Summer break is a time for relaxing, recharging your batteries, and preparing for a successful new school year. Whether you prefer to stay cool indoors, lounge by the pool, or hangout at the ball field, you might find yourself with a little time to read. These books are my recommendations for your summer reading list!
My first recommendation is Lead Like a Pirate, by keynote & author Dave Burgess. On several occasions, Southwest Plains has had the opportunity to host conferences with the enthusiastic Dave Burgess as keynote. His passion for education, teaching, and leadership make him an engaging keynote. Dave is also an accomplished author. He is a fantastic example of continued engagement with his audience, as he is extremely active on Twitter where I’ve come to enjoy his frequent and informational posts.
I read this book a few months ago, after seeing it make the rounds on Twitter, and can personally attest to it’s value. The book provides readers with practiced strategies that are easy to understand, implement, and will have a direct effect in your professional life,. I recommend this to anyone - I firmly believe that leadership is not a position or job title, it’s a mindset!
Summer break is a perfect time to reflect on the year behind us in an effort to put our best foot forward for the coming school year. My favorite strategy showcased in this book and found on Dave’s blog is called Dropping ANCHORS. ANCHOR is an acronym for Appreciation, Notice the Impact, Collaborative Conversation, Honor Voice & Choice, Offer Support, and Reflect.
My second recommendation has to be Collective Efficacy: How Educators’ Beliefs Impact Student Learning by Jenni Anne Marie Donohoo. Over the course of the last year or so, a large portion of my professional development workshops and consulting days have centered around the concept of Collective Efficacy. Leading educator & researcher John Hattie details in his book, Visible Learning, how collective efficacy of educators in a school has the largest effect size on student learning of any other variable.
All educators should be working toward the shared goal of increasing collective efficacy within their schools. This book will give you structures & protocols to put in place in the coming year to build this vision. Consider starting a book club or PLC with your fellow educators and begin with this excellent resource!
Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my own book, #eWalkThrough: Digital System for Instructional Leadership. It’s timely for current eWalkThrough® users, as you can revisit the foundational tenets surrounding your system, reflect on goals and changes needed for the new school year, and recalibrate your thinking.
For readers without a digital classroom observation system in place, it’s never been a better time to learn about our process and how it can change your district, buildings, classrooms, and culture. The format of the book makes a great reference, and you’ll be armed with information to share with colleagues about the power of classroom observation.
Now I want to know...What is on YOUR reading list this summer? I’m always looking to learn, and would love a new book recommendations! Comment below with your suggestions & let’s get this conversation started!
First Things First...Part 1
Since the start of the school year, as I have been working in schools, I am hearing a theme emerge from teachers, “there is just not enough time to get everything done,” “I have no time for myself,” “all I do is work and just try to keep my head above water.”
Based on this feedback from educators, I have been rereading First Things First by Stephen Covey, Rodger Merrill and Rebecca Merrill. Stephen Covey is the author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Habit 3 is putting first things first.
In the chapter, First Things First, the authors suggest that our struggle with time is characterized in one of two ways. The clock is the common method for characterizing time. It is represented by our school calendar, class schedules, after school committee work, and extra-curricular activity commitments. A second method by which time is represented is our personal compass. The compass of a person can be represented by individual priorities, standards, values, and goals.
The clock represents what we do with our time or how we actually spend our time. The compass represents what we feel is significant, what we value, and what we believe is important.
The authors offer this advice: in order to live a more balanced life. We must learn to discern and make choices based on what are the most important and meaningful activities and experiences for our life. We have the right to opt out of activities and obligations. We must empower ourselves to “just say no” to issues that drain us of our energy and time---and that have little or no value to us as professionals.
A time management matrix is suggested in order for us to reflect on how we spend on our time.
What does all this mean?
How can this help educators get a handle on their time? Quadrant 1 represents events in our life that are both urgent and important. Quadrant 1 demands our time and draws upon our experience and skills to produce quality representation of our work. Quadrant 1 urgency can be lessened by applying the old adage “proper prior planning prevents poor performance.” If we handle Quadrant 1 tasks in a timely fashion, the urgency is reduced.
Quadrant 2 outlines activities in our lives that are important, but not urgent. This is the quadrant of “excellence.” We focus on professional learning, and on connecting with the resources and individuals around us in order to maximize our impact. Increasing our time in this quadrant strengthens our ability to act and achieve. Additionally, spending more time in Quadrant 2 reduces Quadrant 1…the urgent.
The elements in our lives that are urgent, but not important, fall into Quadrant III. Covey calls this the quadrant of “deception”. The pressure of the urgent creates an impression of importance, when in actuality, the events in this quadrant are of no importance at all. Quadrant III is typically driven by the needs and expectations of others, not by our own priorities.
Not urgent and unimportant items in our lives fall into Quadrant IV. This is the quadrant that drains much of our precious time and energy with no benefits in return. Covey calls Quadrant 4 our “escape” quadrant. Mind-numbing television or frivolous reading, social media, babbling in the teacher’s lounge, with no solution-focused goal, are examples. Don’t let Quadrant 4 be a vacuum of your precious resource of time.
So I’d like to suggest that you reflect back to your last week or even just yesterday…at school, at home, and in your community. Place the items that you spent time on in the quadrants. Be honest. Where are you spending most of your time? How can you manage your time differently to increase productivity, but also to maximize satisfaction? What steps can you take today, so you can move to a “First Things First” lifestyle?
Does this describe your work and your life at this moment?
Try these strategies to super-charge your observation routine. Commit, stay on track, and you'll head into 2017 with completed observations on all your teachers and observation goals met--maybe even exceeded!
#1 - Get tethered to your tablet!
It's that simple. Remember, you can conduct walkthroughs on your tablet or phone. Carry it with you--always. No excuses. You will be amazed at how frequently a convenient opportunity will arise to take 3 minutes--just 3 minutes--and complete an observation.
You've probably been observing teachers anyway, just NOT within your digital eWalkThrough® or classroom observation system. So carry your phone and get logged on! By the end of the week, your observation numbers will increase dramatically.
Get tethered to your tablet! Your stress level will go down. Teachers will receive the feedback they crave.
#2 - Trust your instincts!
It’s easy to avoid conducting observations because you think it’s important to have a set schedule, to go in at just the right time, and to attempt to observe all the look-fors on the tool face. Make an about-face!
You are an experienced instructional leader. The best walkthroughs are unplanned. Research indicates that it is very unlikely an observer will see each and every look-for during each and every observation.
So enjoy! Step in classrooms unannounced. Don’t second guess what you see. Open the door. Walk in. Mark your responses on your digital tool. Don’t debate and don’t hesitate. Hit ‘submit!’ It’s done!
The data you generate are invaluable. Teachers can reflect. Coaching and mentoring self-generates. The data inform the design of differentiated professional learning! That’s what you want. Support teachers. Give teachers exactly what they need. The answers are in the data. Trust your instincts.
#3 - Talk about the data!
That’s right! One of the best ways to super-charge your observation routine is to use the data. Talk about it! Talk to your teachers individually. Send reports to professional learning communities and grade levels teams. Share building data at faculty meetings. Provide powerful aggregate data analysis to the board of education, to advisory boards, to the parent organization in your school/district, and other stakeholders.
When you talk about the data, everyone naturally wants to know more. This motivates more observation. When you’re motivated, the process becomes exciting. The more you observe, the easier it is. Before you know it, observation is a habit. It’s a routine.
Talk about the data. The result? Instruction will improve. Student achievement will increase. Everybody wins!
Kelly's insights on classroom observation, education, leadership, teaching, and mentoring.