Posts in Admistrator
5 Myths About School That Parents Should Question

I've worked in schools since 1998 and a lot has changed in that period of time.  The late 90's was a time of introducing change in terms of laptops in the hands of students and the emergence of smartboards in classrooms.

Interestingly enough, almost 20 years later, not that much has changed:

  • Lazy students still are lazy.  
  • High performing students are still high performing.  
  • Good teachers are still the most powerful learning factor in the life of a classroom.  
  • Supportive administrators are still a rare commodity.   

Still, there are certain myths that parents and schools promote that I'd like to challenge.  Here they are in no particular order: 

1. Small class size is better.   Actually, most students need some "class volume" in order to think, process information and practice a certain level of anonymity.  A great teacher can teach 30 kids or 10.  Class size isn't the answer. 

2. Technology is a cure-all.   My school uses iPads and for the most part, there's a value to that but don't be fooled by any school that touts its fancy-dancy 1:1 program as the elixir for all learning.  Technology is wonderful IF it's used to enhance learning and transform teaching.

3. Great facilities equal great learning.   Study some of the best schools around the world and you'll find fairly mediocre buildings.  Imagine if we spent as much on teachers as we do on solar panels for our parking lots...

4. You've got to have STEM in order to be relevant.   Science-Technology-Engineering-Math is all the rage right now.  Some of this is for good reason: we test poorly in PISA and other global tests when it comes to the integration of curriculum and critical thinking.  STEM attacks that on some levels.  On the other hand, a great science teacher does STEM without even thinking about it as does a superior math teacher.  I find the expansion of STEM to STEAM to be silly.  We're running out of letters!

5. Flashy leaders are the best leaders.  Those that I admire are effective because of their backbone, decision making skills and personal character.  They aren't the best looking and don't drive the finest cars.  Schools who are looking for their next leader are often seduced by the candidate who is flashy when they should be looking for the person who can get things done.

 Which of the five myths have you seen other parents buy into?  Which have you seen schools promote inauthentically?


An Introvert's Guide to Decreasing Stress (Part I)

If you're an introvert like me (i.e. you get your energy primarily from being by yourself or in low-stimulation environments), you live with the daily blessing of a continual pursuit of quiet space.

The one little complication though is that you and I live in the world.

And that means traffic, meetings, Church, parties, etc.  In other words- life!  A friend of mine said, after reflecting on a particularly busy week, "I think I might do better as a monk!"

But let's say that becoming a monk isn't possible for you, what do you do?  As I see it, you have two options: a) hide from the world (not recommended) or b) learn to navigate it through the lens of your introversion. 

In the next few blog posts, I'll be unpacking introversion and its subtleties.  For now, here's a quick secret that I've employed that really helps: arrive early. 

By arriving early for your next event (church, a meeting, a commitment, etc.), you can scope out the environment, get better parking, get better seating and "take the edge off" a situation that will be stressful.   

Try it.  

For introverts, arriving early works like a charm.  For extroverts who can sometimes fly by the seat of their pants, it's useful as well. 

Arrive early. 

My Interview on the Transformative Principal Podcast

They say that if you want to get good at something, ask around.  This is true with my podcast with Nancy Caramanico, Techspiration and with educator Jethro Jones.  

Jethro's podcast, The Transformative Principal is one of the best when it comes to finding educational leaders and then delving deep into their practice.  Beyond finding new and emerging voices for the podcast, he really goes deep into the questions he asks.  If you hear me saying "that's a good question" over and over, it's because it's true!  Jethro challenged me to think deeply about what we're doing at work and how I can lead better each day. 

Jethro was kind enough to feature me last week on the show and you can listen here.  Enjoy!

My Interview on Productive Magazine

It's no secret that I love Nozbe as a todo list and project manager.  When Michael Sliwinski invited me to be on the cover of their back-to-school edition of Productive Magazine (sponsored by Nozbe), I was humbled and thrilled.  

In the interview, we discuss school, productivity and how educators can help students be more effective in their daily studies.  Enjoy!

Which Details Are You Noticing at Work?

Herb is my neighbor and I've noticed that his car is missing for each of the past three Sundays.  Not one to get up early on a weekday, I put two and two together and realize that he's gone fishing.  Not an expert in marine science, I then wonder if the fish are more hungry on a Sunday.

But I digress...

This is interesting to me.  A friend taking time to do something that matters to him.  No fanfair.  No big announcement. Just something he does.   

This happens at work all of the time.  You pass a teacher in the hallway who is especially chipper... or blue ... or stressed.  This is life after all and teachers and school folks are hardly immune to the heaviness of life.  School leaders too. 

It's a Sunday in July as I'm writing this.  I'm on the porch and noticing the birds outside.  Very loud today.  The sun is kissing a large ornamental grass by the front walkway and some perrenials are about to explode with color by the driveway.  I'm noticing things.  

Mornings seem like a more clear time to "see" than at other times but maybe that's just me. 

What are you noticing?  It may be at work with folks heading off for vacation or kids "reporting for duty" at summer school.  Or, it may be when you get home after a long day and your wife isn't smiling because something's gone wrong during the day.  Notice these things.  Take a short, subtle inventory in your mind. 

Noticing takes time.  It takes humility.  It should, ideally, nudge us to action of some kind.  This might be a note in someone's mailbox to encourage them or picking up the phone to tell someone you care about them.  Something like that but in your own way and for (and with) your people.

What are you noticing today?  How will it nudge you to greater leadership, attentiveness and action? 


The Case for Offsite Meetings

We sat around the table and reflected on five years of offsite meetings.  "How many has it been?  Ten?  Twelve?"  Amazingly, we had been doing offsite meetings for five years and meeting offsite at least twice a year.  The people have changed but the process was in tact.

I learned this from Fr. Michael Martin, OFM Conv. who took his team years ago to local colleges, country clubs and meeting locations. He was, and I'm sure still is, a genius of executive team building.   

 Why go offsite?  Simply put, getting your team out of the office (or off campus) decreases distractions and promotes higher level thinking.  You'll also build community within your thought leaders and you'll be able to solve big problems. (or at least take a bite out of them)

Our team does it one way but there's no magic bullet here- what works for us might not work for your team.  Still, give this a try: 

1. Find an attractive meeting place.  We've met at retreat centers, business offices and restaurants.  Places that can provide food are best and you won't want to take your team too far away... a 45 minute drive is probably the most folks will want to travel.  People feel special when they can meet in a cool location.

2. Request one page reports prior to the meeting.  Folks should share what "wins" they've experienced and what bothers them.  This promotes vulnerability which builds teamwork.  

3. Practice constructivist leadership as you build the agenda.  Ask for input as you build the items that folks want to talk about.  You'll have some topics that you can "seed" the meeting with but there's no harm in letting the team build it with you. 

4. Use breaks often.  Take a break every 1.5 hours and let people know that there's light at the end of the meeting tunnel. 

5. Establish the Red Card process.  If something should not be in the minutes (and you'll want a meeting minutes taker), tell the note taker something like this, "Susan, this is a red card-" and then talk about whatever. 

6. Promote positive speak.  Remind people that the purpose of the meeting is not to speak negatively about anyone.  The meeting is not served well by speaking badly about anyone.   

7. Use the Parking Lot.  Not the pavement outside of the building, but a large piece of newsprint that you can use to "park" ideas that are worthy of discussion at a later time.  This gives people permission to surface issues without sidetracking the agenda.   

8. Wrap it up.  At the conclusion of the day, ask folks for their (brief) reflections on the day.  Again, this is a constructivist technique for sharing leadership with the group. 

These eight points work for us.  How about for your team as you seek to equip them as digital change agents?