Friday, March 24, 2017

Eliminating The Excuse of Enough.

I had the pleasure of learning at the Future Ready Superintendent Leadership Network where a panel of 5 innovative superintendents reflected on their vision of public schools in the coming 20 years as well as the change that must be made to transform that vision into a reality. Steve Waddell and Jeff Turner reflected on their work and shared a powerful thought that leaders must always remember if they truly want to create schools that lead kids to the future they deserve.   

If we want to create the kinds of schools that truly prepare kids for the future, it is high time that we eliminate the excuse of "Enough".

If you think about it, they're right.   This barrier of scarcity is something that we too readily claim as the reason we can't move forward when in fact it is merely a figment of our imagination.  Here are just few "Enough" statements that prevent schools, leaders and educators from moving forward, and some of my thoughts on these obstacles to organizational improvement.




We don't have enough time.
The fact is you have the exact same amount of time as high performers. Identify where you are wasting time, and you'll find enough time. 

We don't have enough money.
There are countless examples of high performers who had less money and resources. How are you optimizing what you currently have?  Answer that question before making the decision to  spend more. 

We don't have enough personnel. 
This is the same as money. Schools with fewer personnel achieve high performance through synergy of professional growth through ongoing collaboration. Are you truly working as a professional learning community at work that is focused with laserlike precision on improving the adults in the building?   

We don't have enough parent support. 
Educators control 90% of the factors that impact student learning, so blaming parents means that you don't own the potential of your own impact. What are you doing to build the optimal relationships with your parents before you need to access them to help with their children?

We don't have enough information.
Lack of information is a real thing, but the stalwarts of the status quo use this as their main reason to say, "we can't abandon the comforts of today to create the classrooms of tomorrow because we need more information".

Enough is Enough!
The fact of the matter is that we have enough if not way too many excuses that stop us from reaching our goals for school improvement. The question is not if we're going to say enough is enough. The question is whether we will be so focused on guaranteeing that every kid learns that you won't even allow these excuses a seat at your table of continuous improvement. 

Friday, March 10, 2017

The Answer is Always in YOU!

Leadership is influence. It is guidance. It is empowerment.

The only way to determine if your leadership is truly transformational is by defining your YOU. How do you answer these simple questions:

1. What do YOU believe is essential to lead your organization to excellence?
2. What are YOUR expectations for making that happen?
3. How do YOU know if the expectation is being met?
4. How do YOU hold others accountable for not meeting those expectations?
5. How do YOU empower those who are meeting and even exceeding expectations?
6. How do YOU create a culture of continuous improvement?
7. How do YOU celebrate accomplishments along the way?

Do you see the opportunity in YOU?
Transactional leaders miss the opportunity to capitalize on YOU because they believe YOU means "I", and YOUR means "My".  Transformational leaders, on the other hand, see YOU as a powerful opportunity. To them YOU means "We" and YOUR means "Our".

YOU consists of everyone in the organization, as well as supporters who have a vested interest in seeing it grow. The question is never what will YOU do. The challenge before you is how will YOU specifically create a system where YOU all get the job done.  

The challenge is yours. Will you accept it?

Friday, March 3, 2017

4 Questions for Building an Excellence Support System

Who believes this statement?

No intervention can replace poor instruction.

Then if you agree that no intervention can replace poor instruction then raise your hand if you have an intervention system for students.

Now keep your hand up if you have an intervention system for your teachers that is as targeted and focused as it is for students.

This is what inspired me to write the book, A Leader's Guide to Excellence in Every Classroom.  We have focused on supporting kids, but we, leaders, haven't put the same laser-like focus on helping our teachers reach excellence.  The fact is this.  If we want to have successful students, it starts with making teachers successful first.

The 4 Questions for Building an Excellence Support System
Everyone is familiar with the 4 questions of a Professional Learning Community at Work.

  1. What do we expect all kids to learn?
  2. How will we know if they learned it?
  3. How will we respond if they haven't learned it?
  4. How will we enrich them when they do learn it?
I essentially took those 4 powerful guiding questions and applied it to the components of a teacher of excellence.

  1. What components of highly effective teaching do we expect from teachers to guarantee learning for all students?
  2. How will we know when teachers are successful in ensuring learning for all students?
  3. How will we respond when a teacher fails to meet the learning needs of all students?
  4. How will we embrace teachers who are successful in meeting the learning needs of all kids?

The 4 Questions that Strengthens "The 4 Questions"
I know one thing.  The 4 questions of a PLC at Work are powerful when and only when the focus is on adult learning and informing educators how they can improve at guaranteeing Learning for All.  The 4 questions of an Excellence Support System drives leaders to anticipate when and how teachers struggle at meeting the needs of all kids and then these questions guide them to respond in a systematic way that involves 3 steps:  
  • Step 1 - School-wide Excellence System (Professional Learning):  How can we provide on-going professional learning that is available to all educators at any time?
  • Step 2 - Teacher Team Excellence Supports (Collaboration):  How can we provide job-embedded collaboration for all teachers?
  • Step 3 - Individualized Excellence Plan (Differentiated Leadership):  How leaders develop meaningful relationships that are focused on helping teachers with their next steps in professional growth?
This systematic philosophy of teacher support is what teachers desire.  More time to learn, more time to collaborate, and more time to reflect with their peers, administrators and instructional coaches.  The Excellence in Every Classroom mindset is not about pushing every teacher to reach some utopian idea of instructional excellence.  It's about creating the conditions that foster a deep-rooted belief that chasing continuous improvement is what makes all educators excellent.

Friday, February 24, 2017

The Learning that's #NotOnTheTest

I have been walking around my district this month and have been truly inspired by the hard work of our teachers and staff. It makes me proud as a superintendent but even prouder as a parent.  It is an honor and privilege to see the 1st But what has been extremely exciting to watch is the innovative instruction that kids are engaged in. The more I walked around and the more I realized.

THIS IS NOT ON THE STATE TEST!!! 

No, the authentic work that I see kids doing will not be measured on the test. The videos that kindergartners are creating explaining why 5-3=2. #NotOnTheTest


  • The bridges that 2nd graders designed based on the scientific method. #NotOnTheTest
  • The videos that the 5th grade AVP (audio visual production) club made as a part of their monthly school news program. #NotOnTheTest
  • The collaboration that our middle school students are doing to teach each other about the high leverage skills in all subjects. #NotOnTheTest
  • The food boxes that our science club is packing for families in need. #NotOnTheTest
  • The organization and commitment to learning that Google Classroom has created in all of our high school classes. #NotOnTheTest

#NotOnTheTest MUST be Part of Accountability 
State accountability in Texas is predominantly focused on one test on one day, and let's be honest.  Standardized testing is so last century. The needs of this century are truly based on kids having the skills to solve real problems that won't be found on a test by creating products and demonstrating mastery that will help our country address today's issues.  Kids will have to be able to show their comprehension of real stories by creating them through the use of digital media, not by selecting the correct statement that may or may not best represent the correct answer.  

See "I Can’t Answer These Texas Standardized Test Questions About My Own Poems"

Join the #TxEdTuesday Movement
Throughout the spring,  I want to you invite you join Texas and start sharing all the great things happening in your school that will never be measured on a test. Let's tell the world that standardized measurement of schools doesn't tell even half of the story of what a school is truly about.  In fact it doesn't even represent what schools are really doing to prepare kids for tomorrow.

Every Tuesday, share your story with the hashtag, #TxEdTuesday, and if kids are demonstrating learning far beyond a multiple choice test, be sure to add #NotOnTheTest, so everyone can see what your school is all about.

Friday, February 3, 2017

#TxEdTuesday - #TxEd's Opportunity to Tell Its Story

The other day, I was promoting #LoveMySchoolDay which is coming up on April 11, 2017, and  I had a great response from someone in my PLN.


So I got to thinking. Why not tell Texas' story right now???

After all, we are in the middle of a very contentious legislative session, and people want to know what we can do right now to positively impact public schools and the legislation that shapes those schools.  Schools need to tell legislators and their communities their story about the great things that Texas Public Schools do every day for kids.

So the next thought that entered my mind was:

  • We have #LoveMySchoolDay once a year and 
  • We have #CelebrateMonday every Monday.
Why not have a #TxEdTuesday EVERY TUESDAY?

After working with my two fantastic mentors, Kevin Worthy from Royse City ISD and Doug Williams from Sunnyvale ISD, this is what we came up with.

#TxEdTuesday Goal
  • Each Tuesday, the goal is to have at least 1000 posts on the #TxEdTuesday hashtag on both Facebook and Twitter. 
  • We want to keep the conversation going about what is important for the students served in public schools.


TELL IT
  • Tell your school’s story. 
  • Tell your legislators THANK YOU for supporting your students, families and teachers. 

TAG IT
  • Tag your state representatives and senators to your post.
  • Tag your friends around the state to your images.
  • ​Tag the #TxEdTuesday hashtag to your message (so everyone following the hashtag can see it).


SHARE IT
  • Share and re-tweet positive stories you see from other school districts. 
  • Share your support of each other and public education in Texas.

Every Tuesday, I hope that you will take time to make #TxEdTuesday a priority.  Not only will it tell your story.  It will tell your legislators directly what is happening in your school, and more importantly what they can do to better support 5.3 million students.  The one thing that I truly believe about this initiative is this.  

If you don't tell your story, someone else will, and it may not be true or even the story you want told.

See you on #TxEdTuesday!!!





Friday, January 27, 2017

The Fine Line about Mistakes

Mistakes are a regular occurrence.  With the wrong mindset, they define us, but with a growth mindset, they refine us.

But there's a Fine Line about Mistakes

In our work with other adults or children, how we react to mistakes can accelerate progress or stop it all together.  If we prefer progress, we must create a culture of learning where mistakes are not only embraced.  They are expected.

Learners and those that impact learning cannot work in an environment where they are demonized or demoralized when they fail  They deserve to work in a place where mistakes inspire everyone to learn more about themselves, their content, and the world around them.

When mistakes are embraced, people will happily lead themselves to a place of solid commitment and deep understanding.  Mistakes mold learners attempt by attempt, and ultimately every time that the mistake is conquered permanently.

Let's face it. Human are fallible, but we're also malleable.  Successes make us, but mistakes bend us ever closer to finding success.  When we have the encouragement to take risks, the courage to err and the perseverance to overcome, that is when we cross the fine line about mistakes.

This week, challenge yourself  and those you work and learn with to make lots of mistakes.  
Mess up miserably.  Your success and your growth will thank you for it.



Friday, January 20, 2017

The #1 Resource Every Teacher Deserves

Resources are necessary to make all teachers successful. Technology, instructional materials, and a good size room are just a few examples of resources that teachers deserve to lead their kids to success. If leaders provide enough resources, teachers are adequately prepared to create meaningful learning experiences for all kids.

So What is the #1 Resource All Teachers Need?
If you think about all the tools available to teachers, it's hard to think about the most important one that makes the biggest impact of learning. Chromebooks, Google Classroom and other extensions instantly come to mind. Colorful learning environments with the best furniture also sound great. Even the most innovative activities from Pinterest and Teachers Pay Teachers pique my interest, but none of them are the best resource that every teacher deserves.

The #1 Resource Every Teacher Deserves
It's no contest. The number 1 resource that every teacher needs is time to learn with other teachers. They need to learn from one another, share with one another, and find solutions to challenging problems together. When teachers are given an abundance of tools, but have limited or no access to other teachers, they will fail to find growth.   Furthermore they will fail to close learning gaps with kids.  But when they network on a regular and structured basis with other colleagues who are in search of continuous improvement, students will always grow and ultimately students will always win.

How can We give Teachers the Best Resource?
Leaders must create a culture where teachers learn with and from one another.  They also need to structure school time so that teachers have scheduled time within the school day for job-embedded learning and collaboration.  Without a schedule and a structure for adult learning to take place, teachers will not have time to learn with one another.  If you want your teachers to find the pinnacle of instructional excellence, ensure that you give them the best resource, one another.  They will appreciate you for it.