Monday, December 31, 2018

Self-reflection to kick off the New Year!

@rbishop_jr tasked the two of us with creating a blog post by January 2… it’s always good to have an accountability partner who supports you as a positive force to influence professional growth.  I find that blogging helps me organize thinking, cements learning, and holds me accountable for my professional growth. My hope is to get back to consistently (once a month) blogging in 2019, and I look forward to reading @rbishop_jr post in the near future.  So here is my post: Self-reflection to kick off the new year!

The conclusion of another calendar year is always a great time to celebrate successes while reflecting on how to improve our craft as we make resolutions for 2019.  We continually reflect on the effectiveness of our school culture and climate, instructional strategies, district initiatives, school improvement plans, curriculum and assessment, etc. Our PLCs collaborate by setting and monitoring goals that supports learning.  With that said, success of a building depends greatly on self-reflection as well as collaborative goals. If one truly want to sustain professional growth, then we need to think deeper than traditional performance reflection questions, while knowing that you are the only one who can truly answer self-reflection questions.   

Self-reflection question for 2019:  What does it take to be an Influencer? 

My colleagues and I have committed to meeting once a month to discuss what it takes to be an influencer within our organization.  Building leaders need to influence sustained professional growth to lead change. We decided to use Influencer: The New Science of Leading Change by Grenny, Patterson, Maxfield, McMillan and Switzler to guide our conversations.  The authors do an exceptional job identifying high-leverage behaviors that lead to profound change in an organization.  Influencer takes you on a journey of self-reflection by helping one find and clarify actionable vital behaviors to lead to positive results.  Too many of us focus on the results rather than the behaviors that lead to results. As a group we have spent time reflecting on the fact that successful influencers avoid spending time and effort on the wrong behaviors by drawing from vital behavior such as noticing the obvious, capitalizing on crucial moments, learning from positive deviants, and spotting culture busters:  
  • Notice the Obvious:  Looking for behaviors that are obvious but underutilized.  How do we capitalize on these behaviors and develop them into our actions?  
  • Look for Crucial Moments: Identify those times where everything is working against the results you want. Look for behaviors that can help you overcome those crucial moments. How do you prepare for potential barriers?
  • Learn from Positive Deviants: Look for people that do well in a challenging situation even when you or others are having problems within the same scenario. Identify what they are doing differently that could help you or others succeed. How do we identify when we need to learn from others and their experiences?
  • Spot Culture Busters:  Watch for crucial moments when shared vision and mission is necessary for success. How do we build our culture through shared leadership? Those that work against the shared vision and mission can destroy an initiative or organization.  How do we prepare for this and build capacity in others.
Understanding these four vital behaviors takes self-reflection.  Focusing on yourself and understanding the lens and behaviors you bring to the table will help in the quest to be a positive influencer.  How do you know if a behavior is vital to your influence? Like anything, if you are unsure, then track the behaviors and compare with your results.  If the behavior has a direct impact on the result then you know it is a vital behavior.

I look forward to self-reflection throughout the chapters of Influencer.  I already find myself considering the four vital behaviors, considering each when reflecting on past and future projects, curriculum reviews, and even interactions with staff and community stakeholders.  These four behaviors along with Six Sources that will be our focus within the next chapters will be my focus throughout 2019. I look forward to investigating our shared abilities while understanding motivation, defeat, and adjusting to change through the Six Sources:
  • What is your personal motivation?  Are you motivated?
  • How do you view your personal ability?  Are you able?
  • What does your social motivation look like?  Do others pay attention to your advice?
  • What is your social ability to enlist the support of others?  Can you enlist the help of others? 
  • What does structural motivation look like?  Is there an incentive conflict? 
  • How do you view the structural ability?  Do you have the tools to make it happen? 
These vital question, behaviors, and sources will continue to guide my focus as we maintain our commitment to leadership and balancing our influence to unlock the potential of our organization.  I will keep you posted as our reflection continues and Influencer guides our professional conversations.

As you reflect and set goals for 2019, start thinking about deeper self-reflection questions that will support your ability to Influence others.  Find balance and pick one or two vital behaviors that might resonate with you and be aware of how behaviors can change results. Continue to grow and embrace change, creating opportunities for professional growth, while enjoying the best job in the world… teaching children and growing capacity of others!

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!