#LeadLAP

#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!

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#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!