Tag Archive for Todd Whitaker

A Discussion with Todd Whitaker

If you haven’t already heard it, here is the Google Hangout PrincipalCast Podcast with Todd Whitaker!  It’s an hour of great discussion with Todd about keeping healthy, teacher morale, What Great Principals Do Differently, Dealing with Difficult Teachers, The Secret Solution and much more!

If you don’t have time to sit and watch the hangout you can find the podcast in iTunes or in BeyondPod (for my android friends).

A special guest on the next PrincipalCast Podcast…

principalcastHave you heard the PrincipalCast Podcast? We’ve recorded 5 episodes now on the following topics:

#1 Social Media and Facebook

#2 Social Media in the School District

#3 You know you’re a connected educator when…

#4 Observing and Evaluating Teachers in the 21st Century 

#5 Evaluations and Observations

You can find PrincipalCast on iTunes or on Stitcher/Beyond Pod for Android.  If you watch us live (Sundays at 8:30pm CST) on teachercast.tv you can also chat with us in the live chat box or using the twitter hashtag #principalcast.

This Sunday we are inviting our first guest to the show and we are going all out by having Todd Whitaker join us.  We are excited to talk to him about his newest book coming out this month, The Secret Solution. Do you have a question you want us to ask him? Share your question with us HERE.

Principal 2.0: The Connected Administrator

Yesterday Amber Teamann and I joined the great principals in Indiana for the Indiana Principal Leadership Institute (#IPLI) to share with them how Social Media can be a useful tool for school communication and for their personal ongoing professional learning.

A big bonus for us on this? Joining the great Todd Whitaker!


As promised to all those in attendance, here are our presentations/handouts/video clips:

3, 2, 1…Blast Off (Prezi on School Communication)

Social Media and Leadership…Where do I Start?

Podcasts for Principals

Twitter Island (I must give credit to Curt Rees for the Gilligan images!)

Getting Started with Twitter Checklist

Getting Started with Feedly to Follow Blogs

The Principal Meltdown video clip

Girl’s First Ski Jump – Remember, Social Media is just like this ski jump. It seems scary at first, but once you get going it will be GREAT!

Chatting with Todd Whitaker about Shifting the Monkey

I’ve shared in a previous post that one of my favorite educational authors is Todd Whitaker, so it’s no surprise that I pre-ordered and immediately read his latest book Shifting the Monkey: the Art of Protecting Good People from Liars, Criers and other Slackers.  If you’d like to read an educator’s reflection on this book, you can find one here written by Justin Tarte.

After I read Todd’s book, I was so excited to discuss it with others that I organized a Twitter chat on it and asked Todd to join us (just another great example of how great twitter is).  Unfortunately, the twitter spammers jumped into the conversation and we didn’t get to chat for the entire hour (apparently the title “Shifting the Monkey” can turn into an entirely different conversation by spammers with other interests).  Due to this unfortunate turn, it wasn’t worth archiving the chat, so I’m going to include some of the tweets from the conversation here:

The term “blanket monkey” refers to a message that is given to everyone that is really intended for one or two people.  For example, if one or two people are showing up to work late, then don’t tell everyone in a staff meeting that they need to come to work on time.  Your good people will worry, “that day I had a flat tire I was 5 minutes late, now I feel even worse” and your slackers will be thinking, “so many people are late to work, no big deal.”  Instead, address those individually that you have a concern with.
A few more tips from Todd on addressing concerns individually:
The same idea applied in the classroom:
Whitaker states that “negative, poorly performing people tend to get a disproportionate amount of power, attention, and empathy. They continue to behave obnoxiously and unfairly because they’re rewarded for doing so. Who is shifting the monkeys in your building?
Everyone hates it when a new rule is made that is really intended for the one person that did something stupid. Don’t make decisions based on those people, Whitaker says to make decisions based on your best people, to treat everyone well, and protect your good people first. 
As educators and leaders, Whitaker reminds us that we should constantly ask, “who carries the burden of the policy or practice?”  Whether you’re in the classroom or leading an entire school, we need to pay attention to where the monkey is when we’re thinking about students, parents, and staff.  As colleagues, we can help each other out:

Leading the Way with Staff Memos

Just over a year ago I heard Todd Whitaker speak to many principals at the annual AWSA (Association of Wisconsin School Administrators) convention. As always, I left with many great tips to continue leading my school, but the biggest tool I learned about was providing my staff with a weekly memo. Whitaker called it a “Friday Flash” or “Friday Focus” and is used to share best practices with staff, along with upcoming events and anything that can be shared in a memo and not waste staff meeting time (that could be better spent on learning/discussion).

I have since found a few other principal blogs used to share weekly memos with staff that I continue to follow for ideas, so I thought it was only fair that I share what I’m doing here for others.
I immediately began implementing this tool last year as a “Monday Memo” to staff. Whitaker says that this should be given to staff on brightly colored paper in their mailboxes, but I kept mine to email since I am also trying to lead staff using technology. This year I have expanded this practice to include:
*Monday Memo that includes “Great Things I Noticed Last Week,” “Upcoming Events,” “Nuts & Bolts Notes,” and “Tech Tips”
*Friday Focus that shares my professional reflections with staff on something I am reading or learning with staff
*Created a blog that includes these posts, the staff google calendar, occassional staff polls, my shelfari widget (so staff can see what I’m reading), and other resources
Since refining this practice, I have really come to see the benefit of sharing “Great Things I Noticed” because I have observed the same practices be implemented in other classrooms after posting them. Some of the Friday Focus messages I have posted have encouraged discussions that I have overheard in the hallways or had staff mention their reflections to me. Since starting this I have also had a couple of staff ask about how to get started with blogging, how to get started on twitter (since I often share things I learn from people on twitter), and ask to borrow books I’ve read.
I have previously shared a cross-post of one of my Friday Focus posts HERE.
Here’s an example of one of my Monday Memo posts from December:

Great Things I Noticed Last Week:
*While sitting in a 5K mini-lesson on setting a student excitedly said, “I just made a connection to another book we read!”
*In another 5K classroom students were practicing their Jolly Phonics with the SMARTBoard program and were able to read the following words: coast, grain, punch, and chimpanzee using their sounds. I bet the 1st grade teachers love to hear this!
*After 5th grade student presentations, the class was asked to give 3 positive comments and 3 things to improve on. I was amazed to hear the feedback given to students by students and surprised how much Daily 5/Cafe language carried over into the feedback for science presentations.
*5th grade started keeping track of “Writing Non-Negotiables” as writing skills are taught in mini-lessons. You can see the list from one class in the picture on the right. Mrs. B says that this list has really cut down on the time spent conferring with students for writing revising/editing–she does NOT help revise if they have a mistake that is on the non-negotiable list. Wouldn’t it be great if we had a list of expectations like this at each grade level?

Events This Week:
*Monday – Mentors meeting at 3:05 in Media Center
*Tuesday – I will be gone all day at the SLATE conference (School Leaders Advancing Technology in Education) in Wisconsin Dells.
*Thursday – No Office Day–I’ll be spending my day in 3-5th grade classrooms
K/2/4 Music Concert (including 5th grade band) at 6:30 PM
*Friday – Just a reminder to show your school spirit and wear your school shirt (please help remind your students too)

“Nuts & Bolts” Notes:
*Just a reminder that next week is already mid-quarter (I had to triple check the calendar to be sure!) so make sure you’re ready to send home a progress report for each of your students.
* We’ve added another Tech Tuesday to the calendar for December 20th. I know that’s a busy week, but there’s quite a few teachers excited about using Pinterest or wanting to learn how before break so Jean and Bethany will be teaching us how that day.

Tech Tip:
*I’ve seen some great websites being used on the SMARTBoards and in the computer lab that I’m sure students would continue to use at home if they have internet access. You can show them how to access the site from the student resources on the district webpage (if it’s there) or include the web address in your newsletter, which can be quite lengthy and difficult to type at times. If you want to learn how to make a shortened web address to share with students/parents for home and for easy access in the computer lab you just need to go to http://bitly.com and sign up for an account. Here’s a screencast I made to show you how to use this tool. Let me know if you need any help getting started on this.

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Meeting an "Educational Celebrity"

One of the benefits of being on twitter is that you can tap into the minds of great educators and educational leaders. Even more so, you can connect with the gurus or “educational celebrities.” One of the “greats” that I’ve been fortunate to connect with on Twitter is Todd Whitaker. I’d even like to say I helped get him on twitter, because about a year ago, someone tweeted that they were attending his conference (I can’t remember who this was) and I replied that they need to tell him to get on twitter. OK, that’s probably a stretch, but he’s on twitter now, so that’s what matters!

Anyhow, after years of reading Whitaker’s books I have now been following him on twitter for almost a year. What is great about Todd is that he actually spends time connecting with educators on twitter and responds to our questions. He has been like a personal coach for me over the past few months, answering several questions through twitter, email and a phone call.

Last week while attending the AWSA Convention I got to hear Todd speak about Motivating Teachers during Difficult Times. I was more than excited that Todd recognized me when he saw me and chatted with me before/during/after his session. After his session, he gave me his speaker’s badge (teachers in my building-you will find it proudly tacked up on the bulletin board in my office!) While Todd waited for his cab to pick him up Curt Rees (one of my co-presenters from the AWSA convention) and I talked with him further on educational issues for about 20 minutes.

My point for this blog post? Just that I’m bragging that I met Todd in person and got my picture taken with him! (That’s ok for one post right?)

Pictured above: Myself, Todd Whitaker and Curt Rees

Improving Instructional Practices in Your Building

I attended a 2 hour conference presentation by Todd Whitaker tonight on Evaluating Teachers to Improve Instruction. I will not blog about everything from the session, but will hit on a few key points that include an exercise for you to complete as a school administrator.

Before you read any more of this blog, I ask that you think about the classrooms in your building and reflect on what instructional practices you want to see more of? What would you like to see less of? Actually stop right now, take out a piece of paper and write a 2 column list.

Did you make a list?

Now, what is on your list? You may have some common practices as I do. My “want to see more of” list includes: differentiation, a focused lesson objective with student mastery, formative assessment, active engagement, use of technology, co-teaching with special education staff, students reading independently (at their reading levels), and higher level questioning/problem solving.

My “want to see less of” list includes: wasted time, round-robin reading, isolating special education students, worksheets and the teacher sitting at the desk.

As you look at your list of “want to see more of,” why aren’t your teachers already using these instructional practices in their classrooms? Are they insubordinate or ignorant? I don’t think I’ve ever met a teacher that did not want to be a good teacher and make a difference in the lives of children, so I hope your answer is not insubordinate. So that leaves us with ignorant as their reason. Ignorant does not necessarily mean the teacher is stupid, but just that they don’t know. For example, a teacher with classroom management issues isn’t choosing to have poor classroom management. I doubt that any teacher would really want to have kids misbehaving, interrupting instruction and leaving them to pull their hair out. If they knew how to have good classroom management, they would! Our job as leaders is to teach the teachers. All of those instructional strategies you listed as what you want to see more of in the classrooms…that is your job to teach your teachers.

Do not feel overhwelmed if your list is as long as mine; you need to pick one focus at a time and think through how you’re going to teach it and reinforce it with your teachers. Todd Whitaker writes and speaks that anytime you are going to change anything, you must teach it “whole-part-whole”. First teach all (whole) about it in your Friday Focus or weekly memo (I can never pull mine together by Friday, so it’s a Monday memo in my building!). Always pretend that your memo is talking about the past, but it’s really about the future…what you want to see teachers doing. For example, if you want to see teachers greeting students in the morning your memo may include: I want to thank you all for doing such a great job of starting your students day out on a positive note by greeting them at the door. The other day I saw a student come off the bus with a grumpy look on his face, but the teacher greeted him and told him how happy he was in school today…I didn’t see that grumpy look on his face for the rest of the day. Some of our students come from difficult homes, but are so lucky to have such caring teachers.

Did I really see that particular incident occur last week? No, not exactly, but I do know from my own experience as a teacher and administrator how important it is to start every student’s day on a positive note. But now all of my great teachers that are going to continue greeting their students in the morning and those that are not (or they’re actually doing the opposite by hounding students the second they enter the classroom) think that “everyone is doing it.” If this is your new strategy you’re focusing on, then make “new sound normal.”

That was the first “whole” teaching. To follow up with “part” start walking around in the morning to see teachers greeting students. If you see a teacher at their desk as students are coming in, walk in the room–I bet they’ll stand up and go to greet students. If you find a teacher hounding on a student right away about something, talk to them later that day about it. Continue making your rounds each morning. A few weeks or months later, send out another positive email and this time the little story you share could be a real example from your building!

Make sure to always include your beliefs and great instructional strategies in your weekly memos. Teachers are in the lounge sharing their beliefs each day (ok, you know that was a nice way to say complaining) and if you don’t share your beliefs with them publicly then they will start to believe their own!

I would love to hear comments from others that have implemented practices recommended by Todd Whitaker…please comment!