The Mindful School Leader

This is a cross post from the #PrincipalPLN podcast:

 

How do you handle to stress?

 Does this sound like you? Maybe you just feel that way at times, which is certainly common in our overwhelming roles as school leaders. But, it doesn’t have to be!
In this episode, the #principalpln crew have an amazing discussion with the authors of The Mindful School LeaderKirsten Olson and Val Brown share their amazing wisdom with us on the importance of mindfulness for school leaders and how we can get started.  We felt a sense of peace and calm come over us just in listening to them speak!
We highly recommend you read the book, but until it arrives you can start with these recommendations from Val and Kirsten:

 


  • You eat a meal every day…choose one meal to really taste your food. Put down your devices and taste your food!
  • Look at the sky.
  • At times throughout the day, stop and notice your breathing.
  • Make a commitment for 10 minutes of alone time in your office.
  • Schedule these things so they become routine.

 


 

 

Do you have your own tips to share with being mindful or just taking care of yourself so you can be a better leader? Or are you (like us) a work in progress and just starting your path to mindfulness? Share your comments below or tweet your tips/reflections/progress using #principalpln.




 

Using Google Calendar for my To-Do Lists

A common topic of discussion on the #PrincipalPLN podcast is on productivity, because principals have a LOT of work to do while wearing mgoogle calany different hats and never enough time to get it all done (seriously, time could stop and we still couldn’t catch up). One of my favorite apps for keeping my to-do list in is Remember the Milk, however, this past year I got away from using it and just started scheduling my to-do work in a google tasks calendar.

 

I have several calendars in Google:

  • My main calendar that the secretaries can see and add appointments to. This includes any meeting or duty that they will need to know where I’m at (as will I!)
  • Staff events calendar-all staff can see this and it’s for any meeting or school-wide event that they need to be aware of.
  • Tasks calendar-I use this to schedule work that I need to do. Anything I used to write on a post-it note (or put in Remember the Milk app) I now put in my tasks calendar. No one else can see this.
  • Student Discipline-only I can see this. I enter in any students I meet with for discipline. This is often used for scheduling when I’m going to meet with someone (usually at the end of the day when I get a parent phone call or call from the bus company about bus referrals from the pm route).
  • Personal Calendar-this is just for me and is shared with my husband. We use this to schedule our own family events, medical appointments, etc.

So, why the tasks calendar? When I have a long list of things to-do it can be overwhelming to look at and decide what to do. I never really want to do any of them! :) But, when I schedule them when I think would be the best time to work on it, then I’ve already made a commitment to work on it at that day/time. When I look at my calendar, I know what I need to do. What’s even better is the reminder feature that pops up and tells you what you need to do; it’s like having my own little personal secretary to remind me what to do. Now, my day is just as hectic as any other principal and my days NEVER go as planned so at the end of each day I review my calendar and often have to move several tasks to another day/time, because I didn’t get to them on that day due to x, y or z happening.

When I shared this on one of the #principalpln podcasts, Spike asked how I can “cross off” that it’s done? I know that crossing things off gives a great deal of satisfaction, but I couldn’t figure out a way to do that in google calendar.

I recently came up with a solution…well, almost.  I created a new calendar and called it “completed tasks” and made the calendar a different color. So now as I complete a task, I simply edit the event and change what calendar it is so I can visually see that it is completed (a different color on my calendar).

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#WEMTA15 Presentations

wemta

I’m super excited to attend the WEMTA (Wisconsin Educational Media and Technology Association) Conference this week as a Spotlight Speaker while getting the opportunity to hear some great educators.

Here are the slides/resources for my presentations:

Teacher 2:0: Social Media Tools for Teachers 

Using Twitter to Build Your Professional Learning Network

Evernote for Teacher Organization

Developing Wild Readers

I’ve previously shared my learning from reading Donalyn Miller’s book Reading in the Wild, but am grateful to have had the opportunity to hear her keynote on her research and practices within this book at the Wisconsin State Reading Association Convention (#WSRA15).  I am always inspired by hearing and reading Donalyn’s work and want to go back into my own classroom to inspire students to read, but then I remember I don’t have a classroom.  So, as a leader, I just continue to share my learning with our teachers and model myself as a wild reader for our entire school.

Lunch conversation selfie with my PLN: Donalyn Miller, Tom Whitford, and Pernille Ripp

Lunch conversation selfie with my PLN: Donalyn Miller, Tom Whitford, and Pernille Ripp

 

Here is the Monday Musings post I’ll be sharing with my teachers:

The-single-factor-most

Over the years I’ve shared my learning with you from Donalyn Miller’s books: The Book Whisperer and Reading in the Wild (previous posts are HEREHERE, and HERE). I’ve seen many of the practices we’ve learned about from her implemented in your classrooms: reading choice, book talks, stealing reading minutes, sharing your lives as readers, reading goals posted (students and staff), etc.

Even though I have read both of Donayln’s books, I was re-inspired by hearing her speak last week and to hear her story of how she came to research reading habits and write the book, Reading in the Wild. As the well-known Book Whisperer, she always got her students to read voraciously and couldn’t understand what happened in the next grade level up when her students stopped reading, because their classrooms didn’t include the same practices. Instead of blaming other teachers, Donalyn realized that she needed to help her students to truly develop the habits of lifelong readers, not having to depend on her to get connected to their next book to read. How do you do this?

  • Instead of requiring reading logs to track minutes (which most students and parents “fudge” anyhow) having students track their book titles read (that’s what adults do!).
  • Instead of having required amounts of time to read, having students learn and find times to “steal reading” minutes like most adults do, by always having a book with them.
  • Instead of making a specific book recommendation to a student when they finish a book, ask first: “What’s on your to-read list?” (After setting up the structure/habit for students to have a to-read list.)
  • Instead of recommending a specific book to students, she started making a preview stack of books that included books she knows the student will like but included different types of genres to expose them to.
  • Never give up on having a read-aloud, kids are never too old (that’s why there’s such a large market for audio books!) Use the read-aloud to expose students to different authors/genres/series that they may never try on their own.
  •  Help students to build their reading community. If you are their only source of book recommendations, then they will be lost without you next year.
  • And just for fun: skip the “selfie” and take a “shelfie”: a picture of yourself with a stack of books you want to read (or your favorite books)!

If you want to read more “nuggets” from her keynote presentation, there were many attendees tweeting from it and you can find them all HERE.

Take a moment to reflect on how you share yourself as a reader with your students and how are you promoting the habits of lifelong learners in your classroom?

A Principal’s Tip for Keeping Focused on 1 Task

For those of you that are great at time management and staying focused, there’s no need for you to read this post…

For those of you who know me, you know that I am the queen of the procrastinators club (although we haven’t met yet, because I keep putting off scheduling our first meeting) and that I have ADHD…I do my best work at the final hour, I can be completely random, scattered, lose things, etc. I have also decided that I think the principalship induces ADHD, because we are interrupted about every 4 minutes, so how could one ever become completely focused on any one task for too long?

After a wonderfully relaxing Christmas vacation I was ready to get backScreen Shot 2015-01-02 at 3.46.04 PM into a work schedule today with a quiet school building to catch up on work in the office before school officially starts.  Perfect day to catch up on EVERYTHING, right? WRONG!  Nope, no one interrupted me…except for myself.  I feel like I could rewrite the book If You Give a Mouse a Cookie to be If You Give a Principal an Email.  Left to a quiet office with a list of 7 major things to accomplish, I added at least a dozen other tasks to my list today and only because I already led myself astray to complete them and then added them to my list to cross them off.

For those of you laughing with me now (or at me), I do have a point to this post. I’ve made great efforts over the years to learn everything I can about productivity as I’ve written about in previous posts, but today one lesson came to mind that I learned from Justin Baeder in a webinar at The Principal Center:

Parkinson’s Law: Work expands to fill the available time.

Horstman’s Corollary: Work contracts to fit into the time you give it.

I’ve always said that if time stopped, I would still never catch up on everything that I have to do.  It’s just not possible. We have to make choices about what’s most important, what has to be done now, what can wait and what can be shifted elsewhere.  On days like today, I do best when I remind myself of Horstman’s Corollary.  I do this by setting a timer for myself for the one task I’m working on and try to beat the timer.  I’m currently loving the google chrome extension “1 click timer,” because it just runs up in the corner of my browser or I can expand it to see it.  It is a reminder to myself to stay focused and finish what I’m doing before I distract myself with something else.

Full disclaimer: I should have been working on something else when I wrote this blog post, but it came into my head and I had to get it out! 

My Reading Resolutions for 2015

Books I read in 2014:

books

This is my 3rd year in a row of writing Reading Resolutions with the new year. You can find previous Reading Resolutions I’ve written in this post. I began using Goodreads two years ago and wrote about Everything I Love About Goodreads as I got started with it.

My goals for 2014 included:

1. Read 55 books (not including picture books)

2. Read one professional book a month

3. Have family “Read to Self” time

This year I did not meet my goal of reading 55 books, yet I wonder how few books I would have read if I didn’t have a goal at all? As I review the books I did read, what is not reflected are books that I have reread this year as I read them for staff/admin book studies or gone back to books that had such an impact on me like The Miracle Morning, High Impact Instruction, Lean In and Digital Leadership. Although I do not have statistics to prove this, I also believe I read fewer books, because I read more blog posts, read a few book drafts as a peer reviewer (so I couldn’t log them on Goodreads), and spent more time writing (a future book to be published!) I also realize once again that when I don’t read much fiction, I don’t read as much overall. I’ve written about this previously in Sharing My Reading Life.  Just in time to make my Reading Resolutions, my good friend, Leah Whitford posted that she’s going to take on the following Reading Challenge:

2015 Reading Challenge

In the words of Barney Stinson, “Challenge Accepted!” 

In all seriousness though, I think this is exactly what I need to get out of my reading comfort zone for 2015. I don’t feel like I need a goal of reading a professional book a month, because it’s such an ingrained habit for me to always be reading one, that I know I will do it anyways (or close to it).

When I shared this with a teacher in my building she said that her class already made a 2nd grade version of this list for their class to challenge themselves. What a great idea!

So, my Reading Resolutions for 2015 are…

1. Read 50 books

2. Get out of my reading comfort zone and read different genres

3. Have family “Read to Self” time

 

Next on my list…post my new Reading Resolutions at school for students to see and decide how else to share with them and challenge them to read a lot and challenge themselves.

 

Growth Mindset, #SAVMP for December

This months’ School Administrator Virtual Mentor Program blogging/discussion prompt is on Growth Mindset.

Mindset-concept-in-word-tag-cl-342584841

Image from Lakeside Connect

I feel that I have always had a Growth Mindset by nature, which I credit for having the drive to learn how to do many different things and have a hard-working ethic.  It was only once I read the book Mindset by Dweck that I fully understood this mindset and the incredible impact it has on students, educators and everyone.

After I read the book I shared my reflections with my staff in these posts:

Knowing what I know now about growth vs fixed mindset has impacted me in so many ways: as an individual, as a parent and as a leader. It helps me to realize that, at times, I do have a fixed mindset and need to change my thinking. It has helped me change the way I give feedback to my children, students and staff. I have also seen students who had struggled for years make a complete 180 change when their teacher took time to discuss mindset with their class and have individual conversations about mindset.

As a school leader, I feel it is essential for myself to have a growth mindset:

  • I get into classrooms and give feedback with a coaching hat (vs evaluative).
  • I admit when I don’t know about or how to do something and seek to learn more/how.
  • I don’t hammer down on mistakes made (unless they affect student safety or are ethically wrong), rather I focus on growing from the mistake.
  • I share with staff what I am reading (in my email signatures and staff blog) and what I am learning.

I also cannot help but make the connection between the concept of growth mindset and the new qualification criteria for a Specific Learning Disability/Response to Intervention process…time and time again we are finding that when students are given intensive intervention and frequently progress monitored, most students do make growth.

How do you lead with a growth mindset? I can never get enough of reading about Growth Mindset and how to share it with staff, students and parents and look forward to reading more posts.

Jennifer Kloczko wrote a great post that is filled with video clips to help promote Growth Mindset HERE.

Blog Review of 2014

Stock image used here with Creative Commons license.

Stock image used with Creative Commons license.

While working on another writing endeavor, my blog posts have been quite minimal this year. While I have down time during Christmas vacation I have been enjoying family time and relaxation along with catching up on some reading and reflecting on myself as a leader. During this reflection I enjoy reading through my posts to review my reflection and goals.

During 2014, here are my most popular posts this year (with #1 having the most “clicks”):

10. A Principal’s Principle: Patience

9. Principal 2.0 

8. Learn How to be a Digital Leader

7. Getting to Inbox Zero

6. Plans to “Sharpen the Saw” this Summer

5. Under Pressure

4. Digital Student Portfolios

3. The Miracle Morning

2. Identifying Fake Readers

1. Principals are People Too

As I review/reflect on 2014 I also enjoy running my blog site through wordle to create a word cloud that makes the words used more often larger than the other less-used words. I got the idea from Tia Henriksen in this post to use it as a way to reflect on what you are blogging about to make sure you are focusing on what is most important to you. In reviewing my wordle below I can see that school, students, classrooms, connect, mindset and email standing out more than the others. I am surprised in reviewing this that LEARNING is not emphasized more and is something for me to keep in mind as I move forward into 2015.

wordle

 

 

#SAVMP – Admin Credibility

Image from Sales Force

Image from Sales Force

This months’ School Administrator Virtual Mentor Program blogging/discussion prompt is on admin credibility.

As the prompt states, “In any profession, if people feel you do not understand their work, your credibility lacks, often leading to a lack in leadership.”

When I became an administrator I made a personal commitment to not turn in to one that has no connection to what is happening in classrooms.  I know from experience how frustrating it can be as a teacher to have an administrator making decisions that feel like they have no idea about teaching, classroom dynamics, or even what time of year it is (i.e. an extra big task to do the same week report cards are due).  As an administrator I keep this in mind as I make decisions and see myself as a filter; rolling out initiatives in small steps to not overwhelm, only adding on what is absolutely required, and passing on requests to implement programs/trainings that I don’t believe will be the best use of our time. When there is a new tool that may be beneficial for teachers/students, I try to learn about it myself so that I can help share how and why. I try to make our staff meetings/professional development sessions engaging with strategies that teachers could implement in their classrooms the very next day.

I try to keep current in teaching, by being active in classrooms to help teachers implement new technology tools or to cover classes for teachers to observe each other or if we’re short of substitute teachers. I’ve previously written about No Office Day here and here. I have also previously written about Keeping in Touch with Teaching and Learning which also includes teaching a summer school class each year. I also believe it is essentially important as a building leader to be a Lead Learner, learning along with my teachers, not just directing them to learn/implement new strategies. What is a Lead Learner? I wrote about it HERE.

Most importantly, I make sure to stay connected to the people in our school…the staff, the students and the stakeholders.  I am not a supervisor sitting in an office doing paperwork, I am a leader that seeks to know everyone in our building, have a pulse on what is going on day to day and to help out in any way that I can to benefit the learners in our building.

Getting to Inbox Zero

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Is Inbox Zero possible? Sounds like flying unicorns to me.  I’ve often heard Curt Rees talk about getting to Inbox Zero and even though I accomplished it a few times (literally only a few!).  After Curt join us on the PrincipalPLN podcast he helped me understand how and why to get to Inbox Zero.  He also convinced me that it is not productive or healthy to have my work email on my personal phone and I “ripped the bandaid off” right in the middle of the podcast, taking it off of my phone.  It’s been one week since we recorded this podcast and I achieved Inbox Zero 3 days (and I know I’ll get back to it by Monday) and I felt way more productive with my time, getting into classrooms and having conversations with staff.  I also enjoyed ongoing conversation about this topic in the PrincipalPLN Voxer group and could completely relate when Tia Henriksen said, “Flying unicorns exist!!! Who Knew?”

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Here are the shownotes from PrincipalPLN.com:

#PrincipalPLN Episode 47: Conquering Email with Curt Rees

In this episode we are joined by Curt Rees, Elementary Principal and Recess Kickball legend in Onalaska,Wisconsin. Curt’s school is recognized by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction as a model school for their implementation of Response to Intervention.  Curt is also a current doctoral student at UKSTL. You can find Curt online at @CurtRees and http://curtrees.com/ Curt is also mentioned in chapter 4 of Spike’s book, Connected Leadership.

Some of Curt’s Email Wisdom:

Don’t sit down and browse email. Sit down and “crank” through them when you’re ready to work on them. Don’t touch an email more than once. Decide on your action for it once you read it. If it takes more than 2 minutes to respond, he sends it to his to-do app (OmniFocus) to schedule when to work on it. Don’t let a read email sit in your inbox, schedule it and get it out of your inbox!
Curt recommends not having work email on your phone and was so convincing that Jessica “ripped the bandaid” off and took work email off of her phone while listening to Curt explain why.  Can you do it?
Curt’s Top 5 Tips:
  1. Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen (or anything by David Allen)
  1. Have a system: this is beyond just email, to keep track of what you’re going to do and when
  1. Don’t let email dictate how you’re going to spend your time. Our jobs are busy enough!  Make yourself available in other ways.
  2. Don’t let your email inbox be your to-do list!
  3. Don’t clutter up anyone else’s email inbox. Recognize when you need to go and talk instead of sending an email.
Other resources/thoughts on email…
Jessica’s blog post: The Email Monster