The Innovator’s Mindset – Worldwide MOOC

Dave and I would like to personally invite you to participate in what will surely be an incredible book study starting on September 17th.3d-im

In less than one year since the release,  The Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros has been a complete game changer in education. This book has sparked powerful conversations, prodded people and systems out of complacency, and driven real change in ways that are truly astounding. It is already being used as a text in multiple university education departments and book studies have been conducted literally worldwide. Over 200 people have given it a 5 Star review on Amazon and thousands of books have been sold each month. The positive response to George’s work has been overwhelming. To say that we are proud to be his publisher is an understatement.

But not one to be content with this success, George is creating an opportunity that is truly NEXT LEVEL.

Starting on September 17th, The Innovator’s Mindset MOOC is kicking off an experience that will be unlike anything ever offered in the way of a book study. It is specially designed to not just study the book, but to move way beyond that into implementation and true innovation.

MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Course and that is exactly what this will be.

Massive: Well over 1,000 educators will be participating by the time this is ready to start.

Open: Anybody can join. Just get the book and use any or all of the various methods to participate. In fact, there are already educators from OVER 18 countries signed up!

Online: There is a Twitter component using the hashtag #IMMOOC, there is a Facebook Group, a blog site, and there will even be YouTube Live interviews with influential educators. Can’t make it at the time of the live video? No problem…all of them will be archived and shared!

Course: This so much MORE than a book study. It is truly a fully developed six week course put together by George and the amazing, innovative educator, Katie Martin (@KatieMTLC). Every participant is also encouraged to share their learning using blogs and/or video and to develop an innovation project. (Want to follow the writings of fellow participants? Here is how.) This is not about surface level platitudes…this about diving in DEEP and making a true impact!!!

Please share this opportunity with everyone you know and prod, push, and cajole educators in your system to join you! This could be exactly what your leadership group needs to change the conversation and truly shift the paradigm to one of true innovation. As George says in The Innovator’s Mindset, “Change is the opportunity to do something cw34er7wqaeo1zt-jpg-largeamazing.” Don’t let this opportunity pass you by!

Read all details on the blog right HERE or go STRAIGHT TO THE SIGN UP PAGE HERE!



#LeadLAP Challenge – Teacher Appreciation Week: Personalize It!

So… I’ll admit that this challenge maybe should have been sent out a few weeks ago as Teacher Appreciation Week is now upon us, but we still felt like it was worth posting even though it’s late in the game.  I don’t know about you, but as a principal I always looked forward to Teacher Appreciation Week.  I loved putting time, energy, and creative thought into how to honor the challenging and important work that teachers do day in and day out.  For me it was always the ultimate time to celebrate teachers, and Beth and I both believe in doing this in a very authentic and personal way.  We will admit that we have both had colleagues who do not look forward to this week… They treat it like one more thing to check off the “to do” list.  Their celebration of teachers this week is usually very general and looks something like picking a gift from a catalog and telling their secretary to order one for everyone, creating a generic note to attach to it and either putting it in the teacher mailboxes or handing it out at a staff meeting with a very general speech that sounds something like this: “You are all my heroes!  Each and every one of you makes a difference in the lives of our students, and I’m grateful for the work you all do.”  Sometimes the speech and the gift are accompanied by a lunch or some treats brought in by the PTA or catered by a local restaurant chosen by the secretary. Teacher appreciation… Check!  While celebrating teacher appreciation week in a general way can be a powerful component of what you do… adding a personalized touch can take it to the next level.

That’s what Beth and I like to do! Rather than just generalize teacher appreciation this week, we strive to personalize it and make it meaningful for each individual teacher in some way.  We also like to do things where we personally give of our time rather than asking others to give theirs. It takes more time and effort, but it is time well spent if by the end of the week each teacher knows that there is something unique and special about them that you appreciate and that you are willing to put in the time to honor their unique talents and gifts.  Including just one thing throughout the week that is personalized shows teachers that you care, that you notice what makes them different and special, and contributes to building that positive culture on your campus.  We ask our teachers to personalize for our students, Teacher Appreciation Week is a great way to do the same for our staff.

So… our #LeadLAP Challenge to you this week is to build in just one thing that is personalized for each teacher or is personally giving of your time.  Below are a few examples of things that Beth and I have done over the years.  We would love for you to share what you are doing to personalize teacher appreciation all week using the #LeadLAP hashtag.

Teacher Appreciation Gift Ideas:

  • Choose a book that you want to give to everyone, but make it personal in some way.  Beth gave her entire staff a copy of P is for PIRATE: Inspirational ABC’s for Educators and chose a letter that represented each individual teacher well.  She wrote a personal, hand-written note, inserted on the particular page explaining why that particular letter reminded her of them.  Below are a few pics:
  • Create an individualized poster for each teacher to hang in their classrooms.  Select a different quote or poem for each teacher and write a personal note as to why that quote/poem reminded you of them. If you have a special staff meeting or lunch, it’s fun to have these hanging up to decorate the room.  Teachers can do a gallery walk and see them and then take theirs down at the end of the event.
  • Take an hour one day this week and visit every single classroom. Tell their students that it is Teacher Appreciation Week and share a few words with the class about why you think their teacher is special.
  • Write a personalized letter to each teacher’s spouse, parent, or other significant person in their life telling them how much you appreciate them and why.  I had a teacher do this for me once… he wrote a letter to my mom thanking her for all she had done to contribute to the person I had become and they type of leader I was for our school.  It was one of the best gifts I (and my mom) ever received.
  • Give the gift of time.  One of the things I did every year was have a raffle during our teacher appreciation lunch.  The prizes were administrators giving their time in order to give a teacher the gift of time.  Prizes were things like covering recess or morning duty, covering a class period with the grand prize being a teacher day off… The teacher would get a day off, and I would teach their class for the day.

These are just a few simple examples.  We know you have more!!  We can’t wait to hear what you are doing to celebrate your teachers this week.  We look forward to seeing your pictures and Tweets in the #LeadLAP hashtag!



#LeadLAP Challenge – 5 Survey

Beth and I are thrilled to have an amazing educational leader and friend, Amy Illingworth (@AmyLIllingworth) host this week’s #LeadLAP Challenge.  I will be writing a blog this week in response to the “5 survey” and sharing it in our #LeadLAP hashtag.  I hope you’ll join us!

From Amy:

Over the last few months the #LeadLAP challenges have asked us to get into classrooms to appreciate the amazing work our teachers are doing every day on behalf of their students.  We’ve dropped anchors, been enthusiastic, rethought professional learning, and harnessed the power of social media.  

reflectionToday it’s time to reflect and share our reflections with other leaders, to enhance our collective knowledge and impact on students and teachers.  Below is a survey asking you to reflect on your work as a #LeadLAP leader.  For each topic, brainstorm 5 items that relate to education, leadership and learning and why they ended up on your list.  Feel free to share your ideas on Twitter in the #LeadLAP hashtag or on your own blog.  We can learn from one another!

For a sample, see mine here.



Five Places I’m Dying To Visit

Five Tasks I Do Every Day

Five Talents I Wish I Had

Five Leaders I Wish I Could Work With

Five Twitter Hashtags I Love

Five Blogs I Love To Read

Five Phrases I Have On Repeat

Five Books On My To-Be-Read List


#LeadLAP Challenge: Rethinking Professional Learning

This week Beth and I are thrilled to have our first “guest challenge” written by an amazing principal, Mandy Ellis @mandyeellis.  We hope you will join us and share your journey on Twitter using the #LeadLAP hashtag!

From Mandy:

Last week’s # LeadLAP challenge was focused on transformation of your traditional Face-to-Face professional learning opportunities. Creating meaningful learning experiences for our staff models best practices of engagement and the true “PIRATE Principles” for our teachers to apply in their classrooms. To continue to grow a culture of professional learning, we need to ensure professional learning is differentiated, relevant and meaningful to all staff. Fortunately for us, twitter is the perfect platform for promoting learning and networking amongst our staff.

At our fingertips, we have a network of professionals and innovative thinkers that are like-minded in their efforts to foster engagement and creative practices in their classroom, but differentiated in their thinking and approaches. This combination provides an opportunity to stretch thinking and inspire innovation for all teachers. You can read how the ripple effect has spread at one school here:

The Ripple Effect: Thinking of Professional Learning Differently

The positive impacts of twitter use in professional learning are powerful:

  • It can create a culture of positive personal professional learning in which teachers access twitter and/or blogs to seek to connect and learn with other educators and professionals. Teachers share their ideas with each other as well as staff in other buildings in our district and districts across the nation.
  • Teachers connect with parents, promote a positive culture, and reflect on their instructional practices. It has taken away the concept that we work in isolation and fostered open and collaborative learning amongst the staff.
  • It can provide an an outlet to provide feedback and be present in the classroom during times administrators can’t physically be there. As an instructional leader and coach, I have gained a stronger understanding and insight into classroom instruction by following the hashtags of the twitter challenges teachers are participating in.
  • In some cases, it has created a ripple effect in which parents have created twitter accounts to follow classroom learning.

For this week’s #LeadLAP challenge consider how you could harness the power of social media, specifically twitter, to promote ongoing and individualized professional learning among your staff. Create a twitter challenge that focuses on a school goal or professional learning need. You can create a month long challenge, a week long, or one for use during your next staff meeting or school improvement day! Make sure you develop a school hashtag and participate in the challenge yourself. Some examples are below:


An added element to the challenge is to consider how you can promote the challenge and motivate your staff to participate. Maybe a free “dress down” or “jeans day,” a moment of serenity, or personalized certificates of participation. Celebrate their risk taking and participation in growing and developing as a professional. Our teachers benefit from the encouragement, incentive and support just as much as our students!



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We look forward to hearing and seeing the ideas and results of your participation in the #LeadLAP challenge! Mandy would love to help! She would love to share ideas, examples or templates of what she has used.  You can email her or connect with her on twitter  or @mandyeellis

#LeadLAP Challenge – T is for Transformation… Up your PD Game!

You will find the full post of this week’s challenge on Beth’s website here: T is for Transformation.  Click on the link for the full challenge and the great story of how Beth transformed one of her staff meetings.  The gist of the challenge is below…

For this week’s #LeadLAP challenge, think about a meeting, professional development day, inservice, etc. that you have coming up in the next week or two. Ask those transformational questions of yourself as you begin to plan:

  • If your attendees didn’t have to be there, would the room be empty?
  • How could you make this a experience that you could sell tickets to?
  • How could you alter the room or setting to make the learning more meaningful?
  • When planning the content, how could you make it relevant to all that are in attendance?
  • How could voice and choice of participants be honored?
  • Which #tlap hook could you use to increase learning?
  • If you were a participant in the training yourself, would you want to be there?
  • How could you get prior feedback from the participants to help with your planning to personalize and differentiate the experience as much as possible?
  • How could you ensure that the transformation would only add to the learning and not take away?

We hope you’ll join us!!

Shelley and Beth

#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:

Lead Like a PIRATE – Passion AND Patience

If you are an educational leader, I hope you lead with PASSION!  Highly effective leaders are passionate.  They know who they are, they know what they love, they know what they stand for, and they bring this with them to work in one way or another everyday.  The passion is contagious, and highly effective leaders have a knack for helping those around them ignite their own passions and capitalize on them.  I love walking into schools where passion is evident.  There is a hard to describe energy that radiates within the walls and around the campus, and it takes a passionate leader to create this.

One of the early mistakes I made as a leader was believing that what I was passionate about would quickly be what everyone else was passionate about.  I actually thought that when I got excited about a new and better way of doing something and shared it with my staff that they all would make the change the next day and be excited about it… after all, my way was better, and who didn’t want to be better? Any of you who have been in leadership roles for longer than about two months can imagine how well that went over.  What I discovered over time, is that PASSIONATE leaders also need PATIENCE if we want to ignite a fire in our schools and districts that lasts.  Once we light a spark, we need to give it time to catch… we need to nurture it, feed it, stoke it, give it our constant attention and let it develop into a slow and steady burn that ultimately engulfs our school or district community.    A few things I’ve learned about how to light a fire and keep it burning…

  • Help your team see the purpose and the value in the change or new way of thinking.
  • Honor the good things they already do in their classrooms and don’t let the fire scorch the things that currently make a difference.
  • Know and understand each member of your team as a learner, be attentive to the type of support they will need, and their level of comfort with taking risks.
  • Help them find time to plan, collaborate, and connect with their colleagues to share successes and failures.
  • Get involved in the conversations and the work.  Don’t just announce change from the podium, roll up your sleeves and work alongside your team.
  • Give each person some wiggle room to go at their own pace.
  • Visit classrooms often so you will notice when someone has taken a small step forward, celebrate that step and never dismiss it as too small or not enough.
  • Listen authentically, honor their concerns and help get obstacles out of their way.
  • Provide them with useful and purposeful resources… not all at once, but over time as the need arises and the demand for them grows.  Don’t overwhelm people with too much too fast.
  • Convey UNdeniable and UNshakeable confidence in the ability of your team to do GREAT WORK and to BE AMAZING!
  • Be clear and relentless in your message… no one should ever wonder what it is that you are passionate about and committed to.

One of the most rewarding experiences you can have as a leader is to watch your PASSION fuel a new fire in your school or your district.  But it is important to remember that while your PASSION may be what lights the spark going, it will be your PATIENCE in fanning the flames that will ensure that it continues to burn.

Go forth and set the world on fire

Programs Don’t Teach Kids, Teachers Do!

I am sure that most of you, like me, get an onslaught of daily emails and phone calls from publishing company sales reps trying to convince you that they have created the magic program that will provide answers to all of the challenges we face in ensuring all of our students are successful learners.  While this has always been an issue, it has increased dramatically since so many states across the nation have adopted the Common Core State Standards.  The sales reps have learned all the buzz words…  they will try to convince you they have the most engaging complex texts aligned perfectly to the CCSS text complexity bands.  They are certain to have created the most amazing close reading lessons that include the perfect worksheets with the “just right” text dependent questions for students to answer about the texts – some of these are even available as online resources!   They are certain they have created the perfect formulas for teaching argumentative writing, narrative writing, opinion writing, and informational writing, and they even include the perfect graphic organizers to go with them!  Many of them love to rattle off big names of people we know are doing amazing work around the Common Core… David Coleman, Doug Fisher and Lucy Calkins come up a lot in these conversations as the sales reps are certain that these Common Core experts would approve of their programs… many of which look surprisingly familiar since they are old programs with new flashy covers that now have a big Common Core stamp on the front!

While I have yet to be enthralled with the flawless pitches of the repackaged materials and the promises of what is still to come, I understand that the reps are doing what they are supposed to be doing and trying to convince us to buy their programs, but I must admit that when I read or hear something like this…

“We offer ELA, ELL, Math and PD programs that are built to ensure success with the Common Core.”

MH900078820…I get infuriated!  We cannot buy into claims like this (which, by the way, came to me in an email just a few days ago).  While I believe it is essential to ensure that teachers have great resources at their disposal, I know without a doubt that:

Programs don’t teach kids, teachers do!

School improvement and change initiatives such as the CCSS will never be successful if we think the solution is a new program. If we want to be successful, we need to roll up our sleeves and build our collective capacity to do the hard work that change requires and be responsive to the students who are sitting in our classrooms. I love this quote from Anthony Muhammad’s  The Will to Lead, The Skill to Teach:

“Skill is a great ability or proficiency, an art or a craft.  Education is an art and a science that requires development of organizational skill – the ability of a staff to tailor its professional skills to the specific needs of the students it serves.”

Teaching is incredibly complex!  It involves classroom management and engagement techniques, depth of knowledge of content, precise use of effective instructional practices, wise use of resources, an understanding of assessment and how to use it, long term planning and short term adjustments.  It involves grit, determination, persistence and a whole lot of heart!

So to ever make a claim that a program will “ensure success” is a quick way to ensure I won’t finish reading your email, I won’t click on the link to review your resources, and I won’t be making an appointment to see you.  Please…  Show our professional educators some respect!

Making Memories

The holiday season is in full swing, and as my children have grown a little bit older, I have learned that what’s most important to me (and at least as important to my children) are the traditions we have created and the memories we make each holiday season. It is working together to open our Christmas decorations in anticipation of finding our favorite ones and placing them proudly in the same spots they were last year, and many years before that. It is being the first house in our neighborhood to hang the many Christmas lights and gathering with the neighbors to “flip the switch”. It is picking out the perfect Christmas tree, burning the extra pine in the fire – sometimes with the first hot cocoa or hot cider of the year.


It is… decorating the tree while listening to Christmas music and telling the story of each ornament as we hang it; doing the advent calendar and Christmas count downs; lighting the scented candles that fill the house with warmth and holiday scents; baking our favorite cookies and choosing new recipes to try; having all the neighborhood kids over to decorate Christmas cookies (even the 12 year old boys still count on this!).

It’s driving together to see the Christmas lights on our favorite streets and houses. It’s hanging the pictures on the refrigerator of Christmas gifts past and remembering those that still remain favorites (skateboards and scooters) and gifts that were a bust (Swim to Me Puppy and Wii light sabers). It’s reminiscing about all of the Santa’s lap stories over the years (In our house, there has NEVER been a year where sitting on Santa’s lap has gone well).  And it’s the Christmas Eve Open House we host for all of our family and friends.

As I reflect on our Christmas traditions, I am reminded that as educators we are also responsible for creating memories.  Yes, we want all of our students to be strong readers, writers, and mathematicians.  We want them to excel in the content we teach, be critical thinkers, productive members of the 21st century, and all the other things reflected in our mission statements; but equally important are the experiences we create and the memories we make.  Ultimately, maybe we shouldn’t just be asking our students to reflect on the content they’ve learned, but also to reflect on the experiences, memories, and stories they have gathered as they pass through our classrooms and schools. In fact, those experiences, memories, and stories just might turn out to be the most far-reaching and powerfully impactful “content” they take with them.

It’s Not a Duty, It’s a Privilege

Connecting. Learning. Sharing. Reflecting – They make us better educators and they make us better leaders.

I had a conversation last week with one of our principals who is relatively new to Twitter.  As long as I have known her, she has been an active learner – always wanting to learn, grow, reflect, improve.  With her discovery of Twitter, she is now connecting, learning and sharing with many educators around the globe, and she, like me, is loving it.  At the heart of our conversation, though was this…  our commitment to being learners, our willingness to look out into the world and connect with others, watch what they are doing, and to see what they are sharing is making us better educators and leaders.

When we see inspirational tweets come across our screens, read blogs written by other educators, follow projects in other schools and districts around the nation and the world, we get inspired, and we often say to ourselves “I/We could do that!”  and then we often do…

Excerpts from a recent blog from Seth Godin said this:

Do the extra work not because you have to but because it’s a privilege…

Not because you want credit or reward. Because you can…

We know that the privilege of doing the extra work is the work itself.

The habit of doing more than is necessary can only be earned through practice. And the habit is priceless.

I have had times in my life as an educator when I have been so bogged down in the day to day routines and work that I have pushed aside my time for learning… my time for connecting… my time for sharing and reflecting.  Thinking about that now, I know those were the times when I least enjoyed my work, and when I was least effective as a leader.  I was getting the job done, but I wasn’t the type of leader I know I can be.  What I have learned is that in order to be the type of leader I can be proud of, then I must hold these things sacred… connecting, learning, reflecting and sharing.  It is as important to me to prioritize these things as part of my week as it is for me to prioritize being in schools and in classrooms – This is the extra work that is a privilege…  This is the extra work that needs to become habit.  This is the extra work that always motivates me, inspires me, and pushes me to be a better educator and a better leader.