The Podcast is Back!

Many leaders in my PLN are writing outstanding blog posts for  #LeadershipDay14. I love this topic each year that it comes around, however, I’m feeling too busy to write a quality, reflective post in response to it (especially when incredible leaders like Curt Rees overachieve and create awesomeness like THIS!)

PrincipalPLNInstead, I’m just going to use this opportunity to say that my fellow podcasters, Dr. Spike CookTheresa Stager, and myself are excited to start another year of podcasting for principals.  We are rebranding ourselves this year as the PrincipalPLN, which I think fits #LeadershipDay14 well as we strive to have our podcast be a resource for school leaders.

Please check out episode 1 HERE.

 

Digital Student Portfolios

Over the years I have come to know Matt Renwick, fellow WI Principal known as @ReadbyExample on Twitter, as a wise literacy leader and tech guru that I love to learn from.  As our school continued to add technology and then implemented our 1:1 iPad program this year, he was a colleague that often shared resources with me; resources that he had created to help his teachers learn how to use their iPads for both teacher and student use.  So, when I heard that he was writing a book about their (school) experience of using Digital Portfolios I was ecstatic for him and eager to read the book to learn even more from him!

Digital Student Portfolios

I’m humbled to have been one of his first readers and even more so to have had the opportunity to co-write the forward to his book along with Curt Rees.  We both agreed that this book is a fantastic resource for teachers to utilize the power of the technology at hand to focus on documenting student learning in digital format as they focus on individual student progress and respond to their students’ needs.  In this book, Matt shares real examples of great learning among his teaching staff, along with steps they took that didn’t work, but they learned from them and moved forward.  What’s even better is there are several links to video clips throughout the book so you can learn from screencasts or see examples of digital/audio content of their students.  You can find some of these digital resources from his book HERE on his blog.

Where can you find Matt’s book? Go HERE to order his book.  Happy Reading!

 

 

 

 

Principal 2.0 Resources for #IPANewAdmin14

I’m excited to join forces again with Amber Teamann on July 25 as we spend a day with the new administrators in Illinois for #IPANewAdmin14.  Amber and I will be presenting:

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Within this full day workshop we will share the power of social media for school communication, social media for personal learning and web 2.0 tools to keep up with all the work!

You can find our slides HERE and all of other links of resources HERE.

And please help us welcome these administrators to the Twitter PLN as we get them connected while we use the #IPANewAdmin14 hashtag!

The Miracle Morning

As I’ve previously written, the principal job can be a tough one.  I used to think that each year gets easier with additional experience, but I haven’t found that to be true.  This past year was my 6th year with some exciting things, like embarking on a 1:1 iPad journey and being recognized as the 2014 WI Elementary Principal of the Year.  Despite these celebrations (among others) it was still a challenging year that left me completely exhausted and nearly burned out by the end.  As I reflected at the start of this summer as to why I felt this way, I realized that I neglected my mental/physical health all year and even, at times, my family.  While I still work during the summer, the schedule is more laid back, so I made a commitment to making some changes that will hopefully become new healthy habits before the hectic schedule starts again come late August.

TMMI mistakingly came across The Miracle Morning, a self-help book by Hal Elrod while listening to The 5 AM Miracle Podcast.   I immediately downloaded the book and devoured it within 2 days, making changes to my morning routine.  I have always been a morning person, yet that typically meant getting up early (usually 5 AM) to get to school before anyone else entered the building so I could get as much work done as possible.  That’s great, but I still stayed until 5 everyday, then went home exhausted and cranky nearly everyday.  I rarely had the energy to exercise or take care of me.

As I listed to The Morning Miracle, one of the most powerful quotes from Hal in the book (I believe he was quoting someone else) that made an impact on me was:

“Your level of success rarely exceeds your level of personal development, because success is something you attract by the person you become.”

I have always worked on improving my professional self, but I often neglect personal self development.  Since listening to The Miracle Morning, I have been waking up each day with new purpose, going through each of the morning self-development components which Hal named the SAVERS:

S-Silence (or meditation, contemplation)

A-Affirmations

V-Visualization

E-Exercise

R-Reading

S-Scribing (writing/journaling)

I have been going to bed earlier (a typical night used to be 11:30 for me) and getting up earlier so I can spend time on the SAVERS before anyone else in the house is up.  Since implementing my miracle morning, I’m amazed by how much I’ve accomplished and how it has spilled over into everything else in the rest of each my days…my productivity, my time with my family, healthy eating, etc. My new morning routine sets my mindset and context for the rest of my day.

I immediately shared this with my PrincipalCast co-hosts, Spike Cook and Theresa Stager, because we’ve had previous conversations on the podcast about what our mornings are like.  They also jumped on board with The Miracle Morning, shared it with others and we now have a voxer accountability chat group for a morning check-in.  We are so excited about the impact of The Miracle Morning that we have invited Hal Elrod to join us on a future podcast…cross your fingers!

Want to learn more?  Find it here:

The Miracle Morning website

Hal’s podcast: Achieve Your Goals Podcast (not just about TMM)

Hal’s podcast #25 explaining the SAVERS

The Email Monster

email

We all have it…that evil email monster that can clutter up our day, add to our to-do list, irritate us, and completely suck our time away from the work that we should be doing.  Conquering the email monster has been an evolving skill I have worked on over the past couple of years learning from tips in newsletters/training at The Principal Center, from David Allen’s Getting Things Done and from Curt Rees, my personal David Allen mentor.

For a tool that can expedite communication, what’s the problem with it? From what I’ve learned, in order to be productive, as you check each email you need to act on it.  You could delete it, reply to it, add to your to-do list email2of what you need to do as a result of the email and add it to your calendar, etc.  If you don’t do one of these then it clutters up your inbox (which I often find I then end up forgetting to act on later) and clutters up your mind.  Research found what is known as the Zeigarnik effect: “Uncompleted tasks and unmet goals tend to pop into one’s mind. Once the task is completed and the goal reached, however, this stream of reminders comes to a stop.” (Baumeiseter, p. 81)

What does this have to do with your email? If you read an email (even just skimming the little 1 sentence preview on your iPad) without doing something with it, it is still going to pop into your head, leaving you unable to focus on whatever else you are working on or enjoying your family time at home.

This past weekend I somehow got locked out of my school email.  It stopped working on my phone, my iPad and even logging into our email access through our school website.  I had a 3 day weekend with no email access.  What if a summer school teacher was emailing about not being able to find a substitute or some other summer school related issue?  What if my son’s baseball coach was emailing a schedule change?  Believe it or not, I got over these questions within a couple of hours and realized on Monday morning that I had the most relaxing weekend ever this summer!  Yes, I did a little bit of work at home, but the email monster had nothing on me!

I’d like to say that from now on I will never check email from home, because I already did that last night.  I will say, I’m going to make a more conscious effort to not check my emails from home unless I have the time to act on them, am waiting for an urgent response on something, and know that it won’t impact my family time.

 

Citation: Willpower: Rediscovering the greatest human strength, 2011, R. Baumeister and J. Tierney

A Principal’s Principle: Patience

 

patience

Patience is a necessary principle for principals, yet it is not a strength of mine.  I am, by nature, a very fast-paced person.  I don’t like to sit idle; I am constantly doing something or even a few things at one time.  Seriously, even if I’m “relaxing” by watching a TV show I am also playing Candy Crush, painting my nails, or checking Twitter (or a pathetic combination of all of the above).  It pains me to sit and watch my child attempt to tie his shoe on his own for two minutes, when I can get it done in two seconds.  As a child, I was the devious kid that secretly opened my Christmas presents in the night and rewrapped them, because I was too impatient to wait for Christmas morning.
While I recognize the guidance in Joyce Meyer’s quote “Patience is not the ability to wait, but the ability to keep a good attitude while waiting” the practice of improving on my patience often feels more like this:
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What does this have to do with the principalship?  I recognize that patience is a weakness that I am constantly working to improve and a principal’s hectic days certainly provide many opportunities to practice patience!  I think it would be very challenging for a principal to be successful in this role, while constantly being impatient.  If I wasn’t aware of this as a weakness then I might blow off a parent or staff member needing to talk to share concerns so I can get something else crossed off of my previously written to-do list, I might make a quick decision on an issue without taking the time to check policy that would advise me on the right decision or I might miss opportunities to develop relationships with students during times that I would rather catch up on my loaded-up email inbox.  I also recognize that I can work hard to practice patience all day at work and then may readily lose my patience at home.  Recognizing that patience is not a strength, I keep in mind wisdom from David Allen:
patience2
The topic for this post was inspired by a group of fellow PLN
principals that I connect with daily.  You can find each of their
posts on Patience below:
 

Principals Are People Too

Principals-are-people-too
If you would have told me in my past that I would be a school principal, I never would have believed you.  Not when I was a young student (I’m sure my teachers would have also doubted this), when I was a teacher or even as an Instructional Coach.   No way, would I ever become a principal, that’s crazy talk!
The principal role is a journey that I somehow ended up on and am glad that I made it here.  I can recall comments from colleagues that I “went to the dark side” when I took on my first administration position (as a middle school assistant principal). I never really understood where that line came from…is it because principals are supposedly evil and cold-blooded or just from an “us vs. them” mentality?
In my seven years of being an administrator (one as an assistant principal and now six as a principal) I have found many joys in this role and (on most days) will tell you that I have the best job in the world!  That said, I will also caution any new administrator or teacher seeking an admin position that it must be the most stressful position in education.  I have previously written about how uncontrollable your day can be (in The Day in the Life of a Principal); despite the best of plans for the work you need/want to accomplish.  Just when you think you’ve seen it all, something else unthinkable happens and you end your day with stories that you “just can’t make up.”  Even in my 6th year as a principal, when I feel like I should be the most efficient and better at my role than ever before, I still don’t know it all and am not an expert.
I do everything that I can to be the best leader I can be, make the best decisions and give everything that I can to make our school be the best school possible for our students.  I’ve heard Todd Whitaker say that principals need to be the filter for their staff and I have taken that message to heart; always trying to maintain a calm, positive attitude, even though it feels as if the sky is falling.  There are things principals go through on a daily basis that teachers just don’t need to know about, because they have enough on their plates already.  Even if a teacher asks how things are going, I always try to respond with a smiling response, even though I may have just been yelled at by an angry parent, received news about an unexpected death, or found out that a gas mane just broke and an evacuation plan may be in order.
Despite all of my attempts to do the best work I can, I have days that I miss a deadline, forget to respond to an email, forget to follow through with something or even sometimes lose my cool.  Why? Because principals are people too.  No matter how superhuman I would like to be, I’m still human.  I’m still a mom and a wife with a family at home (that often miss out on my time) and just a person trying to keep all the balls juggling in the air.
So, if you’ve ever wondered what the deal is with your principal, were upset that he/she didn’t do what you wanted, or feel like they’re on “the dark side”…please remember principals are people too!
The topic for this post was inspired by a group of fellow PLN
principals that I connect with daily.  You can find each of their
posts on “Principals Are People Too” below:
 

Are We There Yet? #Principalcast podcast with Curt Rees

This is a tad late for most principals, since the end of the school year has already arrived, but the PrincipalCast crew enjoyed a great conversation with Curt Rees about the end of the school year for principals.

He offered suggestions and tips for ending the school year on a positive note. He suggests that principals get as much information to the teachers

curt

as possible before leaving for the summer. He works very hard to get the schedule, class lists, and as much other planning for the new school year completed.

Curt encourages teachers and administrators to learn as much as possible over the summer. As for Curt, he will be continuing his Doctoral program at University of Kentucky, participating in chats through twitter, and doing lots of reading. He also suggests that educators spend time eating correctly and exercising to avoid the “end of the school year” burn out.

You can check download the podcast in your podcast app or check it out in its entirety on youtube:

Plans to “Sharpen the Saw” this Summer

Here’s the latest cross-post from my staff memo blog:

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In Stephen Covey’s book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, the 7th habit is one that I think we all know well (whether we call it that or not): Sharpen the Saw.  While many think that educators have “summers off”, we all know that is not the case.  Many of you teach summer school, take graduate classes, attend other workshops, read professional books/journals and continue to reflect/grow.  Covey writes about the importance of as an effective habit for you to “preserve and enhance the greatest asset you have–you.”

 

While I try to stay fresh and “sharpen the saw” on weekends, I have to admit that I look forward to summer for this extended opportunity.  In addition to family time to rejuvenate, here are my summer plans to “sharpen my saw” to continue my professional learning:

 1. Read some of the professional books that have been stacking up on my to-read list. The top on the stack is our summer admin book study choice: Willpower.

2. Explore some of the iPad apps I’ve downloaded, but haven’t touched yet. Top on my list is Aurasma and HERE is a great blog post to start learning about it.

 3. As always, continue my learning from others on Twitter. This summer there are many conferences/webinars (many all just online) that are archived in this one google doc: Summer Learning I’m planning to pick a couple to follow online.

 4. Learn something new at a Regional Summer Teacher Academy session.  Packets will be coming out this week and you can sign up HERE to attend.

 What are you planning to do the “sharpen the saw” this summer?

 

Under Pressure

Recently I had a discussion with several principals from several different states…all in different sizes of schools/districts and varying demographics.  Despite our differences we all had one common concern…test scores.  Not on how to increase them (we’ve had that conversation enough times), but how to stop the constant pressure of having to raise them.  We admired the courageous leadership the Hudson ISD Superintendent, Mary Ann Whiteker has displayed to not focus on “the test” and even took down their school banners that flaunted their exemplary results (read more in her vision post).

This was a refreshing conversation for me, yet I still feel the pressure. top Why? Because our school does not have the exemplary test scores to be able to relieve that pressure.  Because a nearby school district uses our test score data as a comparison for why they are better.  Because a realtor selling a home in our district struggles to do so, because home buyers look at test scores.  Because I refuse to require our teachers to “drill and kill” with test prep.  Because as the leader I feel responsible for everything.  It is an overwhelming pressure.

I have had the pleasure of leading our school for six years now.  I can tell you so much about our amazing students and staff that test data could never show.  I can tell you how much our staff care about our students; how many of them purchase snacks and clothing items for those that need them frequently.  I can tell you how focused our teachers are on students’ literacy/math skills and have individual goal-setting conferences with students so that they have ownership of their learning.  I can tell you about the amazing tech skills our students have with their iPads and how engaged they are in fun learning each and every day.  I can tell you how much our students love to read, because they have choice in their reading during Daily 5 time.  I can tell you how kind and caring our students are for each other.  I can tell you that my own children attend my school, because I feel it is the best school they could attend.

But nobody gets to see that in one test score, so the pressure is still there.