#LeadLAP Challenge… E is for ENTHUSIASM

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Enthusiasm is contagious! When you are around enthusiastic people or surrounded by good, positive energy – you feel it – it’s palpable. As we have hit the point in the year where we are coming off of Thanksgiving break and have just three weeks before our winter break, it’s easy to allow ourselves to fall into the trap of “just getting through” until the break. So we are embarking on a three week #LeadLAP challenge focused on injecting enthusiasm into our schools, districts and communities.

 
There are so many negative stories out there about education. Stories that beat up our schools, our principals, our teachers. As leaders in our buildings, we need to commit to rewriting the stories… to combatting the negative with an insane amount of positives. We need to radiate enthusiasm for the great things happening in our schools, and it’s up to us to share hat enthusiasm with others. Great things are happening in your district, in your school, in your classrooms. What are you doing to showcase them? To share them?

 
We encourage you to start this week by thinking about the communication that goes out directly from you to you your staff… to your students… to your parents and community. What percentage of that communication focuses on the amazing things happening in your school? If you were to scan your school newsletter, would you see more reminders of parking rules and dress code or would you see more stories and pictures of students engaged in deep and meaningful learning? If you were to keep a log of the phone calls you made to parents, would there be more negative messages or more positive ones? What about interactions with staff… Are there more “do’s or more “don’ts”? Which are YOU more enthusiastic about?

 
So as the holidays are approaching and 2015 is winding down, we think there is no better time than now to stop, take a look around your district, your school, or your classroom and ask yourself… “What is it that is AMAZING about who we are and what we do?” “What are students, staff, teachers doing that make you incredibly proud of them?” We know it’s all around you!

 
So… This first week of the three week #LeadLAP ENTHUSIASM challenge is to find those moments of AMAZING in your school. Document those moments in pictures… videos… recordings… quotes or any other way that seems appropriate and then SHARE your enthusiasm for them using the #LeadLAP hashtag. You can share them in any other way that makes sense to you as well… but here’s a hint… next week’s challenge will focus on a variety of ways to share these amazing moments with your district, school, and classroom communities. So this week… just have fun capturing the AMAZING and sharing your enthusiasm with the #LeadLAP community.

 

Enthusiastically yours,
Shelley and Beth

 

#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.

 

#LeadLAP Challenge #4 – H is for Honor Voice/Choice and O is for Offer Support

Beth Houf (@BethHouf) and I are thrilled that so many of you have joined in our #LeadLAP challenges.  We have loved seeing all of the collaboration, sharing, and reflection and have appreciated the feedback we have received. This week’s Screen Shot 2015-10-19 at 9.27.18 AMchallenge encompasses both the “H” and the “O” in the ANCHOR conversations. To read the full challenge, visit Beth’s blog.

If you have been participating with us so far… we thank you!  If not, we encourage you to dive right in and join us!  Below are just a few of the tweets PIRATE leaders have shared this week about the #LeadLAP challenges:

#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.