Thursday, May 28, 2015

5 Things We Have To Stop Pretending

After a week hiatus from blogging to enjoy a school event, I've been challenged to join the growing number of educators out there to blog about the 5 Things We Have To Stop Pretending in education. Thank you to Christina Luce for "nudging" me into the blogging world and for prompting this post. So, without further adieu, here are my top 5 things we need to stop pretending in the world of education:

1. PRETENDING!!! We need to stop pretending period!!

2. FAIR AND EQUAL MEAN THE SAME THING. Over the course of history, we have developed this notion that in order to be fair for everyone, things must be equal. Likewise, being equal means that things are fair. Unfortunately, this is simple not true and WE KNOW IT!! All educators have been through countless professional developments where we have heard this but yet when we return to the recesses of our comfort zones, a large majority of people in schools still practice this archaic philosophy.

3. YOU ONLY GET ONE CHANCE IN REAL LIFE. We need to stop pretending that in the real world you only get one chance. The idea that one opportunity should define a student's ability or capacity for knowledge is simply not real world application. That is not to say that we should not have deadlines for tasks or goals/expectations for completion, however merely to say that students should be given as many opportunities to demonstrate KNOWLEDGE as possible. As in the real world, these multiple efforts or lateness on an assignment would come with a penalty, however the task will have been completed rather than cast off as a zero in a grade book, which is an indication of zero knowledge... simply not true.

4. BEING BETTER MEANS THAT WE ARE BAD. Far too often the human race sees the need for change as a negative. The most successful people and businesses in the world are that way because they are constantly growing and changing. Changing does not mean that things are broken or bad, simply that they can be better. Just because something worked 20 years ago, 7 years ago, or even this year doesn't mean it will work again or can't be done better. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" is a great quote... how about "If it ain't broke, make it better!!"

5. OUR WAY IS BEST. One of my favorite authors, Michael Fullan wrote, "One of life's great ironies is that schools are in the business of teaching and learning, yet they are TERRIBLE at learning from each other." We don't share our knowledge and resources. Sometimes within schools collaboration doesn't exist and certainly between schools and districts it is minimal. We are not in competition with anyone so why aren't we more supportive of each other? We have many talented people in our field, we need to continue to learn from them so that we can all be better!!

Worth the Read...

MotivatED - Stories of Teaching and Learning (blog)

5 Things We Have To Stop Pretending (list of blog posts)

Seven Practices for Effective Learning

Take a Moment to Self Reflect and Grow...

As we close out the school year, think about the quote, "If it ain't broke, make it better." What can you do next year to improve upon an already successful practice or strategy that you are currently using!!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Power of Communication

In today's society of immediacy and electronic devices, the art and power of communication seems to be a disappearing skill. The advent of email and text messaging has quickly made the concept of a phone call almost obsolete. All too often when asking staff members if they've spoken with a parent, they can quickly reply with, "I've sent several emails." While email is great and so is text messaging, there is no substitute for a good old-fashioned phone call. Might they take more time? Yes, most often they do. However, the relationships that can be built through a conversation are much stronger than those built through a letter. There is no substitute for the tone in a person's voice or the sense of urgency that can be displayed.

When working with students, it is important for us all to remember the POWER of our communications with them rather than for us to think that we have POWER because we are communicating with them. Unfortunately, adults can have moments where they utilize their position as a position of power to communicate with students. Barking orders, making demands, raising voices... All methods of communication which we all know are not good, appropriate, or helpful. They merely elevate tensions and make situations worse. We all benefit when we utilize the power of communication in a positive way. More often than not, disrespectful and unruly students lack the self-awareness and control to think. As adults, if we can utilize our outstanding communication skills and habits that we have, we can ensure that any situation ends without incident or escalation. Using a calm voice, not being afraid to walk away from a confrontational student, and keeping body language open and warm are all methods of communication that we know work.

Either way you slice it, having positive relationships with students, families, and colleagues is cultivated through the power of communication. Good, timely, and transparent communication is vital to building these relationships of trust and maintaining them. So, when talking to your students, think about what your body language and tone are saying, not just your words. The next time you're thinking about sending that email, consider picking up the phone instead. It all pays off in the end.

Worth the Read...

Take a Moment to Self Reflect and Grow...

Next time you find yourself in a situation where your anxiety is rising and your blood pressure boiling, take a moment to step back and think. Take a deep breathe before speaking or responding to whoever you are engaged in conversation with. You will find that a clear thought and calm voice can change the course of any conversation.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

What Did I Just Say?!

Have you ever had that experience where you just finished saying something and you immediately wonder, "What did I just say?" Or how about that moment when you're giving an impassioned talk and when you pause for a moment you notice the blank stares on the faces of the people you're talking to and you can hear crickets in the audience. The worst is when we are speaking to students and they completely misinterpret something that we are attempting to communicate to them. We've all been there as leaders, teachers, and speakers. So what do we do about it? Ensuring that our message is communicated correctly is more important than we realize.

One of the all-time best courses I have taken in my own education was related to psycho-metrics and how the mind works. What we don't realize is that 85% of what we intend to communicate, get's interpreted differently than we want it to. In our head, we here the beautiful symphonies of Beethoven when we speak. Our listeners however are hearing the challenging sounds of the third grade beginning string orchestra playing Mary Had a Little Lamb. Roughly 15% of what we say gets communicated correctly. If we can remember that, it helps to ensure that the message was received because we can differentiate the message as needed based on the audience.

Ironically, this same phenomenon can help to open up lines of communication between staff and students within a school. When we recognize that we may not be communicating correctly and acknowledge that deficit of 85%, we become open to allowing people to question us. Those probing questions open the door for dialogue, learning, and collaboration. So, the next time someone questions you on what you just said, instead of being defensive and assuming they didn't listen or disagree, take the question as an opportunity. It's an opportunity to ensure that the message is communicated clearly and that communication lines become open. So please, ask me what I just said to you because I would rather know that the message was received, rather than hope you understand.

Worth the Read...

Take a Moment to Self Reflect and Grow...

My reflection moment this week is more about allowing others to help you reflect and grow. We often get evaluated by our superiors, but rarely get evaluated or welcome evaluations by those that we serve. Take a page from the customer service manual and ask your students to evaluate you. Or if you're an administrator, ask your staff to evaluate you. The feedback will most likely be true growth producing feedback.