My “to don’t do”list…what’s on yours?

Last week we had a guest speaker, Ryan Leak, at our church who spoke on the need to be real. He talked specifically about Elijah, a noted trash talker, who had no problems calling out those around him, because he knew that God had his back…but that even Elijah had moments where he doubted himself and cried out for support. He then connected that with his own struggles and the need to “hide” how he was really feeling from those who were supposed to care the most about him. It was a powerful message.

One of the things he mentioned specifically that just stuck with me the idea of the “to don’t do” list. I speak a lot about the power of a vision for leaders and how important it is to know what you stand for and what you believe in…the “to don’t do” list is similar in my mind. If you stand for nothing, what will you fall for? Knowing what you won’t do will help keep you in your lane..staying true to what you want to do.

On my “to don’t do” list?

  • Compare my insides with other’s outsides. (Love this quote from @MsMagiera  and her #ISTE17 talk today!) There is more to leadership than what someone puts on twitter. Regardless of the amount of quoteable quotes or amount of twitter followers one has…don’t fall for the notion that it’s easy for everyone else. It is hard, it is messy…for us all. And that’s what makes it so worth it!
  • Walk alone. If you’re walking alone, that’s your choice. Even going into year three, I am so thankful for my colleagues, PLN and peers that I can reach out to for help. It doesn’t do ANYONE (much less your staff/students) any good if you think you know it all. Leadership isn’t a zero sum game…by leveraging the strengths of those around you, everyone wins. Play by yourself, and only everyone loses. 
  • Forget that you can be hungry and be humble. You are where you are for a reason. Don’t ever forget that. That doesn’t mean you can’t strive for more, or to be better. Never stop wanting to grow and learn!
  • Just because you have the right to say something, doesn’t mean you should. Can you be supportive and condescending at the same time? Value the relationship over being right.

 

What’s on your “to don’t do” list?

 

Pondering,

Amber

Why should reading and writing be authentic? #taketwo

At some point, as the adult in the room, we have to recognize that as long as students are reading and writing for a fabricated purpose, there is only so much energy and time that they will commit to the assignment. Churning out students who hate a subject but can perform in a standardized way isn’t doing anyone any good. While there definitely isn’t a chapter in your teacher’s manual that asks, “Why should reading and writing be authentic?”, it’s something that should be in the back of your mind while planning.  Even in the context of a classroom they can (and should!) be presented and taught as authentically as possible. When we present students with an authentic purpose, and have cultivated a reason for them to read or write that extends beyond an assignment or a classroom, then we will start to see their voice and passion come alive.  It may be an off the cuff assignment or look a little different from what the teacher down the hall is doing, but that is ok too.

As a fourth grade teacher, I had the pleasure of preparing our students for our state writing assessment each year. Have you ever tried to convince a 4th grade boy that writing is FUN? It was always a challenge! Realizing that the goal was to get them to find something they enjoyed writing about, or something that offered them a reprieve from a grammar worksheet became my mission. One year (pre Mrs. Teamann, of course…) we wrote letters to Troy Aikman, â„… Valley Ranch and the Dallas Cowboys. The topic was “Why Troy Aikman should marry Miss Gattis”. Persuasive essay, check! Letter, check! We pored over and over those essays, edits and clarifications were flying through the room. No one wanted to let a typo get to Troy! (least of all Miss Gattis!)

Any subject that we teach has the opportunity to make an impact.

Motivating students to be critical readers, to read for enjoyment and knowledge, is a gift that we can give them. Reluctant reader? I genuinely believe we just haven’t found the right thing for them to read yet. Everyone has a passion, we just need to find the right book. It’s up to us, as the adults, to help model what it looks like to be a lifelong learner…a lifelong reader. My elementary colleagues, it just gets harder as they get older…it’s up to us to make elementary school not only FUN but also never losing sight of what it means to have academic integrity. Do we make that a priority? Are we giving enough time in their day to read for pleasure? Are read alouds still happening? One of my 4th grade teachers still does a read loud and she is amongst the top in the district for growing students. She wouldn’t give yup that time for anything…and the books she chooses are MEANT to hook kids into reading, it is very intentional. 

We live in an incredible world, where students have the opportunity now to connect with anyone, and I mean anyone. I have teachers who tweet authors, or celebrities, and colleges, all while modeling to their students what it looks like to communicate in a digital way. Students can blog and share their reflections with an authentic audience. George Couros has shared this image with me before.

 

There are too many opportunities for our students to read and write, and connect globally, to not take advantage of their greatness!
I run into former students all the time…and I can’t tell you how many of them remember those letters we wrote. I bet you they couldn’t tell you one single prompt from an assessment from elementary school…but they all want to know if I ever heard back from Troy!

 

 

PS: I didn’t. Which may actually be a good, non-stalkery ending to that story! 🙂

 

Always a fan,

Amber

Reflection is personal power… & other people might grow too! #LeadLAP #IMMOOC, week 5

I started blogging in 2005. It was something new, something different to engage my 4th graders. I didn’t even contemplate the power that using it for reflection would do later in my career. Permission from my parents was the easy part. More difficult was convincing the technology powers that be that it was safe and also purposeful. I had to present the whats and whys to the district’s technology department and convince them….awkward is an understatement.  At the time, literally, they told me, “We don’t think anyone will actually read it, but as long as you don’t mention our district/your school, it should be fine.”

Can you even?

Thankfully, I did it anyway. And whether anyone read it then or not, is irrelevant. I used my blog with my students, through David Warlick’s hosting tool, and it was amazing. I had to upload pictures to separate hosting site, and then code the HTML to get the picture to share to the blog. My fourth graders loved it…we used it for our version of homework and I tricked them into writing the best lab reports ever by promising to share the best ones with the whole wide world.

While much has changed, including the transition of my blog to being a tool used to teach/guide teachers while I was in the tech department, or administratively through my leadership roles, I still use it to share, to reflect, and to connect. The ability to chronicle my growth through the posts and experiences is irreplaceable. The comments and people I have met through this space has made me better.

 It’s what I want for our staff, and our students. Of course I should expect no less for myself. By putting it out there, in a space that allows for feedback, and or criticism, it allows me to process in a completely different way than just talking to my peers when we have time. (ha!) Life is busy, and the days are long…I don’t see many of the people who push my thinking on a regular basis, but through blogging, I can definitely feel more connected, and vice versa. It’s where I genuinely hold fast to that the things I tweet or share, are aligned to my true thoughts. I never want to share something that isn’t aligned with my philosophy or vision…and my experiences via my blog back that all up. That matters to me. It’s why I don’t mind writing as casually as I do, because my favorite thing ever is when I interact with someone and they say that I am just like they thought I would be from reading my blog…(hopefully, that’s a good thing!)

How does that connect to #LeadLAP? I bought “Lead like a Pirate”  while at #EMPOWER17 last week. (To say I read it quickly is an understatement. I devoured it.) I so wish I’d had it my first year as an administrator and think there were so many valuable nuggets that resonated with me on a professional level. I highlighted and tabbed so many places…again makes me wish I could figure out the darn #booksnap wave! How this connects to this blog are the powerful words Burgess and Houf used in talking about reflection,  “…as leaders, we often rob ourselves of this much-needed time to stop, slow down, and improve our own practice.”

If I want our teachers to move past “proficient” in TTESS (our state evaluative system), my word, shouldn’t I also have growth expectations for myself? I use my blog to set those goals, and to hold my self accountable. It’s the only way I know how to do this thing we call leadership, and I am thankful that there are others out there that are doing the same.

 

Blog writeN & accountability seekN,

Amber