Leading with Strengths #immooc

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How do you find the balance between “mentoring” and “micro-managing”

to ensure people feel supported and comfortable taking risks?

[Question, Chapter 8, Innovator’s Mindset, George Couros]

Leaders empower their organization’s members; they do not dictate to or manage them. How do leaders empower their people? With a shared vision, a leader finds within each member a strength which promotes that vision. A leader lets the person know, and encourages that person in that area, building on that talent. That first step to knowing one’s team members is the first step towards building the trust that allows each member to speak up, knowing their leader supports their work.

Teachers will grow professionally when their administrators take a personal interest in their careers. When teachers feel cared for, just like students, it goes a long way toward creating a great school culture. 

Carolyn Jensen, principal for Parkland School Division

Chapter 8, Innovator’s Mindset LOC 1846 if 3535

In many schools both students and teachers find themselves in a data swamp where the focus on remediation, interventions, and weaknesses under the guise of “school improvement” mean only negative conversations, expectations, and program implementations to improve text scores. Any recognition of what teachers have done well is undermined by mandates and requirements and meetings that tear at their professionalism. And leaders find themselves stuck in the muck of those mandates and struggle to clear the path for a focus on students as whole persons, not failures.

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People who do have the opportunity to focus on their strengths every day are six times as likely to be engaged in their jobs and more than three times as likely to report having an excellent quality of life in general.” Tim Rath

Clearly we need to make sure our educators and students have ample opportunity to explore and practice in areas which they thrive. George Couros

Chapter 8, Innovator’s Mindset LOC 1714 of 3535.

So, What about mentoring members for improvement?  Think about this from Tom Rath and George Couros:

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If we want our team members to be actively engaged rather than disengaged and compliant, we, as peers, and leaders must focus on strengths.  But how does that help us lead to mentoring?

Great leaders practice balancing trust and autonomy while providing strong mentorship…pushing others’ thinking and abilities by asking questions and challenging perceptions without micro-managing.

George Couros,Chapter 8, Innovator’s Mindset LOC 1740 of 3535

Chapter eight provided a great example of how to push thinking. Mandates are often categories of requirements, so why not form teams around those requirements — let members choose according to their interests. Remind them of their strengths, and give each team autonomy as they apply each one’s strengths to work together from their professional knowledge to innovate the solutions that would best fit the students’ strengths as well.  What would happen?

While we supported and learned from one another, we also pushed each other to be better. The teachers and staff started to see each other as experts and valued their contribution and expertise.

Each individual is recognized for his or her own unique qualities and how those strengths support the overall vision of learning for our school

George Couros,Chapter 8, Innovator’s Mindset LOC 1870 of 3535 

Grow the solutions locally. Build that community of professionals. Within that community, members see each other’s strengths, and merge their unique ideas into a focused solution based on that school’s students’ needs. Only then, when all members feel supported, does trust and collaboration move the organization forward. Without the input from professionals themselves, the culture is built only on compliance, not engagement, not empowerment, and teachers do not see or feel their value. With professionals who believe in themselves, are supported for their strengths, and participate with those strengths towards the school vision, then a culture of learning forms, and teachers and students begin to ask, “What else could I do to support our vision?” And that’s where teachers begin to mentor each other.

Learning is messy, and we have to be comfortable with risk, failure, growth, and revision.

George Couros,Chapter 8, Innovator’s Mindset LOC 1796 of 3535 

What is the balance? Find and trust in the strengths of the people in your organization; bring the ideas from those strengths into the process of deciding solutions to issues. Model risk-taking with one’s own strengths and begin the journey of trust-building so that the members begin to question how to improve themselves.

Key to this issue of strengths-based leadership is taking the time to talk with your people, to never stop encouraging, recognizing, and supporting their leadership to make the school great for students. It’s specific, it’s modeling the expectation of celebration, it’s providing that celebration individually and for teams. It’s not a reward or announcement: it’s recognition and letting them know the value of their work to the school. The emphasis is on the doing and succeeding in small steps, and that their work and ideas make it happen and let it continue. It’s an ongoing conversation of the collaboration and commitment that teachers accept to get our job done.

Two questions suggested for this journey:

  1. Describe your dream position next year, what would it be? George Couros
  2. Where do you see your career in the next three to five years? Carolyn Jensen

Now, how do the answers help build the organization by letting the members shine through those answers?

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The Innovator’s Mindset . Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity. Dave Burgess Consulting 2015.

Tom Rath, Strengths Based Leadership: Great Leaders, Teams, and Why People Follow (New York: Gallup Press, 2008).

As a final note: Take this to the student level. Read Debbie Donsky’s The Truth of Who We Are — Let’s change the focus to strengths and talents and passions rather then remediation of weaknesses.

Slice of Life Leadership

 

 

David Geurin is a “principal and lead learner at Bolivar High School in Bolivar, Missouri.”  I enjoy learning from him, and following the link in the above tweet lead me to David’s perceptive post on leadership:


What Great Leaders Do Differently 2016

“Leaders set out to make a difference.” In education that is so true: the goal is always to make teaching and learning better, to make a difference. Leaders have a vision for reaching goals, and great leaders share that leadership. In David’s post, you’ll see that “difference” in his list.

I especially find this one important:

3. They come from every corner of the school (students, teachers, support staff, etc.—not just admin). Leadership is more about disposition than position. Great leaders help develop new leaders and share leadership roles with others.

In all the posts and discussions on leadership that I have read, these ideas are considered important to promote collaboration among participants: the value of sharing leadership roles, of listening carefully to others, and of finding leadership in others throughout the school. We learn and grow together– shared leadership grows a community of practice intent on continuous learning and improvement.

Which leadership action or trait do you consider vital to your organization?

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#140WC Make a Difference; Don’t Give Up

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Teachers make a difference. They are tasked with teaching in their discipline as a highly qualified professional of that discipline, yet we know we don’t teach that; we teach children. No matter who they are or how they come; we teach children. We make small differences daily that add up to big differences in the choices those we tend will eventually make.

And knowing this, many teachers take on leadership roles — roles often not asked for, but needed. Roles that move the discipline and the relationships forward. Teachers keep learning and sharing so others can move forward as well to provide the best opportunities, content, and caring that our students need.

Perhaps that leadership is in helping kids develop intrinsic motivation, perhaps it’s in building authentic curriculum with projects, or perhaps it’s in understanding the technology of today and the future to incorporate in the curriculum as learning tools and strategies that students today expect and will need in their futures. These teachers are forward thinkers sharing with colleagues from around the world and in their own districts. Sometimes they are the only voice. To those, I over the advice of Ralph Waldo Emerson [above]. Don’t give up; keep moving forward. Make a difference — in small steps, but don’t give up.

WC: 207

A Matter of Choice

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Walter McKenzie wrote one of the best blog posts yet on education reform, which is cross-posted at ASCD’s Whole Child Blog.

He says:

This equation shows how far we have strayed from public education’s original focus: to prepare children to be responsible, contributing citizens to our democracy. Instead of modeling democratic principles, our schools have become authoritarian, prescribing standards and outcomes with one small range of right answers and one summary definition of success. We are literally training our next generation to think and lead by principles that are antithetical to the intellectual, emotional and social skills and values essential to our democracy. If students do not embrace diversity, equity and respect for differences, they will not be prepared to meet the challenges of our country’s future.

I cried when I read this because if we don’t educate for democratic values, our democratic republic will be lost.

Walter reminds us of what Franklin Delano Roosevelt said:

“Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.”  -Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Please read Walter’s post:

A Matter of Choice.

and then stand up for our ideals — get the conversation rolling.

I’ve been asking our academic coaches, our superintendent, and our school board to ask questions, to research, to think about the mandates that now label us and steal our spirit, but who can challenge the mandates of punishment? Not questions. Not innovation. Only the local communities who will stand up and speak up — with voices and votes because it is “A Matter of Choice.”

 

Image Credit:
John Dewey Education Quote by Sheri Edwards on Flickr

#leadershipday13 Answer: How Do Busy Administrators find time?

Each year Scott McLeod challenges us to challenge our administrators to move forward with technology for the learning processes of our schools. Thursday, August 15, 2013 is #leadershipday13.

How do busy administrators find time to do all the tasks expected with their school board of directors, their staff, their students, and their communities?

Administrators have many stakeholders to consider throughout their day — it’s difficult to juggle these expectations. How might technology help?

Our administrator focuses on communication and collaboration with our community and staff. He writes “Thoughts to Share” for school board and staff and sends home a calendars of events.

Paper handouts often wind up tacked to a fridge or cabinet door, piled with other handouts, or stuffed in a briefcase or book bag, or filed in a folder. What if all those communications could be organized and accessible as needed? How could a busy administrator find time to share, communicate, and collaborate? Perhaps technology can help.

1. Public Google Calendar on the school website

What’s next? What have we done? When is that meeting? that track meet? Embed the school calendar to a page in your blog and to the website for quick access.

Why? By adding the important school events to a shared, public calendar, all members of the school community have access to school events (sports, meetings, field trips, trainings, conferences, etc.).

2. Start a community blog (public) 

Our community loves to hear what is going on. What would you share? How about blogging once each week, just a paragraph, on four different topics (listed in categories)?  What categories would you choose?

While making rounds in the classroom, writing thoughts to share, or considering upcoming events, make a note of those things and perhaps snap a picture on your iPad.

Once a week, schedule a time to write a brief post in one category:

 Possible Categories

Vision — How are we’re doing?

Classes — What learning and engagement do you see in classrooms to show the vision and progress?

Parents — What are students doing? Who can you thank? What happened at events?

Next month— What’s coming up? What’s the focus? What should we expect? How can families and community help?

By creating categories, readers can view the category needed and review the year in those posts.  Add polls for parents to complete and accept or contact by email for ongoing open communication.

Of course the public calendar would be embedded a blog page.

Why? Open communication, photos and blurbs, and ongoing information contribute to showing and sharing the daily efforts of students and staff towards learning and growing as a community; it brings the outside in and the inside out.

3. Start a Staff Blog (private) or Website

With so many items that must be attended to as we strive for school excellence, what can an administrator do to share and organize information? Administrators, especially principals, have weekly thoughts and ideas to share, meetings to plan and attend, questions to ask, and strategies and documents to share. How can all of these be shared in a timely manner– and be available as a reference when needed?

How about a blog accessible to staff? Ask questions, share documents, link to collaborative, shared Google Docs for input, provide upcoming events, etc. It would be the “goto” place for the most current information and expectations, organized and accessible to staff in one place whenever it is needed.

Perhaps a page could be added for all document links. Provide the information needed ahead of time for staff meetings so everyone is ready and prepared for discussion and action. Embed the calendar on another page.

Again, use categories, tags, or Table of Contents to organize the information: announcements, documents, meetings, items due, queries, readings (for example). What would you use? Would a site or blog work best for you?

Why? A paper trail gets lost in a folder or pile. A “go to” place allows access and organization whenever needed. The trail is clear and available. In the busy times of teaching all day, the ability to find and refer to important organizational needs and focus is paramount to building a professional community where everyone is part and everyone has access so the vision of that community is embraced and lived. Pop open your laptop or or tablet device, and you can review any of the items or add to the conversation on shared documents.

4- What about Collaborative Documents?

Link to documents in the blog or embed them in the website for staff (or community). Provide information or ask for input:

Staff meeting questions or readings before meetings?

School Improvement documents

Google forms to ask for input

Instead of waiting for meetings or emailing staff, use the blog to post questions and link to the shared document with your domain. Staff can subscribe to the blog to receive each update.

Why? Collaborative documents and Google Forms provide a means for communicating and sharing ideas without calling a special meeting or waiting for a staff meeting. It allows everyone to participate and share their voice; it inspires ideas that might otherwise be lost: it helps build the professional community that drives improvement and teamwork.

Which step would you take?

These are four ways busy administrators can connect, communicate, and collaborate with various stakeholders in the school community. The blogs/websites are hubs of outreach and input for an ongoing conversation and report of school events and progress for the community, and are hubs of communication and collaboration with staff for continual progress and sharing of programs and events that can eliminate meetings and provide the place for building a community of practice that includes all staff.

The extent and depth of participation and collaboration will be up to each administrator, but these ideas provide keys to keeping communication current — and curated for review.

Why? Your time is valuable; a place to post relevant information for different stakeholders saves time for you in distribution and organization; it builds community and trust through your input. It builds a history of possibility and progress.

What do you think? Could these four ideas help stamp out the “im” and make possible better, more organized, and curated communication for your school’s professional learning community? Which one could you start?

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Cross-posted at WhatElse

#leadershipday11 Our Reflection: 2+2+2

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#leadershipday11 2+2+2

Each year Scott McLeod challenges us to challenge our administrators to move forward with technology for the learning processes of our schools.

One question asked: What are some tangible, concrete, realistic steps that administrators can take to move their school organizations forward?

Considering the National Educational Technology Standards for Administrators, our school’s administrative leaders are 2 + 2 + 2 in moving our school forward:

2 To Thank

2 To Get Better

2 To Go Further

2 To Thank

1- stay abreast of educational research and emerging trends regarding effective use of technology and encourage evaluation of new technologies for their potential to improve student learning.

Our school leaders share readings and experiences that support our move to Google Apps for Education and our use of NWEA to map our students needs. Thank you.

For continued reading for administrators, visit The Connected Principals Blog.

2— recruit and retain highly competent personnel who use technology creatively and proficiently to advance academic and operational goals.

We guide our technology with technology-applying teachers as leaders because they understand and apply technology for teaching and learning. That keeps the focus and need on learning and making things work, rather than blocking access or closing avenues as often happens when the IT directs technology. Thank you.

We hire people willing to advance the school and their own technology use for student learning, especially in new technology job openings. Thank you.

2 To Get Better

1— collaborate to establish metrics, collect and analyze data, interpret results, and share findings to improve staff performance and student learning.

Our professional development has focused on accessing student data and apply that information to plan for student learning.

To get better we could share our focus areas in online tools: sharing documents of lessons; using forms for documenting student learning to monitor and adjust more easily; create a Professional Learning Community site for resources particular to our needs.

Professional Learning Community with Google Apps

Principal Walk-Through

About Walk-Throughs

2— allocate time, resources, and access to ensure ongoing professional growth in technology fluency and integration.

We have provided after-school training in our GAFE initiative and provided ten-minute shots during staff meetings.

To get better we could provide at least one period each week for teachers to explore and document one new strategy using technology.

In Five

2 To Go Further

1— promote and model effective communication and collaboration among stakeholders using digital-age tools.

Expect use of our GAFE and wiki tools to plan and implement our strategic and local programs as well as share our work with the community.

Collaboration

2- provide learner-centered environments equipped with technology and learning resources to meet the individual, diverse needs of all learners.

We thank our Parent Education Committee for their vision and support to improve technology devices at our school.

Our administration is continuing to find ways to bring our school model into 21st teaching and learning. Instead of computers for each student, use an iOS device. Update our policies to include Bring Your Own Devices (BYOD) policies.

iPads in Schools

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Our administration supports our technology initiatives. We have to thank administration for their efforts. We want to get better and to go further.

What is your 2+2+2 reflection?

2 to Thank

2 to Get Better

2 to Go Further?