Clapping the kids out on the last day of school
Summer is a bonus for school administrators. We are given the gift of time to accomplish tasks that simply cannot be completed during the school year commotion. But with adrenaline flowing out of our bodies by the end of June, we have to be careful to make the most of our more flexible time. Here are 10 tips to best use the summer months:
I encourage teachers to find time after a lesson or when the day is done to take 15 minutes and reflect. What worked in my lessons and what would I change? Sadly, I rarely find time myself to meditate on the value of what I accomplished during a day, but I can use the summer to reflect. As one way to reflect, I would encourage you to develop a blog for the first time. I have some hints for you on finding time to blog, 5 ways to increase hits on your blog posts, and 5 reasons educators should blog.
2. Become Paperless
I went nearly 100% digital a few years ago and this was an organizational game changer. To have every document I need at my fingertips via Evernote on the web, laptop, tablet, and smartphone, is not only peace of mind but pushes me into a higher level of productivity. I have scores of examples just in the last week…just yesterday, the Fire Chief was in to do the annual inspection. The Department recently moved their offices and he could not find last year’s inspection document. It took me less than a minute to call up the doc and print it out. Here are some of my previous thoughts on going paperless.
How many professional books, magazines, or digital books do you have stacked on your nightstand waiting to be consumed? Once the day is done at 5 PM, assuming you do not have a night meeting, how many of us (after checking email and planning for the following day) have time to read? But, we do have time in the summer if we can remain disciplined. We need to read in order to reflect. We have to feed our intellect as change will not happen in our schools unless we add substance to our own vision. We can’t possibly grow the vision of our schools without formulating the vision first in our own spirit. As food nourishes our body, the printed word nurtures our understanding. It’s a year old, but this is an example of my professional reading from last year.
Given the hectic nature of our jobs, it is critical that we develop a work flow for efficiency. Summer is the best time to develop good productivity habits. The best known productivity expert at the moment is David Allen, the creator of Getting Things Done (GTD). The philosophy is supported by strong task management tasks such as Omnifocus, Remember the Milk, or Evernote. In fact, you can check out my workshop resources on Evernote, here.
5. Review of Data
Summer is the time to review a year’s worth of academic data. Perhaps even more crucial is developing a solid system on how to collect and warehouse the data you collect so that it can be easily accessed by teachers and data teams. We developed a tool using Google Docs we call the Kid Grid which allows us to share data on all students with just the right educators. Our PLC leaders can add and sort data easily with this method.
6. Meet with Staff
As part of our teacher’s CBA in my district, teachers are required to spend a day in the summer planning their professional learning for the upcoming school year as well as meet with their Principal. This is the perfect time to talk informally about the year to come as well as reflect on the year past.
7. Inspect Your School for Safety
There are certain late afternoon days in the summer when I’ll wander the building alone and view things I won’t normally notice in the heat of the school year. Yesterday I wanted to ensure that all of our downstairs windows had pull down shades for safety purposes in a lockdown. I’ll look for egress issues around doors and of course, I’ll check the playground equipment for obvious problems. It was a summer day years ago that I decided to plan a few minutes a day during the school year to walk the perimeter of the building, ensuring that each door is locked and observe anything out of place.
8. Hone Your Communications System
Is anything more important for success than how effectively we communicate with our staff and the community? Summer is the time to adjust the web site, your parent email list procedure, and your regular communication with the staff. It was in the summertime years ago when I developed the Sunday Blast, a weekly blog post to my staff.
9. Reconnect with Your Administrative Colleagues
While your teacher colleagues are in and out of your building, your fellow district administrators share your summer schedule. Reach out to have lunch with them and discuss the issues you didn’t have time to chat about during the school year.
Vacation doesn’t just mean working from home or even taking day trips. If at all possible, clearing the mind might mean getting away from anyone who knows you outside of your family. It is also crucial to reconnect with the family that supports your crazy schedule for 9-10 months during the year.
I’m sure you can add to this list. Any other summer tips?
Last night I attended the New Hampshire Excellence in Education Awards, known informally as the “EDies”. The event is corporately sponsored by McDonalds and various educational companies, while co-sponsored by our local colleges and universities and our state’s professional organizations (such as NHASCD). These diverse organizations pick yearly winners to represent the “best” in our field. We pack a very large room at the largest hotel in Southern New Hampshire, have a great dinner, and we listen to short speeches delivered by nervous educators. The event’s Master of Ceremonies is Fred Bramante, a well known former Chair of the State Board of Education, successful entrepreneur, and one-time candidate for Governor.
Not everyone is comfortable accepting recognition as our field generally transcends individual feats. While popular media loves to exalt the omnipotent teacher (Mr. Holland’s Opus, Dead Poet’s Society, Stand and Deliver) or the uber-dedicated and absurdly tough Principal (Lean on Me, The Principal), the reality is that our field is primarily a team sport. When we accept accolades we can picture scores of educators who are easily equal to our accomplishments.
On a national level, the Bammy Awards have been recently created to identify and acknowledge “the extraordinary work being done across the entire education field every day”. Since the nominating and voting is completed online, the early winners were a list of educators with Twitter followers above 10,000 . But the governing board and intent and purpose appear pure, so I hold out hope that the Bammys will celebrate in the proper way as the years continue. The greatest danger is that we create rock stars of our teachers and administrators.
Nearly 10 years ago Rick and Becky Dufour and colleagues wrote in Learning By Doing that we should make…
“regular public recognition of specific collaborative efforts, accomplished tasks, achieved goals, team learning, continuous improvement, and support for student learning remind staff of their collective commitment…”
They also emphasized that celebrating as a team is invaluable as anyone who has played a team sport knows:
“Make teams the focus of recognition and celebration. Take every opportunity to acknowledge the efforts and accomplishments of teams.” (Dufour, Dufour, Eaker, Many 2006.)
So, let’s continue the awards. The recognition is good for our profession and is likely to spread good will for all of us. But the more we celebrate our local successes, the stronger our schools become, especially when we celebrate as a team.
I am saddened to hear tonight of the passing of the inimitable Grant Wiggins, which occurred yesterday according to tweets from his wife and daughter as well as from this post from ASCD.
Grant is one of the most influential educators I have learned from in my 30 year career. I had the honor of meeting him a number of times in my involvement with NHASCD as we brought him in as a speaker often through the years. Of course, he is best known as the author of Understanding My Design with his good friend and colleague Jay McTighe. But he was also an expert on assessment as his book Educative Assessment changed the way many of us looked at formative assessment.
Despite being a modern day John Dewey for many of us, he was always kind and considerate, never leaning on his renown. Every learner in his workshops was equally important. At our conferences he willingly took his lunchtime to dine with our NHASCD Student Chapter pre-service teachers. When I interviewed him for our newsletter or simply chatted during a break, he would speak more about his son’s rock band and what guitars Grant himself loved to play. I think he was more excited about his own band (and his son’s) than even his educational work.
He and Jay moved easily with the times. Grant was able to integrate the great work of UbD and link it with the advent of the Common Core State Standards without missing a beat…and without it appearing that he was simply profiting on trends. Their book Schooling By Design took the ideas of UbD and applied them to a school or district curriculum model.
Lately, his blog became a major mouthpiece for his views. His last post from May 25 (just two days before his death) was a response to a Washington Post article on reading comprehension which he disagreed with. In typical Grant fashion, he always did extensive research before writing.
Recently I had a conversation over dinner with fellow NHASCD Board Member and QED Foundation‘s Kim Carter all about Grant’s contribution to our own careers. We talked about how practical his work was while maintaining a theoretical base and legitimacy. While Grant could be esoteric, he was always a teacher first and laser focused on improving instruction.
We’re going to miss you Grant.
The view from Great Bay, Seacoast New Hampshire – my hike this weekend
Yesterday was a rare day for me. I did less than one hour of “work” and spent much of my day engaged in relaxing activities and enjoying my family. I must confess that I love Memorial Day weekend, mostly from my memories of my father and appreciation for him and the millions of other men and women who fought for our freedom. But I also love the ability to stay up late on Sunday night, knowing that I can sleep in on Monday.
But like most educators, the month of May is a bit like the weeks before April 15 for accountants. Today I have 22 projects listed on my Omnifocus task management program and about 57 to-dos listed for the month of May and June is only a week away.
My reflection on wellness yesterday began with my participation in a research study by my colleague Dr. Kathleen Norris of Plymouth State University. A former Principal herself and now Associate Professor of Educational Leadership, Learning and Curriculum at PSU, Kathleen designed a thoughtful survey and sent it to current Principals, asking us to reflect on the status of our wellness. There were the usual statistical questions in order to desegregate the data, but there were many questions that probed my own level of wellness and the need to support the wellness of those I work with.
Thoughts on wellness:
- There has to be a limit on hours worked before there’s diminishing returns on productivity. Finding that sweet spot has to be a priority for me.
- I have to model wellness. Carrying the Diet Coke from meeting to meeting isn’t a good image. I need to encourage staff to eat well, exercise, and reach out when stress reaches a breaking point.
- It’s easy for me to justify not going to the gym since this month is so busy. But I have to remember that there are short term gains for exercise in the release of endorphins and reduction of stress. It’s all likely to make everything more productive.
The question is if I will heed my own advice. Be well my friends, in this merry month of May.
Courtesy of DZI Foundation (https://dzi.org/)
How different can two lives be while existing on this same earth? Today, while working from home during spring break, I wrote up a teacher observation, added pictures to our school website and answered a ton of email. In the late afternoon, my wife and I strolled around the lake across the street. As I’m starting this blog post, I’m watching the Red Sox and posting pictures of our family trip to the Sox Open House at Fenway Park on Flickr and Facebook.
Meanwhile, tonight there’s a middle aged father in Kathmandu, Nepal escorting his family to the nearest green area away from his home. He wants to avoid any danger from aftershocks. His home is still standing but there are structural cracks due to the recent earthquake. His son, daughter, and wife are hoping for dinner but there’s little food to be found. There’s an overwhelming sense of sadness due to their friends that have died, the historical sites downtown that are demolished and the lack of hope for the future.
Fortunately, there are heroes lending a hand in Nepal including Ben Ayers, the son of my former Superintendent, Dick Ayers. Knowing Ben works in Nepal, I immediately emailed Dick after the earthquake and he replied:
How nice to hear from you and for your thoughtful concern about Ben. Ben is still in Nepal with DZI Foundation and is OK. He is fortunate that all those who with with him are not injured as well although they have had considerable damage to their homes.
In fact, one of my colleagues found this article about Ben, essentially an interview with him about the conditions in Nepal right after the quake.
Ben is the director of the DZI Foundation, an organization working to improve conditions in Nepal. This is an organization you should feel comfortable donating to, and you can do so by clicking on this link. Please help.
Nothing has changed more in our field than the way we assess students in our public schools. Intuition ruled the day back in the 80s when I began in education. We relied largely on our own instincts (which were generally pretty accurate) but we had little quantitative data to back things up. We may have relied more on qualitative data, a trend that we may be losing sight of in modern times. Now…we have numbers. Lots of them.
Sue Brookheart, who has written often on assessment for ASCD, presented this morning on “Different Kinds of Data” at the ASCD Annual Conference in Houston. I just tweeted my notes from the session…(and already 47 people are viewing them). Side note-the growth of positive social media in the years at the Annual ASCD Conference is really amazing.
- With so many assessments, we have to categorize what we do in order to realize the purpose of each assessment. (See graphic above).
- We cannot use our current interim assessments as both formative and summative. Let each category rule the day and serve its own purpose.
- Interim assessments can’t only be used to determine if a student can read or complete basic math…our intuition already tells us that. We have to be committed to using these assessments to disaggregate to sub-skills and determine the real cause behind a lack of progress in a particular area.
- Be very careful with cut points and what is truly proficient or not. Or…let’s not take numbers at face value. This is cliche, but how often in our rush do we not analyze data enough before we use that data to change a child’s instructional program?
After a crazy winter in New England, Houston green looks great.
I’ve been blessed to attend the ASCD National Convention nearly every year since 1996 thanks to my school districts and NHASCD who have supported me greatly through the years… and of course, my wonderful family who bids farewell for a few days every March. I am here in Houston for the 2015 Conference and starting this post on the shuttle bus at 6:45 AM on Saturday the 21st.
As it is truly an honor to attend the Convention annually, I like to give back as much as I can. I’ll be live tweeting (@wcarozza and @nhascd) and blogging. I’ll share notes of great sessions when I can and tweet out the link. I’d love to communicate with you via blog comments or Twitter during or after the conference.
In the meantime, don’t forget about what our local NHASCD Affiliate can offer. We have Yong Zhao (who is speaking here in Houston) coming to the Grappone Center in Concord, NH on April 3. He is a rock star in our field. Love to see you there…and hey, you don’t have to travel to Houston to see him!
A couple of weeks ago I received a post on my Facebook timeline from one of my mother’s good friends back in St. Louis. She was sending along best wishes given the crazy amount of snow we’ve received in a very short period of time. Now, my mother has been gone for two and a half decades and I still miss her greatly, so it’s heartwarming that her friend still thinks of me. It’s wonderful to see the friend’s name on my alerts as it reminds me of the 60s and 70s with my Mom.
There’s much to like about Facebook, still the king of social media. In addition to joyful reminders of days gone by, I am friends with scores of former students from my classroom days and I get to pore over their joys and successes and read their accounts of what they remember from my classroom long ago. (Now there’s probably a research project there.) On Facebook I see vacation pictures of family members and close friends while laughing at the latest exploits of my Goddaughter as she navigates the world of toddler-hood.
But there’s some silly stuff too. My calendar is set to document the birthdays of all of my 460 Facebook “friends” and I often receive notices of many whom I have never heard of. Of course, why are they my “friends” anyway? I must have confirmed their “friendship” at some point.
There’s also plenty of unsettling pieces of Facebook. There’s criticism of people I care about on Facebook by persons with little knowledge of the facts. There’s post by “friends” of mind that have alarming points of view that I don’t want to be associated with.
It really is a quandary. Your thoughts?
We live in an age of “Getting Things Done”, which is actually a philosophy espoused by productivity guru David Allen. Just in the last three days on this “Winter Vacation”, I have prepared for the Smarter Balanced assessment by watching a multi-hour webinar, planned for an upcoming district workshop surrounding the Common Core, and prepared for a School Board presentation on data use in Hopkinton.
I haven’t had time to think deeply about the road we’re traveling in our field, although I have the words of an old friend and fellow administrator who wrote in an email this week: “the SBA (Smarter Balanced Assessment) is scary inappropriate for young kids… we have lost our way…just one man’s humble opinion.”
School administrators…we tend to be good “guys” who don’t rock the boat too much and want the best for everyone. We think out of the box when we can while staying cautious enough to follow the directives of our superiors and our federal and state departments of education. But I would encourage you to take at least one day out of your routine and the preparation for the SBA and everything else that may be necessary but not necessarily fruitful.
We are fortunate that Yong Zhao is flying across our continent to be with us in New Hampshire on Friday, April 3, 2015, 9 AM at the Grappone Center in Concord, NH. Zhao has a perspective that almost no one has, certainly in our area. He was born, as he says, in “one of the most ordinary villages in China”. His boyhood country does score the highest on international assessments such as the PISA. Yet, Zhao admits that while the authoritarian educational system in Shanghai may support high test scores, it does not generate a culture of innovation, critical thinking and creativity in their schools. He is wary that the US is heading down the same road.
“The education we need is actually quite simply “follow the child.” We need an education that enhances individual strengths, follows children’s passions and fosters their social-emotional development. We do not need an authoritarian education that aims to fix children’s deficits according to externally prescribed standards.” (http://nyti.ms/1Gwdp6Q)
To register for the conference, head to the NHASCD website. I look forward to seeing you on April 3 for a chance to think big and care about the future as much as we care about the details of the present.
A teacher who has known me for many years, knows that I appreciate my job because of the energy I receive every day from teachers and students. Yes, Sunday night is not always easy on the soul but once I’m in the building on Monday morning, all is well. I avoid my office as much as possible during school time and work the job in classrooms and hallways.
It doesn’t hurt my allegiance to the job that many members of our staff have been together for years and those that have been recently hired have melded in nicely with the family. Truly, it is all about relationships.
Yet, in our job as building administrators, there are times when we can’t avoid the tough conversations. Good people make mistakes. Conflict can happen when perspective and personalities collide. That’s the time the Principal needs to step in and take the conflict head on. Rick Dufour has stated that Principals should confront those individuals who are not committed to the values of their team or professional learning community:
But when you’re in the midst of the conflict with people you care about, having tough conversations is one of the hardest parts of the job. I have not always done it well, but here are some things I’ve learned:
1. Eat the frog
Productivity expert Brian Tracy says that we should tackle our most difficult and important task first thing every morning. The concept is that if we can “eat the frog”, everything else will seem easy. Don’t wait for the day to go by. Procrastinating may result in your “deciding” not to tackle the issue at all. And, the conflict may fester if you wait too long to intervene.
2. Prepare for results
I prepare bullet points for every tough conversation I have in person or on the phone. There is a natural tendency to lighten the exchange with your colleague so if you don’t plan for the result you want, you simply won’t get there.
3. Lead with the punchline
The tendency is to begin a difficult chat with small talk to lighten the load. Writing in the Harvard Business Review, Peter Bregman suggests that leading with the tough news will ensure that the recipient will hear the constructive criticism with clarity.
4. Listen as much as you can
If you want the colleague to change a habit or behavior and be personally reflective, they need to know that you care about their improvement. Validate whatever response they may have…if it’s valid of course. But listen either way.
5. Take good notes.
A tough conversation might take unexpected twists and turns. Be sure that the meeting is documented accurately.
6. Follow up (both right after and set date for next meeting)
Long term success is based on at least a second follow-up meeting to reinforce your message. Set a date for that meeting before the first meeting is complete.
7. Assume good intentions
Most people want to do well at their job and truly care about professionalism. Let good intentions be the default unless you know otherwise.
There is great satisfaction in caring boldness and seeing progress as the result of these tough conversations.