Posts tagged ‘leadership’

12 Books Every Principal Should Read

“Great books help you understand, and they help you feel understood.” By John Green

Below are ten books I highly recommend that all Principals should read in no particular order. I would love to hear what books you think should be on this list as I love growing my library! Please add in the comments.

  1. Innovator Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity  by George Couros
  2. Move Your Bus: An Extraordinary New Approach to Accelerating Success in Work and Life by Ron Clark 
  3. Lead Like a PIRATE: Make School Amazing for Your Students by Shelley Burgess and Beth Houf 

  4. The Principal: Three Keys to Maximizing Impact by Michael Fullan (He has a lot of great books but this is my favorite)

  5. Most Likely to Succeed: Preparing Our Kids for the New Innovation Era by  Tony Wagner and Ted Dintersmith  
  6. Embracing a Culture of Joy: How Educators Can Bring Joy to Their Classrooms Each Day by Dean Shareski

  7. Anything by Jon Gordan, I love all his books! Soup: A Recipe to Create a Culture of Greatness is probably my favorite. I am currently reading, The Power of Positive Leadership: How and Why Positive Leaders Transform Teams and Organizations and Change the World


Key Ideas from #ASCDL2L Keynote: Jerry Weast

“Collaboration is the best way to work. It’s only way to work, really. Everyone’s there because they have a set of skills to offer across the board.” By Antony Starr


This week I attended one of my favorite conferences, ASCD Leader to Leader (#ASCDL2L). This conference is one of my favorite because it is different. It is invitation only and there are educators from all over the world and from different aspects of education. You sit in groups verse rows and have lots of time to collaborate and discuss topics that you are interested in. These groups are mixed up of superintendents to teachers and everything in-between but you never know who does what (unless you ask) as everyone is treated equally and there is no “ladder” or status hierarchy. This year we had Jerry Weast as the keynote. Mr. Weast is a long time educator and served in all different facets and is now retired but continues to practice his knowledge with Partnership For Deliberate Excellence (P4DE). Below are my key ideas from his keynote:

  • Lead by dancing rather than pushing, work together not against one another
  • What is the problem you are trying to solve, whats getting in the way of your progress? What are the conditions necessary to solve it?
  • Change the culture of learning and teaching
  • What must I do to move this organization/school/work?
    • Know you will be a target and it hurts but it is worth the pain for change
    • Run toward the problem….not away from
    • Quality vs Time – what can you do to bend the curve so you get results?
  • Study Human Behavior as it explains a lot
  • Stages of Change : Organization Maturity Model to Increase Performance
    1. Discover Existing Condition
    2. Commit to Predictive Gateways
    3. Evaluate Effectiveness
    4. Engage and Empower
    5. Innovate and monitor
  • Make sure your cost effort is equaling the impact or scrap it
  • Have effective benchmarks
  • Before asking what to add for the change to occur, ask what you can off-load to move a school to change.
  • When managing complex change you need to have five things:
    1. Vision
    2. Skills
    3. Incentives
    4. Resources
    5. Action plan
  •  If you don’t then….
    • No Vision = Confusion
    • No  Skills = anxiety
    • No Incentives = gradual change
    • No Resources = frustration
    • No action plan = false start
  • Start looking in the mirror and develop yourself and your leadership skills, because you can’t make a difference if you don’t know yourself.
  • If you don’t get the outcomes, what are you going to do differently?
  • Somehow it seems the world is having more effect on me, then I am having on the world…don’t let this happen.
  • Four themes to develop for effective leadership: Trust, Culture, Listen to Understand and Clarity.
  • Books he recommends to read: NudgeTribes, Improbable Scholar


10 Ways to Build Teacher Leaders

“You don’t need to be in a leadership position, to be a leader.” By Jill Thompson


We need teacher leaders! Why? Teacher leaders are the ones that make change happen. They are the ones that understand the true problems happening in their classroom and school. They are the ones that improve learning and teaching practices with the goal of doing what is best for students which is increasing student learning and achievement. Below are ten ways I believe we can build teacher leaders based on my experience.

1. Let them model or co-teach showing best practices and allowing time to reflect on the experience. Too often principals let other teachers visit teachers but they don’t give them time to reflect on the experience and that is when the true learning occurs.

2. Have them provide Professional Development (PD) in an area they are strong and passionate about or send teacher leaders to pd and have them share what they learned. Too often we don’t use the resources and expertise that are in our school. We need to play to teachers strengths.

3. Let them mentor another teacher that is maybe a first year teacher or one that is struggling. Teaching is hard work. It is helpful to know you have another teachers support who is going through the same issues/challenges you are going through and not being judged.

4.  Build a culture of collaboration by creating Professional Learning Communities (PLC) for different topics to support teachers such as data teams. We learn best from each other and often times from what we are passionate about. Creating PLC’s that are based on topics teacher want  helps with culture and collaboration.

5. Let them try their innovative ideas you never know, it might just work and be the next big thing. I am lucky to have always have had a leader that lets me try new things. I have had some great ideas and some not so good ones, but either way I learned.  One of my best ideas was building a tutoring program for our school using volunteers. I called them ‘Washam Buddies’. The buddies were each paired up with a classroom teacher and came a few times a week to help  the students with their academic needs.

6. Create team leaders to facilitate the planning sessions and discussions about student data. Having a team-lead helps meetings run smoother and stay focused on the task.

7. Give them time to work out problems and to find solutions. The first attempt might not work but let them use the ‘failure’ as a learning opportunity.

8. Have teacher leaders run book studies and let them pick the book! The best book studies I have done have been run by other teachers.

9.  Recognize teacher leaders when they do something extraordinary. This just might motivate another teacher.

10. Give them time to research and be innovative. My old principal gave us what he called ‘innovate time’. He (or AP) would come to our classroom and teach a block. We would gain that time while they were teaching our class to research something we were interested in trying new in the classroom.

There are a lot of other ways we can build teacher leaders within our schools. I would love to hear your ideas too.

Other Resources:

Building Teacher Leadership Capacity through Educational Leadership Programs 

Building Teachers’ Capacity for Success: A Collaborative Approach for Coaches and School Leaders

Becoming a Teacher Leader

CTQ:  Center for Teaching Quality 

Customer Service: An Education Leadership Skill

“Hold yourself responsible for a higher standard than anybody expects of you. Never excuse yourself.” By
Henry Ward Beecher

Customer Service Think Tank hosted by Dell

This week I thought a lot about customer service and it’s importance in a leadership role, especially in Education. When I think about customer service, I think about making sure the customer is happy. In education your customer is either the parent, teacher or in my position administration as well.  Here are a few tips and tricks to help ensure that you are providing great customer service as a leader.

1. Communicate: This includes answering your phone, calling people back and returning emails within a timely manner. My rule is that I return calls or emails within 24 hours.

2. Be helpful: Encourage your ‘customers’ and be supportive. When they tell you an idea, validate it, give constructive feedback and empower. Recently I had an educator tell me a fantastic idea! I told him how wonderful it was (validated), gave a suggestion to blog about it (feedback) and told him how much other educators would benefit from it (empowerment). Did he take the suggestion….the jury is still out on that one…yes @edtechstandish, I am calling you out. 🙂

3. Listen to Complains: No one likes hearing complaints, but listening can also better improve your service. Your ‘customer’ could have a good point or a suggestion that could make your service better. I know within this last week, I listened to a complaint, that was very valid. I took the opportunity to ask how we could make it better and was able to turn it into a positive. Sometimes ‘customers’ need to just vent and then they realize how they can solve the problem or together you can solve it.

4. Take the Extra Step/Go the Extra Mile: I make sure that if I don’t know the answer or if it is not my department that deals with the question/issue/problem; then I make sure to tell the person, what department it is and give them the contact name and information. If I don’t know who can help, I figure it out. Yes, this takes more steps on my part but in the long run I have happier ‘customers’.

Reflection from ASCD Leaders to Leaders Conference

If everyone is moving forward together, than success takes care of itself. —Henry Ford

LeadertoLeader_127586_portrait_730X550Recently I obtained the honor of being named Class of 2013 ASCD Emerging Leader. The past few days I have been in Washington, DC at the ASCD Leader to Leader Conference learning and growing with educators from all over the world. (I even met an educator from Guam!) If you want to search the archives from Twitter the hashtag is #ASCD2L2. (Warning: there are a lot of links through-out this post, for additional information)

Day 1: Emerging Leaders Orientation

Thursday morning I got to meet the other 18 (of 25) Emerging Leaders and learn about what the next two years would be like. We received advice from previous Emerging Leaders and ASCD employees about what was expected of us and how we could produce results. Basically it boils down to, ‘You get how much you put in’. We do need to build an action plan on a topic we are passionate about. We get a coach/mentor that will help us with our vision and implementation. My problem is I have so many ideas and topics floating in my head, I need to decide on what matters most to me. If you saw my mind map of me brainstorming ideas, you would think I was crazy!

During lunch we got to meet the ASCD board members to network, ask questions and listen to others experiences. It was inspiring to hear what other educators are doing and have done to make positives changes in education.

During the afternoon we learned more about what ASCD has to offer and more about their vision. If you are not a member, I strongly encourage it as they have great online professional developments, articles and discussion groups along with so much more. You can join ASCD Professional Interest Communities for free, without an ASCD membership. Registration is also open for ASCD’s Conference on Educational Leadership. See the details here:

Day 2: Leaders to Leaders Conference (L2L)

Friday we spent the day in the conference room collaborating with all ASCD L2L’s from teachers to superintendents from all over the world. Dr. Gene Carter, Executive Director and CEO, started as the opening keynote. Dr. Gene Carter stated many key points but my favorite was, “The child must be placed at the absolute center of our ethics.”

From the keynote, there were ignite presentations, where leaders shared their experiences, insights and progress since 2012 L2L conference. The ignite format is where presenters share, using 20 slides that automatically advance every 15 seconds for a total of five minutes. This type of presentation was awesome because you got to hear so many different perspectives. I can’t wait to use this style for professional development and imagine this in a classroom, wow! The students would use their 21st century skills to show mastery of content in a fun and engaging way.

During the second half of the morning was a presentation by KnowledgeWorks called ‘Recombinant Education: Regenerating the Learning Ecosystem‘. The key take aways from this presentation were: 1. Make learning adapt to each child; not have each child adapt to a set learning. 2.We need to prepare our students for THEIR world, not ours.

The afternoon was a form of an unconference style. Based on what we learned from the KnowledgeWorks presentation, the group came up with key topics and broke off into mini groups. During this time group members discussed the topic more in depth. We then learned we would have to come up with a ten minute presentation that would take place during the ‘idea market’ the next day. My group was, Hiring For the Future” and we had a fantastic discussion. Here you can see our Google Doc notes. Our product for the idea market presentation was an iMovie. We wanted to show a ‘bad’ interview and how that it is not always just the questions that are bad but also can be the people on the panel.

L2L hosted another nice reception where we could mingle and network. It was great talking to NC affiliates. If you would like to join NC ASCD, you can here. They are working on the website and understand that some of the links do not work.

Day 3: Leaders to Leaders Conference (L2L)

We started off the morning with the ‘Idea Market’. 2L2 changed the set up of the room and had 6 sections set up around the room. Each section was a different topic from the day before. The sad part was you could only attend 4 out of the 6. I attended the below sessions and these are my notes:

1. Failing Forward:
– Discussed Peter Drucker – Managing in the next society
– Failure is a starting point
– Risk Calculation
– We have to also recognize what success means for EACH student and respond accordingly.
– Michael Jordan missing 9000 shots, practiced 12 hours a day, he failed many times but we only talk about his accomplishments.
– FAIL = first attempt in learning
– Wouldn’t it be great if students grade started at 0 and they worked up to 100% (Many colleges do that)
– Develop a culture where taking risks is encouraged and supported

2. What is the system we need to allow students to pursue their own learning?
– personalized learning
– multiple pathways to mastery
– student voice
– Use tools such as Flipped Classroom and Genius Hour

3. In an ever-changing world , how do we actively engage in transformational experiences?
– parent academy
– access ability – keep doors open so students can use the labs
– Internet safety (get helps from police/public library etc)
– parents leading parents (what they are expert in/co-teach)
– decision-making/ Task forces

4. Wrap around services
– tech way to infuse the tenets ( schools need to be one stop shop)
whole child services
– Great site: Jamie Vollmer

The second half of the unconference is when our presentation was. We realized the great iMovie we made was not going to work because there was no projector (we thought we had one) and the volume of the room (from the excitement) was going to be too loud. We had about 10 minutes in between break, for a group of us to decide how we were going to fix it. We had great suggestions but in the end some of us wrote fast and furiously on a few pieces of chart paper our ideas and we held a discussion. It went great all the same and we tweeted out our video and our notes.


After the unconference we broke up into our regions and had more time to discuss ideas with our state affiliates and surrounding states. We then came back all together and had a great closing ceremony reflecting on the conference. We wrote letters to our future selves and ASCD will be mailing them out later to see if we are doing what we set out leaving the conference wanting to do to make change. If you have not joined ASCD you should as they are an incredible resource for your classroom, school and/or district.

Introspective of ‘A Whole New Mind’ By Daniel Pink

“Reading without reflecting is like eating without digesting.”  ~Edmund Burke


This week I finished the book A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink (@danielpink). It was an amazing ‘read’ (I did it as an audiobook) and one that made me look at things in a new way. I highly recommend this book to anyone but especially educators as it takes a look at our students as 21st Century learners.

Daniel Pink says, “We are moving from an economy and a society built on the logical, linear, computer like capabilities of the Information Age to an economy and a society built on the inventive, empathetic, big-picture capabilities of what’s rising in its place, the Conceptual Age” (1-2)

Pink states that there are six fundamental right-brain aptitudes and I have added some of my own thoughts as well for how to apply them to the classroom:

  • Design – Moving beyond function to engage the sense.  He discusses how improving school environments could increase test scores. If you think about it, where would you rather work/learn? At a desk and chair with pencil and paper or in a relaxed environment on a comfy couch or chair with your device. We need to get teachers comfortable in changing the environment so it is not as structured, no more rows or assigned seats. (To learn more about what I think the classroom environment should look like, check out my previous post: 21st Century Classroom Environment)
  • Story – Narrative added to products and services – not just argument. What do you remember about the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster? I remember the story of the first teacher going to space, not the facts about the disaster. With students, connecting facts/events to story will help them not ‘memorize’ but think deeper about the events. This can easily be done in the classroom with digital storytelling.
  • Symphony – Adding invention and big picture thinking (not just detail focus). This works well in the classroom with goal setting. Having students looking at the bigger picture is a great way for them not to work about just one grade but how they master a concept over time. Having symphony in the classroom allows students to be critical thinkers and problem solvers because you are looking for solutions for problems. Similar to Challenge Based Learning (CBL) style. 
  • Empathy – Going beyond logic and engaging emotion and intuition. In the classroom this is helping students having a global perspective and aware of people outside of themselves. This is part of the ‘hidden curriculum’ and part of building well-rounded students. Having students participate in community service events and getting them involved with emotions. In my classroom, I would engage the students in a few videos about the hunger problems in our world to make them aware. I then posed the question, how can we help? The students brainstormed ideas of ways that we could help and then we took it a step further and carried out those ideas for example we held a food drive. I always tied in the curriculum by having the students create persuasive ads to entice others to want to donate and I had them collect data on what items we had then graph the results.
  • Play – Bringing humor and light-heartedness to business and products. Pink discusses how we should blur the link between work and play. I don’t consider my job ‘work’ as I enjoy it, I can ‘work’ for hours on school stuff and not even realize how much time has gone by because I love it. To me, work is going to the gym, where I watch the clock and think, is this over yet? I am ‘doing it’, because I know it is good for me and I should, but I am not enjoying going to the gym. We need to do the same in schools. We need to make the classroom environment be a place where students ‘get lost in learning’ and not be looking at the clock thinking is it over yet. Pink discusses how game based learning (GBL) in the classroom can help students with this concept. Check our this site for more about GBL and A Whole New Mind
  • Meaning – the purpose is the journey, give meaning to life from inside yourself. In the classroom, we need to teach concepts that are related to the real world so students see the connection.

I think this would be a wonderful book study for schools or personal learning networks (PLN). Mr. Pink even provides you with discussion questions for this book and I found a Livebinder full of resources that would also guide your school/PLN to effectively use this for Professional Development by Julie Hart & Jill Rubinstein, from University of Colorado Denver.

I know I do not do this book justice but hopefully I have enticed you enough to read it. I would love to hear what others think of A Whole New Mind and I can’t wait to read more of his books. Next up, Drive! Happy Reading!

Skills a Great Leader Should Possess

“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” By Jack Welch

This past week my favorite Principal, Raymond Giovanelli (@rjgiovanelli), is embarking on a new adventure by opening a new school, something he has not done before. At his ‘farewell party’ it really got me thinking about what skills a great leader requires, he has made me a better educator (more that he knows) and this blog post is dedicated to him. Mr. G contains all of the below skills and are skills a great leader should possess.

1. They have goals and they share their goals with others.

2. They are positive and happy.

3. They have passion for what they are doing.

4. They exhibit all the best character traits.

  • Respect: Show high regard for everyone
  • Responsibility: Shows this for themselves, school and community.
  • Honesty: Be truthful (actions speak, louder then words)
  • Caring: Takes care of staff and students while bring understanding and compassionate.
  • Justice and Fairness: Shows unbiased treatment for everyone
  • Citizenship: Involves the community around the school
  • Courage: Know that it is okay to fail and try new things.
  • Perseverance: With no raises and budget cuts-you stick to what matters the students
  • Hope: Believe in yourself and everyone around you.

5. They celebrate others accomplishments and don’t compare themselves to others.

6. They collaborate with others through Personal Learning Networks- PLN’s.

7. They leverage peoples strengths but also push them to grow.

8. They know when to listen and when to support.

9. They prioritize and manage time wisely.

10. They know how to delegate but share their decision making with others.

11. They find balance between work and home.

12. They are forward thinkers, innovators and think of solutions, not problems.

Thank you for everything you have done and I know will continue to do for your staff and students. You are a great leader!

You can read my past blog post on ‘Why We Need More Principals’ like him here.


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