Five of Eight: Celebrating the Student

Schools exist for students. For no other reason, we have schools.  Every decision made about the how, what, why, when and who has to be in service to students.  At every level, the student has to be “in the room” when we plan our next steps. Why we open and close buildings, what curriculum we will use, who we will hire to drive our buses or to lead our schools are decisions that must be made because of the students.  How hard is this to remember?  Does it truly drive our work? On the road this week, I had so many great reminders of why we do this work… the student…

In my schools and districts in the southern states, students are graduating as I type this blog. On Friday, the seniors from the high school visited the intermediate school that I was working in.  As they proudly walked through the school in the caps and gowns, students and teachers cheered.  Graduates stepped out of line to hug the teachers that they recognized from days gone by and young students recognized babysitters or neighbors, beaming proudly at them as they passed by. One teacher was in tears when she saw a young lady who she never thought would make it to graduation day.

Just before the graduation visit, I had spent the morning with the school’s leadership team. We were reflecting on our work this year and planning our next steps for the 2019-2020 school year.  Despite the exhaustion on their faces, the teachers were able to have an honest, careful discussion about their professional growth. We laughed together and even had a few tears over stories that can only happen with trust and mutual respect. And, mostly, we talked about the student.  Their proudest reflections centered on student growth. fullsizeoutput_1091How far students had come in their academic achievement was what brought the most smiles to the room and when I think back to what they suggested as the next steps on our school improvement journey, again, it was all about the student.

Keeping the student in the room. What does it take to be this intentional?  In Leading with Intention, https://www.solutiontree.com/leading-with-intention.html Jeanne Spiller and I dedicate chapter five to this; what does it mean to authentically be about “the student”? We share our experiences about what it does not look like as well as what it should be when decisions are authentically about the student.  We acknowledge that this is not as easy as it sounds.  We see many mission statements written that exclaim the student at the focus of all work, however, when you really dig deep, decisions and actions do not align.

Consider a decision to move an entire student body out of a school to another building only to find out after the move has started that there are not enough classrooms to accommodate all of the students so some will be moved elsewhere.  Imagine being the fifth grader finding out tomorrow that your class will no longer be housed with your friends, teachers and other fifth graders because someone forgot to count the rooms. Or, the high school student who finds out in March that a counselor made a mistake on their course selection options and the potential student cannot graduate.  And, maybe you have experienced witnessing a hiring of a teacher only because of connections to the school board, not based on what the students need.  All true stories in my world.

How do we communicate unwavering belief in students? What do you need as reminders of this important priority? In some schools and districts, a decision-making protocol might be helpful that focuses first on the student causing you to intentionally describe how this decision will impact students before you consider anything else such as resources or policy. It might mean having more opportunities to talk to students bringing their voice to the table through focus groups, lunch and learns, principal advisory groups and daily conversations in service of good relationships. These types of practices can go a long way in increasing the mutual respect and support of our students. Check out this sample template from Chapter five: https://solutiontree.s3.amazonaws.com/solutiontree.com/media/pdfs/Reproducibles_LWI/figure5.1studentcentereddecisionmakingprotocol.pdf.

I remember, one time as superintendent many years ago, having a parent remind me of my purpose. A meeting was about to start with a very angry parent and she quietly placed a picture of her son on the table. It was very difficult, well impossible, to forget about our “why”. Why we were in the room was about her son and the picture quickly brought him in the room. I want to say that even without that picture I would have stayed intentionally focused on why we meeting but I have to say, the picture made it impossible to forget.

As I said to the leadership team at my school this week, we are in “service” to our students when we go to work. That is our purpose. That is our why. It is our responsibility to not let this slip away as we made decisions.  District and school leaders cannot lose sight of this. Do whatever it takes for you to check your thinking, revise your plans, correct your mistakes so you get this part of our work right.  What will you do to insure positive impact on students? Have a great week.

Four of Eight: What’s the Story?

As life happens so do our lessons.  We work, we play, we love, we live and how much we actually stop and notice…well, I am not always sure. At least that is true for me.  I hope that I am not missing too many of life’s lessons along the way. I had two of them this week; both very related and totally aligned with what I wanted to write with you about in this weekly blog as it was time for chapter four.  Here is what happened…

Have you ever really felt surprised by yourself?  You know, when you absolutely should have remembered something or knew it without being told?  Especially when you actually do know it but stopped seeing it for some reason?  Last weekend, I attended training for the school improvement work that I do.  It was with several of my colleagues and led by Dr. Sharon Kramer and Sarah Schuhl. These two women have written an amazing book, School Improvement for All (https://www.solutiontree.com/school-improvement-for-all.html) and it is foundational in the work that we do. About half way through the first day, I had my ah ha moment.  I cannot even tell you what we were talking about or why at that moment I had my epiphany, but I did. It dawned on me, that, more times than I should be, in my work, I was relying on my experience to guide my practice rather than the story in front of me. In other words, the current reality, the data, the evidence needed to be the first thing that I truly focused on when making next step decisions. It has always been important to me but I recognized that I needed to do a better job of this.

I know that as I go in to my schools, I bring many years of experiences that are important to our work. What I was reminded of this week is that it cannot be the most important piece of my coaching work. Evidence-Based-PracticeI have to continue to look at the evidence of adult practices, student achievement, the current picture of school routines and procedures and any other real evidence that paints the picture of what is happening in the school. I have to continue to study and be a learner of the most current and first-best practices and while I can rely on my experiences to guide me, I have to let the evidence be the lead factor.

This is the focus of chapter four of Leading with Intention, the book that I co-authored with Jeanne Spiller and what a series of eight of my blogs have been about.  Jeanne and I actually wrote a chapter that states the same thing that my ah ha moment was about.(https://www.solutiontree.com/leading-with-intention.html).    The chapter includes opportunities for learning and reflecting on how to become more evidence- based in our decision-making.  We quote Dr. Doug Reeves who reminds us that it is human nature to use background knowledge, lean on past experiences and influence others from our comfort zone. Reeves states, “however clear the evidence, personal experience remains triumphant in too many discussions of education policy”. As Reeves acknowledges, in education, we work from our experiences and opinions more often than we should when there is evidence in front of us that can inform our decisions.  You see, I knew this (I wrote about it), but I needed reminders this past week.

What does the work look like when we focus on the evidence? It is about digging deep until you find the root cause of why a student isn’t able to read, why students stop coming to sixth period class, what the trends are with staff attendance, what information is found in that state or provincial assessment data when you get it back. It takes honest, professional discussion about what is happening in some classrooms that is engaging and causing student success while right down the hall, the very same students are not being successful.  It means that we hold up a mirror when we need to and examine the evidence of our own habits and any other places that the real story can be told. And, it means we continuously read and learn together to improve our skills in honor of our students. I might be able to provide guidance and support as I work with a school but the real help will come when we unpack the evidence and use it to plan our next steps.

I left our weekend of training feeling energized and eager to see my school this week. We hit the ground running with lots of work with teachers and then, circumstances brought light to this same lesson again. As I was helping my teachers with their planning for the next school year, some of the teachers were having a difficult time understanding why the work we were asking them to do was so important. I think they were truly missing the deep understanding of how this would help the students. And, so, once again, the evidence was needed.

Using evidence to articulate and see what students should be able to do at grade level and what they currently can or cannot do is the driver when planning next steps.  As difficult as the current reality picture might be to see, it has to be on the table.  You cannot improve schools without a deep understanding of what is working and what is not.  That is where our decisions must come from. Luckily for me and my teachers, they were going to have an opportunity that same week to look at data with a colleague of mine. Heather is a rock star with deep understanding of the work that we do and she was able to create a stronger commitment to why the next steps we had discussed were the right steps. I am so appreciative of her.

As we begin to close schools for the summer and set our plans in place for the next school year, we need to move forward confidently because of what we know not just what our opinions might be.  Our decisions and plans for improving schools have to be based on the evidence in front of us. And, if we don’t have the evidence, we need to get it. You may need to look in new places and directions to truly see your story. You might want help with this work and not really be sure, at first, what the evidence is telling you. The important thing is to get started and look for the patterns and discuss the “whys”. In fact, ask the question “why?” enough times until you see the big picture and you are able to tell your story.  Have a great week.

 

 

Two of Eight: Mixed Messages

Confusion sets in.  You can see it in their faces. You think that you are being very clear on next steps and expectations. What is wrong with what you are saying or doing?  How can they not understand? In our personal and professional lives, we experience moments when clarity seems impossible.  To ourselves or to others, sometimes, things do not make sense.

Despite our best intentions, we don’t always match our words with our actions.  First of all, we have to understand what we prioritize and expect.  It takes self-discipline and commitment to stay focused on what we have decided is the right work.  And, we have to know what it looks like when we follow through with what we say is important.

In Leading with Intention, chapter two, (https://www.solutiontree.com/leading-with-intention.html), Jeanne and I share our thoughts and suggestions about ensuring that schools are well organized systems.  We open the chapter with an example of going to two concerts- one is really well organized and the other is, quite simply, chaotic.  Both operators promise the same thing- an amazing experience but only one delivers. The one that is the epic experience is different because of the procedures in place. UnknownThere is clarity on how things are done, there are systems in place for crowd control and procedures for safety and there are people visibly available to support you.  There are no mixed messages. You, as the concert goer are clear on where to park, how to enter, what to bring, how easy it is to get food and beverages and you see the thought that has gone in to aligning the actions with the message of delivering on a great experience.

While we were writing the book, we were saddened by the number of school shootings that occurred. As hard as these situations were, it helped us think about the importance of school safety and how this has to be part of the planning that is done to ensure that a school is well organized and does not feel chaotic. We invited our readers to reflect on current safety practices and procedures and to adjust what you need to bring clarity to what would be expected.  Years ago, I worked in a school where no one knew what the procedure was for a bomb threat. One happened on a day when the principal was out of the building, taking with her the procedures for what we all were to do.  One of the assistant principals was in charge and when the bomb threat came in, she really didn’t know how to inform her teachers and students to evacuate.  Out of desperation, she finally went on the intercom and made a school-wide announcement that we were to evacuate because we had had a bomb threat.  You can likely guess that some chaos followed.  This wasn’t exactly what the principal had in mind with her safety procedures but it was not clear to the other administrators or staff. When she returned, she was quite surprised that we didn’t know what to do. Needless to say, there were mixed messages (or no messages) in our safety plans.

In our school improvement coaching roles, Jeanne and I are often asked if the principal should focus on “organization” or “instruction”. As Jim Collins writes in Built to Last, the Builders of greatness reject the “Tyranny of the OR” and embrace the “Genius of the AND.” They embrace both extremes across a number of dimensions at the same time—purpose AND profit, continuity AND change, freedom AND responsibility, discipline AND creativity, humility AND will, empirical analysis AND decisive action, etc.”.  The reason that we lead schools is so each student can succeed. That happens in the classroom and, as Collins writes, it isn’t about or. It also happens because of the structures and practices that school leaders put in place so students feel safe and are clear on expectations for behaviors and learning. Learning happens because of the classroom experiences and the organizational culture of the school. Students tell us all the time when their school is “a mess” as one high school student recently described the way the daily routines were in his building. The adults too-they must have clarity on what is expected. That really is the underlying theme of being organized; the structures have to be in place and people need to know what they are! It cannot be an or.

In many countries and districts, schools will soon be closing for the summer. In other countries, schools are in to their new school year. It doesn’t matter where you are in your timing, it is always a good idea to review and reflect on the “organizational” culture that you are creating. Or, maybe it is about what you are not creating?  Are you avoiding setting things in order because they require making changes and asking people to do different things? Is it because you really haven’t thought about what others “perceive” the expectations to be?  Is there clarity or mixed messages?

We end each chapter with some suggestions of what great leaders do and what great leaders avoid. We also ask you to reflect on what you would do differently based on what you read.  For example, we suggest that you walk the building for eight minutes each day to identify aspects of school organization and safety that you can improve.  Or consider developing a school survey to determine aspects of school safety and organization that are working well and what others suggest that you might need to update or change.  Another great idea is always to ask others what they “perceive” or “understand” your expectations to be. I sure wish that we had done that before a bomb threat, not after one.

Finally, I invite you reflect on what clues will help you know when you are not being clear? How can you determine what actions will provide alignment?  Whom do you need to talk to?  And lastly, how important is this to you? Really?

Thanks for reading. Stay tuned next Saturday for a glimpse of chapter three.

 

The First of Eight: Getting Focused

Distractors, too many initiatives, misuse of time, and an overall inability to determine a small number of goals that intentionally set direction are often missing pieces of leadership practice.  Every day, you start with a plan- with a list of things to do, people to talk to, actions to take, habits to stick with to help you accomplish your goals. Before you know it, the day has slipped away.  Does this sound familiar? What happens to throw you off your game? How do you get back on track?

Time: The Struggle is Real. Acknowledge this. Say it out loud. Own it. Reflect on how you use it.  It is what it is.  Twenty-four hours. That is all that we have. Everyday, no matter what is happening, that is all we have.  Take a deep breath.  Embrace the day.  And, do the things that matter. Take action that honor your goals and plans. What you spend your time on truly defines what is important to you.

As promised, here is a snapshot of the first chapter of Leading with Intention (https://www.solutiontree.com/leading-with-intention.html) titled,  Achieving Focus and Staying Intentional. positive-habits_FI-1200x520-e1494578353345Each chapter offers several opportunities to reflect and ends with an activity to cause you to plan your next steps… what can you do with eight minutes, eight weeks, eight months. In this first chapter, the conversation is really about how you set your priorities and then work to keep distractors out-of-the-way.

Have you asked others to describe what they believe your focus or priorities to be?  Can they tell from your actions? Would they respond with confusion or would it be crystal clear?  To me, this is the true test of how we spend our time.  Let’s face it, in our personal lives or our work lives, where we spend our time and what we spend it doing says everything about what we prioritize.  For example, a school principal makes decisions every day about where in the building he or she will be. During leadership coaching, I ask school leaders to think about this…are they spending time in the school where they should be? In conversation with the people who they need to be interacting with? Or are they avoiding the classrooms or the people that might be important to helping achieving goals?

To gain focus, we actually need to take the time to consider what we want to focus on. Writing down your goals can be empowering and will help you stay on course. We suggest several ways to think about how you use your time and what is distracting you from doing what you know you really should do.  Taking time to plan your day and then intentionally making sure that you are aware when you are being distracted is important. The really critical piece is when you take whatever step you need to stay the course.

How many times do you hear someone ask you, “Do you have a minute?”. You both know, it isn’t really just a minute of your time that someone wants and at that very moment, you have a decision to make.  Do you allow this distraction or do you need to find a way for the conversation to happen when it works better for you. What happens when you are working online?  Do you find yourself quickly distracted by Twitter, Instagram or Facebook?  Does it become how you spend your time despite your best intentions to focus on the right work? Believe me, I am guilty of all of the above. I have learned how easily distracted I can be every single day of my life.  I know that as a leader and as a person, the self-discipline of staying focused on my goals is a challenge.  And, it all feels very messy some of the time to me and there have been lots of times that I had to truly hit the reset button and start again.  Working and living with intentionally is a “work in progress” for me.

This chapter is the first chapter of the book for a reason.  As baseball legend Yogi Berra says, “if you don’t know where you are going, you will end up someplace else.”  School improvement requires the road map with an end goal in mind. Identifying what you will be “tight” on, your non-negotiables, includes your intentional actions.  So, think about a few priorities and set your goals.  Take the time to consider what has to happen to get you there and commit to these actions.  Consider how you will message this to others. What will this look like? Sound like to them? Stay intentional.  That is what great leaders do.  And, when you take a detour or even get off the road for awhile, remind yourself of what you want to accomplish and get back out there! Have a great week and a wonderful easter.  See you next Saturday!

Superhero or School Leader?

“With great power comes great responsibility. Peter Parker, also know as Spider-Man, comes to this realization after a spider bites him and he is transformed into a superhero with exceptional powers, including the ability to sense impending danger”.  This is the first sentence of the introduction of Leading with Intention, a book that I co-authored withJeanne Spiller.  No, it is not a book about superheroes… well maybe it is… because it is for school leaders.

Jeanne and I know that like, Spider-Man, school leaders are faced with challenging, demanding, important work every day as a school leader. spider-man-1099203We wanted to write a book to help our school leaders become better at sharing this power and responsibility. We wanted to create opportunities for school leaders to think about how to collaborate more effectively and be student-centered, data-driven, focus on instruction, be well organized and great communicators! All without superpowers!!

We say in our introduction, that we wish that we could give you Spidey-senses or superhuman strength, but instead we settled for offering insights in approaching your work as a school leader. We set up the book to do what Uncle Ben did for Peter Parker, to provide advice, support, good examples and opportunities for reflection.

The number eight… have you ever though about it when it is turned on its side?  It is the symbol for infinity. As a school leader, you have infinite choices to make every day; how to use your time, what to focus on, who to talk to, and where to be. And the figure eight is made of two equal parts, creating balance.  So, Jeanne and I used the number eight throughout the book as our point of reference. We provided eight themes/chapters for your consideration.  At the end of each chapter, there is an opportunity to reflect on what you would do with eight minutes, eight weeks, eight months to improve your practice.

This book is about moving, from focusing on you, personally, as the leader, to intentional practices to guide your work and we want you to leave each chapter suggesting five leadership actions that you will commit to doing. We describe what great leaders do and what we want you to avoid. We both have learned a great deal from our mistakes (still do) and we have learned to celebrate as we have grown as leaders.

The funniest part of our journey together in writing this book is how we met and started.   We were assigned a district contract in California, together as consultants, and on day one we met up for breakfast to meet and share our plans for the day. Before you knew it, this girl from Eastern Canada and Jeanne from Chicago, discovered our mutual love of hockey and the Chicago Blackhawks. (It is a long story but we actually  spontaneously bought tickets to go to a game in San Jose that very night…only to find out it was too far away and we couldn’t get there on time after work!).  As we continued to work together that week, we soon realized that we also mutually loved developing leadership skills in others and we knew that we were missing a resource that we could take with us to help leaders sit and really reflect on their needs.  We wanted something that didn’t have to be read from cover to cover but could be used as needed.  We agreed that we didn’t have what we were describing, yet… so we wrote it.

To say that we had fun writing the book would be an understatement. We met wherever we could whenever we could. We laughed and worked hard.  We became best friends. I am not sure that is what happens with all co-authors but it was my only experience and I am glad that this is how it turned out. This was my first book and I struggled through some days. Writing was a challenge and a blessing. I learned so much from our publishers and editors at Solution Tree Press and Jeanne was a great cheerleader having co-authored other books.

And so, beginning next Saturday, for the next eight weeks, this blog will be about one of our eight chapters/themes. I want to share some of our thinking and help you reflect on the end of this school year and/or begin planning for the next one!  The book was published in late 2018 and we are so excited when we get feedback. Mostly, the feedback that we love is when a leader actually uses some of the reflection templates and exercises to help them think about their next steps.  In fact, when someone sends us a picture of  our book all marked up with the exercises filled in we are thrilled! That is a true celebration for us!

Thanks for reading and thinking along with me.  Embrace your strengths and your impact on others. You have an infinite number of ways to be you. Follow Jeanne at @jeeneemarie and you can follow me here or at @power58karen.  Our book is available through Solution Tree at https://www.solutiontree.com/leading-with-intention.html. See you next Saturday!

My Brother

As a school improvement coach, much of my daily work is focused on supporting leaders.  In fact, most of my readings, writings and conversations focus on leadership.  It has been that way for close to thirty years.  I had my first school administrative position in the late 80s and it was about that same time that I learned one of the most valuable lessons in leadership. The one that stuck with me through all the positions that I have had and impacts what I try to share in my coaching role.  And, I learned it from the person who, before that, I only knew in a different role… my older brother.  Here is how the lesson evolved…

When I was starting my school administrative journey, I was taking courses to finish my Masters in School Administration.  One of my assignments was to interview a leader and find out what made them successful.  Now, I didn’t know many “leaders” at the time so I thought that I would just call my brother who, ten years prior to this, had started a company with three others.  I didn’t really know much about what they were doing but I knew that he was part of the management team so he was my chosen “leader” for the interview.

I had several questions for Edgar but the one and only one that I remember today has greatly impacted my understanding about leadership.  I asked him what he felt was the most important practice that helped him be successful. He answered, without hesitation, that he always went in to the office early so he could reflect and think about the bigger picture of what he wanted to accomplish.  He went on to explain that once others were in the office he knew that the day would be more about problem-solving and daily decisions. He liked being able to be reflective during the quiet early morning hours and it helped him stay focused on what he wanted to accomplish. From that day and almost 30 years later, it is a practice that I work very hard to build in to my daily work and what I share with others as a coach.  I know how busy my school leader’s lives are and I also know that when they can reflect and focus on their goals, they are more successful.

On March 1 this year, my brother, Edgar Goguen celebrated forty years as a business owner.  His company, Arrow Construction Products Limited (https://www.arrowco.ca) has its head office in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada.  He is now the sole owner, CEO and President.  Serving Atlantic Canada, his company has five locations plus the head office.  Arrow began with a focus on very specialize products used in concrete for bridges and overpasses. Over the years they have grown and diversified and have introduced many innovative products including specialized roofing applications.

But, the real reason that I am writing my school improvement blog about him is because he is an exemplary leader.fullsizeoutput_107e Even though his role is not about making schools better for students, he gets the big picture.  Over the years I have watched as he stayed committed to his goals and knew that his number one asset was his employees. He has looked after both his staff and his customers and he seems to be able to do it with the perfect blend of hands-on leadership and empowerment.  I also know that he is humble about his success and not really great about telling his own story.  ( I am a little nervous that he may not like this attention at all!). In fact, we all know that it is hard to be a prophet in your own land and I am quite sure that there would be many, many New Brunswickers and Atlantic Canadians that do not know about this highly successful local story and leader.

So, when I think of leadership and my personal journey over the years, it all seems to go back to that interview with Edgar and how much being able to be reflective and visionary at the same time was so important to my work.  In our schools and districts, taking the time to do both is culture-building.  It means that we go backwards ( by reflecting) to go forward (with our vision).  It means that we take personal time for thinking and this might mean shutting off our devices, keeping distractors away and intentionally being committed to this kind of practice.  It takes self-discipline as a leader and it doesn’t mean that the next steps or answers to every problem come easy.  But, it demonstrates a belief in you as a person, that you know how important it is for you to be at your best.  Combine this with a positive mindset about your staff and students and you have a recipe for great success.

When Edgar drives across many bridges and overpasses in Atlantic Canada, he knows that he likely had a hand in building them.  We might not need concrete products as leaders of schools, but in order to see our continuous improvement, we do have to think of ourselves as architects and builders.  We are designing and building lives; the lives of our students.  And we are often “bridging” the gap between knowing and doing. Are you clear on your vision? Do you reflect on your progress to accomplish your goals?  Or, is it time to reset your daily practices and create time and space for you? Thank you, Edgar for being. a great role model and an amazing favorite brother (I only have one so he always knows he is the favorite!).  Have a great week everyone and as always, I appreciate your support and feedback.

Struggle

“The struggle is real.” A phrase that is often seen or heard when describing a challenge. When someone is going through a hard time, we describe it as a struggle.  I have to be honest, this past week was a struggle for me.  The struggle was real. The winter cold/flu that everyone has had finally caught up with me. It kept me home, off the road and finally after six full days of taking it easy,  I was coming around. Down time gives you time to rest and reflect.  And, as I was catching up on some reading, I thought about many of the conversations during this past school year that I have had in schools about what we expect of students.

Do we expect enough?  Do we actually let them struggle with their work?  Are we letting them figure things out? Use critical thinking skills, strategies and their own ideas to solve problems?  Maybe, just maybe, we jump in just a little too soon to give them the answers.  To lead them to the answer that we want?  And, sometimes, I know that we lower our standards.  Present reading text that is easier, change our questions to reflect where we think that they are at in their learning.  I understand, as an educator, the need to meet students where they are at and work from there, however, the more I work in schools with low performing students, the more I notice that we often are teaching below what we really know should be our expectations.

I was reading some posts this week that referenced “leveling up our lives”, “shooting for the moon”, “working towards the ceiling instead of the floor.”  It seems to me that these type of messages are all about expectations and the importance of seeing and keeping the end in mind.  Work ethic often means that we have the GRIT MNess_BLKT_Gritto stick with something, to see it through, no matter how hard it seems.  I am amazed when I see the performance of athletes who have come back from serious life-threatening injuries only to reinvent themselves and reach or exceed their potential.  You can only imagine the struggle of their experiences.  They might make it look easy to us as they perform but the hours and days of struggle are not as obvious.

The same can be said for our students.  A common discussion that I have had with teachers this year is about the lack of stamina that students seem to have to stick with their work.  They “won’t” read a long text, they don’t “want” to finish a project and they quickly turn to the adults in the room to give them the answers.  Our conversations require a mindset shift on our part; instead of pointing a finger at what they, the students, can not do, it is necessary for us, as the adults, to think about what we can do differently to build the stamina, create a culture of GRIT and to develop a positive attitude about “struggle”.

A teacher recently talked to me about how difficult it is for him to pause and to create space and time for a student or students to think.  He is a veteran teacher and recognizes in himself that he has developed a habit of asking a question and then not having any wait time for students to come up with the answer.  The students have him figured out.  They know that if they don’t answer, he will do it for them.  He confessed to me that he loves his students and has always felt the need to jump in and help them. He now recognizes that he is actually enabling them by not providing an opportunity for them to struggle a bit or a lot… to actually create an opportunity for them to feel challenged and then the success that comes from doing something difficult.  He is working hard to change so that the students are experiencing more of the thinking and the doing.  And, he is being very clear on what he expects and that he can not lower these expectations just because they are struggling. And, despite not wanting me to talk about him here in this blog (well, at least not identifying him), he knows that I am very proud of how he continues to grow and learn in our profession.

School improvement is about people improvement…adults and students.  It really is about continuous learning and this might have to involve a bit more struggle.  It is ok for things to be challenging, to cause us to think differently and for solutions and strategies to be generated from effort.  About a year ago, I used a theme that I had seen with the Toronto Raptors NBA team and I bring it back here again… GRIT over GIVEN.  It says so much about the amazing benefits of sticking with the work, seeing a project through, doing the heavy lifting, struggling…

Have a great week. Remember to make mindset adjustments as needed when you think about building stamina, raising expectations and encouraging others to think for themselves.