Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Best Kind of PC

What our culture is lacking is PC. There is a deficit of people who are considerate, who truly understand PC. Organizations would be so much more effective if they would truly adopt the philosophy of PC.

No, I'm not talking about political correctness. 

I'm talking about Personal Commitment. 

Personal commitment is a deep rooted desire to see the environment around you flourish. It's an unwavering promise to see things through. When you think of someone who has overcome insurmountable obstacles to accomplish an unbelievable goal, that's a perfect example of personal commitment. If you think of the perfect family who has stuck together through thick and thin, you're seeing personal commitment, and when you remember your favorite team that put all the pieces together to win the championship, you're envisioning personal commitment. 

So do you personally have the 3 layers of personal commitment?

PC to Self
The qualities of personal commitment to self can be summed up in one word, industrious. With every word or action, PC people give it their all. Their focus is not self-serving but self-improving. People who are committed to their self-growth know that their commitment lies in never relinquishing their God-given responsibility to learn and grow. 

PC to Others
The second level of personal commitment has nothing to do with yourself but with others. If you think about the high divorce rate or the staggering number of children suffering from abject neglect, it all boils down to a complete lack of personal commitment to others.  Our country's media has glamorized self-serving behavior which promotes blatant disregard for the needs of other people especially those closest to us. If you think about the adage, love your neighbor as yourself, that is the essence of PC to others. We must deny ourselves of our personal needs so that we may fulfill the needs of others.  Our spouses and children need personal commitment to others from us more than any other possession known to man. 

PC to the Greater Good
If we truly believe in committing to our own personal growth and development as well as serving others before ourselves, then we understand that we must constantly commit and recommit to the greater good. No matter what your role is (teacher, administrator, custodian, etc.), you must have a personal commitment to see that the organization you serve grows and prospers. You hold a piece of the puzzle that can make the organization more successful. However if your focus is on committing to your self-preservation, you will never share that piece of the puzzle to actually make the greater good come to the truest fruition.  Think of it this way. When you commit to the growth of the organization, you are actually committing to yourself at a deeper level. 

PC is the Best PC
If you think about personal commitment, it is actually better than any form of political correctness. Political correctness by itself does not commit to helping others grow and improve. In fact, it solidifies the status quo. I'm not saying that we shouldn't consider our words before we say them, but I am saying that we should use our words and actions to make people and this world a lot better than it already is. 

Think about it. If every person in this world was deeply committed to making themselves a better person each and every day, if every person was committed to their spouses, their children, and their families, and if they were deeply committed to the organizations and groups that they spend the majority of their time at, wouldn't this world be a much better place?  What's lacking in this world is not political correctness. It's personal commitment. Every problem that has manifested itself in our world has evolved because of a lack of commitment to self, others, the world or a combination of all three, and now is the time to take a stand and better our world by expecting personal commitment from those who impact our lives. 

How do you feel about personal commitment and how will you encourage and model PC to others this week?

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Let's Play Some Hashtag Bracketology

So Bill Ferriter challenged #MarchMadness with this insane idea to identify the best hashtags that matter to me.  Since I am focused on ed leadership, curriculum and instruction and professional learning communities, this is my hashtag bracket.  What are your thoughts on my hashtags?  Do you agree or disagree?  Drop a comment and let me know.

What hashtags matter most to you? Here are the steps to add your bracket

  1.  Download this file created by Bill Ferriter.  
  2. Edit the file
  3. Save it as an image file 
  4. Post it on your blog.
This is a great activity to show everyone where you learn and what you are connected to.  It also support great PLNs that are doing solid work that improves education throughout the country.

Thanks Bill for the challenge and for sharing the information.

Friday, March 21, 2014

4 Ts of a Transformational School

In a progressive organization, change is the constant not the variable. It is the process, not the product. Change is intentional not inventional.

But leaders should remember that change is a mindset that must be nurtured from infancy to adulthood. You can't run until you can walk, and you can't walk until you can crawl. No different than raising a child, change must be reared with patience and encouragement as well as guidance and teaching. 

If change is to become the constant for your organization, the leader must create the conditional actions for transformation to thrive:  trusting, thinking, teaching and triumphing.

Does your organization have the 4 T's?

Because the leader has established a culture of trust, people within the organization understand that trusting one another is essential to change. Trust isn't built overnight, and it can be decimated in a day; therefore, organizations must regard trust as a fragile yet powerful component, and they must maintain it like a garden. Trust is essentially the health needed to move the organization forward. 

All people in an organization think about something, but thinking within a transformational organization is extremely concentrated. Thinking about the organization's mission forces all to be focused on purposeful steps necessary to make change a reality. All people within this organization of excellence reflect critically on their own work and determine how to better improve the organization through their work. Thinking is not a sometime thing. It's an all the time thing, and transformational people are constantly thinking about their work and its impact on the end product. 

Transformation is about growth, and growth can't occur unless someone is teaching others. Throughout the organization, training and cross training are not appendages of the organization but the heartbeat of the organization. To truly be a transformational organization, teaching is not the leader's responsibility but everyone's responsibility. If people want the organization to grow and prosper, everyone must recognize their own personal strengths and share their strengths with everyone else. 

Transformation is not about growing by leaps and bounds but growing inch by inch. Transformational organizations look for the inch and celebrate the triumphs along the way. Celebration again is not just the leader's responsibility but everyone's responsibility. Everyone looks for the gains, and they seize the opportunity to initiate celebration. Celebration is the fuel of growth, and transformational organizations celebrate like its 1999. 

Putting the 'S' in the 4 Ts - Sustaining
The final responsibility of a transformational organization has nothing to do with change. It has everything to do with sustaining the change. Change cannot be sustained as long as the leader owns and directs the change. Sustainability requires leaders to hand over ownership to those that it impacts, so they can find the next change that must be initiated. That is what we call empowerment. If followers are empowered to own the change, it will be sustained, and that is when change truly becomes transformational. 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Abundant Leader

Weakness is easy to find. Shortcomings can be spotted quickly. Determining deficits defines direction. Pretty much any leader can do any of these things but the abundant leader digs deeper to discover potential.

Setting goals for improvement is a logical next step. Defining plans for action helps initiate the process. The problem with this mindset is that leaders think they have little to start with. Deficit-based leadership starts with nothing to move to something. 

But the abundant leader sees things differently. Sure, they see deficits just like every other leader, but they delve deeper within weakness to find strength. They see ability, passion, will.  While the deficit-based leader starts with nothing and moves to something, the abundant leader starts with something to move to everything. 

Are you an abundant leader?

1.  Do you define what people can do before you create plans for what they need to do?

2.  Do you leverage strengths or just notice them?

3.  Do you use a person's strengths to create initial plans for growth and improvement?

4.  Do you celebrate a person's strengths as the catalyst to motivate growth?

5.  Do you help the person see the potential within their strengths before acknowledging their weaknesses?

Abundance is Opportunity

The problem is that our mindset isn't easily conditioned to seek opportunities. The abundant leader doesn't always see a surplus of strength, but they know that it is there; however, they believe that it is their job to search for it like a miner pans for gold. Every person has worth. Every person has value. The abundant leader knows their job is to help each person discover their worth and value because it is an investment in the organizational improvement.  The higher the value uncovered, the bigger investment is made in growth and improvement. 

Abundance is often overlooked because leaders are pressured to deliver results, but if leaders can pull back and exert patience, their eyes will be opened. By taking the extra minute to survey each person's true reality, leaders can transform the vision of a growth-mindset grounded in replacement into a mindset of growth by adding value to the worth that is already there.   

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Communication Lessons from Charlie Brown

Do your children ever fail to pay attention to you? I mean your personal children.  As soon as the word, clean, comes out of my mouth, I know instantly that my children are tuning me out. As soon as words, did you, leave my lips, I know they're not listening. Chores are not their favorite thing to do, and talking to them about their chores is not my favorite thing to do either. Now that I think about it, there may be a correlation between my communication style and their listening.

So in your classroom, do your children tune you out? Can you instantly tell that your students lose focus and are glazed over while you are talking to them?  Even the best teacher in America has this problem from time to time. Are there times when you feel like you are Charlie Brown's teacher?

If you feel like your students are tuning you out, it's nothing personal. It's not that they disrespect you; it's that your communication is so routine that they are becoming immune to it. And it's not that you have nothing interesting to say. It's that the tone, cadence, and passion are the same. If you think about it, before I even played the Charlie Brown video, you knew instantly the sound of the voice of Charlie's teacher. I've never heard a word she said, but I can hear her voice like I was in her class today. 

Wah Wah Wah Wah. 

To get the wah wah wah out of your presentation, it's time to change things up a bit. 

Does everything that you say come out using the same tone?  Children respond better to auditory stimuli that vary in pitch and volume. If you talk loud all the time, maybe try talking soft some of the time. If you're a quiet person, it is time to get that loudmouth out. Kids respond well to a variety of tones in communication. If you think about it, everyone responds to a variety of tones, so one type of speaking tone will never reach every kid in your class. 

If you talk slow all the time, people tune out quickly. If you talk at a rapid pace every time you say something, kids are not receiving every word in your message. Is your cadence harsh or is it meek and mild? If your cadence sounds like a drill sergeant, students will instantly turn off their ears, but if your cadence is more like a whisper, students won't even acknowledge that you're there. The rate and emphasis at which words are spoken plays a huge part in student engagement. 

Charlie Brown's teacher was boring.  She was not there to make learning fun. Passionless teachers suck the life out of listeners while passionate teachers optimize every aural minute that learners are in the room. Their enthusiasm for learning and fun stimulates interest in the process of not only learning but life. 

So where is your communication?
The best way to find out what type of communicator you are is to record yourself on audio or video. I prefer video because you can see the response of your students to your communication. Yes I know that we all hate to listen to ourselves speak, but this topic is too big not to investigate. If you have a kid that is struggling in your class, don't you want to know if the student is even listening to you?  That might be the first step in intervening for the student. If you have students that are being loud and disruptive, don't you want to know if your loud communication style is setting a poor example for how students should speak in your class or if your quiet tone is being ignored each time your correct?  If students are zones out in your class, don't you want to know if some of your students perceive you as that teacher from "Ferris Bueller's Day Off"?

If you want to improve your instruction, one of the first steps to start with is evaluating your own communication style toward students. Delivery of content is completely dependent on the manner in which you verbally communicate to your students.  How you speak sets the foundation for learning, and it is critical to know if you have a solid foundation for learning.  By evaluating the tone, cadence, and passion within your communication, you can ensure that every student, especially Charlie Brown, learns in your classroom.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Say Yes to the Stress!

State testing season is right around the corner, and stress is saturating every school in your state. In some states schools stress over being named as a failure if they fail to make growth or perform, while other states go as far as to name the teachers individually who are failing to "perform". The stress is mounting every day as we prepare ourselves to be judged on the performance of each student on one given day on one test.

I have to admit I get a little bit stressed myself with the thought of failure. I don't want my name or my school's name listed as a low performing school. My credibility and reputation are on the line just like your reputation is on the line. It is a natural feeling that we all have. 

Can't We Just Say NO???

Now we could say "NO" to all of the stress that we are under, or we could say no more of this ridiculous insanity.  We have every right to say no to the insanity, but here's the thing. Today is not that day.  This week will not be the week to say we can't handle any more stress. There's only 1 way that you can stop the stress. We can quit serving kids. 

That's it. Unless you quit your job, the stress will be here each and every day. That's where accountability is these days. So if the pressure of the test is going to always be present, we need to accept it and move forward. 

Why We Must Say Yes!

Here's the deal. Accepting the stress isn't enough.  We have to start saying "YES" to the stress, and there's only one reason why we are morally compelled to accept the stress. 

The kids are counting on us.

Seriously, you cannot be possibly under more pressure than a nine-year-old kid that has to perform well on reading, math, writing, science and social studies over the next 2 years.  How would you like to know if going to the next grade was dependent on your ability to bubble in answers on a test? I never had to deal with that as a kid. To put it in perspective, your reputation as an educator is nowhere near as big a deal as the trajectory of a kid's entire life based on one day and one test. 

See what I mean?

The test will come, and the test will go.  Some will pass, and some will fail. Schools will be labeled as winners and losers. It has been that way for 20 years, and not much is going to change in the next couple of years. 

But here is one thing that you can change, your reaction. The way that you react (or should we say overreact) to the stress will make a huge difference in how kids respond to your instruction. The way you respond to their work ethic, lack of motivation, or their performance on a test makes a massive impact on the life of a child. 

We must remember to channel our stress in a positive way that strengthens relationships with kids, builds their self-esteem, and empowers them to act on their unique abilities and potential. By saying "YES" to the stress, we are confidently brushing aside the negative effects of state testing and accepting responsibility to do whatever it takes to make every child successful. Now don't you think that is stress worth saying yes to?

Sunday, March 2, 2014

6 Symptoms of a Contagious Classroom

The flu season never seems to end. The stomach bug comes through and wipes the classroom out like a tidal wave. It seems like sometimes the classroom is nothing but a contagious pool of germs. As soon as one student comes back from being sick, two more go home with the same symptoms.

Got hand sanitizer?

Here's my question for you today. Is your classroom a place that is infesting with contagious germs for learning?   In other words, do students walk in the door and instantly catch the bug that you're infected with?  Does your passion for learning motivate the apathy out of kids?  

Here are 6 Symptoms of a Contagious Classroom. 

Intrigues high achievers

Nurtures struggling learners

Fascinates average abilities

Empowers all learners to own the content

Connects learners to one another

Transforms acquisition of information into passion for learning. 

So are your Kids Infected???

If your instruction has these 6 components, chances are that the kids are infected with inspiration. If you have a contagious classroom, apathy is absent. Interest is invigorated, and learning is growing by leaps and bounds.  Finally, are you a contagious teacher?  If so, you don't have a job.  You have an awesome affliction. 

This week, catch the bug and infect your students with it.