybe you did not have anything to do with the decision-making process. *This is when you need to begin to do some examples of problem vs. solution games. (I can help provide examples)
  • What is the desired outcome? Your vision to resolve the problem? When we begin to focus in solutions, it leaves little time for negative thinking. The only thing that matters is resolving the problem.
  • Once you know the outcome-begin the planning of getting from here to there.

Solution Mindset

We begin to think of solutions first once we are aware we cannot control the actions of others, the complex data, or the current issue before us. However, the only things we control are our actions and reactions by clarification of what we face with a focus on the importance of the solution, the negative thinking about the problem stop.

Are you interested in a Two Rule School? It changes the climate, culture and focuses on student leadership. There is so much more to this concept that leads to positive results.

Doctor, Doctor, Teacher, Teacher…what do you say? I have a bad case of…..

Gather facts before you react!

“Don’t presume learning lost to Covid, ” says John Hattie. “While the pandemic will have created some gaps in knowledge, the author and academic warns teachers against making assumptions when it comes to student progress.”-Simon Lock, March 3, 2021 (tes.com)

The impact of disruption to education we can all acknowledge. Lack of equity and availability of access to technology brought the attention to the needs of improvement. Parental support became an even more significant point as everyone struggled with a balance of work, remote learning and then loss of jobs. Can we acknowledge families and individuals were doing the best they could under these conditions?

The majority of children worked independently in their learning and will have developed skills as a result. Reports on the nightly news reported how schools had a drop in enrollment and we’re having difficulty locating children. Families were working to figure things out as the pandemic touched every life differently.

When all of our schools open the doors for face-to-face instruction, we also need to open our minds to new possibilities. Things will be different! Let’s not have the expectation we will be back to “normal.” Defining “normal” can be varied from person to person. Let’s embrace the facts we have learned from this pandemic and we will diagnose then treat each individual. No prejudgement, labels or categories assigned.

“For example, this notion of self-regulation where you know how to monitor your progress and what to do next; I think some teachers are going to be very surprised that some kids have those skills,” Hattie says. “But in many classrooms they’re not allowed to use them, because teachers won’t release responsibility.”-John Hattie

In previous writings, I have stated my belief in the importance of student control of learning. “Education is something we do with children, not to them.”-Brenda Yoho. When we focus on expectations, strategies, strengths, and areas to improve, it develops support for the learner, not the outcomes. Learners understanding of how to respond when they do not know is a skillset with lifetime value.

The importance of how you approach back to school face to face instruction is critical to propel student learning forward and not back. Time is precious as we know and losing any of it with wasted strategies and plans, will not provide our learners with the push they need. Make solid plans now and know students are ready!

Thank you for being part of the solution daily! Helping learners grow to the next level on their journey.

Put me in Coach!

It isn’t easy sometimes to understand where you are in this game of teaching and learning. We all need a coach, feedback and checked on to let us know we are doing okay. Teachers, leaders, parents and students, we all need some coaching!

I write my blogs to reach someone who needs a little encouragement, inspiration, motivation, resources, or guidance. I am not a famous author(yet). I do not have unique letters in front or behind my name. The letters before my name are Mrs. that I have proudly had for 36 years. My special title is grandmother but my grandchildren call me MooMoo. You can ask me how I got the unique name another time. An exceptional student gave me the name HoHo early in my career so I always make a big deal about Christmas! All of this and my years of experience with thousands of children and staff provide me with a passion and purpose to continue to help anyone I can. My expertise comes from on the job training, studying and my continuous learning.

I have studied all of the expert’s John Hattie, Jim Knight, Todd Whitaker, Jay McTighe, Anthony Muhammad, Richard DuFour, Grant Wiggins, Michael Fullan, Eric Jensen, Thomas Guskey, Carol Dweck, Robert Marzano, Charlotte Danielson, Peter DeWitt, Baruti Kafele and my list could continue to many more! I love to read, listen to podcasts, watch webinars and YouTube videos. I am always on the lookout for more solutions, asking more questions and ready for new innovations.

We are in this together! If you have read some of my previous posts, you will understand, I will never give up on any child or individual. Many will choose to give up on themselves, but that is when the coach can send in supports to help. We have to ask ourselves are we seeking compliance or exceptional? In one of my previous posts I referred to the poem “Pretty Good.” It is always great to revisit that poem when you are working on improvements. I always strived to have everyone be exceptional! Why not?

If we perceive ourselves as the best, we will be the best. I made the statement often, “Only the best walk the halls of this school.” It is tough to change the tones of conversation and to have others believe in what is said. Understanding how others see things means we have to take a step back and look through a different lens. Right now, everything seems to be strange, unusual, and not ordinary in any way. Teachers are being asked to do things differently, and so are students, parents, and leaders.

At this time, it is essential to establish supports and coaching. Having the right kind of coaching, the best-trained individuals, and an implementation process to move forward. Jim Knight is the right person to help guide you through what you need. It is critical to not only focus on academics but also other areas of needs like social-emotional.

In my previous position, we were able to secure individuals to help support families and students. This new role was family liaisons. These individuals worked closely as a group to establish community connections, organize activities to address needs, and provide information as well as resources to families.

I served as a coach for the Illinois Principals Association, and one of the principals I was working with took coaching in her elementary building to a new level, students. Looking over data, talking with staff about it, we decided some important people were missing from the conversations, students. A student leadership and coaching group were formed. They organized meeting times with students to review data and to talk about how to improve. I am leaving out many of the steps we took to get the students prepared, but I wanted to end with letting you know having coaches at every level, providing feedback, taking action steps will equal positive outcomes. If you want to know more about coaching tune in to Jim Knight or contact me. Just like Jim tells you. We have lots of free things to give to you. We want you to succeed in what you are doing in the classrooms.

Listen to Jim Knight in a short video clip about coaching!

Thank you for being a solution daily to all you serve! I am always here to help you; just let me know what educational, leadership, or support you need. It would be great to have some feedback!

Please share your feedback with me! I would love to know what things you want to know more about, what concerns you have, or anything you are willing to share in the comments or send me an email.

Tuesday Teaching Talk, on target

Making efforts daily to increase learning growth is the goal of every educator. As we walk by classrooms, visit a Zoom classroom or watch an online performance of the band learning is visible when teachers have strategies in place to enhance the classroom to meet the needs of all students.

Every school has a curriculum in place with units and pacing guides to support teachers. As the principal of an at risk school it was important for me to not only be an instructional leader, but also a leader who supported staff to take risks and to be innovative in their approaches. However, we needed to work collaboratively in order to narrow a focus to understand the gaps we had in our curriculum. Our students were not mastering the standards they were being assessed on to achieve. This was a reflection on our curriculum, practices and strategies. What can we do better to serve our children?

Instructional objectives guide instruction. Learning targets guide learning. As a teacher planning lessons you need your objectives to guide your instruction, but the learning target is important for the students to understand. When the learning target is posted, clear, and explained so students understand what they are to do; learning will take place.

We were able to partner with a company Evans Newton Incorporated located in Scottsdale , Arizona. At the time we did a program called Target Teach to address our language arts needs. It was very successful for us and helped us turn around our school. A lot of work was done! I will break down a few steps each week, but I want to add that we also included our students as we progressed in our improvement process. My philosophy is: Education is something we do with children, not to them. I strongly believe in student lead conferences so please keep that in mind as I introduce this next piece.

So as a review first:

Instructional objectives guide instruction so this is for the teacher.

Learning targets guide the learning so this is for the student.

Assessments, observations, and interactions in the classroom provide evidence of the students learning so the teacher can record their growth. This process helps in feeding students forward in their learning process. Keeping in line with the philosophy of students being in charge of their learning STEP is next. STEP (Students Tracking Educational Progress) is what is needed as students create a portfolio of their work to monitor, set goals, and indicate the growth they achieve. This helps each student take charge of their own learning and opportunities to discuss with others how they are doing on their educational journey.

STEP will utilize the framework of the learning target. As the lesson progresses through the unit, the student will use time to complete a reflection piece, a goal page, what I need help with page and what I would like to learn more about. Many teachers already utilize the I can statements which fits perfectly. Students taking ownership in their learning and talking about it reinforces the learning.

If you are interested in learning more about learning targets I recommend the book Learning Targets you can find at ASCD http://www.ascd.org/Publications/Books/Overview/Learning-Targets.aspx