Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Sharpen The Saw

A few years ago a very wise principal suggested that I write a blog post about the importance of SHARPEN THE SAW, based on the work of Stephen Covey.  Great reminder as we relax, spend time with family and friends, gain knowledge, and replenish our energy levels to be amazing educators!  

Summer is a time when I have an increased focus on myself and family.  I attempt to increase (at the very least... maintain) my exercising habits, vacation with my wife and kids, connect with friends, read educational blogs, catch up on home improvement projects, relax and golf. Summer is a great time to reflect and become rejuvenated to start a new school year.

We all want to be highly effective people, but it is impossible to do that unless we are in the correct mindset.  As you take time to reflect over the summer and transition to another school year it is important to focus on YOU!  Creating a balanced-lifestyle is vital to supporting and enhancing your effectiveness as educators, parents, friends, spouse, etc.  Enjoy the summer and use Covey’s work as a guide to rejuvenation!  

“Sharpen the Saw means preserving and enhancing the greatest asset you have--you. It means having a balanced program for self-renewal in the four areas of your life: physical, social/emotional, mental, and spiritual. Here are some examples of activities:

Beneficial eating, exercising, and resting
Making social and meaningful connections with others
Learning, reading, writing, and teaching
Spending time in nature, expanding spiritual self through meditation, music, art, prayer, or service

As you renew yourself in each of the four areas, you create growth and change in your life. Sharpen the Saw keeps you fresh so you can continue to practice the other six habits. You increase your capacity to produce and handle the challenges around you. Without this renewal, the body becomes weak, the mind mechanical, the emotions raw, the spirit insensitive, and the person selfish. Not a pretty picture, is it?

Feeling good doesn't just happen. Living a life in balance means taking the necessary time to renew yourself. It's all up to you. You can renew yourself through relaxation. Or you can totally burn yourself out by overdoing everything. You can pamper yourself mentally and spiritually. Or you can go through life oblivious to your well-being. You can experience vibrant energy. Or you can procrastinate and miss out on the benefits of good health and exercise. You can revitalize yourself and face a new day in peace and harmony. Or you can wake up in the morning full of apathy because your get-up-and-go has got-up-and-gone. Just remember that every day provides a new opportunity for renewal--a new opportunity to recharge yourself instead of hitting the wall. All it takes is the desire, knowledge, and skill.”

Enjoy an amazing summer filled with experiences to SHARPEN THE SAW!
Keith Howell

Friday, May 18, 2018

Every Opportunity

Can you believe that it is already May 18! It is amazing how quickly a school year can come to a conclusion.

It will be June in no time at all! During these final weeks it is easy for us to forget what is truly important due to end of the year assessments, activities, paperwork, field trips, assemblies, fundraisers, etc… you get the idea! We are busy this time of year! With that said, we still need to finish strong and focus on the truly important aspects of learning: Building relationships that supports a culture of joy and learning!

Last month I saw a great post from @Jennifer_Hogan, We must Maslow before we Bloom.  

@Jennifer_Hogan encourages educators to reflect on the relationships that we have developed during the school year and asks if there is anything more we can do as we enter the final stage of the school year. Within her post she included an Every Opportunity video that highlights the importance of being intentional with our interactions. Check it out!

I hope you find @Jennifer_Hogan’s post helpful. I encourage you to follow the #compelledtribe which is a group of educators who commit to educational blogging. #compelledtrib is a great place to sustaining learning, reflection, and collaboration. I would encourage anyone looking for inspiration to check out the #compelledtribe.

I appreciate everything you do each day to sustain a welcoming environment at our schools and in your classrooms! Teachers are great!!!!  Enjoy the final weeks of the school year!

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Intentional Planning - Relationships & Strategies

Welcome Back!!!  I hope everyone enjoyed a well deserved break with family and friends.  As educators return after a long break it is always good to review our intentional plans for sustaining a positive learning environment.  

“A quality teacher-student relationship means more than the combined power of all teaching and discipline techniques known to humankind.”
Love and logic Teacher-ism

I love this quote!  Establishing positive relationships with your students, while creating an atmosphere where children have positive relationships with each other, will truly benefit any classroom, family, or community.  Quality teacher-student and student-student relationships will support and increase a positive community where children want to thrive. It also makes everyone’s experience more enjoyable!  

As we move into the final months of the school year it is important to re-establish classroom expectations and learning missions that will empower students to be their best during warmer months.  

The best managed classrooms and positive learning environments do not happen by accident.  Talented educators are intentional in their planning.  Children, in general, will exhibit some type of minor or major behavior challenge during their childhood.  The key is to keep minor behaviors just that… minor.  As a teacher, administrator, and parent I have experienced a variety of behavior challenges that can be supported with simple Tier 1 redirection and distraction techniques.  Below are two posts that highlight the importance of intentional planning surrounding relationships and distraction, time, and Love and Logic techniques to support learning. Check them out if you are looking for additional strategies.

Before implementing behavior strategies it is important to solidify positive relationships.  Check out a few of my favorite relationship building techniques below:

Now that relationships are established, distractions techniques have a better chance of being successful.  Check out these techniques that will support learning.

I hope you find this helpful.  I appreciate everything you do each day to sustain a welcoming environment at our schools and in your classrooms!  Teachers are great!!!!

I will leave you with this Love and Logic Quote:

Rules provided without relationship result in rebellion.
Consequences given without relationship lead to resentment.
Rewards without relationship feel like bribes.
Love and Logic Teacher-isms

Enjoy teaching and learning!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Conferences 2017

When I was a principal, conferences were among my favorite times of the year!  Time after time, they reaffirmed an essential belief that I hold: our teachers are great!  As parents were leaving the building, many would stop by my office to give accolades about our teachers and praise the learning experiences their children were having throughout the year.  This provided terrific informal data that supported the positive relationships and learning environment we created together.  What a great feeling for our teachers and families!

Fall conferences might be the first time teachers are meeting parents, other than a friendly, "hello" during drop off or pick up, and the occasional family night.  Conferences are a time when teachers get 10-15 minutes (depending on the district) to showcase academic, social and emotional learning goals that students are setting and demonstrating progress toward throughout the school year.  Sometimes, parents don’t know what to expect … and neither do teachers!  It is extremely important that we are confident in our abilities to showcase the academic, social, and emotional progress and future goals that empower students to grow throughout the school year.  

The conference is an important event to make a great impression with parents and provide descriptive feedback of their student’s progress and goals.  Please help parents believe what we already know… there is no better teacher for their child!

Our teachers do a great job planning and providing parents with a terrific information and strategies of support; however, at times it is based on what we think parents need to hear rather than what they want to hear.  It is important to have a nice balance of both. So, what questions do you think parents really want answered when attending a conference?  These are the questions parents might not ask …but might just have on their mind.  Below are 10 questions to consider:

  1. Is my child safe (socially, emotionally, physically) at school? Do they have friends?
  2. Is my child’s teacher a happy person and is my child happy at school?
  3. Does my child’s teacher love kids?
  4. Does the teacher look for the uniqueness in my child?
  5. Is the teacher finding joy within the teaching profession?
  6. Is the teacher competent?  Is it evident that the teachers knows curriculum and how to impart knowledge?  
  7. Is my child learning … and more importantly, does my child love learning from this teacher?
  8. Is the teacher consistent?  Does the teacher do what they say?
  9. Does my child’s teacher clearly communicate expectations?
  10. Is homework purposeful?  Is homework targeted and differentiated practice, allowing for choice that empowers students to assume responsibility of their own learning?  

I am sure you can think of other questions that parents might consider.  Again, these are questions that may not be asked; however, parents will be thinking about them when sitting across the table from you during conferences. Or at least these were some of the questions my wife and I considered when at parent/teacher conferences.   

Most importantly, make sure parents leave your room with no question in their mind, you are the best teacher for their child!  It all comes down to positive relationships with teachers, parents, and ultimately students, that will enhance success during conferences and throughout the year.  Enjoy conferences, making it a great experience for everyone!