lead like a pirate

#LeadLAP: Rapport Scores

It doesn’t matter who you lead, whether it’s students, teachers, or staff in general. If you don’t have their trust, they aren’t going to respect you or assist you in your grand visions. You can have the greatest ideas in the world. They can be the best of the best, guaranteed to succeed, but if you don’t have a crew behind you that trusts your ideas and helps bring them to fruition, then your idea ship is sunk before it even leaves the harbor.

As someone in any leadership position, you cannot lock yourself behind your doors and hide behind emails and all-call announcements to staff members. Then you’re merely a ghost in the school, haunting, but never immersing yourself with your staff. By hiding, you’ve now created a barrier with a line that divides administration from staff.

I was lucky at one of my previous schools to work under a principal who was always around. Every morning she would go to each classroom and tell the kids hello and to work their best. She was often in the halls and with staff. When bad things happened to staff, she supported them. She participated in the events with the students, and did crazy things. If I needed to see her, it wasn’t that hard to get ahold of her at all. Her staff respected and trusted her, and it was easily seen. At one point there were rumors that she might leave the school for an administration position at another, and her staff fretted at the thought of losing her. She had built rapport, and it was easily seen.

On the other hand, I’ve been in places where this wasn’t so noticeable, or was only sometimes. Being under administration that is never seen or that rules with the fist of compliance makes for a stressful workplace. Instead of feeling trusted and respected, you feel as though you’re never working hard enough or never doing anything right. Some teachers simply give up and shrug, content to float along, convinced that this too, shall pass.

Myself, I am still getting better with this. I am going to make a better effort this year to be rapport with more folks in both of my schools, especially now that I am in my second year. The second year last time made the biggest difference, and instead of being timid and hesitant, I was jumping in and getting things done. I want to do that this year in this district as well. I don’t have to worry about not knowing my way around or how things really work in the district. Those barriers are gone. Time to take some action.

I recently ordered a pirate flag, mostly because I wanted something to always remind me of the PIRATE system. I still need to get the rod and clips for it, but part of me is now thinking one way to set myself apart and spark some interesting conversations is to carry my flag around the school with me everywhere I go on my first days back with staff. This may or may not also involve a pirate hat or bandana of some kind. Parading about like this while I do my job gets me the crazy looks, and lets me talk to any staff member who calls me out on my craziness. The first days are crazy and hectic, but I can make them memorable!

I’m still working on other ways to build rapport. I need to find ways to get myself into more classrooms this year and talk with more teachers. This is something I’m still thinking about and deciding upon. I can’t do much good from my office if I’m to be assisting staff. I know I need to build it though, and I have some ideas, but they aren’t enough just yet to share. The first step though, is KNOWING I need to do better in this area and improve!

#LeadLAP: Immersion Makes a Difference

One thing I’m quickly learning from my summer reading is that immersion can make all of the difference in how others perceive a lesson or activity. In Learn Like a Pirate, it was all about how the teacher immersed themselves when working with students. In Lead Like a Pirate it’s much the same thing, except with staff and teachers. Whether teacher or principal, those that look to you for guidance know when you’re really involved in the work and when you’re just sitting on the side lines instead.

As a teacher I remember my “off” days. I remember the days where I was ill and came to work sick or when I was having a rough time with a personal issue. I also remember the times I was just “done”. We have those down days. They don’t come often, but when they do, we are not at our best, and we are not immersed in what we’re doing either. Our students and teachers pick up on it. They know when your heart just isn’t into the work you’re doing.

Off days happen to everyone. No one is perfect and no one is “on” all the time, though we may try to be. The problem arises when we are “off” more than we are “on”. Perhaps you remember a teacher from your days who was just there floating on by. May you work with or have worked with some like that. Those teachers are the ones that also tend to have more trouble. Think about administrative staff, too. Have you been lucky enough to have some working right alongside you, or are they just there watching on the sidelines?

Being immersed in our work means getting down and dirty. We’re not just observing what’s going on and providing input. We’re not trying to accomplish other things at the same time. We’re in the middle of the learning, the action, and we’re setting the example for our staff and students that we want to be there by their sides as they make discoveries. We are showing them that we care about what is going on by placing ourselves right in the action as well.

Being immersed also allows us the chance to learn right alongside our students, and to make the adjustments as we go along. We learn more by being involved than by being hands-off. Our students and staff see the difference as well. Yes, we have our boundaries and borders, but does the border gap have to be so huge that it becomes an “US” and “THEM” situation? No. When that occurs, we start positioning ourselves as better than the group we are working with, and that never accomplishes much in the longterm. I would rather have an administrator getting involved in and learning PD alongside staff than one who decides not to attend or that it doesn’t apply.

In terms of myself as an ITRT, I need to begin keeping tabs on myself as I am working with staff during times of professional development. I need to watch for myself staying on the side, instead of being in the thick of things with the learners. I know there are times where I do this, and it’s not okay. I know this, and I definitely realize it now. I have knowledge to share, but that doesn’t make me the better person, or the expert. I am a learner still, too, and that means learning from my staff and the things they can teach me about the topic that we are exploring, together.

If nothing else, I need to make the “US” and “THEM” mentality turn into a “WE” mentality. Separately, barriers create issues and a lack of team, but a “WE” mentality smashes barriers and allows everyone to benefit from each other.

#LeadLAP: P is (still for) Passion

To switch up my reading a little as I am working on The Art of Coaching, I have also decided to read Lead Like a Pirate by Shelley Burgess and Beth Houf. I’m not an administrator, nor have any desire to be one, but I am in a bit of a leadership role as an ITRT. I do work with staff, and it is supposed to be my job to move them forward in the instructional technology field. I figured this book would do better to guide me in my role better than Teach Like a Pirate so I purchased it earlier this year shortly after it was released.

The section on passion is still broken into 3 sections- content (leadership in this case), professional, and personal. I’m not going to retype those, as I recently did them when I was studying Teach Like a Pirate. If you are really curious about what I did say, then you can read all about them here. Passions drive us and they are the things we love best. We must be cautious though, as not everyone gets why we’re passionate about our favorite things. For example, I’m pretty sure there are plenty of educators who would find me an oddball for my summer of learning that I’m embarking on, but that doesn’t bother me.

Instead, I am going to focus on a couple of the questions posed at the end of the chapter:

Do you know what each member of your staff is passionate about? If not how might you encourage your staff to bring more of what they are passionate about with them to work each day?

No, I don’t know what each of the staff members I work with is passionate about. I do know some, and those tend to be the folks I see the most often. I definitely can say that I don’t have a clue when it comes to the majority of my staff. I cut myself slack during the first year in a new district and state, but this year I need to do better in getting to know more of my staff and what drives them. Knowing their passions might help me do better with connecting the professional development and edtech that I do with staff. We already know that finding ways to connect our teaching to student’s interests pulls them deeper, so why not do the same with staff?

As to the question of how I can encourage staff to bring more of what they are passionate about to work, that’s a good question. I have been thinking about this one for awhile, and so far I am coming up with the idea for a passion board that can be displayed and viewed by others. I’m not quite sure how this would work, and it still needs to be thought about more.

How might you get to know the passions of your students and families? 

I can at least attest to a way I’m trying to get to know the students’ passions more. Usually I talk with students that I spot randomly and that helps me to learn a little about the student, even if I never see that student again. I “stole” fidget spinners from students last year in order to snag a chance to talk to them. It was a neat ice breaker and they opened up after they realized I wasn’t really going to take their spinner!

One thing I am starting to do next year is a student spotlight on our social media page. I plan to focus on on positives and impacts the student wishes to make, rather than achievement through sports or academics. It’s a spotlight for any student, and I want to find a way to display it at the school as well, especially if there are students who cannot be posted on social media, but their families wouldn’t mind them being featured in the hallways of the school. One of the questions will focus on student passions and what drives them.

Beyond that, it takes getting to know more students, and being that positive impact in the hallways. I am not sure how often I will work with students this year, as it always depends on the teacher requests. I will however, make sure they remember me!

Copenhaver Institute 2017: Day 2 & 3

Day 2 dawned early, and I felt well rested after my early bedtime the previous night. I had a lot more sleep, so I was wide awake and ready to go. I met up with Heidi for breakfast and we talked of looking forward to hearing George Couros speaking. I knew how passionate he was about opening sharing and being connected through social media, such as with Twitter. Based on what I’d seen so far on Twitter from the Copenhaver hashtag, very few people actually used Twitter regularly. It had been disappointing because I was so used to seeing other people’s notes on learning.

Let’s just say that I wasn’t disappointed when it was time to hear George speak. He even recognized my face, and realized that he had been reading my tweets a little while ago. I was pleased. I love being recognized. Then again, who wouldn’t? I had a front row seat, and settled myself in with my Chromebook for some great learning.

George made many educators uncomfortable in the room. He totally threw them out of their comfort zone, and it was amazing. He wanted them to connect, share, and take risks. He did not apologize, and in fact, he said himself that he would make many uncomfortable and didn’t care. I would giggle to myself as I tweeted out bits of learning here and there.

A large portion of the time was spent on detailing why educators should share online. There is no longer an option to say “I can’t” because technology is so easily available to teachers. Teachers make the choice not to, and they harm themselves and their students in this regard. They are not regularly exposed to new ideas, viewpoints, or a connected network that they can reach out to at any time, not to mention the myriad of resources that can be found.

Discussion also focused on being open when it came to educational things. There is no separation of personal and professional online lives. Just because you think that your Facebook is locked down, doesn’t mean it truly is. It never will be, and to think otherwise is to have a false sense of security. There isn’t any need for a locked Twitter account. What are you hiding there? Why do you not have a bio, a good profile image, or a digital portfolio of any kind? What is holding you back? Are you the one holding yourself back?

When educators learn to use Twitter for educational purposes, they unlock a new community of educators, resources, and ideas. These educators are willing to grow and learn and try new things. They are also willing to help others as well. George even said at one point that if you can’t learn to use Twitter then you shouldn’t be an educator. It’s a very strong statement, but true. Why keep yourself away from 24 hour access to amazing things? Why harm your students in that way?

If you’re looking for ways to get started with Twitter, but aren’t really sure how, then there is a book you can read. I actually picked this up at Copenhaver myself so I could have it for the resources for other teachers. It does give you tips on getting started, and ways to use Twitter as well.

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You can find it on Amazon

 

George certainly did not hold back. He moved on to talk about a balanced lifestyle. We always hear of folks talking about leading a balanced lifestyle, juggling work, hobbies, family, etc. What is balanced for one person is completely unbalanced for another, or is not something they consider important. Instead, one should frame it as “Do I lead a meaningful life?” This way it can be adapted to anyone. Each person decides what the most meaningful things are in their lives and then determines how they fit together. If you can answer “no” to that question, then you need to reconsider your life and what you consider to be meaningful.

The final part of Couros’ presentation focused on leadership. He talked of how one person can make a difference within their faculty. Of course, that could be a good or bad difference. Twitter can help those who want to become better leaders, as well as books, such as Lead Like a Pirate. I haven’t read it yet, but my colleagues who have say it’s fantastic and worth it. I don’t want to be an admin at all, but I do want to lead better in the role that I have as an ITRT.

After George’s session, I was able to get my book signed and speak with him. He’s a great guy, and if you haven’t seen him before, you should. Be prepared for his brutal honesty though because he doesn’t hold back, and he doesn’t hold hands. He expects you to think and work the way that we want our students to think and work.

After that, it was off to the afternoon sessions! There were two this time head for, and I chose to hit up “Innovative Tools and Strategies that Solve Problems and Inspire Creativity” as well as “Books to Promote Creativity”. The innovative tools one was interesting, though many of the tools were things my district does not have the funding for or prefer. There were iPads that were driven by robotic legs, Google Cardboard, and an augmented reality sand table that focused on topography. The augmented reality table was built by hand, and after I shared video on Twitter, I ended up with instructions to build my own. Yes, Twitter is that amazing!

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This table was programmed to teach topography. As one manipulated the sand, the topography would change and update. It was a lot easier to see how changes to the land affected topography. I wish I had this as a kid!

When it came to “Books to Promote Creativity”, the session had so much to share, and so little time to share it in. The presenters talked about how it takes just one book or picture or phrase to spark something in a student. After all, most of us could recall our favorite books as children, and the impact they had upon our young selves. Many books today can be found on problem solving, creativity, and failure. These books fit perfectly into the innovator’s mindset that we want our young ones to take on. I would say STEAM/STEM, but this is truly a mindset that we want others to carry with them in all aspects of their lives. There were many extras to pick up at the end of this session, but I didn’t have time because I had signed up to join a crew on the River Walk. I hope that in the future they provide time between the final session and that so it’s not such a rush to get there!

Day 3 was mostly a reflection day, followed by a lunch and awards ceremony. We spend the morning reflecting on the things we had learned, and were able to travel to other rooms to see what had been generated. We basically were split into elementary, secondary, or admin groups, and in each room were bits of chart paper with headings. I actually was disappointed to see this, as George had mentioned the dreaded chart paper in his presentation. I posted a picture on Twitter, and was called out on it:

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I was happy to respond. Chart paper is always used to gather ideas, but is never used further than that. Often, it’s just tossed in the trash. The point of the paper in this case was to gather our ideas on what we had learned on different topics. It would then be typed into a list and shared on the Copenhaver website. This list would give no further ideas or details. There was no examples to go with it to show how or why this learning was relevant. It is an outdated mode of learning. Instead, why not show this learning in a video, a tweet, or other fashion and then link to that instead? It’s just a list, nothing more. What will you do with the information on the list? That’s what really counts.

Finally, there was the dinner and awards ceremony, which was nice. I did try asparagus soup for the first time in my life. And I won a nice prize as well, which never happens. At this point though, I was ready to head home (or to my parents to visit, in this case) and let the things I had learned marinate inside my head.

Copenhaver was definitely a blast, and I learned a lot. I’m so glad to have had the chance to hear Burgess and Couros speak, and to have met up with some amazing educators. This is exactly the kind of workshop I live for!

My Current EduReading List

There are plenty of books I need to read, and I have quite a few of them. These books have been recommended to me over time, and I’ve picked them up. So far, they’ve spent a lot of time on my shelf as I work my way through the school year. Reading is a passion of mine, but I usually only read before bed. This, of course, is under the cover of darkness, curled up in my bed with my Kindle. Reading helps me relax my brain and fall asleep more easily. Obviously this is not the ideal time to read any kind of reference material. Plus, I like to have physical copies of my reference books. This allows me to easily locate information or make any kind of marks I want. I’m not someone who marks up her books, but I do paste QR codes in them from time to time. The codes link to blog posts that I’ve written on that chapter or topic.

Most of the books listed work for anyone in education. Usually I find ways to link them to edtech or my own leadership in the field. There is always room to grow and room to learn.

Here are the books that are currently on my list to read and tackle. I’ve provided links to them on Amazon as well for easy purchase:

  1. The Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros: I actually started this in the fall and participated in half of #IMMOOC before I got busy with other things. I am going to finish the rest of this book first!
  2. Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess: I started this book, and then I switched out of the classroom and into the technology specialist position, so I never finished it because I was learning the ropes of a new job at the time. I need to revisit it now that I am more comfortable in my position. Goal is before summer, as I get to see both Burgess and Couros speak at Copenhaver Institute!
  3. What Connected Educators Do Differently by Todd Whitaker: If you know me well enough, you know I love promoting being a connected educator and growing one’s PLN via social networks, such as Twitter, which is my main playground.
  4. The Art of Coaching by Elena Aguilar: All I know is that this is a must for me in my coaching position and that it will help me assist my teachers better. I’ve had multiple folks tell me to read it before next school year begins.
  5. Digital Leadership by Eric Sheninger: I have a copy of this book somewhere, but I can’t seem to find it right now. It may be at school. I want to create technological change in my schools, or at least see where I can begin.
  6. Lead Like a Pirate by Shelly Burgess: I’m in a unique leadership position as an ITRT and I want to see what new ideas this book will have to help me improve my leadership among my teachers. I think it’s geared toward admin, but I will find out. I want to be a better leader.

I have a lot to tackle, and I hope to jump back in soon. What’s on your current edureading list? Share in the comments section!