Saturday, March 29, 2014

12 Ways to Use Words to Inspire Growth


Your words matter. 
The way we give feedback, lead meetings, or speak to our teams or colleagues matters. In reading Self-Regulated Learning for Academic Success: How do I help students manage their thoughts, behaviors, and emotions? several selected quotes throughout the book show how impactful or unimpactful our words are and how inspiring or uninspiring they can be.

"Praise is a mixed bag. Although it can increase students' self-efficacy and their expectations of future success, it can also lead them to feel helpless in the face of challenges if their self-worth is tied too closely to being praised." -page 11

Acknowledge effort over result. Don't discuss things outside of their control. Use words that make improvement seem possible.
Be specific with your praise. Identify why they're being praised. Don't use praise as a consolation for disappointment, or because you feel obligated to. Use words for a purpose.
Don't make them reliant on your approval or input. They need to be able to self-diagnose their own problems and solutions. The goal is always to grow and get better; it's not to receive kudos. Use words that promote dialogue.
Visualize later now. Talk about how the praiseworthy incident can be replicated elsewhere. Use words that make connections and promote transfer.

"When a child learns to associate task outcomes with the effort invested,he's more likely to attribute failure to a lack of effort and to adopt new strategies and work harder until he succeeds." -page 11

Acknowledge effort over result. People have to believe their efforts matter or else you won't be able to keep them motivated to embrace the challenge. Use words that will inspire more effort.
Focus on what's controllable. Don't waste time with things that can't be changed or that have already happened. I once spent an entire coaching season blaming our losses on 2 guys who had quit the team earlier in the season. What a blunder, and a waste of energy and time. I shouldn't have used words that caused people to dwell on things they couldn't control.
Action plans have to be achievable. Set them up for quick wins. Don't aim for a target that can't be placed or can't be achieved. Use words that can be realized.
Tell stories of your own failures leading to growth. Empathize with how hard it is to keep getting better. Use words that make it seem possible.

"...teachers can do a lot to further students' self-regulation by creating a warm and supportive social climate, providing collaborative learning opportunities, and giving feedback focused on the learning process rather than the learning outcomes." -page 19

Give them a tangible skill of focus. One improvement at a time. Use words that make it clear.
Include them in the planning and feedback process. Make it their plan and their result. Use words that get them to own it.
Create critical thinkers and decision makers. They need to be able to evaluate their own habits and ideas. Use words that cause them to reflect.
Don't waste time on things they already know. "Good job" or "you can do better than this" or "this is terrible" or "A" alone doesn't help anyone get better. We usually know when it didn't go we'll; tell us how we can improve. Use words that promote growth.

"...it can be difficult to remember that your verbal and written feedback should concentrate not in outcomes but on students' selection and use of learning processes and strategies. Doing this focuses students on what they can do to improve their work and gives them a sense of control over their academic success...." -page 26
Image Source



Sunday, March 23, 2014

Think Long -Term : They Won't Be Students Forever

After reading Carrie Germeroth & Crystal Day-Hess' Self Regulated Learning For Academic Success I've been thinking a lot about how brief our time with our students or athletes or colleagues really is in the grand scheme of things.

For our impact with these people to be long-term we have to be building self-regulation skills rather than simple behavior or task management.

We don't want them to rely on us to remind them to put their name on the paper.
We don't want them to rely on us to tell them what to eat and what not to eat.
We don't want them to rely on us to tell them they're doing a good job to keep going.
We don't want them to rely on us to be watching for them to treat people right.

Managing behavior is for the short-term; building self-regulation skills is for the long-term.

"Self-Regulation is an internal process in which an individual uses a multifaceted set of emotional and cognitive skills...to regulate his or her own behavior. Within educational literature, the term behavior management refers to external processes or rules that are imposed on students to manage their behaviors." -page 38

We have to be teaching / showing them how to do it on their own - outside of the classroom or in a different venue or environment.

The goal can't be simply to stop the behavior from happening in our presence or in our classroom; the goal has to be for the person to be able to stop their own inappropriate or counter-productive behavior no matter where they are or who they're with.

They have to be able to thrive in any situation, not just with us or in our classroom or school.

We need to teach lessons that last.

"By drawing on their previous learning experiences, they can assemble a better toolkit of strategies and build confidence in their ability to take on new challenges." -page 4

Transfer isn't something we can take for granted; self-regulation skills like learning from experience need to be drilled and strengthened like critical reading or writing skills.

Build in reflection time; don't just ask content questions.

It's not enough that they can demonstrate something with us around; they need to be able to do it without us and outside the confines of the classroom or schoolhouse.

"Your less self-regulated students may not know the best ways to approach the task or which goals are most appropriate, particularly when they are encountering unfamiliar topics." -page 16

If all we're doing is preparing students for end of the year exams or even preparing them for college, then we're definitely not thinking long-term enough.

There's a lot of life to live and a lot of learning to happen after 22, and it's when they're not doing what they're doing for a grade or because someone is telling them to that we'll see how impactful and how meaningful their time with us was.

What good was my teaching or training if it can't be used anywhere except class or in the school or in an isolated time or place?

I can't be there forever; if it's lost or it falls apart when I'm gone or even some time after I'm gone, then what was the point?

How can I build self-regulating skills in school?

"Now is the time to begin teaching them that they don't necessarily need another person to tell them how well they are doing; they can figure it out on their own with tools that record and track their goals, the learning strategies they use, and their learning outcomes." -page 18

1. Expose students to multiple styles of note taking / information recording and let them choose which to use based on the information that need to be recorded - have them explain why they chose what they chose in their notes. Instead of giving them an outline, or a chart, or a Venn diagram create opportunities for them to decide which one to use; by reflecting on why they chose what they chose and how well it worked they're more likely to make the informed decision next time in a different context. They're not doing what they're doing because someone told them to.

2. In a language class have students create their own unit vocabulary list. Present to them the objectives and topics of the unit, and instruct them to create the vocabulary list they think they'll need the most. It will make the words mean more, and builds prioritization skills. Follow up with your recommended vocabulary list to create multiple reflective opportunities for students.

3. Allow groups to choose multiple platforms for presenting; build in to the process reflection on why they chose what they chose and how well it went. Being able to choose the right tool for the task is a critical self-regulation skill.

If they don't have the tools to do it, then instead of doing it for them we ought to help develop it.
4. Act out a behavior of focus people demonstrate toward others in group settings, both positive and negative, and have students reflect on how the observed behavior impacts others in the group before starting the next team project. 

5. Create opportunities for your students,colleagues, or athletes to log, curate, and interpret their own data. Being able to identify your own areas of need and opportunities for growth is a critical self'-regulating skill. Utilize portfolios, allow students time to really look at old writing samples before starting new ones, let your athletes break down their own film, and make self-assessment and reflection as meaningful as teacher assessment and commentary

6.  Get them talking about it. It doesn't matter what it is. If they're talking about it and how it works, or how it can be improved, or how to get better at it, then chances are it'll stick more than it would otherwise.

Think about the long-term impact of your lessons; how can they be used for future learning or to solve future problems? How could they be?

Simple adjustments can yield huge dividends.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

What's the Opposite of "Shoosh?"

Quiet is nice every once in a while in certain classroom situations, but it's not the environment that promotes long-term memory or transfer. Get them talking to each other about the material. Devote set intervals of time for interpersonal communication and reflection between students, teammates, colleagues, etc about the topic or lesson at hand if you want it to stick and have meaning.


Photo Source
Quote Source - page 58

"You want to demonstrate the process of talking through a problem so that your students will begin to see how to negotiate challenging situations." -Germeroth & Day-Hess p. 8-9

You want them talking about it now so that they're talking about it when it matters - when it gets hard.

You want them talking about it now so that they're talking about it when you're not there.

Quiet cuts out critical steps to the process of learning anything

We talk our way through questions and problems all of the time, because it leads better performances and outcomes. 

Even the most confident of us bounce ideas off of our colleagues and teammates every day; shared decision making and responsibility are two elements on the Massachusetts teacher rubric; we're not supposed to work quietly.

So let's not teach quietly.

Quiet is orderly; it's easier. But don't confuse order and politeness for long-term learning.

"The overarching goal is to help middle and high school students realize that by using effective learning strategies and study habits, they can control their learning and academic success, even when the work is challenging." -Germeroth & Day-Hess p.34

Dialogue and interaction with others leads toward realization. Dialogue and interactions gets us through the tough stuff.

They have to be able to do it or talk about it outside of the classroom or practice for it to matter; it's not uncommon to hear someone lament that they took a class on something but don't remember a thing. 

It was probably a wicked quiet class.

For different ways to get them talking more, I wrote down 11 strategies last month. 

Get them talking about sample pieces of work discussing ways to improve it.

"Students can typically identify problems in other people's writing more easily than they can in their own, but with guidance, they can start applying what they've learned during peer feedback sessions to their own work." - Searle p. 86

Make today's lesson really matter.

Promote engagement; promote activity; promote the long-term learning and application of your lesson; get them talking about it.

#education #classroommanagement


Saturday, March 15, 2014

5 Classroom Management Tips


Last Week I wrote down 9 Classroom Management Tips and since then I read Jane Bluestein's Managing 21st Century Classrooms: How do I avoid ineffective classroom management practices?

16 quotes later, I have 6 additional tips related to what most would say is the most difficult aspect of teaching to "master."

Classroom Management isn't easy, but keep these 5 additional tips in mind...

1. It's Not About You

Don't make it about you; it takes away from the real reason why classroom management is important; behavior that takes away from the learning of others must cease because it's taking away from the learning of others, not because it doesn't please you.

 "...instead of talking about how their behavior makes you feel, focus on how their cooperation will pay off for them." p.41
Making it about you the teacher sends the message that it's your show instead of theirs. 

Making it about pleasing you and complying to your wishes takes student attention away from the prime matter at hand - their education and preparation.
 "Simple recognition...that emphasizes students' efforts and actions rather than how their behavior pleases you is a great way to build morale and positive relationships." p.23
Don't praise students because they make you happy and make you feel satisfied; praise students because their efforts and actions are that of a student who will best learn taught lessons.

 2. Don't Cut off Your Nose to Spite Your Face

You can't react in a way that alienates your other students; you can't be threatening or volatile and still expect students to learn what you're teaching.

 "When we perceive threat, our primary brain functions retreat to the survival centers of the midbrain....Whether targets or witnesses, most individuals exposed to this energy will either shut down or fight back, with a no-win outcome likely for all concerned...." p.37
If they're not asking questions, then they're probably not learning; if they're afraid of your response, then they're not going to ask questions. 

You can't be draconian and expect real engagement.
 "Thus, the harder we try to control or disempower kids, the harder they will push back, whether by exhibiting overt defiance, becoming passive-aggressive, shutting down..." p.7
The brain cannot be in learning mode and survival mode at the same time. Fear is literally and figuratively a four letter word in the classroom.
"Classroom management behaviors that rely on teacher control and students' fear of punishment trigger the brain's survival instincts and suppress the brain functions students need for learning, cognitive processing, and retention...." p.8
There's always a tomorrow; don't say or do anything that you can't take back. 

I highly recommend the book

 3. Own It

Classroom management is not about your rules; it's about you. 
"When you walk into a classroom where kids are busy and engaged, it is unlikely that their cooperation was motivated by rules. And I can guarantee that when students are disruptive, off task, or out of control, it's not because there aren't enough rules." p.11-12 
Don't set limits that you're not prepared to enforce; don't say you're going to do something unless you're going to do it.
"But structure is only as effective as our willingness to follow through on the conditions and limits we use to create it." p.25
Avoid practices that send unintended messages. 
 "Asking for excuses for explanations when students have misbehaved, broken an agreement, or failed to complete an assignment interferes with our goal of building responsibility by suggesting that students can talk their way out of the requirements we set." p.26
You communicate most effectively with your actions; words eventually become meaningless.
 "Another way we sabotage our authority is by reacting to infractions with warnings instead of following through on the conditions we set." p.27
 4. Respond Intentionally

Don't give praise for the sake of praise.
"Although recognizing effort, persistence, or a job well done is legitimate and valuable, there are a number of ways to get this one wrong, with potentially harmful results." p.20
Instead of responding simply because you feel compelled to respond, think about what you want to happen as a result of your response. 
"...if you intention is to elicit a behavior you have not seen yet, you need to use a different approach from the one you use to reinforce existing desirable behavior." p.23
Respond in the manner that the behavior merits - no more and no less. 
"The best way to improve follow-through (and thus maintain respect and authority) is to only allow positive outcomes when they are earned and withdraw them when the conditions are violated." p.28
5. Always Make it Positive

Make sure the work students are doing is aligned with present abilities.
"Students who believe they're going to fail no matter what have little stake in engaging and cooperating." p.17
Use words and phrases that create the culture of cooperation rather than the expectation of struggle.
"Even making a simple change from a threat ('if you don't do this, you can't...') to a promise ('As soon as you do this, you can...') transforms the energy and power dynamic in the interaction and increases the the likelihood of cooperation, especially if the positive outcome is meaningful to students." p.18
Classroom management isn't about responding to bad behavior; it's about anticipating potential cracks that students can and will fall through, and filling them before the fall.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

3 Lessons I Learned From Sports

I spoke tonight at our winter sports awards night representing the school's administration. Preparing my remarks gave me the opportunity to reflect on my time as an athlete, and for the first time in a while I thought about what I learned from competitive sports and how it's benefited me as an adult and a professional. Part of the speech is below...

Congratulations to all our winter teams on such a successful season of win loss records, playoff appearances, and league championships; congratulations to all of the individuals who earned all-star honors, and congratulations to all who receive individual recognition tonight.

But rather than use my time tonight to speak about accolades, victories, and the tangible rewards that come with athletics I’d like to share with all of you 3 lessons I learned from competing in high school and college sports that I still apply and still hold true going on 15 years later. More than any individual plaque, medal, or trophy I received. these lessons have proven to be far more valuable and leave me truly thankful that I competed athletically for as long as I did.

The 1st lesson sports taught me is that gratification is rarely instant. I've played in games and competed in races where I and my teammates did everything we could possibly do as well as we possibly could do it, and we still lost. Similarly as an adult, I've gone for job interviews where I said all the right things and did everything I was supposed to do and still did not get the job. I've prepared endlessly for lessons or meetings that just didn't go as well as I thought it was going to go. And that’s ok. Getting frustrated is pointless, blaming others is toxic, and giving up should never be an option. Embrace the process, keep working hard to get better, and the payoff happens. It may not look exactly like you thought it would, and may not happen when you thought it was going to, but it’s still sweet.

The 2nd lesson sports taught me is that excellence is a habit. It’s not just about playing, racing, or cheering hard; anybody can do that. Athletic excellence comes from training hard, from practicing perfectly, from not letting your ego stunt your own growth, from taking care of your body. Similarly I’ve learned that excellence in the workplace isn't about just showing up on time and doing my job; it’s about constantly learning new things, keeping up on the latest educational trends and developments, visualizing important meetings or conversations, and doing my homework so I’m prepared act intentionally throughout the day. Worded another way, athletics taught me that long-term success can come only by purposely matching my lifestyle to my aspirations.

Summer 2005 - Rowing with Riverside Boat Club



The 3rd lesson sports taught me is that trust beats talent any day of the week. The most successful team I coached really took off when I removed our most talented athlete. He had all the physical tools, but he was a loose cannon, he alienated his teammates, and his words and actions did not suggest any sort of commitment to his team. We couldn’t trust him, and all the talent in the world couldn’t make up for it. Similarly, I’ve worked with folks professionally who were highly educated, had great ideas, and a diverse skill set, but couldn’t be trusted. Sports taught me that people are at their best when they’re working together toward a common goal, and that we can beat me ten times out of ten. 






Sunday, March 9, 2014

9 Thoughts on Classroom Management

Ought classroom management be easier than it usually is?

A student violates a rule or acts outside of the handbook, and they receive a consequence; the concept should be simple.

But, like with anything involving people, classroom management is arguably the least easy thing educators do.

It's especially hard when you're aiming for more than behavior management and compliance.

When you're going for total learning and the physical/emotional environment required for it classroom management becomes a constant cycle of observation, consideration, and dialogue. It can be cognitively, physically, and emotionally taxing all at once.

Anything that obstructs the clarity, momentum, provisioning, etc of the lesson must be addressed with the end goals of the lesson in mind - your response has to be intentional.

1. It can't be reactionary.

2. It shouldn't be addressed in public, but it ought to be timely.

3. Don't make it about you the adult; it has to be about the student, the class, and learning.
"Parents and teachers can reduce their own frustrations and those of the students by understanding that what appear to be laziness and lack of motivation are often an extreme need for support and guidance." - Margaret Searle, p. 159
4. You have to respond in a way that sets limits on the behavior while also communicating that you're always there to help and that you'll never give up on them.

5. It can't be judgmental.  It can't be insulting.
6. Do some investigating; find out why before moving forward.

7. Reach out to those around you and ask what have others seen and heard from the student; I may not have the right approach but I'm sure we can come up with something.

8. Think about tomorrow. Don't burn a bridge. Don't embarrass.

See the entire presentation here
Read about it here

9. Labeling, getting frustrated, lashing out, giving up, etc. is contrary to what we're trying to do


Each issue and each person is unique. Remember that and proceed intentionally.







Saturday, March 8, 2014

6 Easy Ways for a School Administrator to Get Out of the Office

Before I was a school administrator I cavalierly wrote and spoke about how easy it ought to be to get out of the office and onto the floor, and chalked it up as nothing more than time management and possession of mobile technology.

I'm now privy to a bit more reality; a lot more goes into getting out of the office (for non-walkthrough/evaluative purposes) than wanting or even needing to get out of the office.

It's hard. Earlier this year I was 99% of the way out of the door to go out on the floor, and the phone rang; I never made it out.

I love being out on the floor; it's by far my favorite part of the job. I always learn something new; I always find opportunities to connect more with students and staff.

But it doesn't happen by chance.

I've learned that calendars get filled quickly; finding the time to be on the floor and enjoy the school culture I'm trying to build is almost impossible sometimes, but there are quick little practices that get me out multiple times a day to interact with staff and students.

1.Hand Deliver
Instead of emailing documents as attachments that I know will be printed anyway, I'll print them myself and hand deliver. It always leads to 5 minute conversation, and the whatever the document is means that much more. A little bit of efficiency is an insignificant price to pay for the value of getting out on the floor.


2.Follow Up
After a staff meeting, a student assembly, class meeting, etc. I always make a point to get out and engage folks in quick follow up conversations about the content. Any excuse to get people talking and listening is good.

I'll oftentimes follow up an email to a teacher with a pop in during their prep. It usually takes less than 5 minutes and both strengthens the impact of the email and gives me an excuse to intentionally get out of the office and onto the floor for even the briefest of time in between appointments.

3.Collaborate Publicly
If I'm planning something or creating something with another teacher or administrator, and it's not of a confidential or unsavory nature, then why not do it in the media center or school common area?

Some things are private and need to remain private, but a lot of things aren't. Thoughtfully determine whether the meeting needs to be behind closed doors.

Photo Source

4.Go to Them
Whenever I have the choice between my office or their classroom I choose their classroom.

When appropriate, I'll go to where a student is to deliver news or have a conversation rather than call them to my office.

If someone needs to speak to me I'd rather try to go see them than do it over the phone if the timing is right.

5.Say Yes
Anytime a teacher or student asks me far enough in advance to be a guest judge, moderator, speaker, etc. I say yes. It's great to be able to walk in to a classroom or common area and not see folks tense up or lose their place for a second.

Create for yourself multiple follow up opportunities with the students and teacher; take and share photos with the class afterwards. You'll have potential conversation starters for months.

6. Schedule It
You'll never have the time to get out if you aren't purposeful with it.

I've found great results by simply scheduling 30-60 minutes of "floor time" right in my online calendar. The office staff doesn't schedule appointments because it's already blocked off, and once it pops up on my phone I stop what I'm doing and get out. Sometimes it's coupled with walkthroughs or other little errands or chores, and sometimes it's just leading and learning by walking around. It's always empowering though.

Getting out is refreshing; it reminds me of the why. It's not as easy as I thought it was going to be, but priorities are rarely convenient.

#leadership #mobility #education