Thursday, July 22, 2010

10 Roadblocks to Change

I have recently tried to reintroduce myself to Twitter.  I missed the network and professional growth received from participating.  Following NMHS_Principal, I came across his blog post regarding 10 common roadblocks to change. Here is the link, check it out! 

Friday, July 16, 2010

Food for Thought

Friday night...finally time to decompress and surf the 'net. I found three links I would like to share:

A blog titled, "The Difference Between Learning and Education"
We all get consumed by email. A post titled, "Break Your Addiction to Email"
And finally, "Effective Leadership Skills: Seven Secrets of Inspiring Leaders"
Happy Reading!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Six Priorities for Student Results

Doug Reeves has a way of distilling his research down into takeaway nuggets for busy educators. In a recent edition of his center's magazine, he presented the "big six" priorities that represent the right work for schools.
  1. Feedback--Providing accurate, timely, and specific feedback is the most powerful teaching strategy to improve student achievement.
  2. Efficacy--Educators must believe that they can impact student results, rather than believing that the factors are outside of their control.
  3. Time--Students who are struggling learners need extra instructional time. Allocating time differently can produce different results.
  4. Nonfiction Writing--"There are few activities that have a greater and more consistent positive impact on every other discipline than nonfiction writing," states Reeves.  Descriptive, persuasive, and analytic writing help students improve their thinking and reasoning skills.
  5. Formative Assessment--Assessments used to "inform" teaching and learning has a greater impact on improving achievement than any other form of assessment.
  6. Expectations--"Forty years of research...demonstrates that when teachers and administrators expect more, they get more; when they expect less, they get less."
How can you weave these six priorities into your work to positively impact student results?

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Are You Managing Your Action Plans?

This morning, I was reading through email and I came across the Management Tip of the Day that I receive through Harvard Business Review. Today’s tip focused on keeping your action plan on track. It made me think of school improvement planning and monitoring the implementation and effectiveness of plans as we enter the homestretch of this school year. I visited one school last week where the School Improvement Team meets weekly. In another school I visited, the team has not met since the plan was submitted to the state. How often does your school team meet? Are you monitoring the indicators of implementation and the evidence of effectiveness regularly?

Harvard Business Review author Gill Corkindale offered these tips for team-based action planning:

  • If you are managing a team — or you are part of a team — it's important to share the responsibility and accountability for the plan.
  • Ensure that notes are taken at meetings and distributed afterwards, appoint project managers and allocate key responsibilities.
  • Hold team members to real deadlines and schedule regular meetings to give updates and monitor progress.
  • Tie individual accountability into appraisals.
  • Regular team offsite days will help the team review the wider progress.
To read the full article, follow this link:

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Preparing Teachers To Be The Best

Teaching is a very demanding profession. To be a highly effective teacher, one must possess the ability to control the class, present engaging lessons, appropriately challenge all students, provide support and scaffolding as appropriate, not to mention analyze data to inform instruction, provide information to IEP teams, serve on the school improvement team, and other duties as assigned. Wow! And how do we treat new teachers? They are assigned the most challenging and needy classes, teach a full load, and are the ones who do not have a classroom, but rather schlep materials from room to room on a cart.

For teachers to truly be “ready and willing” to do their very best, I offer the following ideas:

• Increase the rigor of teacher education programs with the things that matter—instructional strategies such as differentiation and making accommodations and modifications for special needs students. I have interviewed far too many candidates who barely know the basics on instructional strategies and have not had instruction in working with special education students. Today’s classrooms are more and more diverse. Teachers must be equipped with the skills needed to be effective with all populations.

• Change teacher education programs to a five year program and infuse the program with more hands-on experiences. My daughter has just been accepted to Duquesne’s pre-pharmacy program. It is a six year program. After two years of general education courses, she will begin participating in various rotations and experiential learning projects. She must accrue 1500 hours of experience before sitting for her boards. She will learn to be a pharmacist not only through ‘book learning’ but by being in the field, working side-by-side with pharmacists. Shouldn’t we want the same level of experiences and learning for our teacher candidates, preparing them for a myriad of situations and students they will encounter during a 35 year career?

• Finally, new teachers should participate in a three year induction program. This program should provide an instructional mentor and professional development opportunities embedded into their daily routines to move new teachers from surviving to thriving.

Most people enter the teaching profession because they are passionate about children and desire to help students succeed. And yet, education does not operate on a framework to help teachers succeed. For teachers to be ready and willing to do their best, we must set them up for success.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Crucial Conversations

     Any conversation has the potential to be a crucial conversation. In the book, Crucial Conversations:  Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High, the authors define such conversations as a discussion between two or more people where the stakes are high, opinions vary, and emotions run strong.  In one brief instant any conversation can become crucial.  While we may feel angry, scared, or hurt, it is important to look inward.  Locate your North Star, your original purpose.  Ask yourself these four critical questions: 

  1. What do I really want for myself?
  2. What do I really want for others?
  3. What do I really want for the relationship?
  4. How would I behave if I really wanted these results? 
Remember crucial conversations transform people and relationships.  It’s not my way or your way, it is a new way—a better way.

Patterson, K., Grenny, J., McMillan, R., & Switzler, A. (2002).  Crucial conversations:  Tools for talking when stakes are high.  New York: McGraw-Hill

Friday, October 23, 2009

Asking the Right Questions

It is School Improvement season in Pennsylvania!  I have been reading Edie Holcomb's book, Asking the Right Questions.  In her book, Holcomb frames the change process in these five questions:
  1. Where are we now?
  2. Where do we want to go?
  3. How will we get there?
  4. How will we know we are (getting) there?
  5. How will we sustain focus and momentum?
Working with a district team this week, we began the process of answering question 4.  Once the team begins to implement their action plan, how will they know they are moving in the right direction?  We spent a great deal of time thinking through the process of developing indicators of implementation and evidence of effectiveness. We agreed that it was important for all stakeholders to participate in a conversation that examined the observable behaviors and artifacts that would result from implementation of their plan.  What would implementation look like?  Sound like? What would teachers be doing? Students? Administrators?  By working through these indicators, teams would be developing a common language that promotes understanding, consistency and commitment to the plan.

Holcomb, E.L. (2009).  Asking the right questions:  Tools for collaboration and school change (3rd ed.).  Thousand Oaks, CA:  Corwin Press.
Photo retreived October 23, 2009 from