Sunday, February 28, 2016

Who must leadership (and change) begin with?

I've been blessed to attend the National Association of Secondary School Principals Convention this past week. During the sessions, I had the opportunity to learn from several leaders, whether it be in formal sessions or in informal conversations with others from other schools and districts across the United States. Here are a couple of individuals who I had engaged in great direct and indirect conversations. I encourage to add these individuals to your #PLN:

@casas_jimmy (Jimmy  Casas)  - Led the leadership #edcamp for @NASSP and created the opportunity for lead learners to determine their learning for the first three hours of the conference. While the other formal breakouts were great, it gave opportunities for principals to learn from others based on their own individual needs. Our own state association is planning to create one for leaders in our Spring Conference and now have a vision of how this will happen (@MOASSP) Missouri Association of Secondary School Principals

@colony_principal (Mary McMahon) - Shared in her eight years as principal the learning walks that her teachers engage in and how, through its evolution, is continually looking at ways to take those walks to the next level. A very positive culture based on providing positive feedback from colleagues.

@winstonsakurai (Winston Sakurai) - A National Digital Principal leader from Hawaii who shared how they took their science fair to the next level, making the judging and parent/community involvement occur well outside the district (and Hawaiian walls).

@JSchwarting (JoAnn Schwarting) - A middle school assistant principal who sees the greatness of her staff and how she's continuing to look at ways to increase the capacity of her new and veteran teachers to embrace innovation. Kids have changed over the years...How do we create those innovations to connect kids who

The beauty of engaging in those conversations was that the learning was reciprocal - listening to other principals of their best practice and then being able to share what happens in our own school, building, district and conference. Some of these included some topics that will come later in future blogs:
  • Standards Based Grading and Proficiency Scales at @MonettMiddle (Monett Middle School) and how to build capacity and bring others through the process.
  • Using colleagues within and outside our own school district to share how SBG works in their classroom and how it could translate into our own.
  • 1:1 Implementation at the middle school level and what that looks like when technology is (and is not) used to engage students.
  • Flexible modular scheduling at our high school (@MonettHigh) and how the building, in its second year of implementation, have completely jumped onto a different bus, rather than re-arranging the seats on the bus. Intervention built into a schedule that looks more college level than high school. Thanks to our principal @David72Williams for giving a little more detail and substance to others intrigued by this schedule.
  • Our conference is made up of eight school districts, each with their own middle school. Collaboration is enhanced through the monthly meetings that are rotated from school to school so that lead learners can share their best practice and to problem solve issues that exists in our own buildings. This is our eighth year of this collaborative effort, and it all began with a phone call.
The point of this blog goes back to the title of the post: Who must leadership (and change) begin with? Sounds pretty rhetorical, but the answer is pretty straight forward:

Leadership begins with you. Whoever "You"'s true. We all could wait for someone else to lead the change -  a teacher could wait for their principal for change; a principal could wait for their assistant superintendent/superintendent for change; a superintendent could wait for their school board for permission for change. I think we have all heard these motto: "That's a great initiative...You go first (pointing the finger to someone else). However, leadership doesn't (and shouldn't) work this way. 

Leadership begins with taking initiative in our own classroom, department, building, and district. It may take a different look for teachers in the classroom or with their department, but this is how I see it for building and district leaders. Leadership sees the overall big picture and a vision of what it would look like days, months, and years into the future. Leadership continues with building the capacity of those who have joined in the vision and assisting others who aren't quite ready. Leadership is also about not knowing the answers, but willing to find others who could assist in the process.

We still need to remember that any type of endeavor we lead is ultimately a human endeavor; we must honor our people with where they are and be able to move them (in a differentiated fashion - just like our teachers do with students) towards the benchmarks along the way.

Ultimately, lead learners who attend meetings, from local to regional to the national level, will return to their buildings with many things that they want to do to improve their buildings. Leadership and the change process begins with you.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Journey of Reflection Begins

(Obtained from:

It all started on February 3, 2016 when Jimmy Casas (@casas_jimmy) shared some wonderful insight with our area principals association in his keynote, "Creating a Culture of Excellence". One of the pieces that stuck with a colleague of mine, Shawn Page (@DocPages) and I was Jimmy's challenge to take time to reflect and to begin blogging about your reflections.

It made perfect sense to me - I'm not the only principal in my district; definitely not the only principal in our conference; and definitely not the only principal in our region or state. However, I am one of many principals who are passionate about education and what our roles are as lead learners. One of many who are passionate about success of students, who create vision and build capacity in colleagues, who coach and provide feedback to teachers, and promote the success of our schools. The challenges and successes we experience in our own schools are not different from other schools, whether it be within our own state, our own country, or even schools around the world. We talk with our colleagues in our own district, call or shoot an email to another friend in the conference about their insight or practices, and even pose questions to our PLN using Twitter and Hashtags. But blogging? What's that going to do?

As lead learners, we build up our teachers to help build our vision and to jump in 'feet first' into the things we ask them to try. If it comes out successful, then we celebrate. If it didn't go as planned, then we know what to do differently. In the end, it is about trying and learning from it. The same goes for my own challenge - to share my reflections in a blog.

Honestly, I didn't start thinking about sharing my reflections and blogging it...until today. Exactly two weeks later, February 17, 2016,  Shawn contacted me on Twitter talking about blogging and connecting the dots with others locally. Our direct messages quickly moved to Voxer and what he wants to do and asked for advice. (I'm humbled that he asked me - two weeks later and I still haven't blogged yet.) Our paired conversation quickly added Jimmy Casas to the mix again. Great questions about which platform, what works best, what to blog about, etc. As I became more excited about blogging, I need to remember that it is not about the destination. I found this quote that helps put blogging (for me) into perspective.

(Obtained from

Today is my first step in sharing my reflections of a lead learner. I'm not sure where this journey is going to lead me, but I do know this - If we as leaders ask our own teachers to take a leap and to jump in feet first into an endeavor, we must also model those behaviors. Thank you, Shawn and Jimmy, for the challenge...challenge accepted.