Thursday, February 28, 2013

What does it take to lead a team?

How much does a teacher have to know about the class?  A leader about the team?
A manager about the crew?  A salesperson about the customer?
What major metropolitan downtown?
This Book Review of The Way of the Shepherd by Dr Kevin Leman  (@drleman)  And  William Pentak  addresses these questions.  My take-aways from this book were simple and easy for me to follow since they focused around an acrostic: S.H.A.P.E.  This post connects those traits to the classroom.
Leadership and teaching go hand in hand.  Sales and teaching go together.  Motivation and drive are also components of education.  The corporate world and educational world have many overlaps.
In this quick read about a shepherd sharing with an apprentice, a metaphor is used to outline how the best leaders know their teams like a shepherd knows the flock.  He uses this acrostic to outline a few points.
Each of us has different strengths.  A good leaders capitalizes on this and serves success by serving to the strengths of the team members.  A good teacher fosters success by knowing the student’s strengths and abilities, both positive and negative.
What one person likes will differ from what another likes.  Our desires, affections and heart drive our free or discretionary time and efforts.  What would you like to do if you had 3 hours of free time?”  This question speaks to the heart contents.  A good teacher knows what the students like, and plans accordingly.
Often time, our attitude is the only thing we can change, just by changing our thoughts, focus and actions.  We must believe and then behave together for our attitude to shift from negative to positive.  Master teachers display a great attitude in themselves, even if it is part of the role and expect it from their students.
Besides saying “what a great personality” we view this trait as one defined by our base or simplest nature, form or style.  Often, a sense of humor, ethic or perspective helps articulate a personality.  How a person engages with others forms that foundation.  Personality styles and learning styles are the hardest to learn in others, but once mastered, student success is inevitable.
Finally, experience is the thing we bring with us, everywhere, continuously adding to the past, equipping us for our future.  Those that can learn from other people’s experiences seem wise, but those learning from their own mistakes may end up learning the lesson better.  The teacher has little control over the prior experiences a student brings to the room.  Yet the subtle teacher builds mutual learning experiences for the class to compound the effectiveness of the content. 

These traits are simple to remember, easy to apply and universal in their prevalence. We all have every one, to one extent or another.  As leaders, our task is getting to know the traits of those around us and then use this understanding to further everyone.

How well is that working? #onthemap It seems to be working very well here at WMS!
The Way of the Shepherd: 7 Ancient Secrets to Managing Productive People
By: Dr. Kevin Leman, Bill Pentak
Zondervan / 2004 /

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Hope is not a strategy!

The Art or Science of Teaching - A 7-3 Initiative!
Do these notes look simple or advanced?  Easy to follow or a challenge to execute?
“Hope is not a strategy!”  One of my favorite take-away points from the Effective Schools Conference  *

Strategies range from simple to complex.  Simple strategies are easy to remember, execute and duplicate for consistent and reliable results.  Often times they begin with a plan or program or idea but follow through is done by the teacher, parent or care-giver.  Nothing is automatic!  Nothing happens without energy or input from the instructor.  This energy expended combines the art and science of teaching.  Understanding the audience, then preparing to serve them with appropriate interventions demonstrates mastery and competence when addressing students. 

Implementation of simple strategies forms the basis of habits, patterns and education!  When the motivation shifts from extrinsic to intrinsic, simple strategies form the foundation or scaffold necessary to build deeper and increasingly more abstract thoughts. (think DOK level 3 or 4)  #DOK

We are beginning a staff designed program titled the 7/3 Initiative.  To respond to the CCSS and DOK wave, the model is to read for 7 sustained minutes in the content area and reflect for 3 minutes.  During the reading, students are to identify questions, important points like facts, and new things.  For the three minutes of reflection, writing, shoulder partner discussion or class discussion allows deeper and immediate feedback to the reader.  For example spontaneous combustion was a hit in 7th science class. (SO to JD)
Implementation of a simple strategy is better than the attempt to implement an detailed strategy with challenges from accountability to measurability to effectiveness.  A simple strategy like this is also far better than hope!

#cantwaitforthemap  #onthemap

*Quote from the Effective Schools Conference, March 2012, Scottsdale AZ


Friday, February 22, 2013

Do you like surprises?

Snow Days or preparation for uncertainty?
Student question with impending snow, "Are we going home early today?"
 Teacher's response, "As soon as the buses get here."
SNOW DAYS mean more than just a day off school!  Stocking up on staples.  Sledding.  Outdoor snow picnics. Shoveling driveways.  Watching out for shut-in neighbors. Snowmen, snow angels, mittens and wet noses.  Traffic and cars in ditches and hazardous travel all become newsworthy.  The list goes on and on. For those of us in education, it means the students will demonstrate giddiness and an excited feel for the potential day off school.  Early releases.  It means lesson plans will wait and flexibility is necessary.  Even make-up days, usually when the weather is gorgeous outside. So much thought and concern goes into a snow day. Why?
Why does all this matter?  It matters because the variety and change of routine adds just enough excitement and the forecast generally provides enough notice that the surprise factor are kept to a manageable level.  Too much surprise can be detrimental to those comfortable with a routine.  As educators, we plan, rehearse in our minds and plan again, what could or may or may not happen.  When thinking outside the normal becomes the norm, we have finally equipped our wards with the necessary preparation to handle whatever their future world will send their way. 
Not to get political but...  Today, we are days from an automatic Sequestration!  We don't know the impact but can only speculate.  In the short term, we will have automatic cuts.  In the long term, what will it look like to spend more than we collect?  What will it look like to have such a huge deficit?  Is this something we should attempt to address?  We know we are leveraging our children's future!  Will we preparation them enough to let them thrive in their future, or will the only survive?  Will they have what they need?  Can we equip them better?  Can our effort today prepare them for their future? 
Will we take care of them, spend their inheritance or leave them in debt?
 Will we leave our children as surprise they do not deserve?
Before and after the snow storm of February, 2013 in the mid-west.  Above the front line was clearly visible during this sunrise. By this afternoon, there were up to 9 inches in this same area, blowing, freezing and giving most children two snow days!  Is this a fun surprise? 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

What would you rather teach?

Calculus or Basic Math?
This traditional church in Florida reminds me of how things used to be.  Everything changes.
When asked that interview question years ago, as a flippant and irreverent young man, just out of college I replied, "People, stuff!"  Needless to say that response kept me out of that role.  I did not get that job!
Fast forward to today.  As middle school principal, all day long, the goal is to help everyone get to their next level.
Sometimes that means asking the right questions and not just giving the answers.  Sometimes it means creating an environment where everyone is taking a risk.  Often, it is waiting for the right time to ask a question or the right time to supply an answer. 
Watching our school improve is like serving everyone simultaneously and helping each person grow to their next level, regardless of their role in our building.
In the restaurant business being a good waiter is vital. The best servers know what the customer needs before the customer knows they need it. Serving others first is ultimately self serving, for their success is your success.
Servant-Leadership implies the leader is actually the servant.  There lies the rub!  How can the leader actually be the servant as well?  Maybe more on that later.
How can I help? What do you need? How are things going? These are examples of open ended questions that help others articulate their needs.
What would you want to teach? Maybe take people from wherever they are, to their next level, regardless of the starting point.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Training for the trainers.

A while back, we went to some training on active shooter situations.  It seems the news is covering more and more of these trainings.  A few things seem to emerge from the training.
1.  Examine the behaviors of the perpetrators!  Understand their planning, or lack of.  Look for any common behaviors. 
2.  Study the responses of law enforcement.  Be aware of their preparation and how they act in those situations and build a plan around their basic principles.
3. Finally, without giving away any secrets, understand what prior victims have done and learn from them.
   A.  Hide and get away!
   B.  Consider escaping.
   C.  Depending on ages and maturity levels, fight back!
There are no trade secrets but there are some hints to equip folks, but...
Lock doors at all times and use a small magnet to hold the door adjar.  Then retrieve the magnet when necessary, let the door close and, never step into the hall after the alarm has sounded.
The photo for today looks like a stack of books, but they could also become projectiles if the situation warranted. (so could ur phone)
These hints should never take place of a thorough and well executed intruder plan.  Consider collaborating with local experts, law enforcement or even security firms and never fail to ask for ideas.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Plans ensure goals?

Do our plans ensure we will reach our goals?
Building Champions takes a goal, time for a plan, adherence to the plan and support.
This pier from Liberty Island on the north side of the Statue Island points right up to south Manhattan, like it could make it all the way across.  Of course, there is no direct route besides water craft from here but that's what building champions is about...  Doing things differently. What are we going to change at Winfield Middle School?  To answer that, we must know where we are, our current state, benchmark or baseline.  From this data, we can plot plans and steps to reach goals.
At WMS, there have been successes this year in attendance, discipline and grades, all across the spectrum.  There have been fewer write-ups!  But does this mean we don't write the students up as much because they are better behaved or we address things differently?  The grades issued are tending higher but does that mean we are inflating our grades due to pressure?  Attendance is better, and that seems like the only thing we can document as a genuine increase.  The others have a measure of subjectivity behind them.  So let's look at those.
Does fewer write-ups prove the students are better behaved?  Does it mean the teachers are not writing them up because they know nothing will happen?  Does it mean the kids really do want to do the right thing?  Looking at a snapshot like this, we get a partial picture.  We must base things on a standard.  Yes, there are nearly half the amount of incidents this year, but does that mean kids behave better, or are just getting away with things better.  A look at  the love and logic principles indicate consequences and punishment serve two opposing purposes. 
Let's consider both discipline and attendance as indicators of a healthy culture.  If a student is stressed when considering school and what may happen there, the tendency to avoid that situation will increase and attendance may decrease.  This tends to justify the thesis that a healthy school has good attendance and better discipline. 
The correlation regarding discipline is also there.  Improved behavior implies students are in classes more, instead of the office dealing with issues.  They have increased seat time, which alone does not guarantee improvements.  However, it may indicate a healthy culture as well.
Finally, the anecdotal evidence of students mentioning their joy or desire or satisfaction level with school may indicate things are going well.  Regardless of grades, which carry so much sway or influence but really have plenty of interpretation from both the parents, and students as well as the teachers.  But how can we connect all this to truly improve achievement?  How can we say our students are learning more?  How can we verify increases in learning?  Do we have to rely on our state high stakes standardized testing to really measure the success of a school?

Monday, February 4, 2013

Success via Competition or Collaboration?

Success via Competition or Collaboration.
How much collaboration is necessary to assemble something like this? 
Does competition fit into the construction?
A bit shy of the last presidential election where about 129 million voted, an estimated 111 million people watched the entertaining Superbowl game yesterday.  We saw collaboration and competition among teams, brothers, players, and cities with multiple records broke and many firsts.  As we guide and redirect our students (thanks @winfieldsftball) to success, we have noticed three things about our students as well.
They break records. (108 yd return)
The records they measure are personal records, personal bests and growth from their own prior abilities and through their own efforts.  It does them little good to compare themselves to other students but while measuring their growth personally, they find success.  They find and they get better after they exert extra effort and focus on their own goals.
They have firsts.  (brother coaching against brother)
Some firsts are are simple, like completing assignments or confronting issues using healthy methods.  Again, comparing ourselves with others only adds to insecurity but tracking our own progress builds confidence and expands our horizons.  Like digging out of debt, counselors suggest starting with the smallest goals first and pay those off before tackling the home mortgage.  Students that start by completing small assignments and turning those in first learn to accomplish even greater things next time.
They compete among themselves but collaborate with each other.  (While waiting for the lights to turn back on, both teams relaxed, stretched and tried to remain focused.)
Finally, students learn to work with others and not against them, using the joint experiences of each to mutually benefit the union or team.  Just as the teams work together on the same team but against the opposing players, there is collaboration and competition. In a classroom, there is no need to form competitive teams where we celebrate a winner over a looser but enjoy success for all!
For Example, Winfield Middle School:
Our grades are tending upward, meaning there are more higher grades, an equal number of mid range grades and a lower number of failing grades.  (This is competition amongst individuals, where each tries to improve himself!) This positive shift means those bubble students have tended to climb up to the next level.  Considering a simple grade inflation where everyone conspires to bump grades together is simply refuted by baseline objective formative assessments, where we measure ourselves individually, against only our self and only against our prior scores.  (This is collaboration, where everybody works to do better thank they did before, for the good of the group!) This verifies the authenticity of the understanding and we look for MAP testing to justify these trends in the spring.  Our attendance is improved over last year and the number of our discipline incidents had been nearly cut in half.  (This is competition against last year.)

Why is all this happening?  Lets talk about that next time.