Category Archives: learning

I Failed But It Was Worth It

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Failure is Important

My run this morning wasn’t great. I laboured through it. My time was below my usual pace and I was struggling. I didn’t run as far as I usually run and my side hurt.

It was a great run.

Huh? How can that be?

It was great because I ran. It all depends on how I frame the run. If I frame it by the time, it wasn’t very good. If I frame by comparing it to past runs, it wasn’t a success. But if I frame differently, as something I do as part of trying to live a healthy lifestyle, it was a great run. I didn’t let the fact that it wasn’t a nice morning keep me from lacing on my runners and heading outside.  It wasn’t just my effort either. Today my best wasn’t as good as a couple past runs but it is better than when I would find an excuse not to run. Instead of giving up or finding an excuse, I went out and ran.

It’s Not Just Effort

Part of my daily routine includes exercise.  I usually listen to a podcast when exercising. Todd Henry’s Accidental Creative is one of my favourites. Today I was listening to an interview with Mitch Joel who hosts Six Pixels of Separation . During the discussion the topic of failure came up. Lately when someone begins discussing failure there is a familiar frame “Fail fast, fail forward, fail often, fail…. ” where failure is described as almost the reason people do things – so they can fail. However, as Todd Henry points out, failure isn’t wonderful or great, it’s not the reason people do things but it can be one of the outcomes when people do something. Failure is not the desired outcome, success is what people strive towards. For failure to be beneficial, there needs to be a way for a person or organization to examine what happened and make adjustments so improvements can be made. Blindly rushing forward without any way of reflecting on what takes place may lead to success. Or it may lead to failure. But without a plan or way to examine the process, duplicating the success or avoiding further failure becomes very difficult if not impossible. By framing my run as part of living a healthy lifestyle, I can see that it is only one part of a bigger plan for success.

Learning from Our Mistakes

When I was younger I used to show up at the gym, maybe do a little bit of cardio, some light workout and then jump into the work and work hard. However, no matter how hard I worked in the gym, I made little gains and I often would end up slowly missing a workout here and a run there until, you guessed it, there was 2 months between gym visits! I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong. Why did I start out strong only to slowly quit?

Like most people, I was only looking at the exercise part of my life . It wasn’t until I began to look at all areas of my life, including diet, sleep, and exercise, that I began to see any sustained improvement. But, despite taking a closer look, I would still fall into the same rut where I would be start great but eventually fall off. What was I doing wrong? Why was I failing? Why was I exercising anyway?

By focusing on what and how, I had missed examining why. This little shift in focus, from what and how to why, has helped me to reconsider how I examine and reflect upon what I am doing and the failures that I experience.

We Over-estimate Our Ability

It wasn’t until I began to seriously look at my goals for exercising, why I was doing what I was doing,  that I saw how I needed to be able to recognize ways I was sabotaging my efforts by not being realistic about my own abilities, adjust my plan and record daily what I was doing. Technology helped me, I bought a fitness band, to track what I was doing beyond the exercising. This alone did not make me a better athlete which was a bit of a disappointment! Just adding technology didn’t make me suddenly find success.

Instead, it gave me the incentive and some easy ways to remind myself to do things like get up and have a drink of water or walk around for 15 minutes. It wasn’t that I didn’t know to do these things but I didn’t do them regularly. I over-estimated my own ability to follow routines long enough for them to become a habit that would become part of the day.

I also over-estimated my own ability when it came to exercise but I didn’t know this until I began to keep track of my exercise patterns and what I was doing. Like many people, I over-estimated my ability to recover from intense workouts before my body had time to adjust to a new workload. And, funny thing, as I get older it takes a bit longer to recover from my own over-estimation of ability which means I was continuing a cycle of failure but looking in the wrong places to correct what was happening. Like many people, I wanted to improve but I continued to experience failure. Why?

Eventually I realized that I wasn’t looking at the whole picture. I didn’t have a success plan. Instead, I was working with a FAIL plan. I wasn’t looking at the points of success but instead would try to figure out what went wrong, looking at the failures without also examining the successes I had. Although it was important to understand what I was doing wrong, I wasn’t looking at what I was doing right! When things didn’t work, I focused solely on my exercise habits and not my lifestyle.

Have a Success Plan?

As an educator, I admit that I didn’t have a success plan. It wasn’t that I didn’t plan or use reflection for my own growth or look at ways to improve. For most of my career, I have been extremely interested in professional development. Like my exercise program, I often didn’t look at the successes but focused on the failures to see what I could learn. It wasn’t until recently that I began to look at the successes along with the failures. Even in failure there are successes that take place. I’ve rarely experienced an utter failure unless you count that cake when I used way too much baking soda – that was a complete failure! However, most of the time, the failure wasn’t so complete that there wasn’t some successes. I also began to focus on success, building forwards instead of expecting failure.

The goal is not to fail but to learn from mistakes in order to improve toward success. I don’t write blog posts so no one will read them. Hopefully, over time from the feedback I receive, I will learn to write better which will make people share my writing with others.

Failure Can Promotes Growth 

Continuously failing is demoralizing unless there is a way to bring that failure forward to improve and continue on. Even when I exercise, continually working to failure taxes my body too much if that is all that I do. It’s alright to work to failure at times but not all the time. It’s too hard. Failure can help us to grow but if all we do is work to failure, it eventually takes it toll.

As educators, helping students learn from failure is crucial to their learning and growth. As Carol Dweck outlines in the article Carol Dweck Revisits the ‘Growth Mindset’

Perhaps the most common misconception is simply equating the growth mindset with effort. Certainly, effort is key for students’ achievement, but it’s not the only thing. Students need to try new strategies and seek input from others when they’re stuck. They need this repertoire of approaches—not just sheer effort—to learn and improve.

We also need to remember that effort is a means to an end to the goal of learning and improving. Too often nowadays, praise is given to students who are putting forth effort, but not learning, in order to make them feel good in the moment: “Great effort! You tried your best!” It’s good that the students tried, but it’s not good that they’re not learning. The growth-mindset approach helps children feel good in the short and long terms, by helping them thrive on challenges and setbacks on their way to learning. When they’re stuck, teachers can appreciate their work so far, but add: “Let’s talk about what you’ve tried, and what you can try next.”

I was putting forth effort but I wasn’t examining what I had tried nor was I looking at what to try next. Yes I tried. Yes I put forth effort. But, despite all this effort, I continued the cycle.

Breaking the Cycle

Carol Dweck discusses how praising effort doesn’t break the failure cycle:

Recently, someone asked what keeps me up at night. It’s the fear that the mindset concepts, which grew up to counter the failed self-esteem movement, will be used to perpetuate that movement. In other words, if you want to make students feel good, even if they’re not learning, just praise their effort! Want to hide learning gaps from them? Just tell them, “Everyone is smart!” The growth mindset was intended to help close achievement gaps, not hide them. It is about telling the truth about a student’s current achievement and then, together, doing something about it, helping him or her become smarter.

I also fear that the mindset work is sometimes used to justify why some students aren’t learning: “Oh, he has a fixed mindset.” We used to blame the child’s environment or ability.

Must it always come back to finding a reason why some children just can’t learn, as opposed to finding a way to help them learn? Teachers who understand the growth mindset do everything in their power to unlock that learning.

To break the cycle praising effort isn’t enough. Instead, help the student to examine what went wrong and plan to try again looking for success.

Failure needs to be a step in moving toward success. Whenever we try something, there is a chance of failure, especially when pushing oneself to try something new. As part of moving toward success, failure helps us learn what doesn’t work in this particular situation for this person. One might not get it right the first time. Or, in the case of my run, it depends on how I frame things. If I was training for competition, my run wasn’t a good run. However, if I frame it as part of developing and living a healthy lifestyle, the run was great.

Today I failed but it was worth it!

Things to Think About

How do you plan for success? Do you plan for success?

Are you looking at the bigger picture and the particular? How do they support your plan for success?

As an educator, are you praising effort or helping students to move toward success?

#saskedchat – September 10, 2015

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Our chat this week centred around School Culture. Participants reflected on the importance of positive school culture on the learning and relationships of teachers, students and parents. Participants shared ideas and resources for building and shaping a positive school culture and the important role that students and parents play in developing a school culture. Check out the archive for some great ideas and resources!

Do You Love Learning?

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Do you love to learn? 

Try new things?

Explore new ideas?

Read books/ebooks about a variety of topics? Search Youtube for different topics? Search the net to learn about something you are doing? Tried a MOOC (Massive Online Open Class)? Participated in a Google Hangout? Done a Mystery Skype? Blogged about your day? Joined a Twitter chat?

Are you trying new things and seeking to learn something new? How about a new summer bbq recipe or some new salad dressing?

That’s What We Do

These are just a few things that I and many of the educators that I know would consider to be just what we do. Learning new things, trying new experiences and seeking out ideas that push our own thinking about the world and our own place in it. Yet, is  that what the majority of the population is doing? Are people reaching out to new experiences, trying new things and learning? According to Philip Pape in This Habit Will Put You in the Top %1 of Experts and Money-Makers ,

  • 25% of people have not read a book in the last year
  • 46% of adults score in the lowest two levels of literacy
  • Reading frequency declines after age eight

Yet, when you’re surrounded by people who read, support reading, encourage reading and like reading, it can seem that most people read and are into learning new things. But is that what is happening? It’s hard to tell. In doing some digging, it appears that Canadians are reading.

A 2005 readership study by the Department of Canadian Heritage (PCH), READING AND BUYING BOOKS FOR PLEASURE, found that nearly 9 in 10 (87%) Canadians said they read at least one book for pleasure in the 12 months preceding the study1 and that half (54%) read virtually every day. The average time spent reading is 4½ hours per week (unchanged since 1991); the average number of books read per year, 17 (down only slightly from 1991). Fully one-quarter (26%) reported that reading is the leisure activity they most commonly engage in, as many as cited TV-watching, putting reading and TV-watching in the #1 spot among leisure pursuits in Canada (and dwarfing “Internet activities,” which only 9% cited). These findings support thePCH report’s conclusion that “reading for pleasure remains a solidly established and widespread habit with little or no change over the last 15 years.”

Now, reading isn’t the only way people learn. In fact, through access to information on the internet, learning in some areas of the world is easier via video and audio. I used this video to repair a crack in the windshield.

Learning is available all around us. But as Steve Haragon discusses in his latest post there is a dissonance that he is seeing and sensing in the world around which is impacting people.

In the absence of coherent and engaging ways of viewing and improving our world, and of helping each other, the result may be that we shut down. We surrender our sense of agency. Cognitively and emotionally, our normal awareness and empathy bubbles shrink down to small, individual, spaces.

It may seem like this at times, especially when there is so many things that are happening and change is taking place at a rapid pace, so quickly that, for some, retreating is a way of coping. I know that there are times when the constant cacophony of educational voices imploring the need for change can feel overwhelming. In some cases, it would seem that throwing out the baby with the bath water is not only desirable but the only way for progress.

Teachers are Bombarded

This summer has seen an increase in the number of learning opportunities for teachers and it looks like this will continue well into the school year. For many teachers, summer is a time to recharge and refresh themselves. Learning is definitely a great way to replenish one’s batteries but in the past few years there has been a growing number of activities and conferences which now includes online conferences, edcamps and MOOCs plus weekly twitter chats and book clubs. These opportunities vary, each one vying to get the attention of teachers.

What does a teacher do?

Despite the rhetoric that fills some blogs, most teachers are life-long learners, trying to improve their classroom practice. With so many ideas and options available, trying to cope can seem daunting. The image of teacher-as-superhuman doesn’t seem to be far off!

Go to this conference!

Get this certification!

Get more certification!

Start a blog, write a book, present at a conference!

Embrace makerspace, genius hour, inquiry learning, flipped classroom, flipped staff meetings, flipped professional development, gamification of the classroom and school and professional development – make all things fun and engaging.

At a time when teachers and education seems to be lacking, improvement seems necessary.

Teachers who are learners and work to improve their teaching are being overwhelmed.

“Teachers retreat into themselves, not because they don’t care but because they care so much and so deeply they are being overwhelmed.”

I can’t remember the source for this quote. As an administrator, I would use this as a way to remind myself that part of the role of being an educational leader was to help teachers to manage the constant bombardment.  If teachers with whom I was working were becoming overwhelmed by all the demands, it would show in there day-to-day interactions. That meant being with them in their classrooms and working with them on projects. Hiding in the office under the desk only to appear when there were good things happening isn’t a successful leadership style.  Were the initiatives and requirements draining the care right out of the teachers? If it seemed that teachers were withdrawing, it was time to realign so that people didn’t disengage.

Are we killing the love of learning in teachers?

Are we becoming over zealous and driving people away? Are we using the excuses of like technology integration and student performance to push our own narrative of good teaching?

“I have seen the light and now you need to or your are a bad teacher!”

In fact, it’s creating a gap. People who just a few years ago weren’t engaged or were just beginning to engage with technology and using social media seem to have made themselves gatekeepers and gurus who proclaim what is and what is not good for teaching and what constitutes good teaching. Teachers are bombarded with someone’s version of what it means to be a good teacher and a lot of it has to do with using some kind of technology or program or …. or… or….!

Todd Henry, author of The Accidental Creative and  Die Empty and creator of the podcast The Accidental Creative discusses in his interview with Ron Friedman, a tendency to only post the positive-self online, the trips, conferences, publishing, accolades and not the more human parts that get people to these destinations so that it seems everyone we view is living these immaculate lives and doing all the great stuff which can lead to some serious anxiety as people think they need to keep up. Todd Henry describes this very well in Comparison and Competition.

Have you ever looked around at the work of others and felt like yours isn’t measuring up? Has this ever caused your passion for your work to wane? Don’t allow the slow ratcheting-up of expectations to paralyze you.

Too often, teachers are being shown a constant stream of what “experts” are doing without being given the time to improve themselves in a meaningful way. Yes, it can fuel people to improve but, just as easily, it can deflate people to give up. Rockstars were once garage bands.

Start with Relationships

Over and over again I’m reminded that whatever needs to change, building great relationships with students, teachers, parents and other community members is the foundation. Whether it’s Seth Godin in Linchpin, Stephen Covey in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Michael Fullan in  The Six Secrets of Change or Carol Dueck in  Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, relationships again and again are the foundational piece to what people do. In his recent piece in The GuardianPaul Mason explores the end of capitalism in a postcapitalist society. Mason pieces outlines how technology allows information to be freely accessed by anyone. This in turns allows people to work together in new ways that until now were unattainable due to costs and distance.

we’re seeing the spontaneous rise of collaborative production: goods, services and organisations are appearing that no longer respond to the dictates of the market and the managerial hierarchy.

As highlighted by Godin in Linchpin, relationships and giving to others are changing how people and companies interact. We may only be at the beginning of this shift, but for schools and teachers, building relationships with students, other teachers and their community is so important. Teachers and schools no longer control the knowledge and content that students can access. Although many teachers and schools continue to try,  some educators are making the shift to helping students to become inquirers, supporting the student as they learn, focusing more on the learning and relationships and less on controlling content and assessment.

Highly Organized and Controlled 

As schools, school systems and, to some degree, teachers struggle with trying to control information and content, there is a rise in various methods being used to control what students do, when they do it and how they do it. Highly structured uses of technology and implementation of various systems used to monitor and provide feedback to students continue to dominate classrooms as teachers continue to be required to provide traditional grades and students are required to take traditional tests.  Despite these requirements, there are teachers who are pushing for greater openness – Genius Hour, Makerspaces, Gamification, Inquiry Learning, and versions of Blended Learning and Flipped Classrooms all are stretching the traditional classroom to become more learner focused with greater autonomy on the part of the learner.

Stephen Wilmarth, in his chapter Five Socio-Technology Trends That Change Everything in Learning and Teaching from the book Curriculum 21 Edited by Heidi Hayes Jacobs, explores how technology can lead to greater social interaction and learning. As Wilmarth explains

Be assured, I am not advocating that children do not need to learn to read. They do. Or that writing will not be necessary. It is. Or that the process of arriving at sums no longer matters. It does. But all of these things are the outcomes of social adaptation to prior technological change and invention. It is the nature and relevance of reading, writing, and sums that change as we enter the postliterate era. Significantly, it is and relevance of reading, writing, and sums that change as we enter the postliterate era. Significantly, it is the way in which we make meaning out of information to create new knowledge that is changing.

The relationships that are created within classrooms are beginning relationships of learning. Through social networks, we now have the ability to expand these learning networks beyond the classroom.

Joining communities of interest and shared values (personal, family, cultural, political, economic) has always been essential to a learner’s identity. In this case, identity equates to where an individual is on the learning curve. And where traditional community relationships once defined a learner’s identity, emerging social networking technologies allow wholly new community associations to spring up organically and globally. These community ties, both strong and weak, exert a powerful influence on learning.

First, keep in mind that social networking technologies are changing rapidly. Second, remember that the technologies are not the point. In social networking, it’s important to concentrate on relationships, not technologies.

Teachers are coping with changes on multiple levels both as learners and, in turn, as teachers. To think that teachers will all be able to move at the same pace is akin to saying all students in the classroom will learn along a linear timeline, at the same pace, with the same tools, doing the same things and arrive at the same time. I don’t know anyone who still believes this takes place in a modern classroom.

Do You Love Learning?

As classrooms and schools move through transformational phases, there will continue to be different degrees of adoption and change. Unlike many who seem to be frustrated by a seeming lack of change, I am optimistic because I have seen so much change in so many areas in the past 4 or 5 years. Twitter, which was once a fairly lonely place for me, is now a fully vibrant learning network with connections of all types of learners and leaders. Interestingly, some of the earlier adopters who were avid sharers are now less involved in the networks, working more in a different avenues such as presenting and blogging or become teacherpreneurs on their own.

What drives all these people? I believe it is a love of learning that is at the heart of what they do which leads them to share and connect with others to share that passion, building relationships with others through learning. I believe their passion for learning fuels their passion for teaching. For others, that spark needs to be kindled and fanned not crushed and blown out by a constant bombardment.

I Wonder…… 

…. what if teachers were supported as learners, trying to move through a myriad of changes along with everyone else? What if their learning was supported and valued, incorporated in the their work and part of a systemic view of learning as work?

….. how educational leaders can support teachers as they transition to a learning system where discovery and asking questions is of primary importance instead of content and knowledge distribution?

…. what if learning and relationships were the primary areas of focus? How might schools change to meet the needs of students and teachers through these two lenses?

…. where wondering and innovation will fit as educational institutions transition from being content and knowledge distribution centres?

#saskedchat July 30, 2015 – #tlap

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It was another amazing #saskedchat tonight. Dave Burgess dropped by at the start of the chat to get things going. @MrALongstaff and @brettReis then took over and guided the #saskedchat ship through a great chat focused on Teach Like a Pirate. The participants had some great ideas and suggestions for building relationships with students in order to develop rapport and trust. Take a look through the archive for some great resources and fantastic ideas!

Come on, Share your Spark

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This summer is the second for #saskedchat. Over the past year, #saskedchat has grown and expanded from a fledgling chat where only a few people showed up (in fact, the chat was sometimes a chat of two) to one that has a regular base of participants who come together each Thursday at share with each other and learn from one another.

Fanning a Spark

In Jana Scott Lindsay’s post Dream Big – The Passion of Learning, Jana explores how finding a passion can take many different forms and can come at different times in our lives. Sometimes it’s important for us to Dream Big, to allow ourselves to think greater than just now, where we are and not worry about the end result.

For me, #saskedchat began as a spark, an idea that there must be some other teachers passionate about learning and sharing that learning in a twitter chat. I wanted to share my passion for integrating technology in learning but bringing together other teachers in the province to connect, collaborate and contribute to a conversation about learning. Since the chat began in March of 2013, it has grown and expanded in ways I could not have imagined.

#skblog15 – Summer Blogging

In order to expand and explore how #saskedchat could support teachers over the summer, I decided to invite anyone who wanted to explore a topic to suggest a blogging topic and chat topic for each week this summer. I want others to share their passions through connecting with other connected teachers but especially with other teachers near them. I hope that it encourages teachers to blog and share their passions, frustrations, fears and accomplishments. To celebrate the incredible and awesome work that teachers are doing all around and build a Personal Learning Network (PLN) that includes others from close to home.

This week, our topic comes from @fiteach sparked by her passion for literature and libraries –

What lights your fire?  That is the theme for this week’s blog post.

I have a Big Dream about finding ways to bring passionate teachers within the province together to share and learn, collaborate and contribute to each other’s growth and learning, helping them to share their own Big Dream(s) about learning, their students and their classrooms and schools. Although I am passionate about using technology and transforming teaching and learning, I am more passionate about teachers being given the opportunity to grow and learn and share that learning with others and #saskedchat provides one way for teachers to do this no matter where they are, what they are doing, what they teach or where they teach.

What’s your spark?

Often we don’t share our dreams with many people, if we share them at all. I know I don’t because I’m worried and afraid of what others will say.

They’ll laugh. Or make fun of them.

Maybe they’ll say something about them being a waste of time or being silly.

Often it’s because I’m afraid that people will judge me – and find me lacking.

Many of us have been conditioned to think that only special people get to dream BIG dreams and make them happen and the rest of us just get to watch. Oh, we are TOLD we can do anything but, in fact, we are SHOWN that it’s only for a select few and, eventually, this impacts what we come to believe we can accomplish. Often, people give up, shelve their dreams and fall into the routines of life having traded their dreams and passions for a career with safety and little risk.

My hope is that #saskedchat will be a place where teachers can share their Big Dreams and support others in doing the same. And so I share one of the things that fires me up and a Big Dream because in sharing our dreams, I believe, we take the first step in making them come true.

I Wonder

Schools often have a vision that involves helping students to become all they can be or something similar yet policies and rules often set out to do just the opposite, to establish conformity and following directions.

How can schools support students’ Big Dreams?

How does sharing our Big Dreams and Passions help others? Help ourselves?

What’s your Big Dream and Passion? Do you share them?

open learning volunteers – EC&I 830

One of my fellow students is looking for people who are using open learning in their practices and would be willing to discuss this with the class. If that is you and you are interested in sharing, please see the link below and get in touch.

Need open learning volunteers – EC&I 830.

The Padagogy Wheel – Thinglink

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http://www.unity.net.au/padwheel/padwheelposter.pdf#!

I first encountered the Padagogy Wheel a few months ago. I’ve been using it to help introduce and explain how iPads apps can assist teachers in creating authentic learning that provides a rich and deep learning experience. I found the discussion at The Padagogy Wheelhouse helped to clarify a ideas and concepts. In order to make things a bit easier for people, I’ve created a thinglink image of the wheel which links each of the images to the iPad app and given a brief description of the app, either from my own experience or from the description given for the app.

I hope this will help and make accessing the apps simpler.

Phase One – Reaching Out

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cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by raymaclean

As I reflect on helping teachers grow as professionals, it’s important to realize that this is a journey for all involved and that it will continue to be as such. In this series, I am looking at the process in three parts: Phase One – Reaching Out, Phase Two – Giving Support and Phase Three – Reflecting and Celebrating.

Reaching out to teachers can sometimes be difficult for administrators. In the hectic, and sometimes frantic, happenings of the school and the daily demands it is sometimes easy to put off what seem like “other” things. As Amber Teamann points out in this post, Stephen R. Covey reminds us that we need to focus on things that will help us to build our capacity as leaders and the capacity of those around us.  As an administrator, it was always one of my goals to provide teachers with the supports they needed, to provide a helping hand.

Phase One – Reaching Out

In order to help teachers grow as professionals, administrators do need to be willing to reach out and listen. The key – listening. Too often the paradigm is to provide answers or solutions, to give “supports” so teachers can get on with their growth. Some will know what they want to do and quickly move forward. Many others, however, aren’t really sure of what supports they might need or where they want to focus their growth. As people, they are busy trying to meet the needs of their students through their planning, feedback and interactions. They are building communications with parents. For many, their own professional growth is keeping up with the initiatives and directives that they get.

Individualized PD

One way to help teachers is to provide 1 to 1 PD . As an administrator, time is a diamond commodity – it precious. In order to provide 1 to 1 PD for teachers, one needs to be do some preplanning to ensure the effective use of everyone’s time.

Three Step Plan

Professional Growth Plan –

Step 1 – start with listening/Identify strengths

I would meet with each teacher to listen to their goals. In this step, asking questions and listening are so important. “I want to use more technology” might be where the conversation starts but by asking questions and listening to teacher, we were able to narrow down and decide on some specific goals. “I really don’t know what I want to do” is okay too! Changes in teaching and the classroom dynamics may have some teachers unsure what or where to begin. Again, listening and asking questions about what they are doing right now is important. Focusing on areas where they are finding success is important. These can provide insights to strengths that can then be used to redirect to an area for growth. By providing teachers with lead time before this meeting and giving them a format for the discussion – the first meeting is to identify an area for growth – the teacher isn’t feeling like they have to make this plan by themselves. You are there as a support to help them. A simple form that has the teacher identify areas of strength in their teaching, areas of interest for Professional Development and their reasons.

Be specific with the goal. This isn’t the same as creating a SMART goal but the goal needs to have a specific focus. I would highly recommend checking out Beyond the To Do List by Erik Fisher. It gives some practical ideas to helping set specific goals. The idea here is to focus on using the strengths that were identified earlier to help in creating a plan for an area of growth.

Step 2 –  identify what things are within the sphere of influence of the teacher and what supports they may need from you or others. Depending on the resource people that are available, this is a good time to identify anyone who might be able to help them.

Step 3 –  set a date for the next meeting where you will discuss the plan the teacher will develop. It is important that the teacher be able to visit you to discuss things. This is where you, as an administrator can organize supports – training ideas, personnel, coaching, 1 to 1 time, etc

As I worked with teachers, I realized that I couldn’t work with all of them but that, through listening to them, I could support them in their growth through support. Recently I read what George Couros has been doing with teachers. As an administrator, this is one way that you could support teachers within your building by accessing resource people. Also, the idea of sharing that time and growth with others is a great idea that, as an administrator, will help others to see possibilities.

As an educational leader, you don’t need to have all the answers. You do need to use the tools and resources at your disposal to support teachers so they can “Do what is best for Students” and, just as important, share that learning with others. This allow individuals to connect and the synergy to take over. By leading others to connect with others, a leader is helping others find their passions and grow as an individual – nothing is more powerful than that!

Leadership – Lesson #1

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cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by lovequotes.symphonyoflove.net/category/a/albert-schweitzer

These past few weeks I’ve been listening to Read to Lead podcast. I came across it as I was looking for something that would help me in my quest to figure out which direction I needed to explore next. Being that I really don’t believe in coincidence, the podcast has introduced me to a number of great books and thought leaders. Better yet, it has introduced me to a number of great authors who are really at their peaks, each being an influential and successful entrepreneur.

The Read to Lead Podcast is based on the belief that intentional and consistent reading is key to success in business and in life.

As a leader in education, this is a foundational belief that I have had since I began teaching. I know that I would not have been able to make the progress nor been able to continue to grow as a teacher and an administrator without continuing to read and learn. Most of my reading was educational in nature until I ventured into social media sites and began to broaden my reading through recommendations of people within my PLN. Lately, having decided that I needed to change course, I was searching for insights and ideas, new experiences that would introduce me to things that weren’t necessarily educational in nature. This is when I found Read to Lead.

At the end of each podcast, the host, Jeff Brown asks each of his guests about a leadership lesson they’ve learned. These guests include Chris Brogan, Scott M. Fay, Dave Delaney and Todd Henry just to mention a few. Almost to a one, they all answered with a version of “Be good to other people. Help others. Build relationships.” As I listened to these, I wondered what educational leaders would say. If I were honest, I would probably have answered “Do what’s best for students.” Really, that’s probably what I would have answered. As I’ve listened to the podcasts, I began to realize that maybe in education we’ve tried to make things much more complicated than needs to be. As I listen to these leaders of today, it was clear that they genuinely were focused on helping others to get better. Do we really focus on making everyone around us better? Or just on most of the people around us? Do we have an entrepreneurial mindset of looking not to make ourselves look good but to help others? Do our divisions/districts focus on this from top to bottom or is this lost somewhere along the way?

Helping Others

Today I received an email from one of administrators I’m mentoring in the mentorship group that George Couros established this fall – SAVMP – about a situation. As I read through what was happening, I again wondered about the “helping others” leadership model which definitely wasn’t being followed. Why does it seem that many of the educational leaders are not understanding that in our social and connected world, the top-down hierarchical system doesn’t work? That to be effective, you must connect other people to something of value. In the case of education, connecting students to learning of value to the student is quickly shaping the change in education. Helping others is the cornerstone of this and teachers and principals, in order to do that, require new skills which in turn requires that schools, division/districts and states/provinces begin to shift away from the top-down, one-size-fits-all format. It’s becoming apparent that the traditional models of teaching and the systems of schooling are not able to meet the needs of many of the students within the system but the desire to retain “power” in some fashion limits what can be done in schools and in classrooms.

Let’s Look Outward – Our Navels Have Been Studied

I’m all for listening to the thought leaders in education and what is being said. It’s time, however, we looked around – raised our heads and looked beyond the nest of education. Not listening to Big Business and what they think of education but to listen to what thought leaders in other areas are saying from their perspectives and seeing how it might have cross-over potential and how it will help us help students find value in their learning. That’s why I believe such things as Design Thinking has so much potential in education because it has been successfully used in many different industries and situations. They focus on helping others, on creation and innovation. So if you have a few moments, I highly recommend Read to Lead Podcast.

#1 Leadership Lesson

Again and again and again – it’s helping others. A great example of this is someone like George Couros who continues to work to help others to make connections, to find value in what they are doing and bring about change and innovation in education. Helping others – who would have thought!

Where do you get your reading?

2013-08-08 17.55.05Where do you go for new sources of reading?  Suggestions from other administrators? Other educators? Suggestions from known educational authors? From particular organizations? Do you seek ideas outside these circles? Do you go beyond the “group think”?

Read to Lead

I’d like to suggest you check out Jeff Brown’s @THEjeffbrown podcast at ReadtoLead.com .  In each episode,  Jeff interviews a contemporary writer and thought leader, usually about their latest book. Each author also suggests a book or two that has had an impact on them.  In between 35 and 40 minutes, you can hear some great insights and advice from some of today’s thought leaders. For me, it’s exposed me to new leaders who’s ideas and insights make me think more deeply and challenge me to reflect upon what I currently believe about learning and education, leading and change. I know that I’ve listened to a couple of them more than once. I know that a few of them have challenged my thinking about some of our current educational practices through their different perspective on learning, careers and success.