Category: Vision (ISSLC 1)

A school administrator is an educational leader who promotes the success of all students by facilitating the development, articulation, implementation, and stewardship of a vision of learning that is shared and supported by the school community.

The Beat and The Flow

Take an intentional breath. Let your shoulders relax. Let your breathing settle into whatever pattern it finds. Let it shift as it will; follow it, don’t force it.

Experience the world with your ears for a moment. Let the sounds around you connect with the sounds inside of you. There is a flow to both. There is a rhythm. There is a pace. There is a beat.

Do you hear the beat? Do you feel the flow?

If not, take another intentional breath, a deep one. Try again. Relax into it. Believe you can.

Imagine that you are on a cosmic beach, watching and listening to waves of energy softy roll or rise and crash. However they come, see them, hear them, and feel them. Don’t seek to shape or influence the waves of energy as they roll or crash, simply seek to understand and appreciate them. Wait for the beat to join the flow. Your influence will come later. Exercise patience. Exercise faith.

If you do hear the beat, and if you do feel the flow, smile. What you do next is entirely up to you.

We have no jurisdiction over many of the forces that impact our lives; at least that’s been my experience over the course of forty-two ostensibly short years.

We do not determine any more than our core, our intentions, and our movements along pathways that twist and turn at the whim of forces outside of our control.

That said, if you listen carefully, with open-minded, openhearted, and genuine intention, I believe you can connect with those forces. I believe you can conjoin the beat of your core with the flow of the world around you. I believe, at the very least, that trying won’t hurt. I have also come to believe that not trying might.

With learning and growth in mind our stumbles through space and time don’t represent setbacks, but rather gifts, each delivering invaluable input into our ever-expanding capacity for connected progress along whatever pathways we tread, and toward whatever benchmarks we aim to reach and surpass.

As educators and parents, the foundation of our internal beat is the children we serve. As community leaders, that foundation extends to all stakeholders impacted by our thoughts, our words, and our actions.

My personal internal beat includes a drive to expand my capacity to live each moment of every day with increased gratitude, passion, curiosity, and humility; in the service of those I devote my energy to, including myself.

I experience moments of confusion and I experience moments of calm.

When I am able to meet and match the flow of the forces around me, amplified or benign, to the beat that defines my core, that capacity grows.

My wife consistently reminds me that most of what we worry about never comes to pass. It’s a mantra handed down by her grandmother. It seems true.

It also seems true that when we allow worry to supplant patience and faith (which is absolutely justifiable in this fast-paced & often frenzied world), we stifle the ongoing development of our individual and collective capacities for genuine learning, compassionate leadership, and positive progress.

So, if you have any sense that there might be value in seeking to join the beat that drives you with the flow that surrounds you, take an intentional breath. Let your shoulders relax. Let your breathing settle into whatever pattern it finds. Let it shift as it will; follow it, don’t force it.

Wait for the beat to join the flow. Exercise patience. Exercise faith.

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thanks.

Do Be Silly. Seriously.

I’m silly. I don’t know why. I’ve gone through phases in which I’ve tried to suppress it, times in my life when I attempted to not be silly. No good. Couldn’t do it. Failed miserable. I’ve had to face it; I’m silly.

My kids are silly too. They’re kids, so it seems more reasonable for them to be silly than it does for me. Most kids are silly. All of them are at least some of the time; all the ones I know anyway.

Occasionally, when my kids are being silly my wife looks at me as if to say, “you did that.” Like they’re silly because I’m silly. Like it’s my fault. When she does I look back at her as if to say, “don’t be silly.” Hypocritical, I know. Especially because I like it when she is (silly).

Truthfully, I believe she likes it too. After all, she did marry and proceeded to have four children with me. To tell a family secret, I was considerably silly even before any of that happened, and she darn well knew it.

I think she appreciates the silliness she’s surrounded herself with. At the very least, she couldn’t be entirely surprised that she’s become the mother of a veritable pack of silly kids. It’s a reality that might have been anticipated with very little thought and almost no effort.

I think she did it with intention. I think there was a moment along the way during which she thought, “this is silly,” followed by, “and I like it.”

I’m not suggesting that there isn’t threshold to reasonable, meaningful, and positively impactful silliness, that we should spend all of our time telling outrageous stories in broken, unidentifiable accents, or dancing around at all hours of the day and night with socks on our ears and stew pots on our heads. I am, however, suggesting that sometimes when we do those and other silly things, it makes us feel good and enhances our lives.

I’m also suggesting that there are degrees of silliness, and that if we take our silliness seriously we can use it for the greater good, ours and that of those we serve.

I’m suggesting that when someone says something truly silly like, “don’t be silly,” that someone is at least slightly misguided, and possibly significantly (misguided).

I say, do be silly. Seriously.

Is it silly to think that anything is possible? I say think it.

Is it silly to consider that being joyful spreads joyfulness? I say consider it.

Is it silly for parents and educators to praise our kids for being hard working and persistent rather than “smart?” I say praise on.

Is it silly to focus more on accumulating courage, creativity, and kindness than money and stuff? I say shift that focus.

Over the course of my forty-two years too many silly things have turned out to be wonderful. Silly has taught me too much. Silly has felt too good. Silly has helped me overcome too consistently. Silly has shown me the way to positive progress and reminded me not to take any of it too seriously. It simply moves too fast, and some of what seems to matter so much, turns out to matters so little (if at all).

At times I’ve confused my own silly with naïve, but it’s not. It’s silly, and it’s ok. In fact, I firmly believe it’s a source of strength. I can be silly and sophisticated at the same time. Frankly, I’d rather be silly than sophisticated. It’s considerably more fun.

If you’re already silly, keep it up. If not, try it out.

Put a toe in, take it slow, and stretch yourself.

If you’re resolutely serious it might feel strange at first, but don’t give up.

At the very least, look extremely closely and consider silly a viable alternative when serious seems like it might actually be silly in disguise. Seriously.

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thanks.

Strong Like Me

strength

I exercise. My doctor told me to. More specifically, he told me to eat less and move more. It’s good advice. So I do.

Anyway, sometimes my kids exercise along with me. In particular, my five-year-old son imitates every move I make during my daily routine. He grabs hold of my resistance band as soon as it leaves my hands, he pumps his arms up and down with a gritty growl and a stiffly crinkled face, almost masking the glowing smile plastered on it (but not quite).

He’s thrilled to do it. He drops down for push-ups and sit-ups. He stretches and runs in place, and he breathes deeply through it all.

Then, he looks up at me with a profound and piercing pride and exclaims, “Look daddy, I’m strong like you!”

Strong like me. Indeed.

The kid will no doubt face his own challenges, and those challenges will test and teach him, however, even with life’s innate guidance along the way, he will continue to look to me as a model of strength (and/or weakness), whether he knows it or not. It’s part of the deal with kids and parents. They observe what we do through critically reflective lenses.

They do the same with all influential adults in their lives. They’ve got eyes on grandparents, teachers, coaches, etc. Therefore, it’s equally important that we relentlessly consider what we do through critically reflective lenses as well.

Strong like me.

He’s built how he’s built. He’ll have the capacity to endure his amount of struggle and tolerate his amount ache, but he’s actively seeking to be strong like me.

An awesome responsibility, and one that gives me pause to think about what kind of strong I am, and what kind of strong I’m capable of being.

Am I strong enough to truly learn from mistakes?

Am I strong enough to check and regulate myself emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually through any and all challenges?

Am I strong enough restore myself to a place of focus and calm when I’m not?

Am I strong enough to hold back from crying when it isn’t really that bad?

Am I strong enough not to when it is?

Am I strong enough to hold on?

Am I strong enough to let go?

Am I strong enough to restrain my strength?

Am I strong enough to unleash it?

Am I strong enough to understand the type of strength I would have my children develop if I could simply will it into them?

Am I strong enough to continuously work toward that understanding with every breath and every step along my journey?

I happen to believe that among the greatest strengths we can possess is the strength to persist.

Linus reminds Charlie brown, “It’s the courage to continue that counts,” not only because of a connection to comedic irony within the context of their Peanuts adventures, but also because there’s some important truth to it. At the very least, it’s worth considering.

Parents, educators, leaders, adults of all sorts, what kind of strong are you? What kind of strength are you modeling for the benifit the children you serve?

When I think of my children becoming strong like me I don’t think of them running long distances or lifting heavy weights.

When I think of a strength legacy I prefer to think that my children, and all of the children I serve, will ever-increasingly have the strength to persists through ever-increasing odds, be they physical, spiritual, intellectual, emotional, or otherwise, and that something I’ve done, or will have done, will meaningfully impact that strength in them, even if only vaguely.

While I relentlessly fear the real and human possibility that I could fail in that mission, the fear is balanced by an equally relentless internal assurance that I will never give up trying not to.

Strong like me.

I’m continuously learning, growing, and hoping to one day understand exactly what that means for the incredible children I serve, and how I can contribute every bit of myself to the effort of making it so.

In the meantime, I’ll just keep on my way with hope, faith, and all the strength I can muster.

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thanks.

Real-Time, Reflective Vignette-ification

stumbling-and-falling

The Foundation. It moves really darn fast. Life, that is. Not just really fast, and not just darn fast, but really darn fast…and that’s fast. As I move along within it, doing my best to love, listen, learn, lead, and share the gratitude I have for each moment, I stumble and fall (a lot).

A growth mindset helps. It helps me realize that the stumbling and falling parts are really good for the learning and leadership parts, even critically essential if you don’t mind a bit of redundancy.

When I stumble I have to stabilize. I have to catch myself, counterbalance whatever set me off, shake off the equilibrium-shock, refocus, refresh, integrated new learning if it stuck, and take a “moving on with enhanced awareness and/or ability” breath (in those moments when catching myself during a stumble perpetuates enhanced awareness and/or ability). If I feel the benefits of such an experience immediately afterward, I might even smile.

When I fall I have to get back up. I have to make it through whatever pain is incurred during the fall, I have to dust myself off, I have to swallow my pride, and I have to keep on keeping on. If it hurt really badly, I have to take some time to heal. If it hurt really darn badly, I have to be alone for a minute (at least).

Either way, the stumbling and the falling feed the learning and the leadership.

The Strategy. Real-Time, reflective vignetteification makes it a bit easier, and arguably even more effective. Nothing in life is entirely easy (at least that’s been my experience), however, everyone knows that a bit easier is enhanced above a bit more difficult. One of the reasons life can be so difficult is that it’s often about interacting with people, and people feel. Learning and leadership are deeply embedded in the interacting with people parts of life.

Real-time, reflective vignette-ification calls for the compartmentalizing of emotions during any given situation that might otherwise be made more difficult or confusing by the same. Emotions, that is.

Here’s how it works: when you’re in a situation that calls for quick and critical thought and/or action in the face of high stakes challenges and/or heightened emotions, you force yourself to think about the situation as something you’re reading in a book. You know, a vignette.

Think of these situations as vignettes and think about how books with these types of vignettes are written. Sections that allow readers to reflect on the vignettes with thoughts and ideas about how they would react, respond, or proceed typically follow the vignettes. Real-time, reflective vignette-ification allows you to answer and act as if you were outside of the situation.

Be careful to stay connected, but do step outside of these situations with an eye on effective learning and leadership rather than emotion. You can return to the emotion later if you’d like. Some people process that way.

Now, it might be that the emotions of the person or people you’re learning and/or leading with are important to process, it often is. In those cases, make sure you don’t overlook those. I’m suggesting the removal of your emotions with real-time, reflective vignette-ification model, the ones that get in the way of your level-headedness.

Digging in a bit. Ever notice that when you reflect on the vignettes in those you books you have really good ideas, that those really good ideas come to you with a high degree of clarity, and that you feel great about the solutions you come up with.

Ever notice that sometimes, after similar real-time situations you think, or even say, “I wish I would have…” or “If I’d have been thinking more clearly I could have…” or even the classic, “hindsight is 20/20?” Real-time, reflective vignette-ification can help you avoid that.

It takes practice, it takes resolve, it takes wherewithal, it takes believing that most things that seem to be about you aren’t, that people are generally well meaning and kind even though we get upset and off balance at times, and that listening is often more meaningful than talking. It takes wanting to feel good, and it takes wanting the same for others.

It takes deep, goal oriented focus and the ability to visualize outcomes. It takes a desire and it takes a commitment. It takes time, it takes grit, and it takes holding back from complaining about the more self-pity-laden faux burdens we so love to complain about.

On the flip side, and to the benefit of all involved, it promotes not wanting to.

If you learn and/or lead, give it some thought, and then give it a shot. You might like it.

Live, love, listen, learn, lead…thanks.

Picking the Positive [a(IQ)]

pick-the-positive

The Foundation. Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about diversity. I’ve been focused on considering ways in which I can effectively practice, model, and teach a healthy appreciation and respect for the diversity that exists in every direction I look around this ever-changing and often-challenging world.

I’ve been wondering about ways in which I can best make and support positive connections with those whose paths I cross or parallel along my journey. I’ve been carefully working to understand how the myriad thoughts, ideas, and perspectives constantly surfacing through my interactions with others play into our individual and collective learning and growth, and how the same enhance our individual and collective lives.

That’s what it’s all about after all, isn’t it? Looking for ways to be happy while simultaneously contributing to the happiness of others? The pursuit of happiness is an unassailable right indelibly connected to the core of who we are. Should it not be woven into the fabric of our quests?

As a husband, a father, and an educator, I feel a strong responsibility to protect that right for myself and for those I serve. Fostering and sustaining positive partnerships that lead to joyful teaching and learning has always been at the core of my learning and leadership vision, the foundation of who I am, and what I seek to do in every moment, with each passing day.

My aim is true. My intentions are pure and concentrated. I continue to look for tools and strategies to aid the unfolding of those intentions. I’ve become a master at forgiving myself missteps along the way in favor growth. Much of my thinking energy has gone into ways I might emphasize the importance and impact of positive partnerships.

Recently, I read an article called, “Unconscious Bias: When Good Intentions Aren’t Enough” by an author named Sarah E. Fiarman. Mrs. Fiarman is an educational consultant and a former public school principal who has written multiple books on learning and leadership. She sub-titled this article, “Deep rooted biases hinder our best intentions. Learn how to recognize and address them.” The article is published in the November 2016 issue of Educational Leadership, entitled “Disrupting Inequity.”

At first blush, when I’m considering equity in schools, I go to race. Then, I tend to move to socio-economics, followed by gender, and so on. Could this be a form of unconscious bias in and of itself?

After leading with some thinking on the impact of bias and the need for increased awareness, Mrs. Fiarman addresses naming it. She points out, “Sometimes we increase awareness by naming bias in others and in ourselves,” and goes on to assert that naming is not always comfortable. It’s not easy to consider your own biases. Especially in light of the fact that in most cases where bias plays a role in decision-making and actions the bias doesn’t fit with intentions or worldview.

Bias is often unconscious, which is why it’s so important to dig into it with an open mind, an open heart, and a clear purpose. My purpose in reflecting with critical intention on this article and digging into the potential of my own unconscious bias is to enhance my learning and leadership practice. I’m looking to do the hard work of figuring out where I could be more attentive to the needs of those I serve. I’m seeking to understand how I can enhance my ability to seek to understand.

After moving through pieces of the puzzle in which Mrs. Fiarman points out how important it is to recognize and appreciate that unconscious bias can negatively impact our behaviors, that designing systems to counteract those impacts is critical, and that positive, trusting, and collaborative relationships have the power to provide some essential unconscious bias understanding through shared analysis and genuine, caring checks and balances regarding decision making, I came to the part where she wrote about empathy.

She began with, “Another proven way to counteract the power of unconscious bias is to replace negative associations with positive ones.” This drove straight into the heart of what I’d been thinking about. It caused me to lift my eyes from the page and process. It’s what I would like to be best at. With Dweck’s growth mindset as a foundation, maybe it can be.

If you believe that everything happens for a reason, and at just the right time for that reason to be most striking, than it’s worth noting that this article came to me at just the right time. If you don’t, it might be worth noting anyway. Either way, I dig it.

Mrs. Fiarman says, “Biases are built by repeated exposure to a particular message,” and that, “Deliberately consuming counter narratives can help break down that automatic reflex.” I dig it, indeed.

So, what if our biases extend to the negative itself. What if we are bent to leaning toward the negative in any, and even more troubling, every situation?

The world moves fast ad it’s riddled with challenges. Lest we forget that every challenge is also a chance we could likely become wrapped up in the ongoing tumble of dirty laundry that seems to surround us.

The Story. Yesterday my five-year-old punted a beanbag in the middle of the living room at his Nan and Pop’s house. Let me clarify that Nan and Pop’s living room is not an ideal place for punting anything. Whatever grace prevented that punt from resulting in something being knocked over, smashed, or otherwise destroyed is undoubtedly real and indisputably powerful.

After several seconds that seemed to go by in slow motion, and upon a safe landing for the would-be-destructor of a bean bag, my son and I looked at one another wide-eyed and filled with relief in the knowledge that neither of us was about to be in big trouble.

I spoke first, “That was a really bad idea.”

Then he spoke, “A really bad idea but a really good punt.”

We both laughed.

The Reflection. What if that’s the way?

What if my astute five-year-old was the teacher and I was the student?

What if I found a new mentor?

What if, no matter the situation, picking out the positive is where the treasure can be found?

Sure, there are several, easily conceivable worse scenarios than the potential for a broken vase at Nan and Pop’s house, but in that moment, we were both slightly (if not considerably) terrified. Still, this kid picked the positive. My mentor modeled what might be the way.

My hope is that he understood the theoretically flawed decision-making and the potential for disaster. I try to impart learning around every turn. I also understand that learning comes at its own pace and in its own time.

What if the real learning here is that life is better when we look on the bright side?

What if the nugget of truth in this situation is about a holistic look at our moments with an eye on what went well?

Should I be considering the living room beanbag-punt experiment as a viable lesson in positive responsiveness?

What do we do when questionable decision-making goes right? Should we be focused on the decision making in a vacuum, or should we be focused on the “right?’

What if we set our individual and collective paths on picking the positive?

Is it possible that picking the positive could lead to a paradigm of progress and self-celebration? Might that be good for all involved? Could picking the positive help to foster cultures of teamwork, trust, and growth is school communities? Families? Within ourselves?

Could picking the positive shift our thinking in right directions by repeatedly exposing us to hopeful and optimistic messaging?

I suppose anything is possible, isn’t it?

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thanks.

 

Frustrated Tomorrow

frustrated-tomorrow

Frustration can be depleting.  It can be distracting. It can catalyze an energy shift from joyful to uneasy in the blink of an eye.

Running into frustration can zap you.  It can take you off guard and it can inundate potentially peaceful moments of your one, relatively short life with tension.  It can take you by surprise and spin you around.

Also, frustration can be extremely easy to come by in the busy, fast-paced world in which we live.

I understand that we are each unique. However, I would venture a guess that everyone experiences some frustration in one form or another.

I would further speculate that most of us experience at least a bit of that frustration over situations that, if scrutinized for balanced responses and significance, wouldn’t actually call for it (the frustration, that is).

Finally, while I suppose there is an argument to be made for frustration as a motivator, I would suggest that any number of alternate, upbeat, and progressive routes might be increasingly positive & holistically more productive than the frustrated one.

In that I don’t prefer the troublesome nature of frustration to joyful calm I’ve focused some relatively significant reflective energy on seeking one of those alternate routes for moments where frustration presents as a viable mindset.

After only forty-two short years of soul searching I think I may have found a decent strategy for energy shifting, reframing, and regulation toward the calm focus of which I speak when those moments arise.

I’m calling it, “Frustrated Tomorrow.”

Turns out, it’s not new and it’s not rocket science.  Not nearly.

It’s simply about having and exercising the desire, the will, and the connected commitment to joyful, present, and thoughtful living to counter-infect your mind with contented serenity as an antidote to any frustration that would seek to strip from you the same.

It seems to work too.  At least for me.  And at least so far.

I’ve only been doing it for a couple of weeks and the impact is already visible.

For example, I realized not too long ago that I had recently lost the will to engaged in car karaoke. A practice I’ve been enjoying for decades.

After enlisting the support of “Frustrated Tomorrow” I’ve found myself once again singing along with my favorite eighties superstars at the top of my lungs; Journey, Aerosmith, and even Bette Midler in a moment of pure abandonment (“The Rose” – I couldn’t help it).

Freed from the minutia of unfettered frustration by way of “Frustrated Tomorrow” I’m finding myself more frequently accessing the reflective, creative, and jubilant parts of what makes life fun for me.

I’m more available to my family. Ironically, one of the frustrations that at times has kept me drained and somewhat distant, even when I was physically present, was the fact that I don’t have nearly as much physically present time as I’d like.  Aside from thick with irony, that’s just goofy.

“Frustrated Tomorrow” helped me walk that back and remember what a blessing each moment truly is.

Under the “Frustrated Tomorrow” paradigm I’m more fun, I’m more thoughtful, I’m more introspective, and I’m simply more me.

If you ever feel frustration and question it as potentially unnecessary, and if you’re interested in exploring another pathway to peacefulness, you might consider the procedure below in exploring that “Frustrated Tomorrow” could work for you.

Step 1: When you feel frustration knocking decide to reserve it for tomorrow by saying, “I’ll be frustrated about that tomorrow.”  Out loud is good.  In your mind will do.

Step 2: Actually, there is no “Step 2.” Step 1 should do the trick if you trust yourself, and if you’re able to take your own advise. If it doesn’t work, you’ll simply get and possibly remain frustrated. No harm, no foul.

Good news though, you can keep trying as often as you’d like, even and especially if you fail at first.  After all, failure is a magnificent pathway to learning and growth.  The most magnificent some might say.

In fact, “Frustrated Tomorrow” might not work for you until you work on it.

It’s possible that you might have to see the benefits before it sinks in.

It’s possible that you might have to be cool with delaying the gratification of frustration before your able to give it up (if indeed frustration itself turns out to be your desired end game).

If you enlist the courage to continue through failure you might find that in some, if not most cases, you’ll end up not needing frustration once tomorrow comes.

If you dig in even when facing seemingly imminent defeat, you might experience that in some, if not most cases you’ll forget why you were considering frustration in the first place.

Who knows? Not me. Just a thought.

If you need it, and you want it, and you try it, and it works…well done (and happy joyful calm).

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Laugh. Lead.

And I Quote: Immediate Written Reflection Might Make Even The Best Teachers Even Better

Immediate Puddles

Teachers have loads of pencils, shelves overflowing with books, buckets of paper clips and pushpins, and they have drawers that are jam-packed with construction paper. They have magic markers and they have paintbrushes to match their plethora of vibrant, plastic, circle-basin watercolor trays. They have computers, they have printers, and they have copy machines. They have chairs and they have tables. They have colorful carpets and they have decorative wall art. They have expertise and they have one another for collaboration when additional expertise is required. Teachers have many of the things they need to create comfortable, safe, and engaging learning environments for the students they serve.

What’s the one thing that teachers might highlight as something they don’t have? Enough time. The business of education is multifaceted, enormously demanding, and fast-paced. It often seems that there isn’t enough time in a school day to include intentional reflection along with the many other things teachers have to do, most of which present as urgent and important, while reflection might not, even for those who value it as important to their learning and growth.

David Purcell wrote about his exploration of “post class reflective notes” (p. 5) in a way that suggests consideration of time management with regard to ongoing and intentional reflective practice for connected, real-time learning and growth for teachers. Engaging in the practice took time, however, Purcell found the return on that time investment pointedly beneficial for him, and moreover, for his students.

Purcell suggested, “The cumulative effect over time of incorporating reflective practice is that I have increased my sense of mastery as a teacher (p. 14).” Again, time is critical in this equation. We don’t see the impact of reflective practice immediately, but rather “over time.” Ironically, for that impact to be maximized, Purcell suggests we engage in the reflective practice immediately.

While the challenges and triumphs of a class session or a school day are fresh in mind, a teacher’s immediate reflective notes can be invaluable to future learning and ongoing reflective growth. Keeping a daily reflective journal, even if only jotting down a few sentences or bullet points for further consideration, can be powerful in insuring a connectedness between professional learning and professional practice.

Whether as a foundation for any of Camburn’s three phases of reflective collaboration, as a tool for reference within a professional dyad as outlined by Gladwell and Dicamillo, or in connection with other intentional reflective systems or structures, immediate “post class reflective notes” are likely to serve as reminders of potential, and genuine areas of focus for driving progress in best practices instruction.

Regarding his use of regular and immediate written reflection Purcell further submits, it “has likely had a positive effect on student learning through (his) improved effectiveness as a teacher” (p. 14). He equates an “increased sense of mastery” with “improved effectiveness as a teacher,” as well he should. We know that one’s self image is a influential force in one’s progress. When teachers regularly remind themselves of their own challenge areas and growth patterns they energize themselves with the consistent cue that improvement is indelibly connected to critical and targeted processing.

Immediate written reflection is a professional learning practice that has the capacity to shift a traditional (and valid) time-deficient paradigm into one where connected perceptions of importance are capable of overriding those of urgency, even and especially in the busy day to day of teaching and learning.

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thanks.

 

*The foundation of this “And I Quote” post is an article called, “Sociology, Teaching, and Reflective Practice: Using Writing to Improve” by David Purcell.

And I Quote: Professional Learning As Guided By Professional Learners

Learner Guided Learning

One viable approach for school administrators seeking to support the fitness of a collaborative professional learning culture with reflection as a foundation is through a structure described by Gladwell and DiCamillo as “professional dyads,” in which teachers organically find their way to one another as partners in progress. Regardless of reflective phase or content, Gladwell and DiCamillo suggest that teachers, students, and school communities are well served when administrators are supportive of teachers as the primary determiners of their own developmental pathways, and more specifically, as functionally best-suited to decide with whom they will move along those pathways.

Gladwell and DiCamillo outline professional dyads as partnerships formed over time, born out of genuine interest that leads to the formation of trusting relationships between sets of teachers who support one another in self-selected learning because they’re excited about it, because they each connect to it, and because they’re genuinely seeking to support, celebrate, and learn from one another. It’s a structure that might seem removed from the collective learning paradigm of a school, but for the passion of teachers with an all-inclusive view of school culture and the support of administrators who recognize the value of, and stand committed to a shared instructional leadership standard.

Professional dyads work “because each teacher possesses unique strengths,” and because teachers drawn to this type of partnership are likely to “encourage each other to pursue their unique interests in and outside of the classroom (p.7).” While remaining steadfastly aware and attentive school administrates can take a relatively hands-off approach to encouraging this structure by noticing as various partnerships are forming, encouraging those partnerships to mature and thrive, supporting those partnerships by listening and seeking guidance from teachers as they define progress on their terms, and celebrating outcomes with genuine enthusiasm.

Administrators can value the critically important voice of the teachers they serve by maintaining that teachers are well suited to guide progress in school communities. They can scaffold the reflective learning process by entrusting teachers as learners to follow dedicated, if adaptive routes to shared outcomes of their own volition, and empower them to lead the way for others. Even as Camburn’s three phases of reflective learning unfold in whatever order and over any number of potential schematic possibilities, professional dyads give teachers command of their learning in a way that promotes individual and collective progress with sensitivity.

As we anticipate another great school year, consider ways in which you might support the teachers you serve in designing their own learning pathways, and then get excited about the impact that might have on student well being and achievement.

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thanks.

And I Quote: A 3-Part Structure For Reflective Professional Learning

Learning, Growtth, & Reflection

Teachers and administrators are constantly searching for the best ways to design, promote, and maintain school cultures in which meaningful, connected, and operational professional learning is supported, nurtured, and celebrated as the norm. Collaboration is coveted as among the most important components of such learning. Autonomy and choice are also revered among adult learners in school communities. Teachers want to have a voice in deciding what makes sense as a pathway to progress in their classrooms and schools, they want to be a part of forward thinking and cooperative teams, and they want to be recognized and trusted as experts when it comes to the wellbeing and achievement of the students they serve; and rightfully so, because after all, they are.

It is widely recognized that school communities are fast-paced places, regularly inundated with demands that would seek to subvert otherwise-established priority preferences and cause time itself to appear the enemy of progress. Camburn suggests that being able to “try out, mull over, and critically evaluate new practices” affords adult learners opportunities to, “make them their own (p. 463).” How can we arrange for time to try out, mull over, and critically evaluate anything when there’s so much coming at us at such a frenetic pace?

Integrated reflective systems and strategies have the power to offer structure and consistency to professional learning models focused on the real-time, collaborative, learner-centric, growth and enrichment regarding best practices in instruction, social-emotional development, an partnership-driven communication between stakeholders in school communities. In separating the three components of Camburn’s suggestion we can define reflective learning practice in a concise way, thereby creating scaffolding for professional learning on the range of topics that will no doubt surface during the course of a school year.

Regardless of subject matter or theme, a “trying out” opportunity can be provided in connection to learning at each turn. Those facilitating professional learning in schools can make clear that learners will have a chance to put their connected thoughts and ideas into action, and that the chance to do so should be understood as an overt aspect of the learning process. While potentially contrived, role-play provides an immediate opportunity for trying things out, whereas a mandate to pilot and/or explore learned content bridges a long term, episodic learning structure. Either have their benefit to reflective practice, and both have potential pitfalls.

“Mulling over” can be done across a wide range of approaches. This phase is arguably enhanced by some degree of independence, as learners tend to need space to process new concepts, ideas, and practices internally before being able to effectively communicate about them with others. The key is recognizing each of the three components of Camburn’s suggestions an explicit piece of reflective learning, and to clearly emphasize reflection is the foundation of authentic processing.

An emphasis on each component and on reflection itself communicates to learners that each is important, and it gives them permission to exercise patience throughout the learning process. When facilitators of professional learning highlight reflection and its parts as a priority they expressly suggest a value for long-term, sustainable practices to.

“Critical evaluation” as a third point in the learning process is also the most collaborative. Moving through “trying out” new practices as connected to new learning and “mulling over” the experience leads naturally to a “critical evaluation” of next steps. Doing so in collaboration with colleagues initiates ongoing partnerships, feeds a culture of connectedness, and drives further learning between professional peers and teams of teachers.

What from the learning can be incorporated into ongoing practice and how will consequent augmented practice impact student learning? What data will be collected to consistently evaluate the connected instruction and in what time frame will it again be considered for the possibility of further augmentation? How can the new learning enhance best practices instruction for groups of students? How can it do the same for individuals? In what ways will these shifts in practice be communicated with parents? In what ways will they be communicated with students?

In his three-part suggestion Camburn doesn’t prescribe specific methodology for reflective practice in professional learning. He simply outlines a foundation that speaks to the need for effective cultures of collaboration in which teachers are valued as experts, partners, and leaders, and one that identifies reflection as a potential pathway to slowing down and isolating a process that we know is enhanced by attention to detail and patient consideration. Facilitators of professional learning in school communities can utilize Camburn’s three-part suggestion to simplify and clarify the process for the learners they serve, and to give unambiguous permission to adult learners to manage their time in ways that genuine learning, growth, and progress demand.

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thanks.

 

*The foundation of this “And I Quote” post is an article by Eric M. Camburn of the University of Wisconsin-Madison entitled “Embedded Teacher Learning Opportunities as a Site for Reflective Practice: An Exploratory Study,” published in 2010 in the American Journal of Education.

Thankful Thursday: Unexpected Marvelous Surprises (ums)

Ums

Relatively recently I was the benefactor of an unexpected marvelous surprise. It was wonderful (in addition to being marvelous…as marvelous things often are).

Here’s how unexpected marvelous surprises (ums) work:

  1. You’re walking along, living your life in the way(s) you expected to be.
  2. Someone approaches you with an unexpected marvelous surprise (or one surfaces is some other form or fashion).
  3. It’s wonderful.

Ums are actually quite basic and they occur more frequently than some of us give them credit for. Also, when we recognize and appreciated them they have the capacity to be outstanding tools for developing relationships and fostering cultures of optimistic enthusiasm and positive progress in school communities and at home.

Ums have the power to support leaders and learners in framing the world as a surprisingly marvelous place, even and especially when they least expect it. Just one *um can fill a heart with joy and a soul with sustainable hope.

A viable school, classroom, and/or home practice to consider might be intentionally issuing 2-3 ums to people you serve on a daily basis. A nice note to your spouse, a new book from the library for your child, a “thank you” card for a teacher with some positive feedback on the wonderful impact he or she makes, or even the gift of a “magic” crayon to a kindergarten with the connected request for a “magic” drawing to be generated and hung on your wall.

Even the most simple, positive contact or communication can be an um in this busy world. Ums support cultures of caring and positive partnerships. Ums remind people that good is all around and that we are in this together!

The relatively recent um I’m writing about now began with an invitation to guest host a popular Twitter chat. My friend and colleague Dr. Mary Howard (@DrMaryHoward) contacted me and four other administrators from around the country. She asked each of us to guest host one in a series of five sessions that would combine to spotlight school leadership and collectively envision the incredible potential of forward thinking school communities (like the ones in which we’re each fortunate enough to serve).

Mary is the author of “Good to Great Teaching: Focusing on the Literacy Work that Matters” from Heinemann. She’s also the co-moderator of this enormously meaningful and collaborative weekly twitter chat under the hash tag #G2Great. The chat is co-moderated by the amazing Amy Brennan (@brennanamy) and the remarkable Jenn Hayhurst (@hayhusrt3) and it takes place on Thursday evenings from 8:30 – 9:30 pm. Join tonight with guest host Matt Renwick (@ReadByExample) if you can!

The invite was a real um for me, and it turned into multiple subsequent ums as well! It was my first time guest hosting a chat. The learning happened on multiple fronts.

First, I was blown away by the input from and digital dialogue of the #G3Great PLN (Professional Learning Network, if you didn’t know…and even if you did), and second, I was officially introduced to “tweetdeck” and thereby exposed to a whole new world of possibilities with regard to shared digital learning. Frankly…it’s awesome, not to mention very user-friendly. Check it out. And here’s the Storify link to our chat session if you’re interested: #G2Great 8/4/16.

As if that wouldn’t have been plenty of connected ums to fill me up for some time, Mary wrote a way-to-kind, accompanying post on the wonderful “Literacy Lenses” blog (linked to text).   The post warmed my heart, humbled and flattered the heck out of me, and it also fill me with inspiration and the ever-important reminder that the most effective and meaningful leadership is shared!

I’m so fortunate to have such amazing partners, from the students, teachers, and parents I serve, to my building and central office administrative partners, to the remarkable educational and organizational leaders I’m so proud to be intertwined with as a global PLN on this leadership and learning journey. I learn and grow the best and in the most meaningful ways when I do it together with others.

So, look out for incoming ums along with opportunities to provide outgoing ums as you prepare for the start of another great school year. Inspire those you serve with continued demonstrations of your commitment to shared learning and leadership, and allow yourself to be lifted up and inspired by even the most fundamental ums that come your way, if for no other reasons then…um…you’re worth it!

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thank you.

 

* In this context the term “um” represents a single unexpected marvelous surprise given the coinciding facts that, 1. The words “unexpected” and “surprise” are synonymous, making it unnecessary to include both unless speaking or writing in multiplicity (with the “s” indicating multiple “ums” as it does with regard nous in general), and 2. You shouldn’t say or write the phrase “an ums” because it simply doesn’t sound or read correct (and arguably, neither does this explanation, but whatever…you get it).