Saturday, October 6, 2018

A Culture Built With Synergy

I was reflecting this weekend and had to blog about two powerful statements that really resonated with me this week.

David Guerin (@DavidGeurin) tweeted this statement:


D. Guerin Tweet


I have had the privilege of working in one of the very best districts in New Jersey.  It is no accident that I am such a strong leader because of the many leaders (admin. and other teacher leaders alike) who paved the way for me, guided me, and supported me.  For that, I am eternally grateful.

To delve deeper, what I think so many (people) miss is that they don't need an official invitation to lead.  There is so much work to be done.  Taking initiative, being willing plus having the outlet to enact change is what proves to be the main ingredients to build a capacity of leaders.

This statement also reminds me of the many posts that Jimmy Casas (@casas_jimmy) tweets about Teacher Leadership and "carrying the banner."  To me, his statements ring true that all teachers are capable of make a change and thus, everyone should be leading.

This profession is a give and take.  A relationship is built, strengthened, and sustained because of how much each party gives and how little they take for granted.

The other tweet that resonated with me, I credit to my Instructional Supervisor, Greg Jablonski (@gjablonski24 ) who wrote:

G. Jablonski Tweet

I found this quiet powerful because everyone who contributes, small or big, allows the entire team to move forward.  What energizes me is the thought of collaborating to benefit the students, whom we are ultimately here to serve.

Through my reflections this weekend, one word that jumps out at me is synergy.   Synergy is defined as "the interaction of two or more agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate parts."  What a wonderful word to have in any school culture. 

Thank you, David, Jimmy, and Greg for all your insights. 










Thursday, September 27, 2018

Leaders are Readers



My PLN friend David Guerin (@davidguerin) once tweeted to me that "Leaders are Readers."  The phrase has stuck with me ever since.  Just this past summer, I set a goal for myself to read 5,500 pages because, after years of being sidetracked having children and life in general, I desperately needed to get back into the groove of becoming an avid reader once again.

As I read book after book, I found myself learning more about myself.  Some of the many important "stakes in the ground" are these:

1.  Reading strengthens you as a professional.  It is undeniable that many of us get stuck in the day-to-day managerial tasks that push us away from reading.  It is, however, our moral imperative to read as much as possible and to be constant learners.  Our children deserve this.

2.  Reading exponentially increases your empathy.  I read countless numbers of fiction among the stack of PD books to mix it up.  I found strength in strong characters that morally stood up against evil but on another hand found myself angry at how often atrocities repeat itself throughout history.

This empathy made me approach people and situations with softer mannerisms.  Reading taught me kindness and to first seek to understand people without judging them.  Everyone is carrying a weight on their own shoulder.

3. Reading gave me many hidden lessons in leadership.  After reading so many books, I found that what I might find to be trivial, could mean the whole world to someone else.  As a leader, it is important to validate every person's concern.  What to you might seem like a small problem, could mean a bigger issue for someone else.

4. Reading made me appreciate what I have. Many protagonists in novels that I read dealt with so much trauma, had so little and dealt with it all with grace.  This made me reflect on the importance of striking a balance in all aspects of my life and made me be more grateful for every opportunity offered to me. 

5. Reading grows your creativity as a problem-solver.  I take comfort in reading and consider it as my superpower.  Every book I read was a gem that helped shape my way of thinking and has helped me developed and grow my creativity.  I am hoping to instill this in my students.  This year, I am including books to have them read for pleasure and am having them blog as a reflective tool.  It is my sincere wish that they too secretly find the world of reading to be immensely fulfilling.

To end this post, I am continuing the challenge to myself to read more and grow as a leader.  The two books that I want to read is Rethinking Homework (2nd Ed.) by Cathy Vatterott.  I find the debate about homework fascinating and hope to learn more about it.  Many stressors arise from homework and I feel it necessary to learn more about the issue as an entry point to examining the bigger picture of assessment and curriculum.



Second is a bit of a heavier "textbook" read, called The Principal's Guide to Special Education (3rd Ed) by Bateman.  This book I chose in particular after I attended a conference where students spoke openly about how frustrated they were in not being able to understand their accommodations.  To me, we have to do better.


In conclusion, please tweet me book suggestions to add to my ever growing lists of books to read.  I absolutely love recommendations.  Below are a few books that I have ordered and hope to dive into in the near future.  Happy Reading!









Monday, August 6, 2018

Commitment in this Netflix Generation

My mother who recently discovered Facebook has been sending me quite a steady stream of videos.  Videos related to cooking but mainly videos of graduation speeches.   It's no surprise that this past June, I found my inbox with an abundance of the inspiring speeches.  I still find myself catching up on watching them.

One commencement video that stood out to me was about a man who addressed a group of soon to be college graduates and spoke to the importance of "being doers" in a society that will overfill their cup with options.   He continued to use the analogy of the "Netflix Generation."

This generation he remarked is constantly bombarded with so many options in front of them, that scrolling through them, it renders them incapable of selecting a movie after having spent thirty or more unfulfilled minutes surveying their options.  "Might as well go to bed," was the bold statement he made.   

Image from: https://bit.ly/2MnAiCE 

His message is clear.  What his hope for this generation is that "we" (collectively) do not fear to make a commitment.  Not only to commit to our family, relatives or spouses but to each other (as humans, as colleagues, as friends).

Somehow, this generation unintentionally limited itself by having too much in front of them.  The danger of this lies in finding ourselves more disengaged and numb to seeking out unforgettable experiences.  Scroll, scroll and scroll some more.

The remedy he proposed was simple:  Make a commitment, invest time and energy in where you find  passion, and don't be afraid to "push the button."  Learn by doing.  The world offers an abundance of opportunities.  Experiences, however, are rewarded only to those who are willing to take that leap.

My motto for this school year will follow his lead.  I will "learn by doing" and take the leap to experience new opportunities, even if it makes me uncomfortable; Actually, especially if it makes me uncomfortable. 

As for my goals this year, I resolve to stop doing for others what they can do for themselves.    This year, I hope to gain more valuable experiences in the company of others who are not afraid to commit.  I hope that in developing into a stronger Teacher Leader, that I gain more relationships and find a tribe of people equally committed to helping me grow.  

So, thanks, Mom! That video was great.






Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Building Capacity of Teacher Leaders



The definition of Teacher Leadership is multifaceted.  The point of this blog is to encourage fellow educators to continue their work in extending themselves to be leaders inside and outside of their classroom.

Teacher Leaders have an influence on students, other teacher leaders, and administrators.  Work must be done to develop and sustain them.

 There is no answer to build capacity that is wholesale.  You must be patient in your work to understand that persistence will get you to where you want to be; consistency will allow you to sustain the work or mindset that you hope to impart.

The approach that I have learned to build a capacity of Teacher Leaders is one teacher at a time.

I think a lot about this, especially when I see how easy it is to take shortcuts.  If you truly want to sustain the mindset overtime and exponentially build capacity, expecting everyone to "immediately subscribe" to your vision is not a goal to have in mind.

Instead, look to grow the tree and not focus on how many leaves are on your limbs.  Yes, growing a tree takes time.  Often, many give up or lose focus because of the lack of instantaneous acceptance of the mission.

Success, failure, and relationships are often words that are most readily used in Educational Leadership.  But I argue, that patience, consistency, and discipline are often key components that will allow you to build a strong foundation to build a capacity of Teacher Leaders. 

From The Man Who Planted Trees 
From Brainy Quotes












Friday, April 27, 2018

What have we accomplished this year that helped others grow?


This month, the #CompelledTribe theme is about ways to renew, recharge, or rejuvenate relationships with students and/or staff during the last quarter of the school year. 

This theme took me a long time to think through because it made me reflect on my own professional growth this year and it made me sad to think that the scholastic year is coming to a close.   It's bittersweet to think that in just two months I am going to have to take a break.  

Yes, breaks are great.  Summer is awesome.  However, in my thirteenth year of teaching, I know that having an "amazing year" does not come too often.  

This year is one that I pushed myself to grow professionally and personally.  I credit my accomplishments to having joined Twitter and made connections with amazing groups of leaders, educators, and authors who fueled my passion for reading and learning.  

I understand that the year-end does not necessarily mean I have to stop learning and growing but I am going to frame it as a time to allow me to reflect and celebrate my accomplishments and gear up for the work that needs to be done for next year. 

I do acknowledge that maybe not everyone is having a great year and there are people who are looking forward to summer break as a way to disconnect and recharge.  That's ok.  There is nothing wrong with wanting that at the end of the year.  

What I do hope that happens, however, is that we deliberately ask ourselves-- What have we accomplished this year that allowed others around us to grow?  What has brought us joy this year and what have we done that can be celebrated?  




Even those students and teachers who struggle academically, personally, and professionally would benefit from thinking introspectively about their own growth.  

In "Start. Right. Now" a book by Whitaker, Casas, and Zoul, they write about the influence you have to make those around you feel inspired.  In addition to thinking about your own growth, I challenge you to think about how you contributed to the growth of others by the attitude you chose to have.  Everyone has the capacity to lead and I hope that as a result of your reflection, you push yourself to make more positive and deliberate changes to the people and environment around you. 

The act of celebrating is something that should be done to put a closure to the end of the year.  I look forward to having conversations with students and colleagues to celebrate their positive accomplishments, large or small.  Although I am not looking to end the year yet, I have to say that this year goes down in my book as one of my favorites.  I hope that it is the same for you as well.  Keep being great and have a wonderful end of the year. 






Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Learning How to Rest and Not to Quit

I'm writing this post to think through a hardship I encountered leading a PLC.

Many books on Instructional and Educational Leadership that I have read give really great advice on how to be a great leader, but very few actually give you guidance on when to stop a project because you feel like it's causing more harm than good.

I am by no means a quitter.  I absolutely understand that grit and resilience are factors that allow a group of people to make a change.  Especially in the hardest of times when you feel like it's going nowhere. 

But thinking this through, where do you draw the line between grit and just plain too stubborn to stop?

It's no secret every leader has faced self-doubt.  I wonder though, is self-doubt your subconscious telling you that you are headed in the wrong direction? I don't have the answer to that.

I guess it is normal to feel the urge to quit.  Leading has always been messy.  Hopefully, clarity will present itself after a break away from it.  Disconnecting might just be the answer that I need.

The quote below does resonate with me... although I have to admit I don't think my leadership capabilities are there yet.




Saturday, March 24, 2018

Teacher Leadership: What We Give, Is What We Get

Return On Investment (ROI)


"Everyone is a Leader.  So Then Why Doesn't Everyone Lead?" was a blog post by Jimmy Casas (@casas_jimmy) on March 11, 2018.

First, I echo Mr. Casas' sentiments completely.  I firmly and strongly believe in the concept of Teacher Leadership and their ability to influence Administrators, their colleagues, and other respective Teacher Leaders (in addition to their students).

No doubt about it, Teacher Leaders are the linchpins that influence culture and contribute to the health and well-being of any school.   "So why then doesn't everyone lead?"

What I have come to conclude is that it has everything to do with the relationship and investment the district is willing to put into training their teachers for this role.

The concept of a "return on investment" hit home for me when I realized just what the role of a Teacher Leader potentially 'returns.'

Teacher Leadership: It's a commitment.  A mindset.  An Art of Teaching, Coaching, and Leading.  A dedication not only to Instructional Leadership but to Servant Leadership as well.  The list goes on.

The above that I mention are just some of the "returns on the investment"  a district would benefit, or gain by investing in its teachers.

If sustaining Teacher Leadership is indeed a mutual "invest and return" principle that I just mentioned, what is the district or school leader willing to invest in their teachers to become leaders?

What resources and time are they willing to commit to foster this relationship?  What promotions are they willing to give their Teacher Leaders?  How do they, collectively, foster them so this mindset generates a staying power to create more Teacher Leaders?

Yes, all teachers are leaders.  Yes, everybody should be leading.  However, the relationship and investment that I mentioned previously have to be there on both sides.

It's a marriage.  Plain and simple.  Both parties cannot commit 50/50.  Instead, both need to invest in each other 100%.  That's how a healthy relationship can persevere and sustain a strength-based approach to leading and learning that is symbiotic.

The commitment to be a leader is demanding.  This role leaves any teacher open to criticism as doers and overachievers by their peers because they have no official administrative title.

Below is a quote that answers how to promote Teacher Leadership in any school.



If you are interested in reading further about Teacher Leadership:  Is Your District Striving or Sustaining, read my previous post here.







A Culture Built With Synergy