Book Review: The Power of Moments

Our school district is offering a summer book study of “The Power of Moments.” I read this book a few summers back, but the book study was the perfect catalyst for me to re-read the book and take something new away from it.

Power of Moments is a book that rests on the tenants that “Defining moments shape our lives, but we don’t have to wait for them to happen. We can be authors of them.”

Through a variety of scenarios, situations and examples, the authors paint a portrait of times that individuals and organizations have seized the power of moments to make a large impact in the lives or others.

In a school setting, the following examples were shared as opportunities to create moments:

  • Having an academic signing day for high school students similar to what is traditionally done for athletics. (Side note: I recently saw a tweet where a high school hoisted banners for students that earned a perfect score on the ACT and kept these flying in their academic hall of fame… we do that for sports, of course we should do this for scholastic accomplishments!)
  • Celebrate the 1,000th day of school. (We started this at DGS two years ago and LOVE reflecting with 5th graders on their time as a Royal!)
  • 50th book read
  • A teacher’s 1,000th student taught
  • Locker combination races for transitioning middle school students to get familiar with their combinations
  • Captstone learning projects and activities

We can find moments to celebrate during:

  • Transitions
  • Milestones
  • Landmark Dates
  • Pits (tough life situations; death, illness, loss of purpose)

The key takeaway for me was “Stay alert to the promise moments hold. These moments do not need to be ‘produced.” Moments can be a combination of orchestrated and strategic events and activities, but they can also be found in the everyday compliments we give, conversations we have and questions we ask.

“What if we didn’t just remember the defining moments of our lives, but MADE them?” 

Book Review: No Ego

Most times when I login to my Amazon account, I am given a plethora of ‘recommendations” for future purchases. These recommendations, based off previous purchase history, are often household items for the daily operations of our home, clothing, and books. When I saw “No EGO” amongst the recommendations for books, I was intrigued by the title and clicked on it to read more.

The subtitle states: “How leaders can cut the cost of workplace drama, end entitlement and drive big results.” It spoke to me. I ordered it and enjoyed an evening multi-tasking between watching the NHL Finals and reading it.

I know we would all like to think we aren’t susceptible to ‘drama’ in the workplace, but the truth is, it is prevalent in most organizations or companies. No Ego gave practical reflection questions, exercises and insights to support leading in any organization.

Some core beliefs to maintain:

  • Always assume noble  intent
  • Circumstances are not the reason you can’t succeed. They are the reality in which you must succeed.
  • Stop believing everything you think
  • Engagement without accountability creates entitlement

Dispositions to Develop:

  • Mental flexibility
  • Self-reflection
  • Taking accountability
  • Forgiveness
  • Letting go
  • Moving on

Reflection Questions:

  • What do you know for sure?
  • What is your role in this?
  • What are you trying to create? What do you want and what are you willing to do to get that?
  • What would be most helpful in this situation?
  • What are your ideas for resolving the issue? What could be done next to add value to this situation?
  • How can you succeed in the circumstances as they exist?
  • What are you doing to help?  What could you do right now?
  • What would “great” look like right now

My call to action as a leader:

  • Check my own ego before I engage with others
  • Serve gently, but make a call to greatness and work with those willing to answer the call
  • Remember that potential in others is limitless

No Ego was a reality based book with a no frills approach to direct and reflective leadership. As a result of reading this book, I feel more inspired and equipped to manage challenging conversations, steer productive problem-solving, and lead my school to greatness!

Book Review: The Ball

I was conducting a workshop for ROE #3 in Vandalia, Illinois. I always include in my presentations a showcase on what I am currently reading. The book I share is always different, but it springboards some great conversations about the reading favorites of others in the audience. At this particular workshop, another administrator quietly shared with me during a break the book that impacted him the most.

As I typically do, I wrote down the title, added it to my Amazon cart, and since it was summer, decided I had the time to purchase it and read it. I am so glad I did. Not shortly after Amazon Prime delivered it to my home, I was planning on a road trip with some friends a couple hours a way. As passenger in the car, I was able to knock out this book in transit to our destination.

Now, if you have been in education for any length of time, you know that Todd Whitaker knows his stuff, but this book was quite a bit different than what I am used to with his work. In “The Ball” he tells the story of a burnt out teacher with a renewed sense of passion sharing her knowledge and insights with a struggling former student.

Throughout the book, the teacher shares her own perspective on how she allowed mandates, demands on her time, and new initiatives to take her focus off her students and intuition when it came to teaching. She found a new sense of purpose in her life and career. In a chance meeting with a former student, she recognized her own pain in his story and through a conversation they both resolved to “keep their eyes on the ball” and ignore the external distractions and focus on what matters most: People and Relationships.

Some of my takeaways included;

  1. Maintaining focus on my ‘why’ during times and situations that are challenging.
  2. Not allowing external distractions to shift my attention from the most important tenets of my job or philosophies as an educator.
  3. Making intentional decisions to maintain balance and focus on my ‘ball’ with all the priorities in my life.
  4. Reflecting on the traditions in my life and school and consider renewing any that have gone to the wayside as a result of distractions or external stimuli.
  5. Continue to make a conscious effort to remind staff about our ‘ball’ and promote relationships and connections with our students and families.
  6. Remember that “we don’t win or lose a single game, it’s about playing the right way and having fun doing it.”

This short, but sweet book reinvigorates and refreshes the psyche to focus on key organization goals and resources. I will keep it on my bookshelf in my professional library as a resource for reminding myself to always keep sight of what’s vital and important.

Book Review: Relentless

Any time I get to read a book published by Dave Burgess Consulting, I know I am going to be inspired and encouraged to improve my leadership and educational practices. With the hype around the “Tattooed Skateboarding Principal,” Hamish Brewer, and his book “Relentless” I had high expectations.

I received it following my second day of “summer break” and was ecstatic to open my Amazon box of summer books. His was the obvious choice to pull out first.

I was NOT disappointed.

By looking from the outside, Hamish and I do not share many characteristics. Our childhood stories are very different. Our paths to teaching and leading are not similar. What we do share is a passion for kids and a unwavering desire to make change.

I plowed through his book in a three hour trip to do a speaking engagement. As my husband drove and listened to talk radio, I was engulfed in Hamish’s manifesto. Hamish makes his clear and poingnet point in the first chapter that resounds throughout the book: It’s not rocket science; it’s relationships.  Every further underline, margin note, starred paragraph, dog-eared page, or highlighted sentence is an extension of this simple, yet often underappreciated sentiment. I still have the thought that children don’t seek attention, they seek relationships resonated through my mind as I reflect on this truth.

Some “takeaways” that I will be sure to share in more detail with my staff (and that you should read more about in his book) include;

  • Going “one more round” and serving the students, staff and school with integrity and character
  • Value the success of the team over individual success
  • Lead and teach for the opportunity, not the obligation
  • Recognize that making progress and growing as a school leader and staff is not about one big win, but doing the little things well, consistently and effectively.
  •  Remembering that our students are the most important resources in our building and profession
  • Discipline is not about being out to punish our kids, but helping them learn replacement behaviors
  • All children are opportunities for greatness
  • We cannot replace quality and amazing teachers with programs or strategies. Improving schools isn’t just about test scores. School improvement should also work to improve culture, practices, brand and teacher engagement

Action Steps for me as a result of reading the book that I intend to address and embed in the 2019-2020 school year include:

  • introducing the word ‘love’ into the everyday vocabulary of our school. Read page 43. It touched me.
  • Reflect on two questions each night: Was I better for kids today? Did I give everything I had for the team around me?
  • Seek feedback from families and students; ” What are three things you love about our school?” and “What are three things you would love to see grow at our school?”
  • Seek to continue opportunities to build community with our “Royal Families” as Hamish does with his “tribes”

As you can see by the post-its adhering to the edges of the book, I am so thankful for Hamish’s words and inspirational story. He told a poignant story of triumph and the power in being RELENTLESS.

8 Simple Ways to Display Books in Your School

A key strategy in developing a culture of readers is to ensure students have ample access to high quality books with no strings attached. What you value as an administrator, educator, and school should be reflected in the physical learning environment and that includes shared and common spaces and NOT just the individual classrooms. There are many ways and opportunities to display books to promote reading and literacy on your campus. Consider the following inexpensive and completely feasible ideas:

 

Wall Mounted Document Displays

When we painted the school office, the document holder was no longer needed. In lieu of getting rid of it, it turned into a book display that we hung at a Kindergartener’s height in between the bathrooms. The teachers now can access these books and use restroom break time as an opportunity to do a read aloud. We ensure that quick and easy books are accessible and refresh them with seasonal or high interest books. You can purchase similar holders for about $20.00.

Ten Foot Plastic Gutters

You can get a 10 foot section of gutter for about $4.00. That makes the display below economical and fun! The best part of this display as that you can put books forward facing for students to see the covers. We put these in between the two doorways that lead to our gymnasium. Students use them during the day, but we also love when students and siblings access them in the evenings during basketball or other sporting events.

Bookshelves

It may seem like common sense, but it’s not always how you display your books, but WHERE you display them that can make an impact. We placed two bookshelves in our foyer where students enter in the morning and wait for rides at dismissal time. It is also the area where students that are leaving early may wait for their parents. This provides access to them to seize those important minutes during the day.

Unique and Different Vessels for Holding Books

A staff member approached me one day and shared she had a bathtub in her garage that she was eager to get rid of and she knew our school would find something to do with it. We placed it in our foyer and it wasn’t long before we started filling it with books. Students rifle through it searching for their favorite stories and it is one of my favorite areas for books in our whole building. Consider what other vessels can hold books and create excitement for books. An old boat? A telephone booth? A swimming pool? An old interesting cabinet? A lemonade stand?

Thrift Store Finds

I was walking through a local thrift store when a white wicker shelf caught my eye. It was $2.50 and it screamed BOOK display to me. We spray painted it blue and hung it above a water fountain. There are lots of different and CHEAP opportunities to place books in non-traditional areas.

The Principal’s Office

Promoting a culture of readers means remembering the professionals too! Adults are readers and the principal’s office can serve as a strong model for that. Building a strong professional library that is accessible to staff is necessary.

Little Libraries 

Outdoor spaces are a prime location to promote a culture of readers during and after school hours. Maintaining a quality supply of books that students and the community can access at all times promotes a love of literacy. We display one in the front of our building and also on our playground.

 

Books in the Bathroom?

Let’s be real. When we are in the restroom, a little reading material never hurts. We maintain some magazines and books in our staff restroom. We are using magnetic document frames to display poetry, short stories and math word problems in the student bathroom stalls!

Look at your space and school. What does it communicate about reading? What can you do to enhance it? Share your ideas and keep building a culture of readers!

Intentionally Welcoming Our Students Back

It has been almost two weeks since our students eagerly raced out of the doors of school and into the wonder and rest that the winter break brings. Whereas staff and students alike were excited for a little time off, I am just as excited to welcome our students back on Monday.

I spent a little time creating some positive affirmation signs and hanging them on the lockers and cubbies of our students. The messages vary, but all are intended to let our students know that we missed them, we care about them, and we are excited for the remainder of the school year.

To get the students excited for returning to school at arrival time, teachers are encouraged to greet them in the hallways and at the door with New Year’s Eve headbands and noisemakers. These were purchased inexpensively at Dollar Tree and after season sales make them affordable at other stores. As simple popcorn bar is being put in the lounge to welcome the teachers back as well. Afterall, I missed seeing them each day too!

You can view the PDF or editable word file of the posters below.

 

#OneWord2019: Intentionality

Each year I choose a word to provide focus and clarity to my year. I refer to the word often and allow it to guide my work as a mom, wife, and educator. Many years, it requires ongoing thought and brainstorming. There have been years where it has taken me days or weeks to find the right word to sum up my goals and aspirations for the year.

This year was different. For a variety of reasons, the word, “intentionality” screamed at me this year loud and clear and the moment I started brainstorming my word, this was and continues to be the only word that resonates with where my head and heart are at currently.

As a mom, wife, educator and leader, I find myself regularly trying to find balance in my life. I am constantly trying to find opportunities to be more effective and efficient. I schedule each part of my day and week with the best interests of my students, staff and family in mind, but I internally find myself reflecting on the purpose or intent of the actions.

The dictionary defines intentionality as follows:

in·ten·tion·al·i·ty
/inˌten(t)SHəˈnalədē/
noun

Flipping Learning from the Principal’s Office

Flipped learning isn’t just a concept to share with staff and encourage teachers to use to engage their students. School leaders and principals can use the concept to connect with students and create a culture of learning and literacy throughout the school. Three simple strategies that administrators can do to “Flip Learning” from their role include:

  1. Social Media Read Alouds
  2. Social Media Challenges
  3. FlipGrid Book Talks

Social Media Read Alouds:

Looking for a way to engage your kindergarten students before school or to reach out to students on a snow day? Social media read alouds can be the perfect avenue. When students aren’t in our buildings, we have to find creative ways to connect with them and continue to build a culture of readers. Social media can be an engaging and accessible avenue to share stories. Consider doing a Facebook LIVE video of a read aloud. Promote the event ahead of time by setting a designated time for parents and students to tune in. You can do this from your living room, office, or other location or even while on vacation. The simplicity of a read aloud makes it easy to implement, and social media stories can be done for any topic, theme, or special event.

Challenge them and Create a Community of Learners: This past week, we had a snow day, while scrolling through facebook, I realized that this was the perfect opportunity to engage with my students and encourage learning on their bonus day off. I quickly used Canva to put together a graphic to post to our social media page. Students and their parents were encouraged to send in photos of their students completing any or all of the four proposed challenges. Those that participated were offered a small prize upon returning to school. On our first attempt of the snow day challenge, nearly 40% of students participated! We look forward to seeing this increase in the future with further promotion and strategic communication.

Flip it with Flip Grid: FlipGrid provides a unique and engaging platform to promote learning in many ways. FlipGrid allows users to record short videos and populates them on a collaborative form to view and share. To promote reading, set up a grid for staff to record their favorite read alouds and share them on social media throughout the summer or over breaks. Enhance this by engaging students in the process and allowing them to record themselves reading their favorite books and share them as well. You can spotlight district office staff or seek submissions from parents or community members.

FlipGrid can also effectively amplify student voice and engage learners through short video creation. You can use FlipGrid to have students engage in many literacy-based activities:

  • Have students join a grid to share their favorite book titles through short book talks.
  • Encourage staff to do a read aloud for students and share them on school social media
  • Provide students the option of using FlipGrid to share their personal writing pieces.
  • Have staff share tidbits about how they engage their students in reading by recording a FlipGrid.
  • Reach out to other schools or classrooms and have students share their reflections about a common title with others as reading buddies.
  • Ask older students to record picture books for younger students.

15 Strategies to Lead with Literacy from the #LeadLAP Chat 7.7.2018

There were so many wonderful ideas and tweets shared today about creating a culture of readers. I curated 15 of them to share with you. These easy to implement ideas can be done at any level, in any setting, and in any position. You can learn more about some of these strategies and more in the book, Lead with Literacy.

1. Display what you are reading, have read, or what is next on your reading list outside your classroom or office space. 


2. Be intentional about reading to students. It’s a great way to break the ice, but also build relationships and rapport. Books can unify classrooms and the school with a common message and set of values. They teach vital skills and lessons. 

3. Allow students to make and share book recommendations with each other. Have them post them around the school, share them virtually, or do book talks!

4. Be creative in how you display books. It could be a bathtub, lemonade stand or even a photo booth like this one! 

5. Give the literal gift of reading by gifting books whenever possible! Become “the book guy” in your school system where parents and community members know they can drop off books to be donated.

6. Post copies of the books you are reading or have read in your classroom or school space. 

7. Host a Book Bingo event for a literacy night or classroom activity 

8. Resolve to give books to colleagues!

9. Host a book tasting for your students or teachers. You can learn more about hosting  a staff book tasting at one of my previous blog posts here

10. Host a book swap where students and or staff exchange their books for new/used ones! 

11. Encourage professional reading by sharing your professional library collection with others.

12. Flood your work space with books! 

13. Host events in the summer months to connect with kids and build the love of reading. 

14. Eat with kids over lunch and talk about books. 

15. Create comfortable reading spaces and always talk about books with kids, colleagues and parents every chance you get! 

#LeadLIT Strategy: Give the Literal Gift of Reading with Birthday Books

Ever since I became principal in 2012, I have had a birthday bookshelf in my office. Funded by our Parent’s Club and Scholastic Book Fair Dollars, students are announced at our daily morning all school meeting and then come to the office for a book on their birthdays. I am able to spend a moment with them, snap a selfie, and gift them with a book.

The process is simple and I always like to break it down for others to understand how easy it really is.

  1. During morning announcements, share the names of all birthday students.
  2. At the conclusion of announcements, invite those students up for a #BirthdaySelfie
  3. Post the #BirthdaySelfie on social media for parents and families to see
  4. Print the #BirthdaySelfie using the HPSprocket
  5. Invite the student to the office following announcement to choose a book from the shelf.
  6. Sign the Book and spend a few moments celebrating the student.

This year I intend on adding a few other elements; including a birthday crown (We’re the DGS ROYALS) and personalized bookmark to go with the book.

 

Although I have been doing student birthday books for YEARS, I have reserved gifting my staff books as a whole during back to school time or teacher appreciation week. Many of my efforts have been general in the fact that everyone gets the same book. In many cases, this is powerful and can support important school goals or vision. In other ways, teachers are individuals and have different needs. As the gifting goes this year, I have created the Staff Birthday Book Cart that will be wheeled around to classrooms on staff member birthdays for them to choose a personalized book.

I’ve ordered and will stock the book with some favorite professional reads and non-fiction books for teachers to either add to their professional or classroom libraries. With a personalized card, birthday treat, and book, I’m hoping to recognize staff on their birthdays while promoting a love of reading and literacy. After all, the best gift, is the gift of learning!

1 2 3 41