Shelley Burgess

Reflections of an educational learner and leader


#LeadLAP Challenge: Continue the Appreciation!

Happy New Year to All!  We hope this week finds you back into the swing of things in your schools and districts and ready for a new #LeadLAP challenge!

This week’s challenge has three sources of inspiration…

  • First, our continued belief that as educational leaders, we need to be in classrooms as much as possible – it’s where the magic happens!  When we first come back from break it’s easy to get caught up in other things, so if that’s happening to you – this is the week to get back out there!
  • Second, our commitment to ongoing appreciation of our staff and the work they do day in and day out.  If we want to grow a PIRATE culture in our schools, then we need to appreciate the daily efforts our team is making to grow, learn, change, and create amazing learning experiences for our students.
  • The third source of inspiration, actually comes from my 12-year old daughter, Ashlyn.  I host a weekly chat for educators… #satchatwc and this past Saturday, we did something very different.  We had my daughter, a seventh grade student, host the chat.  She wrote the questions, crafted her responses, and interacted with easily 100 educators over the course of the hour long chat.  It was clear from her questions and her responses that she has some pretty strong opinions about school and what works and doesn’t work for kids.  But what also came out is that she has a true appreciation for teachers.  As we were working on the chat and as we chatted afterwards, she had story after story to tell about what she APPRECIATED about different teachers over the years.  She shared memorable lessons and described why they were engaging or she gave specifics about what the teacher did to help her learn.  Dave and I enjoyed watching her light up when she described a particular simulation her social studies teacher created for her class on feudalism

Inspired by all three of the items above – here is this week’s challenge….

  • Get back out into those classrooms.  Visit at least an average of 3 per day (or a minimum of 15 total throughout the week)
  • Spend 3-5 minutes in each classroom and then talk to the kids…  Ask THEM what they are appreciating about the lesson, their teacher and/or what they are learning.  Encourage them to be specific – even using a frame like this if you need it:
    • I appreciate when _______ (my teacher) does/did _____________ (be specific about what he/she did exactly) because _____________________ (how did it help you? push you? engage you?)
  • Then drop that appreciation ANCHOR for the teacher, but instead of telling the teacher “I appreciated… ” start with “When I was in your class today, I had a chance to chat with _____________ (Insert student name here).  I just wanted to share with you how much he/she appreciated _______________ because ___________________.

When we take the time to appreciate (whether it is big things or small, routine things) it helps raise self-awareness in the other person.  They become more conscious of the choice they made or the work they did and are more likely to repeat it because you have pointed out that it made a difference… and the fact that the appreciation comes from a student takes it up another level.  So let’s take this week to get back into the appreciation routine.  It will help you shape that PIRATE culture and make for a better week for your staff AND you!

We hope you will take the challenge and share with us how it’s going over the course of this week using  #LeadLAP on Twitter.

Enjoy!

Shelley and Beth


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#LeadLAP Challenge 5: Be a Valued Resource

As an educational leader, I read a lot!  I always have books, articles, education magazines, blog posts from other educators and other reading material at my fingertips.  I love learning, growing and gaining expertise in topics of interest to me and topics that are pertinent to the work we do in our districts and schools.  I also love sharing my learning with others.  I have used the phrase “Oh wow… I was just reading something about that which I think you would love! Let me get you a copy.” on countless occasions which is why I was baffled by a comment my husband made to me a few years back.  After 17 years in the classroom, Dave had not once had a principal share an article with him, give him a book to read, recommend a blog post or share with him any other resource that might help shape his thinking or influence his practice as an educator. WOW!  He clearly has not worked for PIRATE leaders!

add value

As a leader, I want each person to know I value them and the work they do, and I also want to be seen as someone who adds value to their work.  I want them to know that I’m a learner, that I support their learning and growth, and that I can be a valuable resource in helping them on their own personal learning journey to be awesome at what they do.  One of the things I always did as a principal when I was reading something new is keep note of who I thought might like the article, book, or whatever I was reading.  I started early-on with a simple post-it note system and ultimately evolved to using Evernote and “tagging” the articles, blog posts etc. When the opportunity would arise, I’d make sure I’d get a copy of the reading to the person I thought might enjoy it, and I’d make a point of sharing with them why I thought they in particular might enjoy it or how it might add value to their work.  There were things I found that I thought we should read together as an entire staff, but also things I found that were unique to specific people based on what I knew they were working on at the time.   Knowing what each person might like or find of value typically came from being in their classrooms and N-OTICING when they were trying something new or different or from being engaged in C-OLLABORATIVE CONVERSATIONS about their practice where they would share with me different ideas they had been exploring or a struggle they might be having.

While this practice started as a simple way for me to share that I was a reader and a learner too and as a way for my team to start to see me as a resource, there was an added benefit to making this part of my regular practice.  It strengthened the relationships and rapport with my team because the sharing and support was often personalized.  A conversation might start like this:

“You just shared with me last week that you were wanting to build in more time for small group instruction and were interested in designing more meaningful tasks for the students who were working independently during your small group time.  I just came across this article on literacy stations that has some amazing examples of independent and small group activities that students can do on their own or in pairs or triads.  Some of them seem really engaging and have great potential to help sharpen their literacy skills.  I thought of you immediately and thought you might like to read it.  When you do, I’d love to hear what you think!”

Statements like the one above when heartfelt and genuine, say to someone “I am paying attention to you.”… “I’m thinking about you.”… “I want to support you.”… “I’m making time for you.”  All of which contribute to developing strong, positive relationships. When I moved to the district office, I used the same practice with the principals I supported, often sharing articles and resources with them that I knew they might find valuable based on site visits and the many collaborative conversations we would have as well.

So… this week’s #LeadLAP challenge:

  1. Choose at least two people on your team and share a personalized resource with them. (It would be awesome if you choose them because you N-OTICED something they were working on or they shared something with you in your C-OLLABORATIVE CONVERSATION)
  2. Tell them specifically why you thought of them when you read it.
  3. Enthusiastically end the conversation with “After you read this, I’d love to hear your thoughts!” which opens the door for another C-OLLABORATIVE CONVERSATION and possibly a chance to O-FFER SUPPORT
  4. Share with us over the course of the week how it goes using #LeadLAP on Twitter
  5. Join the #LeadLAP chat on Friday at 7:30 CST to share your reflections on the challenge

Cannonballs to avoid:cannonball

  • Don’t just drop an article in their box without saying anything about it – it doesn’t have the same personal touch.
  • Don’t use this practice as a substitute for having a courageous conversation about ineffective practice.
  • Don’t attach a deadline to reading the article/perusing the resource… No adult wants to feel like you are assigning them homework.

 


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#LeadLAP Challenge # 3 – C is for Collaborative Conversations

It often happens when we move into leadership roles that we feel the pressure and stress of being the person who is ultimately held responsible for the success of students in our school or in our district.  Ultimately, the bucks stops with us, and we are the ones held accountable.    We can find ourselves struggling internally because on the one hand, we want to build a climate and culture where people are empowered to make decisions, take risks, and push themselves to continuously learn and grow while on the other hand we secretly worry…”What if they make the wrong decisions?” As a result, it’s easy to fall into the trap of feeling like we have to be the expert on everything and be responsible for every decision.  The truth is, though, that we can’t be the experts on everything that happens in our schools… If we try to be, we will exhaust ourselves and most likely still fall short in some areas.  The fantastic news, though, is that working in districts and schools, we are surrounded by teams of people with incredible expertise in a wide variety of areas. As leaders, it’s important to free ourselves from thinking we have to know everything and instead embrace the multitude of talents, gifts, and expertise that lie within each and every person who works with us.  Unleashing the genius in those around you ultimately contributes to a thriving culture where people feel valued and are willing to learn and grow alongside the others with whom they work. It also contributes to your growth as a leader… as you open yourself to learning from and with your team, you continue to develop greater expertise.

Screen Shot 2015-10-19 at 9.27.18 AMThis concept or idea that we aren’t the only “experts” in the building is the catalyst for “C is for Collaborative Conversations”.

 

As mentioned in earlier posts, while there are times where direct feedback is essential, we have found that engaging in collaborative conversations about teaching and learning have greater impact on a person’s willingness to try something new, to learn, and to grow.  Collaborative conversations are much more likely to help you build a culture of commitment as opposed to a culture of compliance.  You can survive as a leader if you create a system where people are compliant and you can get results, but you and your school or district can’t thrive without commitment.  So, here is this week’s #LeadLAP challenge…

Choose 1-2 days this week where you set aside 30 minutes to visit classrooms and 30 minutes to engage in collaborative conversations with the teachers whose classrooms you visited.  Visit each classroom for 5-10 minutes and then let the teacher know “Thank you so much for having me in your classroom today… I always learn so much when I visit! I’d LOVE to chat with you about the lesson I observed today… do you have some time later when we can do that?”

When you and the teacher are together…

  1. Drop that APPRECIATION ANCHOR face to face
  2. Comment on something you NOTICED and share the impact
  3. COLLABORATE
    • Ask a question based on what you observed
    • Respond to what the teacher shares and ask another question
    • Have the teacher share his/her thoughts about the lesson and share some of yours
    • If the teacher shares a struggle they were having or something they are trying to make better (which they often do), acknowledge that it is something great to be thinking about and brainstorm ideas together
    • Encourage the teacher to try one of the new ideas that came out of your conversation and to let you know how it goes… better yet ask when they are going to try it out and offer to pop in to see how it goes
  4. Thank the teacher for his/her time

cannonballA few CANNONBALLS to avoid…

  • Don’t make assumptions about what came before the 10 minutes you observed or what happened after.  Ask a question instead: “When I walked in, kids were doing_____.  Tell me a little about what happened before I came in the room.”   “How did it go after I left?”
  • Don’t do most of the talking, remember this is a COLLABORATIVE conversation – shoot for a minimum of a 50/50 balance of talking and listening
  • Don’t try to mask criticism as a question, people will see right through you.

 

Have fun with this challenge…  The one on one face time we get with our teachers is rare and oh so precious! Appreciate and enjoy the time you have together.

We can’t wait to hear how it goes!! Share your thoughts and reflections using the #LeadLAP hashtag all week and join @BethHouf and me for a 30 minute reflective #LeadLAP chat on Friday at 7:30 CST.

 


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#LeadLAP Monday Challenge #2 – N is for Notice…

Thank you to everyone who joined @BethHouf and me last week for our first #LeadLAP challenge.  There were several “Appreciation Anchors” dropped, and we so appreciated hearing from so many of you about the impact that had on your teachers and on YOU!

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This week’s challenge is all about the “N” in ANCHOR Conversations which stands for “Notice the Impact”.  This piece of the ANCHOR conversation model is so critical in helping to ensure the feedback we give helps build self-efficacy and encourages teachers to continue powerful practices in a very deliberate and intentional way.  The mindset shift in this one is that it is not about noticing things you like or dislike in a lesson and sharing those with the teacher, it’s about noticing the decisions they made that had a positive impact on learning and telling them so.

Phrases like “Great job”, I SO loved your lesson on…”, “I really liked the way you…”  or “I think you should have…”, “I would have done _____ instead”, “I didn’t really like they way you____” are all judgmental, and we would argue we should eliminate them from our feedback as much as possible.  We’rImpact quotee not saying that we should never tell someone they did a great job or that they need to correct something, but we are advocating to be careful when and for what we deliver those messages.  When giving feedback on a lesson… we try not to use judgment language for a variety of reasons.  First and foremost… we don’t want it to be about us and what we like or don’t like… we want it to be about what engages students and helps them learn.  We don’t want people to plan, adjust and change their lessons based on whether or not WE like them – that shouldn’t be the criteria on which lesson planning and lesson delivery are based, and we don’t want our language to convey that we THINK that is the most important criteria.  So, what do we do instead… use “noticing”  language.  Language that acknowledges that the teacher made a choice to do something and that choice had a significant and specific impact on the learning experience for students.  Giving messages that comment on decisions made and the impact they had builds that sense of self-efficacy… that every choice the teacher makes MATTERS… that they hold the POWER in their hands to UNLOCK AMAZING POTENTIAL in each one of the students in their class.  We are also convinced that people actually have more of a sense of satisfaction after we drop a “Notice the Impact” ANCHOR then if we were just to say “great job” or “awesome lesson”. Even better, after you notice the impact… label the sound pedagogy!

So what does it sound like to drop this ANCHOR?  Something like this…

“Hey when I was in your classroom today, I noticed that you made a choice to add visuals and pictures to your lesson on habitats.  I sat down next to Maria (an English learner in the class).  When you first started talking about the desert habitat, she was having a hard time following, but as soon as you started to show the pictures, she totally got it and was quickly able to add words and pictures to her notes.  Thank you for doing that.  Every time you present your content in more than one way, you increase the chances that every child will learn what you are trying to teach them.  Have you noticed a difference in student learning when you incorporate visuals, manipulatives, kinesthetic activities or other modes of learning into your lessons?”

“I was so fortunate to be in your classroom for a few minutes today when your students were reading and discussing the article on the Statue of Liberty.  You had just posed these questions “Why do you think the Statue of Liberty serves as a symbol of hope? Are there other symbols of hope in our society? Justify your thinking.”  I sat down with group one and they were having a powerful and thoughtful discussion.  Because you posed questions that did not have a right or wrong answer, you encouraged more complex thinking and allowed for divergent thinking, and in the group I sat with, every child had something to contribute.  I even heard Ethan say…..  What did you notice about the impact the questions you posed had on the groups you observed?”

So,  this week’s #LeadLAP challenge… Take that same 30 minutes each day to visit classrooms.  Visit 6-8 classrooms for 3-4 minutes each.  Identify a choice or decision the teacher has made and “Notice the Impact”.  Drop that ANCHOR and let them know the decisions they make have IMPACT!  (While you’re at it… add an A is for appreciation message into your feedback as well!)

Please share with us how the challenge is going throughout the week using #LeadLAP on Twitter!

 

 


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#LeadLAP Monday Challenge #1 – Drop an ANCHOR – A is for Appreciation

I had the pleasure of attending AMLE last week where Beth Houf (@BethHouf) and I presented our inaugural Lead Like a PIRATE (#LeadLAP) workshop.  We had an outstanding time working with the great middle school educators in the room, and we made so many incredible connections with leaders who are passionate about making a difference.  A critical component of the workshop was a focus on a mindset shift for observing classrooms and providing teachers feedback.  Too often observations and feedback come across as evaluative and judgmental leaving teachers with a feeling that we are in their classrooms to “fix” them as opposed to partnering with them on a continuous journey of learning and growth for all of us.  The overly judgmental “telling” conversations can temporarily lead to teacher compliance, but they rarely lead to a culture where everyone is committed to taking risks and trying new things and where people are hungry for feedback to help them learn and grow.  As PIRATE leaders, we believe in changing the typical observation/feedback cycle into ANCHOR conversations (of course we had to use a PIRATE acronym):

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At the conclusion of the workshop, we posed our first #LeadLAP challenge…  Take just 30 minutes out of your day and visit 15 classrooms for two minutes each.  Before you leave, tell the teacher something you appreciated about what you just saw.  No messages about what you think should be better – just messages of appreciation (for more about the power of appreciation, see my last post: Start With Appreciation).  In the words of Anthony Robbins, “Where your focus goes, your energy flows”.  As leaders we have been conditioned to look for what needs to be better, we are “fixers” by nature, but if that is where we focus all of our attention we are at risk of missing all that is going right.  The best kept secret about dropping 15 messages of appreciation… not only do you brighten the day of your teachers, but you’ll feel pretty good yourself!

Thanks to all of the PIRATE leaders who took the #LeadLAP challenge today.

Please join us as we continue the challenge this week – Let’s drop ANCHORS all week! We would love for you to share with us how it goes using #LeadLAP or leaving comments below.

 

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