Shelley Burgess

Reflections of an educational learner and leader


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#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!

 

 


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#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

 


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#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:

Capture

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 mellis@dunlapcusd.net or connect with her on twitter  or @mandyeellis


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#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


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#LeadLAP Challenge: L is for Learner

change learnerDuring my time as a principal coach, I’ve often worked with people to help them overcome what can only be described as a “fear of having to be the expert”.  Something happens to our brains when we step into administrator roles that seems to make us think we can no longer let people see that there are actually things we still have to learn about teaching and learning.  I’ll be the first one to say that when you decide to step into an educational leadership role, you should know a lot about curriculum, instruction, assessment, sound pedagogy and effective practice – your competence in these areas (along with your character) are a big part of what will start earning you trust.  There is no way you know all there is to know, and that’s ok!  What’s awesome is that you are surrounded by a team of professional educators who can help you fill in your own learning gaps and contribute to your own professional growth on a daily basis… How cool is that?  But for whatever reason, when we walk into classrooms and then later engage in coaching conversations, we feel we have to wear the hat of “expert”.  We observe the lesson and decide what we think worked well and what didn’t and we package it up into feedback that we hope will “fix” the teacher, then we assure them that our conversations and feedback aren’t evaluative and then we ultimately we scratch our heads and wonder why they don’t find our feedback all that valuable and why they get a bit stressed when we walk into their classrooms.

One of the biggest challenges people have with leading ANCHOR conversations is the “Collaborative Conversations” piece, and I think it has a lot to do with them maintaining the “boss” or “expert” role during the conversation.  The administrator does most of the talking or telling and the teacher listens politely (most of the time), says “Thank you” and happily exits the conversation.  A truly collaborative conversation is one where there is no perception or belief by either party that there is an imbalance of power in the conversation.  You both believe that what you say carries equal weight. In other other words… the administrator’s ideas don’t automatically trump the teacher’s just because they carry the title of “boss”.  As leaders… one of the things we need to work hard to do is shake this perception that comes with the title – at least we do if we want to be invited into the real conversations that are happening on our campuses about teaching and learning.

One way to begin to shake this perception is to take every opportunity to show your team that you are a learner too… that you appreciate feedback and learning from them just as much as you enjoy helping them learn and grow.  So, this week’s challenge is all about showing your team that you are a learner (and it will get you into classrooms, too!)

Take at least two hours this week in any configuration that makes sense on your calendar to visit classrooms (but get it on your calendar now or the time will slip away from you).  Try to visit at least 15 classrooms. While you are there, erase any thoughts of things you see and want to fix and instead focus on what YOU are learning from THEM and then tell them.  One of the most amazing opportunities I have had as an administrator is to observe thousands of lessons, and I have learned a TON from what I have seen other teachers do, and I’m certain you have too.  We just have to be open to it and then be willing to share our learning with them.  One of my favorite things to do is to get an opportunity to sit down with a teacher and say to them… “That strategy… method… tech tool… app… content… is new to me.  I learned a ton just by watching you for five minutes. I want to know more – can you teach me?”  Putting ourselves out there as learners, too goes a long way in building the trust and rapport with our colleagues that we need if we want them to find value in the coaching and feedback we provide to them.

So… get into those classrooms this week and drop ANCHORS of LEARNING!

  1.  Set aside two hours to visit classrooms – visit at least 15 over the course of the week
  2. Focus on what you are learning from the teacher during the observation
  3. Drop an ANCHOR of LEARNING… tell the teachers what YOU learned from THEM
  4. Be sure to share how it goes using the #LeadLAP challenge all week

Shelley and Beth

 


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#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… 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