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@JimmyCasas on Staying

PASSION...PURPOSE...PRIDE: What Makes You Stay?

Regardless of the number of times you are tested in your daily work as a school leader, I hope you take the time in these moments to focus on abundance and blessings rather scarcity and frustrations.  I want my thoughts below to serve as an encouraging word from someone who lives your life every day and who can empathize with the feelings you experience on a daily basis, whether they be feelings of joy, sorrow, gratification, stresses, or even doubt.

It is easy for those of us who are connected to see only te best sides of each other, but there is always struggle and doubt when you are a leader. I think the key is finding a way to deal with it in a healthy way.

More About #ModelSchools

I thought I would take some time while traveling home to reflect a bit more on the model schools conference.

I learned three important things:

It is important to get away There is some real value is going away physically from your building. I don't know that you need to go all the way to Georgia, but being in a new environment does something to help you think differently.

It is important to hear from others I've been a fan of the power of connecting with others to learn for many years. I am a naturally social person and I want to share with others. One way is through social media, obviously. Another very important way is face to face. One teacher said to me this week that she has heard me say things many times, and it meant something different when it came from someone else. I think hearing from others makes you realize that the person telling you something isn't crazy.

Relationships. Relationships. Relationships.

You just cannot do anything without relationships. We all know relationships are important, but we sometimes forget or get distracted from that.

I went out to dinner with Rob Carroll and his team of ten that came with him to present. I saw them present in February and I was captivated by their comraderie then. It was totally different this time. There were more of them and their bond was stronger.

What makes them unique is that they care so much about their students. They have a saying "school before self" that they really believed. They really knew that each of them would be willing to put their kids first at any time. They cared deeply about their students. Because of those two things, they cared deeply about each other. They come from a hard school. Someone from Florida wrote a story about them which is much better writing than I can do!

What I can say is this: you could feel the love and dedication! It was amazing.

I feel very fortunate to have been able to spend the time with them.

Recognize your awesome teachers

I wish more teachers could have come to this conference. The teachers that did come were incredibly dedicated and open minded. They were quick to learn, to ask hard questions and to be critical thinkers. They didn't buy into everything just because it was presented at a conference. They thought about it, asked questions, and then decided for themselves. It was great.

Big Ideas, then make a plan.

We took the first couple days to just think big, pie in the sky and not worry about any realities that may be facing us. We focused on vision. Then, as the conference came to an end, we dedicated sufficient time to make a plan. Because we took the time to make a plan, we know what we are doing when we get back to school.

District Alignment

If you go to a conference and come up with many new and different things, it is probably going to be hard to go to the district and tell them you are changing a bunch of things and going away from the district vision. What I loved so much about this conference was:

  • They weren't trying to get us to change, but to improve.
  • They weren't selling a system, they were communicating a vision, and leaving the details up to us.

It is easy for a conference organizing organization to get caught up in vendors and selling a product, but that is not what was happening here.

NOTHING that we learned at that conference was not aligned with our district vision. How amazing is that? What we did learn is that we can do it! We can make a powerful impact on our students' lives.

Talk to people

There are so many amazing educators out there. It was great to just get to know people and learn from them. So many people are doing so many inspiring things for our students. It was great to spend a weekend with them. One person talked about how his school has helped people in the community become more connected with each other. Another told me about helping kids whose parents were in jail. Another shared how she helped a student with muscular district ride a mechanical bull. Bother talked about a former student working a job an hour away from home so he could take the ACT enough times to be able to get a score good enough for a scholarship for college. Another said she was now willing to do whatever it takes to help kids. And the list goes on and on.

Ok, so I wrote about more than three things. There is so much more, but that is all that I can bring to the surface right now.

I'm very grateful to ICLE for organizing such an amazing conference and so grateful that our district sent me and four teachers to it. It will certainly make us better for our students.

Some Brief, Tired Thoughts about #modelschools

The first thing that I have to say, is wow! The model schools conference is amazing! What is so awesome about it is that there are real teacher is doing real things in real schools with real students and they are sharing the amazing things that they are doing! It is just incredible.

There are so many amazing presentations here that it is just incredible. I learn a ton when I go to conferences, and this conference is jam packed with useful and applicable information all over the place. I was able to bring a team of teachers with me and they have said multiple times that they feel so lucky to be a part of this, and that they feel so fortunate to be learning so much. They have not asked to take any sessions off, they are just excited to be here learning! And I'm stoked about it!

One of the biggest key takeaways is focusing on culture and trust in your school, and that this is definitely something that I have learned from the transformative principal podcast interviews that I've done. Everybody says you need to focus on culture, everybody says you need to focus on building trust.

Follow the #modelschools on Twitter to see about a lot of the things that are being talked about.

Model Schools Presenters on @TrnFrmPrincipal

There are some great presenters at the Model Schools Conference this week in Atlanta, Georgia. If you are here, and want to hear more from the some of the presenters, I have interviewed a few of them for the Transformative Principal podcast.

Bill Daggett: He talks about how to make schools more relevant for students.

Sue Szachowicz: She speaks about how to implement school-wide literacy.

Eric Sheninger: He talks about digital leadership for schools.

Tony Sinanis: He talks about recognizing your own skills and giving voice to your students.

Check them out, and learn as much as you can from these amazing educators.


Jennifer Gonzalez:

I would like to propose that we start using this term in teaching, to make dogfooding a regular part of best practices in instructional design. This is not the first time I’ve tried to drag things from the tech world into the teaching world: Last year, I suggested we could grow more as educators by embracing the concept of teaching in beta, where we roll out a new teaching practice before it’s completely perfect, then work to improve it as we go. We can follow technology’s example again by dogfooding our lessons whenever possible. This means trying our own assignments. Taking our own tests. Doing our own homework. Attempting to actually complete those big projects. By doing this, we can detect all kind of problems that we’d never notice if we just created tasks and gave them straight to students.

Great suggestions. Also, film yourself teaching and ask yourself how you would as a student in your classroom.

Giving Feedback

Doug Timm:

When having a conversation a message is going to be sent, make sure it is the message that you want to send.  Don't derail your conversation/feedback before is starts by picking the wrong approach or having no approach at all.  This is so crucial as we try to build trusting relationships with those we work WITH.  

Great points here.

Use Summer to Learn

Mike Kelly:

Teachers in our school, and many others, work hard. Real hard! There just isn't enough left in the tank at the end of the day, or during an after school meeting, for them to focus the amount of energy to do all the planning and revising necessary to make significant improvements to their instruction. The professional learning days embedded during the school year are often jam packed with even more new things for them to learn and do. Not allowing them the time to work that they so desire. 

Many of my teachers took advantage of the summer break to do some intense work for the last two weeks. Kids were done, and some teachers were done, but a few dedicated teachers stuck around and got some planning for next year done. Very inspiring to see what they've accomplished.


Doug Timm:

I also want to be told I am wrong. I want to be challenged, and questioned! It might hurt in the moment, but guess what, I will get over it.  I will sleep on it.  I will talk to my most trusted circle about it.  That is healthy discourse.  I will come back and realize that learning WITH is exactly what just happened.  A light bulb just went off, we learn collaboratively, just like we ask of our students! Share, listen, think, talk, repeat!

Communication is so key.

I don't really get involved in the title discussion, because the title is the least important part. People know who you are by how you act.


Spike Cook:

In this book we help the readers understand the importance of being connected to benefit individual professional learning, mindfulness, and avoiding the traps of isolation . We use vignettes of leaders to give a picture of what the connected leader looks like. We also address the common challenges that come with being connected, such as criticism, isolation and battling mindset.