September 8, 2018

So You Want to be a School Admin...The 80/20 Rule...

Tim Ferriss (one of my favorite authors and podcaster), talks about this concept called Pareto's Principle. According to Brian Tracy, leadership blogger, Pareto's Principle was named after its founder, Vilfredo Pareto back in the late 19th century.

Simply put...

20% of your time (or resources, or money, etc) result in 80% of the outcome. So conversely that means 80% of what you do only results in 20% of the outcome. It works in sports, business, money etc. In case you want to see that in action, check out this article from Forbes.

Borrowed diagram from siimland.com

Think about that in your everyday life and see if it applies. How many times do we spend 80% of our time on something that only has a 20% affect on our lives or workplace.

Both Ferriss and Tracy talk about looking at your to do lists. If you have 10 things on your list, chances are only 2 of them are really worthy of spending a large amount of time. Your daily routine can become more efficient by really focusing on those things that deserve the majority of your time.

As a school leader (especially when I was a principal) I found that a GREAT DEAL of my time was spent putting out fires, dealing with paperwork, sitting in meetings, etc. I can promise you that I was not always efficient. Just because I was busy, did not mean that what I was doing was effective or had the most impact for my school.

Sound familiar?

Many times we equate being busy with productivity but I bet if we examine ourselves using the Pareto Principle, we may realize that is not necessarily accurate.

So what do we do?

1. Keep a simple activity log just for one week just to see what you are actually doing. I am almost afraid to do this because I am sure I will be mad at myself when I see how much time I spend on email.

2. Prioritize your "to-do" lists. Keep the 80/20 rule in mind and really focus on those top few. That doesn't mean ignore everything else but make you spend time on what is going to have the biggest impact.

3. Recognize that you will NEVER get everything done. The list will always grow. In my experiences I have always received satisfaction from marking things off of my list. But, I found myself adding things to my list just so I could mark them off easily. I know, weird right?

4. Learn to say no to some things.  This is a hard one for me too. It is ok to say no. It is not rude, disrespectful or a sign you are not a team player. Sometimes you can get really bogged down in other people's priorities. Therefore your priorities suffer.

5. Avoid negativity like the plague. Negativity can easily slow down your progress. It can also creep in and become 80% of your day. Do you know people who have a negativity cloud around them 80% of the day, or more? Ugh....

Using the 80/20 rule can be beneficial to some, others it may drive them crazy. The key is, every leader has to determine what works for them.

Stay tuned for more tips for your journey to becoming a school administrator.

MS

August 17, 2018

The New Gig...

I got a new gig.

I was not unhappy with my old gig. In fact, I will always be a part of my old gig and of course all of my people were extremely supportive when I left.

I had an opportunity, an opportunity to grow and be a part of something really cool. A new journey for me and a new journey for them as well.

This summer I started my new role as the Director of Instruction at Manchester City Schools in Manchester, Tennessee (Ever hear of Bonnaroo??). I am excited for me but I am also excited for MCS (not bragging, I promise), not because I am this great leader who knows all...my colleagues can vouch for that for sure. Manchester City Schools is getting an exciting, energetic school leader who sees all of the great things happening at MCS as well as the huge potential that it has to offer.



So far, I am learning my role(s) and meeting as many people as possible. My plan is to visit ALL of the schools as often as possible. I get excited when I think about observing great teachers and seeing the positive things that are happening. Here are some of the cool things I have seen so far...


















As my journey continues, here are the things I want to focus on.

1. Making sure I follow and share the vision of the superintendent of schools and the school system. This is extremely important to me. I know I will have ideas to share but I also need to respect the current culture and get to know the people and the stories first. There is a HUGE benefit in simply observing.

2. I need to be visible. I want the teachers, staff and kids to know who I am and feel that I am approachable. I want to learn names and visit classrooms. When I see kids, I want to them to recognize me instead of saying, "Who is that tall, bald guy?"

3. Helping to market Manchester City Schools is also important to me. Too often schools and school systems sit back and let other people tell their stories. Unfortunately those stories do not usually align with what we want told. So, we have to take control and be the chief storytellers of our district. I want to be a storyteller for Manchester City Schools. I want to help spread the positive and innovative things happening in our district.

Oh, by the way, you can follow #MCSUnited on any of our social media platforms. And...you can follow me HERE.

4. I want to share as much as possible. Despite what my preschool teacher said (my preschool teacher was my mom), I really do like to share with others. When I see something innovative I share it. When I see something that can benefit kids, teachers or other admins, I share it. When I see something that grasps my attention (which is sometimes difficult) I share it in case it might grasp someone else's attention. So, I plan on sharing whether that is through blogging, social media or even face-to-face presentations.

As you might be able to tell, the new gig is going great! My transition could not have been smoother and I have been welcomed with open arms. Sure, I miss my Tullahoma City Schools folks, but it is always great to become part another community, especially this one.

What an opportunity!

MS

By the way, if you want to start reading my series on personalized learning, click here. 







August 8, 2018

My Thoughts on Personalized Learning...the Adult Learner

Here is a thought...

We talk about personalized learning or differentiation for our students, what about the adults?

How many times have you sat in a training and thought to yourself, "I'm not sure this applies to me?"

Several years ago I attended a Future Ready Summit in St. Louis. The experience was great! I made some connections, learned some cool stuff and even revisited Twitter (which I now love).

The Future Ready Pledge is pretty specific and asks schools districts to really focus on key components to make sure they are future ready and are producing future ready students. The one component that stuck with me most was the concept of personalized professional learning opportunities.

I copied this straight from the Future Ready website:


"...Access to professional learning experiences that are personal and authentic." That simple statement says a great deal. Personal and authentic, what does that mean?

To me, it is pretty simple. If an educator feels the need to increase his or her knowledge in the areas of blended learning, using Google tools in the classroom or teaching fluency to elementary students, then that educator should be able to get those opportunities. Some may need guidance in getting those opportunities but others may end up finding them on their own. Either way is ok, as long as the educators are constantly improving themselves. The administrator's role in this is to help the educators find their needs and then the find the resources to make it happen. 

The administrator needs to be doing this as well. Personalized learning opportunities are not limited to the teachers. 

Personal and Authentic...

Just the other day, Kyle Hamstra sent out this tweet...

As you can see, the same idea comes out of his thoughts as well.

Personal and Authentic...

So, the question is What do I do next?

Whether through a needs assessment, some kind of inventory, your past year's evaluation or even you gut...find one or two areas you want to improve on and get after it. Talk to your colleagues or administrator, find someone who is doing something you want to get better at or simply Google what you are looking for. 

That's it.

If you are lucky enough to be in a district that tailors PD around the needs of the individual, then you will not need to go far. Just ask around for resources and get better at those areas you want to strengthen. 

If you are part of a "sit and get" culture and want to create professional learning opportunities that are personal and authentic, a good place to start is Twitter. Build a connection with people and just look. The FREE professional learning is there and it will be both personal and authentic. Like it was said above, you do not have to wait around for someone to find that PD for you. 

One of my most valuable professional learning tools is my Professional Learning Network (PLN). I cannot tell you how many hours of FREE PD I have received just by interacting with my people on Twitter. You can be a part of a structured Twitter Chat or simply lurk to see what is going on in the world. You can gain from both but beware, lurking can lead to distraction...you know, funny cat or dog videos. 

Also understand it does not have to be Twitter and it may ultimately be a different platform but right now, that is what works. There plenty of other platforms and methods. Find what works for YOU. If you think you want to try Twitter,  follow ME and you can get an idea of what it looks like.

Word of warning, do not try to do too much at once. Focus on one or two areas, get good at it and then you can try new things. If you try too many things at once you may become mediocre at a bunch of different things. Instead, you really want to be GREAT at a couple.

Should you avoid whole-group PD? No, or course not! Do not get me wrong, whole-group PD can be beneficial, just like whole group lessons with students. But, do not rely on that as your only source of learning. Spend some time finding out what you are passionate about or what you want to get better at (or both) and come up with a plan to make your professional learning...

Personal and Authentic.

Let me know if you get stuck, I will lead you in the right direction.

Mick

By the way, if you missed the previous posts on My Thoughts on Personalized Learning, just click HERE.





July 31, 2018

All about Mick



Below I have created an interactive Google Slide, where YOU can click on images that have links. Each link takes you somewhere that is somehow connected to me. Start off by clicking My Philosophy on Education (you can read it first if you like). There will be a short video, then simply follow the purple arrows and click away. The last thing you see will be my contact info. 

Happy clicking!
MS

March 7, 2018

My Thoughts on Personalized Learning Part 3...The Admins' Role

What does a classroom that focuses on personalized learning look like?

Is it straight rows, neat papers, organized...just like in the picture below??


I bet you thought I was going to say NO!!

Well, I'm not because, depending on the situation that could be what a classroom that focuses on personalized learning looks like.

I have been in many, many classrooms over the years and they have all looked a little different. Of course I have seen some neat and tidy like the one above. And, I have seen some with desks pushed up against the walls and poster board projects on the ceiling (yes, I did that).

The point is, I am not sure there is a distinct look of a personalized learning classroom. One has to dig a little deeper to see what is going on.

Take for instance, this classroom...


I see desks lined up in rows but the students aren't. Is personalized learning occurring?

What about this one??


Or this one?


Well my fellow administrators (and teachers for that matter), I can assure you that yes, personalized learning is taking place in all of those photographs. How do I know?

I watched...

listened...

participated...

asked questions...

As an administrator are you doing those things? Do you see personalized learning in your classrooms? If not, what do you do to encourage it?

I mentioned before that I have had experience in every level from PreK to higher education. It wasn't until I was a principal at an elementary school that I really started seeing the benefits of this type of learning.

So Admins...what is YOUR role?

1. Share - Find articles, videos, podcasts, etc that talk about personalized learning and then share. You do not have to be specific or share with certain teachers, although you may have a good idea of who would be successful with certain techniques or strategies. But, keep it simple...just share.

2. Suggest - Talk to your teachers and mention certain things that YOU have seen or heard of and start collaborating on ways it can be implemented in the classroom. Obviously this is easier for folks who want to try things but it is possible for others as well.

3. Freedom - provide leave time, cover classes, get subs...whatever it takes to allow teachers to observe other teachers. You can start in the school and then expand outside of the school if necessary. Technology has allowed for easy observation, especially if teachers are willing to record their activities.

4. Support - Continue to provide resources for meeting the needs of that teacher. Allow for an environment in which mistakes are ok.

5. Promote - If someone is using these techniques and is successful, allow them to present to others their successes (and failures for that matter). Be positive about those who try different personalized learning strategies and show enthusiasm. We all know enthusiasm is contagious.

That is it. Pretty simple.

Understand that not everyone is going to be willing to attempt personalized learning in their classrooms (they should). But, build on those who are curious and those who are enthusiastic. Who knows, the ones who are not excited, may actually be converted when they see the successes.

MS


February 14, 2018

My Thoughts on P.L. (part 2)...5 Tips to Get Started

If you want to skip ahead and get to my strategies, I totally understand. But, you may get a glimpse inside my head if you stick around for a few paragraphs...there is always a chance that could be entertaining.



The past two school years I have been on a personalized learning kick. I want you to understand though that it did not start in a classroom. This madness in my head started with my own personalized learning. I started looking into how I could personalize MY professional development so that it benefits me and my school directly. Then I started thinking about how I could spread this to my colleagues and teachers. I am still working on that by the way. But, it made me think back to how it could work with kids too.

If you have not read the previous post on personalized learning, click HERE, this may make more sense.

Rewind back to my elementary principal days when I recognized that there was a possibility that my high school students could not read. Yes, you read that correctly...I recognized as an elementary principal that my high school students may not have been able to read. That is not to put the blame on any prior teachers but realize that our viewpoint in middle and high is getting them through the content, making sure we cover ALL of the standards and preparing them for the end of the year assessment (that we never get back on time to help make decisions...).

So, since that time I started tinkering with ideas of what in elementary schools would be beneficial in secondary schools. I realized really quick that there is a BIG difference in preparation. My educational preparation focused a great deal on content...yes, we did focus on presenting content (Thanks, Dr. A. TTU). But, I realized that elementary folks spent a good deal of time on pedagogy. It became apparent that maybe, just maybe the secondary folks needed some additional exposure to pedagogy. The problem is, how do we help encourage educators to gain that knowledge (see below, it might help).

Now I understand that there is a difference in how age groups learn. I can tell you that because I have worked with ALL ages (see Not so scary world of technology to see how high I went...). However, I see the benefit in sharing strategies no matter the age of the learner. Now a disclaimer...I am not a fan of grouping, never have been, never will. BUT, I do believe it can happen within a classroom. It is possible to create "classrooms" within classrooms. I have seen it done AND I have seen it done in secondary classrooms. So it is doable.

Disclaimer number two...I do not have any specific answers on what it looks yet and it may not look like "classrooms within classrooms," but I do have some strategies on how YOU can get started. I think specific topics on what it looks like will be in part 3 or part 4...stay tuned. If you have any great ideas feel free to EMAIL ME or send me a TWEET.

In the meantime, check this out...


My strategies on what to do NOW.

1. Build your Professional Learning Network (PLN) starting now. There are many, many ways to accomplish that. I choose Twitter but that is not the only way. You can create email groups. You can use Facebook, Voxer, Google Plus, follow blogs or even just meet up with teachers at a local restaurant, coffee shop, or donut place (right Julie Davis??). My friends from Chattanooga have a monthly meeting they call #CoffeeEdu where they meet, talk and strategize. I challenge you to do that where you live. When you build this PLN, ask questions. Talk about what works, what does not work and steal as many ideas as you can. Remember, we are all in this together and we are all seeking ways to improve constantly. Your PLN is your go-to group and in many cases, keep you from totally losing your mind.

2. Observe teachers outside of your grade-level, outside of your school...even outside of your district. If you have not done this I highly recommend it. Start small, within your school and pick someone outside of your grade-level or subject level. As you get more comfortable and depending on how much your admin supports leaving school, then you can expand to other schools and other districts...VERY VALUABLE! At my school, I had two teachers start a Pineapple Chart...you can go to the link and see for yourself. It can be a really valuable tool and I highly recommend doing something similar.


3. Pick one idea and hone it and own it. Repeat after me...I do not have to try EVERYTHING new and innovative! Don't worry, I am guilty too. I am bad about seeing "shiny" things and wanting to learn as much as I can about it...until I see another "shiny" thing. There is a reason I have a squirrel staring down on me from my desk as a reminder of my ADD tendencies...Look a squirrel! (Thanks Cindy!). Find something cool that you think might work and then try it. Spend some time tweaking it to fit YOUR space and if it does not work...tweak again or find another strategy. There is no harm in punting.



4. Do not be afraid of it not working. This goes along with the above statement. Not everything is going to work for you. If it does not work, that is OK...try again or find something else you are excited about. Do not take it personal and do not give up on being innovative. It took Edison 1000 attempts to get the light bulb right. I am glad he did not give up.

5. Re-evaluate ,when you get better, add another tool to your toolbox. Always re-evaluate what you are using. Do not teach the same material or use the same techniques for your entire career. I am sure those strategies are still effective, but man it probably gets boring for YOU after awhile. If you find a new tool or strategy that is working, keep getting better at it. When you feel comfortable enough, find something new to get better at. The biggest mistake people make is trying to do TOO many things.

6. Repeat steps 1 -5. Probably the most important...repeat as necessary.

That is it, should be simple enough right??

Try it out, let me know and ENJOY!

Tune in next for My Thoughts on Personalized Learning...the Admins' Role.

MS

January 4, 2018

My Thoughts on Personalized Learning - Part 1

What does this...


Have in common with this...


Or maybe this



and this... 



Do not worry, I will tell you...

All of those activities use some type of personalized learning.

Activities such as basketball and football have more in common with the academic world than we would ever have dreamed. Having been a coach, I never really put that into perspective until I was listening to a recent keynote. The speaker made a reference to the method a line coach or a quarterbacks coach may use to prepare his or her players for the upcoming game.  Sure, things are practiced together but where the biggest impact occurs are when the linemen learn with the linemen, the quarterbacks with the quarterbacks or the offense with the offense...you get the idea. 

As a basketball coach I routinely had practices within practices where the post players would work on inside drills and the guards would work on outside drills. Or a combination of posts and guards would work on drills that were relevant to their levels. In fact, we had six goals on our basketball court and unless we were doing whole team drills, all six of those goals were being used. The coaches and players knew what they needed to work on and those specific skills were addressed within the regular practice. We met the players where they were. 

Interesting thing, you know where else I have seen this practice??

Here...




The band folks do it too!! Sure they practice as a whole but a large portion of their preparation occurs within a group of common instruments. We could go on all day about where personalized learning occurs. 

Here is an interesting observation...this simple concept of meeting the "people" where they are, does not always appear in an academic setting. This is especially rare in the secondary and higher education world. When thinking about my preparation for teaching, we did have some instruction on the pedagogical side of things but there was an even larger emphasis on the content side. It is not that secondary people or higher education people are not capable of personalizing. It is just that personalizing instruction is somewhat of a foreign idea, unless of course you were trained as a special education teacher. 


Here is a story that may reinforce my thoughts...because remember, I do not claim to be the guru, nor do I think I am always right...simply my observation.


As a high school social studies teacher, I quickly realized there were students who would always do my work and there were some who would never do my work. I really assumed the ones who did not work were being disrespectful or obviously just did not have the same passion for history like I did. It was FRUSTRATING. 


Fast forward several years when I become a principal at an elementary school. First, here is a disclaimer, before becoming a primary principal, the last time I was in an elementary school was when I was in elementary school. What I discovered after my involvement with reading intervention at the elementary level was, my high school students could not read...at least they could not read at their appropriate grade-level. I had NO IDEA!


Now before you pass judgment, I believe that some of you secondary folks are thinking to yourself..."I had the same experience." It is ok if you did not but I am telling you it was a slap in the face, a wake up call.

Long story short, I realize that if I teach today, my classroom looks completely different than it did when I first started. In fact, I would go so far to say my classroom could potentially look more like an elementary classroom. Yes, my secondary U.S. History classroom would be full of opportunities to learn in work stations, learn with manipulatives, learn at different reading-levels and so on. I would guess that my outcomes would be different and frustration levels would also decrease. 
What my high school history class could potentially look like is an entirely different post...and that post will be coming soon. 


What I have discovered in all of this is that it is no different for adult learners. Our attention-span may be longer (probably not mine) and we may be more mature (that may be a stretch too) but we still have different learning styles, we still learn at different rates. I think that is why I see more and more excitement about EdCamps and Twitter Chats. It allows people to personalize their own learning. 

So...what do we do next?

Simple. Start mining for information on how to personalize learning. Simply Google it and you will find a wealth of information. I also suggest following me on Twitter and other too for that matter. I am always finding and sharing information that could help. So do the people I follow. So, when you do find what you are looking for, start small.  Take steps to improve on one technique and only move forward as you are comfortable. 

For those of you already doing it...share what you know. Get people excited because we all know enthusiasm is contagious!

MS