Caldwell Elementary School – Back to School Scavenger Hunt

Guest Post from PIRATE Leader Kate Ashmore

As a follow up to yesterday’s post on Back to School Like a PIRATE, we wanted to highlight an amazing experience designed to welcome staff back to school in Auburndael, FL. Last week while perusing the #LeadLAP hashtag on Twitter. A few Tweets caught my eye and made me curious about what was going on in the #CaldwellHunt hashtag on August 3rd.  I popped on over and saw a flood of Tweets from Kate Ashmore (@KateAshmore) and her team enthusiastically sharing their journey as they participated in a back to school staff scavenger hunt. It looked simply amazing! In true PIRATE fashion, Kate designed an experience for her staff to welcome them back to school and even got the community involved!  She has graciously agreed to share with all of us the details of the day. Thank you so much, Kate!

Caldwell Scavenger Hunt – Kate Ashmore

The beginning of a new school year is a pivotal time! It sets the tone for staff, which in turn sets the tone for students. While reading Lead Like a Pirate, I came across the idea of a staff scavenger hunt. We had never done anything at that level before! Within seconds, my brain started creating various versions and scenarios of endless possibilities for our staff. What would it look like, where would we go…what would we do…what kind of impact would it have on our staff and in turn our students?

The following explains the goal, plan, execution and results of our scavenger hunt!

Goal for the Hunt:

  • Strengthen the spirit of each House
    • We use the “House System” from the Ron Clark Academy at our school – in essence our staff is divided into 5 houses/teams – for the hunt the houses were in competition against each other.
  • Give Back – Caldwell Elementary School is located in Auburndale, Florida and we have an exceptionally supportive community! We wanted to use the hunt as a way to say thank you and to give back.

Planning the Hunt:

  • Staff members were charged with either picture or performance tasks – each task had to be shared via Twitter and Periscope using #CaldwellHunt.
    • Sample Scavenger Hunt form 
    • Example of picture task – find the official seal of the city and take a selfie with it – 10 points.
    • Example of a performance task – go to the community center, shoot some basketballs and make 5 baskets – 15 points.
    • There were two tasks that were directly related to giving back to our community.
      • Saying Thank You – each house was assigned a specific business partner to visit and deliver a thank you banner.
      • Random Act of Kindness – each house was challenged with the task of performing kindness towards a business partner who has given to the school.
    • There were a total of twenty tasks for staff members to complete – four of those tasks were individualized for each house.
      • QR Codes were created to keep the individualized tasks a surprise.
        • I used QR codes because we are exploring teachers utilizing them during instruction and I wanted them to have a first hand experience for the simplicity and engagement QR codes provide.

Executing the Hunt:

  • Each House was given an envelope with copies of the hunt and any materials needed to perform tasks.
  • Houses were given 5 minutes to plan their course.
  • They were given an hour to complete as many tasks as possible.
    • The goal was to be strategic and see how “your house” could earn the most points.
  • Bonus points were given for arriving back to school before the official end time – points were deducted for being late.

Results:

The Sans Peur house was tasked with performing a random act of kindness for the fire department. They grabbed bags of candy and collected cash from the house members so the fire fighters could have lunch on “their house”. The fire fighters were so shocked to see our teachers and grateful to be gifted with lunch.

The Forte house was intentionally assigned to visit a business partner at Edward Jones Investments. They were assigned this task because one of our teacher’s husband is also an investment broker with Edward Jones. I thought it would be a meaningful connection.

When they arrived they introduced themselves to the secretary and asked how she was. She openly shared that she wasn’t doing well because her family recently experienced a loss of a loved one. They sat with her for a few minutes and poured love and kindness into her. At the end of their conversation together they realized the secretary’s husband works for our school district, serves our school and works closely with the leader of the Forte House! Out of 20 tasks…out of all of the business in our community…the scavenger hunt lead them to give back to a county employee’s wife in a time of need.

Once everyone arrived back on campus, we pulled up a few of the periscope videos and had a great time laughing and celebrating! At the end of the event, the points earned from the hunt didn’t even matter to the competing houses! Not one person asked which house won. We knew each house won something more meaningful than merely points! Our staff got to act silly and have fun with their colleagues and friends while spreading kindness to our community. Excitement and joy permeated the school! Our staff shared that it was the best first day back they ever had! A scavenger hunt across the city of Auburndale for sixty minutes has lead our school into the best opening we’ve ever had! I can’t wait to see how it will impact the next 180 days for our students.

Check out this  Twitter Moment which captures tasks and performances of each house.

Back to School…Like a PIRATE!

Beth Houf

Back to School….Like a PIRATE! The Challenge is ON!
Passion~Immersion~Rapport~Ask/Analyze~Transformation~Enthusiasm

Update: I wrote the original post below on the eve of becoming our district’s new middle school principal in the summer of 2015. Our building wanted to do something big on those first days of school to show our change in our mission to create a school that our students, staff and parents are beating the doors to get IN, not out. We wanted to get our kids so excited about learning on day one, that they couldn’t wait to come back the next day.  What I can say, without a doubt, is the first day of our first year together at Fulton Middle School was one of the favorite, most memorable days of my career. I watched our staff pour their hearts into teaching and showcase their passions for the subjects they teach. I experienced our students enjoying learning, from the first minutes of class. I experienced all of us trying new things, some successfully, some not, which laid the beginnings of a foundation of growth mindset. These first few days set the tone for our year, which truly was amazing! The original blog is as follows and then I’ve added some BONUS material to the end. Thank you so much for reading and making this year the #BestYearEver for your students, staff, parents and YOU!

What is most exciting to me is seeing this foundation alive and well two years later. We continue to push ourselves as a staff to make the first days of school more BAM and less blah. We refuse to get stagnant and are truly dedicated to creating a school that our students and staff are running to get in, not out. This year, after seeing the success other middle schools were having, we decided to start a house system in our school. (Here is the background info on house systems: https://www.smore.com/nrm2y-the-house-system-101) We started with the WHY, which is to create a school environment that is both emotionally and physically safe so that students can thrive at high levels. Of course we want our students to learn at high levels, but it is hard to do that when you do not feel safe. The summer was spent planning and organizing. We also had our students help with the foundational pieces. Seeing the excitement for the possibilities in the faces of our staff and student was truly priceless!

I CAN NOT WAIT to kick this off in our first day assembly! Big plans for another big first day assembly at Fulton Middle School! (also a special shout out to our amazing art teacher, Craig Chapman @ArtFMS for his work on this!)

Instilling a pride in our school and community is another big goal for our year. One way we have started to do this before the first days is a building makeover. After seeing a post on Twitter, our staff was inspired to do something similar for our students as well. The walls and bathrooms of our school got a big makeover focusing on empathy and empowerment…two traits that we will focus heavily on this year.

Something that Shelley and I feel that is so important is to not forget to make school amazing for our staff these first days as well! We can’t push teachers to change first day practices and continue to do the same old boring inservice. I can’t give away all my secrets yet, but here’s an example of an alternate to sit-and-get staff pd that I did with our new staff. We took a field trip with our treasure map below. This was a great way to build relationships and help our new staff navigate our large building.

(You can use this map by going to the following link: https://www.postermywall.com/index.php/poster/view/eda4885fb43d052435dbcc8388f2f37a)

Our challenge to you is to rethink the traditional back to school…for staff…for students and for parents. How can you create experiences that will keep the positive momentum going all year long? Please take a moment to share your thoughts and actions on the #leadlap hashtag. Shelley and I will be featuring all of your wonderful ideas on our blog over the next month! We can’t wait to see how you will make school amazing!

Original Post, August 2015:

Sometimes an article finds us at exactly the right moment. Moving to a new position next fall, I have been in back-to-school mode all summer. First impressions are the most important, so I’ve been constantly thinking and brainstorming about how to start the year for students AND staff with a bang. My personal mission is to collaboratively create a school that our students, staff and parents are running to get IN rather than out. I knew the traditional first day of rules and rules and more rules would not work.  Then I stumbled upon this treasure:

http://inservice.ascd.org/how-do-you-motivate-middle-school-students-by-inspiring-teachers-to-think-outside-the-box-on-the-first-day-of-school/?crlt_pid=camp.onBhIriAFhHN

I immediately shared it with my leadership team on our Voxer group as well as a few PLN members for feedback. As Dave Burgess says, the snowball began to roll. I had immediate feedback on a Friday night from everyone. An overwhelming WE MUST DO THIS came back to me loud and clear. (on a Friday night in July, I might add!) I shared the article, as well as the amazing quote by my friend Don Wettrick, author of Pure Genius to my PLN and I found there are several others ready to make this happen as well! Then I found a blog by Don on this very topic as well. http://theinnovationteacher.com/create-culture-first/ YES!! Create culture FIRST! When the right culture is cultivated, it’s amazing how the need for specific rules diminishes.

I had a conversation with my PIRATE principal pal Jay Billy about how awesome it would be get our colleagues to take this Back to School…Like a PIRATE challenge with us, not just teachers, but school leaders as well. This challenge is to not only make the first few days of school an EXPERIENCE for our students, but to extend this thinking to our staff learning. How can we minimize the mundane and maximize the excitement for our profession; for our passions in education?

Our theme for our school year at Fulton Middle School is Together, We CAN! This works perfectly for our challenge as well. Jay and I created this Google Doc to collect ideas to KICK up those first days of school. We would LOVE it if you would add your amazing ideas as well. Imagine the possibilities of a year that starts in such a positive way. That snowball will continue to roll into the BEST YEAR EVER! Together, We CAN change the way things always have been those first few days of school. The challenge is ON! Let’s make it happen!

Google Doc for sharing:
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1qXQJWagnbwj7CYeajg24FKmDtRDiQHa2NYosU69Zjjc/edit?usp=sharing

Opening day assembly with a principal dance off!
Mr. Kerr had a mean stanky leg!

 

My whip and nae nae was pretty sweet!
But I definitely went down in defeat!

Take the #Kindness180 Challenge

Guest blog post from Staci Erickson

Recently on Twitter we saw a member of our PLN, Staci Erickson, posting acts of kindness she was doing personally, and she was encouraging others to join her in her #Kindness180 Challenge.  In Lead Like a PIRATE we emphasize the need that while we are all so busy in our roles and there is a never-ending “to do” list, it is critical for us to slow down once in awhile and take time to notice and appreciate the great things that people around us are doing each day.  Staci’s call to action to take a few moments from time to time for acts of kindness fits right in with our #LeadLAP philosophy. We asked her to share with us, so we could share with all of you, some background on the #Kindness180 Challenge and information about how we can get involved.  As this school year gets underway, we hope you are able to build some of her wonderful challenges into your day!

Here’s the Challenge from Staci:

I recently started the #Kindness180 challenge, and I hope you will join me!  

What is #Kindness180?

#Kindness180 is about building relationships through acts of kindness. When we are able to build authentic relationships with our students and teachers we build trust. When that trust is in place, those we lead are more willing to take risks, embrace change, and have an overall positive outlook, even when things get tough.

One of the first steps in building those relationships with teachers and students is to simply show kindness. Showing kindness is an act of showing gratitude, giving attention, and encouraging those around us. When we show others kindness it does something wonderful for the recipient (it makes them feel good) and it also does something great for us, too because it makes us stronger and happier.

Why the 180?

Two reasons… First, there will be a total of 180 acts of kindness posted throughout the year. While I hope you join me for as many as possible, there is no requirement to do one each day, and they don’t need to be completed in any particular order. Basically, you just pick the challenges you want to do on days you want to do them and go for it!

The second reason for the 180 is that when someone has “done a 180″, it means they have changed their behavior or thoughts about someone or something. There will be kinds acts that may challenge you to do a 180 throughout the year. As an example, while it is often easy  to show kindness to those we love or care about or when we see others in need, it may require a 180 in our thinking to show kindness to someone who has hurt us. Let’s be honest.. we may not always feel like showing kindness to a particular person, but it is important to remember that kindness is not a feeling, rather it is an action. If we can get past our pride and show acts of kindness, even to those who have hurt us, the healing can begin for all involved.   When we hold onto anger,  bitterness, and resentment towards those who have hurt us, we are unable to experience the joy and beauty this life has to offer. Instead, we begin to build up walls to protect ourselves. In turn, this affects our ability to foster genuine relationships with others.

Types of Challenges

Over the course of the year, there will be four different types of challenges that we will complete during the #Kindness180 challenge. Some of the challenges will be easy and some of them will push you out of your comfort zone, but each one will be completely worth it!

1. Random Acts of Kindness

One kind word or kind act can change a person’s entire day!  A random act of kindness is doing something for someone else without the expectation of a thank you or something in return. These acts might not necessarily be random on your part. In fact, you might have planned these acts out very carefully. We call these acts “random” for the recipient. The kind gestures are unexpected and can help brighten their day. A random act of kindness might be buying someone a cup of coffee, giving out popsicles at the park, or giving someone fresh flowers. The possibilities are endless.

2. Helping others in Need

These types of challenges may take a little longer than some of the other challenges. This is often a sacrifice of time. For example, we may see someone on the side of the road who needs a tire changed. This may cause us to be late to wherever we were headed, but you are willing to give up your time to help this person in need. Another challenge may be mowing your elderly neighbor’s yard. This doesn’t cost you anything but time. Time is one of the most valuable things that people often have a hard time giving up. Myself included!  However, showing people we are willing to give up our time and help them with a need is one of the greats acts of kindness we can show each others.

3. 180 Challenges

There are two types of 180 challenges. These challenges will push you out of your comfort zone and challenge you to think differently on when to show kindness to others.

Acts of Kindness to Those Who Hurt You

The first is showing acts of kindness to those who have hurt you. We have already talked about this but it is worth visiting in more depth . It is important show kindness to those who have hurt us. It allows us to let go of bitterness which only causes us to build up walls. These walls  keeps us from being at true peace. Remember, many times people who are acting unkind are the ones that need to be shown kindness the most.  You might not be the person who started it, but you can be the person who ends it. The road to healing has to begin with someone. One of the challenges is to do something for someone that has hurt you. This shows that person that you are different. It shows them that you are able to forgive and move forward. Even forgiving this person, as hard as it might be, can be the act of kindness you do for them.  Remember kindness is not a feeling it is an action.

Acts of Kindness to Those YOU have hurt.

The second type of 180 challenge is showing and act of kindness to those YOU have hurt. There are times  we are the ones causing the hurt. We may say or do something we regret and there is no taking it back.  We may ask for forgiveness and sometimes that is enough but sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes we have to prove through our actions we are sorry more than we do with our words. Whether it is asking for forgiveness and/or completing an act of kindness to show we are sorry the bottom line is we can’t avoid it and must face it head on.

4. Helping others in Need

Self kindness opens your heart to love yourself. It is about taking a break instead of pushing through life stresses. It is believing that we are worthy to enjoy the goodness in this life. These challenges include exercising, unplugging from technology, listen to music that inspires you, creating a gratitude list, or writing an encouraging letter to yourself 3 months from now. In order to show kindness to others we must remember we have to show kindness to ourselves.

5 Ways to Complete the #Kindness180 Challenges

The great thing about #Kindness180 is you can use the challenges in any way you choose! 

Personal

You may want to complete the kindness180 challenges as a personal challenge. I am doing a kindness challenge every day for 180 days. However, you may want to do only two or three a week. The challenges aren’t about checking one off a list. They are about growing as an individual and doing acts of kindness for others.

Passing out popsicles at the park

Family Challenges

Do the challenges as a family! When I first started the Kindness180 challenges I knew I wanted to involve my own children. They loved being able to complete the challenges with me and it was great time strengthen my relationships with them. It was also the perfect opportunity to teach them that we can do something kind for others, without the expectation of something in return. You can also send these challenges home with your students and encourage them to do the challenges as a family!

Classroom Challenges
It is important to create a classroom community that is supportive, respectful, and KIND. What better way to promote these beliefs then to do a kindness challenge as a class. For my school I have created a bulletin board in the hallway that has 7 different kindness challenges that will be changed out every week. My goal is for the teachers to complete just one challenge a week as a class. The challenges can last as long as they want and they have the freedom to choose exactly how they want to complete the challenge. The teachers also have the freedom to complete a challenge with their class that is not on the board. We want the teachers and students to have the autonomy to complete these challenges in their own unique and personal way.

Campus wide
Choose a kindness challenge once a month, grading period, or semester that you will do campus wide. It may be that you collect bottled water for the fire department, raise money for a project in the community, or do something to beautify your campus. Whatever you choose, get all of the students, teachers, parents, and other community members involved!

#Kindness180 for Discipline
I am really excited about this one! As an assistant principal I have struggled with doling out punishment to students when they come to my office. I learned very quickly during my first year as an AP that detention, in-school suspension, and out of school suspension had little to no impact in changing the student’s behavior. My repeat offenders were usually  back to their shenanigans within a few days after they were released back into the classroom. Why? Because the “punishment” didn’t mean squat to them.

What if we changed our approach? Instead of giving students a punitive punishment, like detention, have them do a kindness challenge. For example, if a student trashes the bathroom have them clean it up after school (on their own time), and then write a thank you letter to the custodians for making sure the bathrooms are cleaned everyday. The students then goes to the custodians, looks them in the eye, hands them the letter, and they verbally thank them for all of the hard work they do to keep the bathrooms clean. You are no longer handing out punishments that mean nothing. Instead you are turning the situation into a learning opportunity through an act of kindness.

I hope you will join us in completing the #Kindness180 challenge! You can visit the kindness180 blog for a list of challenges. I also post a new challenge each day on my Instagram: @principalteacher or on Twitter:@staci_erickson2 and using the hashtag #Kindness180. There are currently over 20 challenges to get you started and I am adding to the list daily! 

#LeadLAP 5 Commitments Challenge

In Lead Like a PIRATE we talk about “Setting Your Compass”. We believe wholeheartedly that a long term vision should be the driving force that moves your work forward as a leader. We also know that for that vision to become a reality in our schools and districts that we have to be deliberate about breaking that vision down into actionable steps that give us and our teams clarity about what we need to do this year, next month, next week and even tomorrow to help make the vision come alive in our schools.

Just last week we wrapped up a Twitter book study on Lead Like a PIRATE (special thanks to Jay Billy @JayBilly2 and Nili Bartley @nbartley6 for taking the lead and running this chat – they and the entire crew they recruited to help did such an awesome job)!  Over the course of the eight weeks or so the chat was running, educators from around the world shared incredible ideas of the types of things they wanted to do this year to up their game as PIRATE leaders and to make this school year even more amazing for students and staff than last year.

With so many great ideas floating around, we know that it can be a challenge to focus… we want to do it all, but the reality is we can’t do it all in one year. Making the shift to creating schools where students and staff are running to get in rather than out is a process. It’s a series of steps we take over time grounded in the commitments we make to ourselves and our stakeholders to continue to grow and get better.

With that in mind, we invited our book study participants, and now we invite all of YOU to take our 5 Commitments Challenge:

“Take some time to reflect on your summer learning… learning from your reading of Lead Like a PIRATE or another book that inspired you… learning from a summer conference or blogs you follow or learning from anywhere else that has pushed your thinking about the type of leader you want to be this school year.  Think about it, reflect on it, and then make 5 commitments to actions you will take this year as a result of your learning that ultimately support the vision you have for the kind of classroom, school, or district you want to create.

Blog about it and share it in the #LeadLAP hashtag on Twitter and tag @BethHouf and @burgess_shelley in the Tweet so we can follow your journey.  We also hope you will read and share the blog posts of other PIRATE leaders and support them in keeping their five commitments this year! For taking the time and making the commitments, we will send you some PIRATE swag as our way of saying “thank you” for working to make school AMAZING!

Shelley and Beth

 

Launching the #LeadLAP chat

 

This blog is dedicated to the amazing educators we are blessed to interact with every week in the #LeadLAP and #satchatwc
hashtags.

Several years ago, I was honored to become connected with Scott Rocco @ScottRRooco, Brad Currie @BradMCurrie and Billy Krakower @Wkrakower They were sharing great things on Twitter and running an inspiring chat (#satchat) on Twitter on Saturday mornings at 7:30 am EST… it’s awesome and if you ever get the chance to participate, please do!

Unfortunately, that 7:30 am EST time was a challenge for this west coast girl, so with Brad, Billy and Scott’s encouragement the #satchatwc hashtag was born and the west coast chats started to run every Saturday at 7:30 am PST.  What a blast it has been – thanks to YOU and all the other participants who have made #satchatwc a vibrant place for us to share ideas and refine our thinking about what works in schools.

Over the years I have had a variety of wonderful co-moderators for the chat and about a year and a half ago when Beth and I were working together on #LeadLAP I asked her to join me in the moderation of #satchatwc and she graciously agreed.

Since our book, Lead Like a PIRATE has been released, the #LeadLAP hashtag has emerged and that, too, has become a dynamic community where educators are sharing ways that they are making school amazing for students and staff.

We have had several requests to start a weekly #LeadLAP chat on Twitter, and what we realized over the last several weeks as the #LeadLAP book study was taking place during the #satchatwc chat time is that these two communities have really blended together to become one powerful, inspirational and energized group of educators committed to making a difference in our classrooms and our schools.

So starting this week on Saturday, August 5th we will no longer be using #satchatwc to host our weekly Saturday morning chats… we will use #LeadLAP instead, and we hope you will join us!  Our chat will continue to focus on the idea that we can lead and make positive change from any position in our school systems. Leadership is not about a title, it is a way of thinking and acting.

To kick us off, we have an incredible chat for you this Saturday from a student leader!  Isaiah Sterling (@isterlingn) will guide us in a chat on the importance of student voice and push our thinking on ways we can incorporate more student leadership in our schools.

Isaiah is a junior at Cape Central High School in Cape Girardeau MO. He strives to give educators the student view they don’t always get on an everyday basis. Check out his blog here: https://thestudentlook.wordpress.com and please join us as he hosts the #LeadLAP chat on August 5th at 7:30 am PST.  If you haven’t met Isaiah yet, you will be inspired by this young man’s voice and perspective and what he can help us learn as educators.

So with much appreciation and gratitude to all of you who have contributed so much to the #satchatwc and #LeadLAP communities we are excited to launch our first official #LeadLAP chat this Saturday, and we personally invite you to join us!! You have so much AWESOMENESS to share, and we can’t wait to hear all about it.

 

 

Supercharge Summer Staff Retreats

Part 1 of our Building Culture and Commitment Over the Summer Series

Over the past few weeks, we have received several emails, Tweets and direct messages from PIRATE leaders interested in hosting summer retreats. YAY!  

Summer months are definitely time to relax, recharge and refresh after a year of hard work and learning, but don’t let these months slip away without taking full advantage of several ways to continue to build rapport with your staff.  We believe there are three types of summer experiences for your team that are well worth the time they take to put together: retreats, summer learning, and socials. Today’s blog post is all about the retreats!! But before you pop open your laptop to start the planning, you’ll want to think about the goals you have in mind for the time you will have with your team to make sure a retreat is the right type of event for you!

Summer Retreat Goals: 

  • Culture building
  • Relationship building
  • Rapport building
  • Team building
  • Goal-driven and FUN

Staff retreats are a perfect way to build trust, connect with your team and have some fun. When implemented well, they are a great way to spend some time together with your crew.  When planning a retreat, think about fun ways for your team to collaborate, rely on each other, and tap into their collective problem-solving skills. Retreats are a perfect time for a little healthy competition mixed in with the fun.  Scavenger hunts, BreakoutEdu activities, group selfie contests etc. are all great ideas as part of a retreat.

Retreats aren’t the time to learn new curriculum or hear about the latest mandates, but they can be a great time to have some more relaxed opportunities to build and/or refine your collective vision.  Activities that reveal passions and best hopes for the school going forward are perfectly appropriate for a retreat.

In a powerful blog post, principal Jimmy Casas shares his thoughts about retreats:

Summer Retreats: “This may surprise you a bit, but when district or building leaders do not come prepared with specific agendas and a specific focus to what the retreat will entail, we risk our folks not investing in the process and therefore leaving the experience disappointed. If this experience is repeated the following year, the retreat becomes nothing more than a check mark that reflects an item taken off the summer list. And by the way, if you are going to call it a retreat, then leave the campus; include some activities that promote teamwork, bonding, and genuine investment in each other. Holding all-day meetings does not constitute a retreat.”

If you are planning a summer retreat, we would LOVE for you to share some of your ideas and resources with all of us here: Lead Like a PIRATE: Summer Retreat Ideas   and of course, share them with us in the #LeadLAP hashtag.  One of the best parts of being a PIRATE is our willingness to share and then pillage from each other! We look forward to learning with you!

Shelley and Beth

It Doesn’t Take a Title to Lead

Flipping Our End of Year Energy Contributed post by Nili Bartley

Many people have asked if Lead Like a PIRATE is just for principals. We feel very deeply that leadership doesn’t require titles. Check out this powerful post by Nili Bartley, a tech integration specialist, that shows the power of just that. Thank you, Nili, for all you do to make education better for students and teachers!

Beth and Shelley

Flipping Our End of Year Energy

Recently I saw this post shared by close friends who happen to be teachers.  I totally get the humor in it and I adore Melissa McCarthy, but I can’t help but wonder this; if that’s what we look like on the last day of school, what in the world will we look like on the first?

d1070600c4aa30e243e420c091ee78b3(Meme found here)

This has been the mindset of so many educators for so long, thank goodness Lead Like a PIRATE is spreading a shift in thinking; inspire your teachers to run in, not out.  Like everyone else, I love summer and of course I’m tired, but there’s a difference between exhaustion and deflation.  The energy I left school with, the magic that brewed during the final days only gave me inspiration to break down the doors in just a couple of months.

What pushed my energy off the charts?  Simple.  People trusted me, we put our heads together, and took action.  Anything new for many brings hesitation, but we must never ever give up. It took a lot of time and I’m still learning, but just like when a teammate starts a two out rally, I’ve discovered it really only takes one spark.  If you’re lucky, that one spark becomes many.

This post is dedicated to my final energy booster, the greatest spark, the one that keeps me running every day of the summer.  Rather than racing toward the finish line, however, it’s a line that will mark the beginning.

The Power of Two, a PIRATE Two

DDFm-FnUwAEKVxL.jpg

Have you ever brought an idea to someone else in hopes it would make a difference? What happened when you went at it alone?  What happened when you brought someone with you?  I have written about leading from my role in the past and the journey I began when I became a technology integration specialist.  One meeting alone taught me there is nothing like the power of two, especially a PIRATE two.

It’s easy to feel alone when the ideas you bring to the table are perceived as outside of the box or even crazy.  To make things harder, the best approaches go well beyond their titles. They need to be experienced with every bone in our bodies.  Yet once another teacher in your building believes that just as strongly as you do, and has felt blood rushing because an educational experience was just that good, that might be all it takes.

A few weeks ago I spoke with my colleague who had just finished Lead Like a PIRATE. We were pumped at the realization that we were ready to bring this number one best seller in education administration to our principal.  It was the second to last day of school and it was pouring outside.  Our principal was finishing up bus duty and it was the worst time possible to meet with her.  We reminded ourselves of a favorite quote from Martin Luther King Jr.  “The time is always right to do what is right.”  That’s how serious we were.

My colleague courageously led the way.   People like me bring passion, but we can also be loud (and even repetitive) with our enthusiasm.  Sometimes the best decision is to let someone equally passionate initiate the conversation. The beauty in this concept is that ultimately, it shows whoever it is you’re trying to inspire that you’re not alone.

Our goal was to schedule a more formal meeting and our amazing principal simply couldn’t say no.  I’m sure this was partly because we were laughing in the rain at the timing of our passionate plea.  Naturally, the next day my colleague and I talked for an hour strategizing who would say what and why, at the same time keeping it real.  We wanted to empower our principal to include us in her vision and allow us to join her team.

Two days later, for the first time, I wasn’t a teacher begging for something I believed in. This time, together, we were leaders bringing something to the table (literally) worth fighting for.  We joined our principal’s team, but just as importantly, she joined ours.

From presenting an overview of the book to discussing passion walls, pineapple charts, and revolutionizing staff meetings, we hooked her in.  We also listened.  We focused on every word our leader had to say as well as paid attention to each other.  The energy, humor, and relatability was like nothing I had ever experienced in a meeting before.  It turns out our passion and even vision were very much in line and for an hour and a half, we talked of the incredible potential that lay ahead.

I think we were in a bit of shock to be completely honest as my colleague and I both learned a valuable lesson.  Regardless of what people might perceive, and regardless of how things were done before, we are all on the same team.  When we were able to see this, tension loosened, we unleashed who we are (right in front of each other!), and suddenly a different kind of energy took form.  An energy that can only build, because we own it together.

I am of course at the edge of my seat now, waiting with much anticipation for our principal to finish Lead Like a PIRATE and meet with us again soon.  I can’t wait to write about the PIRATE transformations we bring as a leadership team.  In the meantime, I plan to share in my next post the risks teachers and students recently took.  They certainly created an excitement for teaching and learning that I predict will not only break down doors, but open opportunities for our whole school in just a couple of months.

CHALLENGE:  Take a picture of yourself running into school on the first day and tweet it using the #LeadLAP hashtag!

Taking the Time to Build Trust

by Beth Houf

Ahhhh summer! Time slows down a little and I am finally making the stack of growing reading material a priority. I opened the May/June 2017 Principal magazine from NAESP and the first article immediately grabbed my attention. Worth the Investment: Trust by Sarah E. Fiarman, former principal, author and ed consultant. In Lead Like a PIRATE, Shelley and I spend a great deal of time writing about the importance of trust and strategies for both gaining and giving trust. This article resonated deeply. Fiarman did an excellent job of sharing four concrete, foundational pieces to building trust; Know How to Listen, Know When to Speak, Take the Time and Name Your Biases.

Know How to Listen

The days of the school principal, and really anyone in education, tend to move at lightening pace. It is easy to get caught up in the to-do lists and immediate decision making that we are faced with constantly. Fairman states, “Listening is one of the most powerful acts we perform. When we listen to truly understand what people mean, not just what they’re saying we build trust. This requires slowing down, checking to be sure we understand correctly, and sharing back what we hear.” YES! And this doesn’t just happen when people are happy! Listening is equally, if not more important, when faced with dissent or anger. Fiarman continues by saying, “When leaders meet anger or frustration with genuine, compassionate interest in the other person’s perspective, we earn trust.” As leaders, we are human and make mistakes. Deeply listening helps us to really analyze our actions to see if we need to rethink next steps.

Another aspect that Fiarman points out is that we need to be intentional about seeking out a wide range of voices in our stakeholders to listen to to build trust. This means taking time to seek out individuals that are typically overlooked or quiet about feedback.

Know When to Speak

Three main points jumped out to me in this section regarding when to speak:

  • We must communicate more than we think we need to. Taking time to communicate can save a lot of time in the long run.
  • Disagreement can be a great thing when done professionally and respectfully. It is our jobs as leaders to help facilitate all ideas being heard.
  • Be familiar with the work of staff members. Take time to be immersed in the day to day work. “It engenders trust when your boss can speak to the specifics of your work.”

As leaders, our voice is heard. The absence of our voice when it is needed can cause trust to erode.

Name Your Biases

Fiarman’s section on biases had me thinking deeply about potential unconscious biases that I have that I don’t realize when making decisions. This will be an area I continue to explore and get feedback from others that I work with, most importantly from our students.

  • Leaders can’t build trust without recognizing and valuing people’s full selves.
  • Own and confront your biases. These are both conscious and unconscious.
  • Acknowledging that I might make mistakes because of this bias and then actively working to counter it builds trust

Take the Time

“Trust happens through thousands of small, purposeful interactions over time.” Such powerful and true words! It isn’t something that can be rushed, each person is unique into how much time it takes but intentional effort, every day will pay off.

After reading this article and having the opportunity to write about it, I was really able to better understand some of the frustrations I have had recently as a leader. I give trust very easily to others. I forget that although I trust others, staff and parents may need more time for trust to be built with me. As we move to positions of leadership, some automatically assume we are part of “the dark side” of education. We have to work extra hard to bust that stereotype. It isn’t us against them. We truly can only be our best when we are all working as one team to provide amazing learning opportunities that last a lifetime for our students.

Challenge Time!

In true #leadlap fashion, I want to pose a challenge to our PLN. After reading the blog, which of the four areas are you going to take a deeper look at? Which area is a strength? What strategies could you share to better help other leaders? Please take a moment to share your thoughts to the #LeadLAP hashtag. Shelley and I can’t wait to hear your thoughts.

Other Work by Sarah E. Fiarman

http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/nov16/vol74/num03/Unconscious-Bias@-When-Good-Intentions-Aren’t-Enough.aspx

http://hepg.org/hep-home/books/becoming-a-school-principal

Other Resources on Overcoming the Principal Bias

Peter Dewitt:

http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/finding_common_ground/2017/06/why_shouldnt_teachers_become_principals.html?intc=main-mpsmvs

Bethany Hill:

https://bethanyshill.com/2016/11/21/recreating-the-principal-stereotype/

‘Tis The Season

Getting the Right People on the Ship

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Interviewing season! While it can be overwhelming with all of the other events happening at the end of the school year, Shelley and I feel that it is the prime opportunity for adding the right people to our crew. A frustration we both have always had with the typical interview process is the canned questions and cookie-cutter approach that most take when hiring new staff. Why do we do this? More often than not it is because that is the way it has always been done. Our next #LeadLAP challenge for you is to take time to reflect upon your current hiring process and find ways to transform practices to best meet the current needs of your building. Already PIRATEing up your hiring? Share your great ideas on the #LeadLAP hashtag so we can all learn from you.

A risk I took this year came when selecting a new assistant principal.  It was important to me that all staff had the opportunity to give feedback in selecting this new person, so I created a Google Form asking for the top three traits our school needed from our next co-captain. (sample form here: https://goo.gl/forms/JItjkvYilwRnnKOG3) Our interview committee consisted of a representative from all staff including all subject and grade levels, veteran and new staff and support staff positions. It has always been important to me to include staff as part of the interview process. When current members of the crew feel ownership in helping to make hiring decisions, they also take ownership in the success of this person when they become part of the team. This committee was given the responses to the form and asked to craft 2-3 interview questions specific to feedback given and his or her role in the building. These were shared on a Google Doc and then we took time as a committee to select our line up. The interview process was like no other. The passion was evident in each question and the answers from the candidates were real. It truly helped us to find the right fit for our school. We also revamped our interview process for our staff openings. These have become much more of a conversation instead of just a Q & A session. Each interview committee member asks questions that they are passionate about relating to the needs of our school. There is not a script, there are no canned questions, just time to get to the heart of what we need to continue to strive for greatness for our students and staff. My favorite opening question that I ask is for the candidate to share a lesson that they taught that had kids running to get in the class, or as Dave Burgess says, “A lesson you could sell tickets to.”  I always love to hear these responses! Anyone can give a definition of student engagement. I want to hear about a living example of how this worked with students. Another favorite is to ask the prospective crew member to share what they have read recently that has affected them as an educator. It is so important to our staff that we add people who are truly learning leaders to continue to propel us forward. We will continue to tweak and adjust our interviewing processes at our school. Next year, a goal is to add students to our committee and a teaching element for the prospective teacher.

What are ideas you have? Please take a moment to help us all grow and share your thoughts on the #LeadLAP hashtag. Shelley and I look forward to reading your thoughts!

Resources to help as you take this #LeadLAP Challenge:

5 Steps to Help Your Crew Embrace Change

My friend George Couros reminds us in his book The Innovator’s Mindset  that “Change is an opportunity to do something amazing.”. I wholeheartedly agree.

In my experience, it can be a long journey for some people on the team to see the upside of the change.  Unfortunately, the reality is they often get overwhelmed by it.  As an educational leader who admittedly asked a lot of people, I often found myself in my office or in a classroom where someone on my team would confess that they were overwhelmed and didn’t think they could “do it”.  As a leader who genuinely cares about people and believes wholeheartedly in supporting my team, this was always challenging for me.

So it got me thinking… How could I respond in a way that conveys my genuine compassion for the person without letting her “off the hook”?

Over time, and after a few bumpy conversations, I found that there were five components to a successful conversation with a person who was feeling overwhelmed by the work we were trying to do:

  1. Acknowledge change can be hard. Don’t dismiss their feelings of being overwhelmed or the feelings of “I can’t do this”. They are real… treat them as such. Express understanding, demonstrate empathy and let them know you care.
  2. Remind them of the why. Revisit the reasons for the change, the best hopes for the change, the “data” that helped us decide this change was critical for our school community.  If you followed the Lead Like a PIRATE practice of involving the people impacted by the decision in the decision making process, reconnect them with the reasons they decided to support it in the first place. Be genuine, be specific, be thorough.
  3. Remind them of their value. Let them know you believe in them, that they are an essential member of the team and that we can’t do it without them. Share the confidence you have in them to do this.
  4. Offer support.  Ask “How can I help?” “What do you need from me?” “Is there something we can take off your plate?”  If they share something that you can do… Do it! Commit! Follow through and make sure they have the support they need.
  5. Thank them.  Express your gratitude for their commitment, for their perseverance, for their willingness to push through the challenges to make school AMAZING for kids.

While not foolproof, I (and leaders I have coached) have used this process many times with great success. Change IS an opportunity to do something amazing, but we also have to be wiling to coach and support our crew on the roller coaster ride that change can bring for them.