An Educator’s Social Media Guide

An Educator's Social Media Guide

An Educator's Social Media Guide

There’s a lot of talk these days about how worthwhile it is to be a connected educator. I’m one of those people doing that talking. I’m trying me best to be out there doing what I can to help people get connected. Odds are, you are, too. I might even be a nuisance to some people about it, but there’s good reason for that. Here’s why—There’s nothing that I’ve done that has had a bigger impact on me as a professional than getting connected online.

It’s not hard to find these crusaders for the professional growth online. The “Why get on Twitter?” message is pretty powerful, but the “How to get on Twitter” conversation is often oversimplified (or nearly neglected). Jump on Twitter, find a few educators, and let the magic happen, right?

Well, sometimes it’s not that simple.

The truth is that I jumped on Twitter in 2009 and proceeded to do nothing with it for 5 years.

Nothing.

5 wasted years.

Don’t get me wrong; I learned a ton where I was planted. My story is not one of those where I am the lone educator wanting to reimagine our current reality, struggling against all odds, and so on. As a matter of fact, it’s quite the opposite. I’m surrounded by an incredible group of educators in my school district who want to do what’s right for students whether that looks familiar or new. They’re amazing educators and even better people, and they push me to get better all the time.

I know that’s the exception to the rule, and I’m thankful for that each and every day.

In a certain sense, though, part of those 5 years was wasted.

Every educator has his or her own reasons for being on Twitter. For me, the really short version of why I engage in professional conversation on social media is that Twitter is a space where educators reject isolation, celebrate together, and continue professional growth.

When I first jumped into the Twitterverse, I wanted those things (I probably couldn’t have articulated it that way, but I think that was all in there somewhere). But when I got into in, I didn’t know what to do. I looked at tweets from famous people, tweeted 30 something times, and then gave up. For 5 years.

This post is what I wish I would have known then. If someone had stepped in and provided a little direction in any one of these areas (or their 2009 equivalents), I think it’s pretty likely I would have stayed.

I Knew I Should Be On Twitter, But I Didn’t Know What To Do When I Got There

My first issue was that I had no idea what to do once I got to the app. I’d share a bit about something foolish I’d seen or about the Astros or about Texas A&M football, and none of it ever seemed to matter much to me or to anyone else out there—especially educators. Nobody had ever told me there was a better way. What I wish I had known—there were educators gathering together for chats (in growing numbers) to discuss ideas that would push my thinking and challenge me to consider new perspectives as I grew professionally.

Initially this change came from who I followed. My process wasn’t exactly scientific. If I saw people saying something I liked (meaning it was encouraging or challenging), I followed them. I think it really is this simple. Pretty quickly you begin to trust a few voices out there, and when you do, look at who they follow. They might not all be a good fit, but there’s likely to be an educator or an organization that will push you, too.

The other thing to check out is people’s lists.

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I have one that includes a bunch of people who push my own thinking (here’s the link), but there are tons of them out there. You can also find tons of great educators on Fridays by looking at the #FF posts of those you follow and trust.

I also love the advice from Ryan McLane and Eric Lowe at a conference this summer. Whether you’re sharing for your school of for yourself, with each post, do your best to engage, inform, and inspire others. It’s about as succinct a summary as I can find for what we as educators should be about online. If we accomplish that, we’re heading in the right direction.

Once I was following some folks who challenged, encouraged, inspired, and grew me, it didn’t take long to notice that Twitter chats were going to be pivotal in my online learning experience.

A Twitter chat is a conversation that happens around a particular hashtag at an agreed upon time. They often happen weekly, and they’re usually an hour long (though more 30 minute chats are starting up). More than anything, they’re my favorite place to connect with new educators and try on new ideas.

Here’s Cybraryman’s list of more chats than you can hope to every participate in. Check it out. There’s something for everyone. While you’re there, check out Jerry Blumengarten’s other great resources like this page on how to actually engage in a Twitter chat. I also put together a short (really rough) video on how to use TweetDeck when chatting (it’s a must). Check out that video here.

Now that I’ve dumped a good bit of information on you, here’s a bit about my journey into the Twitter chat world.

My first interactions with Twitter chats weren’t really interactions at all. I was there, but I didn’t say anything. An avid twitter chat lurker, I was there looking at the questions, seeing the responses, and—on the rare occasion I was feeling especially bold—marking a few as favorites (now rebranded as “likes”).

I watched what must have been months of #TXeduchat before jumping in. It was great (and a little scary), but mostly great! If you’ve not been in a chat before, this is a great place to shift your online learning into the next gear.

Two pieces of advice here: You have more to say than you likely give yourself credit for, and your work is worth sharing. Nothing sums this up better than this video from Derek Sivers:

I love what Dave Burgess says about this: “If what you know or have can help educators, you have a moral imperative to get good at sharing it.”

When educators share like we’re talking about here, we all get better. The snowball picks up the best sort of momentum as it rolls, and each time we’re online we find new educators to push us as we grow.

Until it starts to feel like too much.

The Blessings and Curses of So Much Good Content

At first, you can read most of what is in your timeline, but soon enough, the great ideas are going to become overwhelming in number.

Twitter isn’t designed to be a “read everything that’s posted” experience. If you try to treat it as such, you’re going to drive yourself a little crazy. Still, there’s all this great content that’s out there that could be just the sort of tweet you need. Maybe it’s the article you’ve been looking for or the blog post that everyone’s reading. You wouldn’t want to miss it, but you can’t read everything. What do you do?

nuzzelEnter Nuzzel.

Nuzzel is an app that aggregates all the blogs and articles shared by the people you are following. It’s like a best of list that’s automatically updated daily with what’s new and notable for you. And it’s awesome.

I use it every signle day. Zero exaggeration. It’s the first place I go when I have a few minutes to engage, especially when I come across a surprise gap in my day (like when you finish up something and have 8 minutes before afternoon duty).

The app is slick, the posts are customized to me, and it’s easy to share what I like right from the app. You can even check out the feeds of other Nuzzel users. I like that opportunity to see what my friends are seeing as well as those who are far away from me.

I promise I’m not getting anything from them; it’s just a great tool to keep in the know when time is at a premium (which is nearly every weekday of the school year, right?).

So Many Tweets, So Little Time

It happened again last week. I got asked if I ever sleep because of my Tweets.

It doesn’t bother me at all. Really it’s a conversation starter.

As I look through my feed, I often came across people who would binge post—you know, post all 25 ideas they had in about a 10 minute time period. While that certainly shares your thoughts, it does so in a way that concentrates all of your contributions to a single time period (and, at times, can annoy some of the people who follow you). You can definitely overdo it on the worrying about what others think of your Twitter posts end (really quickly in fact), but this is where I come back to a previous idea—you have so much good stuff to share that I hate it when little things get in the way of sharing great ideas.

So, take it or leave it, here’s an idea for sharing content at different times of the day. What I, and many others, do is schedule out much of the content (i.e. blog posts, articles, info about upcoming chats) beforehand when I have time. It helps me find time away from my phone and social media while still sharing ideas that stretch and refine me. bufferI use an app called Buffer to do this for me. It integrates seamlessly with Nuzzel, and it allows you to push posts into a queue to be shared at scheduled times in the future. It’s another app I use daily, and it helps me manage being a connected educator while giving me time to be a fully engaged husband, dad, and friend.

My “Internet Friends”

My wife thinks it’s hilarious that I have what she calls “internet friends.” You see, at some point, my connections online reached a point where it was far more appropriate to call these folks my friends than someone I followed on Twitter. Even as I type it, I know it sounds a little ridiculous. The internet isn’t supposed to be a place where you strike up friendships, but I can truly say I have found a group of friends there. I’ve asked their advice, heard their struggles, shared in victories and in hardships, and I’ve even had them and their families over for dinner. It’s great, but none of it would have happened if I only used Twitter.

voxerOne last app suggestion for you—Voxer.

Voxer is a push to talk, walkie talkie app that many educators are using to find deeper connections than communication in 140 characters allows. Even if you could send longer text, there’s something different about hearing the passion in someone’s voice or their heartbreak as they share their heart about how they want to make a difference in the lives of students and teachers. For me, Voxer provides me a space for that. It’s how I start and end each and every day at work. As a result, I’m connected to people across the country and across my district in ways that otherwise wouldn’t be possible.

The real value of pursuing professional growth on social media is the people you will meet.

They’re amazing.

They will challenge you, know you, push you, support you, encourage you, and inspire you.

There are educators who will be better after interacting with you, and you will be better after interacting with them.

More than anything, I hope that educators find what they’re looking for and more as they jump online. My challenge to you is to find someone in your building as the year starts to join us as we all get better together! There’s a decent chance they’ve heard they should get online, but they just don’t know how yet. Learn from my mistakes; start sharing today!

Together

Together

My first day in the classroom was terrible.

It wasn’t bad in the “I’m supposed to say I was bad because I can tell I’ve grown since then and I don’t want to boast” sense either. It was bad.

I had first period off (which is great any other day of the year for most people, but especially for this non morning person). On this first day, though, it just left time for the knots in my stomach to tighten themselves into even more knots.

As I was walking back into the main building to get some water, the power went out. I was going to get a day reprieve! We couldn’t have school with the power out, right?

Wrong.

My department head comes walking around the corner, and instead of telling me she would see me the next day, she said in a really positive, supportive manner that they were working on getting everything fixed up as quickly as possible and that I would do a great job and that she was excited to hear about how my first day went.

Awesome.

So I go back to my portable and begin to put on this ridiculous costume that I decided to use during my first minutes of teaching ever. On top of my uncomfortable shirt and tie teacher clothes I put on a rain jacket. On top of that, I’m wearing my graduation robe. The plan was for me to start with the end (graduation) in mind, then point to how I was going to be their guide on the path toward that goal, and then end with the realization that I was the teacher who could get them there. At this point, they would realize how much they were going to love me and this class, but things didn’t exactly go according to plan.

What actually happened was more like this.

I put everything on and began to sweat. Blame it on the first day of school or on it being MY first day of school or on not having any power on August 25th in central Texas or whatever else you want. Regardless of where fault lies, I’m really sweating by the time students arrive. Like beads of sweat I can feel. Not fun and not exactly how I wanted to start the day or my career.

I’ll spare you the details about the rest of the day and offer this summary: I pushed through the entire morning of classes packed with 30 high school juniors in a portable with no power for the video clips and slideshow I prepared or for the music I had carefully chosen to let them know I was someone they could relate to. Also there was no power for the air conditioning.

I remember sitting in the lunchroom thinking about what else I could do with my life. The morning left me embarrassed, frustrated, and pretty intimidated about actually coming back for day 2.

But I came back, and things got better.

My Worst Decision

I made a lot of bad decisions that first day, but the worst decision from my first day didn’t have anything to do with what all was happening or not happening in the classroom.

My worst decision was to sit silently by my peers at lunch while I felt so stressed.

Right there sitting next to me were the people who could help me most, the people who became my friends, the people who taught me how to teach.

And I just sat there and beat myself up. The story ends well, but on that day I felt like I needed to pull this all together myself, like that was what the best of the best did. I had convinced myself that this was how to make it.

The single best thing that happened that day was that a nearby teacher came by, brought me a Coke, and said, “How’s it going?” and talked to with me about how things were, in fact, going. Don’t get me wrong, ditching the outer two layers was clearly an important choice, but engaging instead of retreating was the best thing that happened that day.

Thankful & Restless

I’m incredibly thankful for that teacher and her willingness to sit with me on her first day back which we all know to be exhausting. Even if it’s the best, most welcome sort of exhausting, it is absolutely draining.

That solved my day one problem, but it didn’t address the motivation that drove me so far out of my comfort zone.

You see, I think I believed that I could make the magic happen all in those first 50 minutes. I had thought and over thought what I wanted for my students that I had convinced myself I needed to be someone else to make that happen.

I had convinced myself that somehow I wasn’t the guy for that job.

What a lie.

I felt woefully unprepared for all sorts of things that first day, but I was the one they picked to do the job. Not the best teacher I could remember, not me with more experience, not me with more answers or more confidence or more whatever. Me.

Before the day began, my biggest mistake was to believe not only that I could develop a lasting legacy with my students on the first day, but also that I needed to. That to miss that mark was to fail.

The more I think about it, the more I believe that our legacy as educators is built in community over time. That’s easy to say, but tough to do. Still, that’s our job. If you want to be the teacher who leaves an impact, develop a space where students can learn with you and their peers together. So how do we do that as teachers? How do we take 30 people and an adult and create a place where both students and teachers thrive? How do we get past the barriers that we put up, the things that make us feel safe? How to we press into vulnerability and let others see us for who we really are, not who we want to be seen as?

We do that together.

We have to be real together.

We have to be willing to learn together.

We have to be ready to act now (& probably fail some) together (both of them).

Think about who you can engage when school starts up–maybe even who you need to engage before it starts. Those little interactions–just bringing someone a Coke and filling the space with some peer to peer conversation–they can make all the difference.

And what’s on the line? If we get this right, all of those with whom we interact–our old friends, our new colleagues, and our students who will walk our halls and learn in our classrooms–they can all walk toward success knowing that we are walking through each trial that comes our way together.

Thriving as an Assistant Principal

Thriving as an Assistant Principal

There’s a difference in feeling capable at a job and feeling that you thrive in it. I sure prefer the latter, but that isn’t something you often stumble yourself into. It takes planning and intentionality. So before the year begins, I decided to think through those things that I can be about as an assistant principal that will help me help our campus.

Assistant principals who develop lasting, trusting relationships with their staff build on a foundation created by doing their job and doing it well. An AP needs a foundation of credibility before he can earn the relational capital that creates trust. Establishing your ethos on campus comes in a variety of ways (and happens differently in each unique situation). I’ll be the first to say that each path toward trust is unique, but it’s never bad to start by managing the referrals that come your way fairly and efficiently, committing to being a learner in your leadership role, and moving toward each new year looking for ways to serve students and teachers in new ways.

Though that trust must be earned, your work as an AP is far from over when you reach that point. Having the respect of the teachers is not the same as having a relationship with them. Cultivating those trusting relationships is vital if you’re interested in creating change (and who isn’t interested in creating positive change). To do that, you have to take the time to ask good questions and put your to-do list of important things on hold long enough to really listen to what’s urgent for the teachers you serve. More often than not, those questions fall into one of these four categories:

1. Ask about the family.

We spend an incredible amount of time asking teachers to give of themselves at school. We know our students deserve the attention of their teachers, but we don’t always know how much our teachers are juggling outside of school. Asking about a teacher’s family can help us get to know teachers as a whole just like we often ask them to do with their students.

When I’m at my best, I’m often asking these questions:

  • How’s your daughter’s basketball team playing? Is she enjoying college like she thought she would?
  • So you’re son will be a freshman here next year; what’s he excited about? Worried about? Are there any questions I can answer about our school for you as a parent?

2. Ask about professional interests.

We do a lot of talking to teachers when it comes to professional development. If we’re going to ask teachers to customize and individualize learning in the classroom, we need to be ready to do the same for our staff. Matching our practice with our message builds trust with teachers.

When I’m at my best, I’m often asking these questions:

  • How’s the year going? Where are you doing your best work? What would you try if money or time weren’t barriers?
  • What if you could pick your schedule next year; what would it look like ideally? What are you doing this year that’s different/new?
  • That thing you’re trying out this year–maybe it’s stand up desks or ditching homework/the textbook–how can I help encourage others to do it too? Also, how is it different than you expected it would be?

3. Ask for input before making decisions.

All leaders know the power of buy in, but it’s not always the quickest road to a solution. However, getting buy in on the front end of change can make a profound difference on the success of any attempt at change in a large organization like a school.

When I’m at my best, I’m often asking these questions:

  • If we went from 4 to 3 lunches, where could we best use the time in our day? What could you do with 25 minutes a day?
  • What do you want to learn about during faculty meetings? What are you tired of learning about in faculty meetings?
  • What do we need to spend more time looking at?

4. Ask for critical feedback.

We provide this for teachers routinely, but we rarely ask for it in return. Hearing critical feedback makes us better at providing the same for teachers, and knowing the concerns of those we serve allows us to keep a close watch on that which impacts those activities.

When I’m at my best, I’m often asking these questions:

  • What do you think of the new schedule? What problems did it solve? What is more complicated with the new schedule?
  • Talk to me about a particular student; what’s working, what’s not, and what is the best support I can offer to help him keep learning in your classroom?
  • What do you think we are missing as administrators that you see as a teacher?

Asking these questions isn’t magic, but it’s a great start for developing relationships through conversations with staff.

Finally, as an instructional leader, you have to walk the walk. Credibility has a short shelf life. We need to keep ourselves current, and we need to keep investing in our teachers. If your professional development sessions are lifeless and flat, you’re not going to earn yourself any points with teachers. Even though faculty meetings and PD days are important arenas in which we must excel, we can’t only show up then. A trusted AP will be looking for new ways to learn on his own and will be actively seeking opportunities to bring others into his learning. Invite people to a Twitter chat, help out with an EdCamp, create a Voxer group to highlight great things happening on campus. Do something to engage in a different way. Excellence in this area alone won’t create lasting relationships and trust, but it will steadily increase your credibility you’ve developed with the staff.

If you have any other ideas for ways to thrive in the role of assistant principal, please share! We’ll get better together!

4 Skills Every Student Needs

4 skills every student needs

One of the things I miss the most about the classroom is discussing novels with students and the way that set students up to thoughtfully approach tough conversations. We’d open up The Great Gatsby or Adventures of Huckleberry Finn or Invisible Man and dive headlong into some of life’s biggest questions.

We’d talk about what it means to be valued as a person and walk through how easy it is to devalue someone and how hard it is to rebuild someone who has felt less than.

We’d spend time talking about the American Dream–what it meant to them, what it meant to characters in the text–and talk about whether it is alive today (and if it’s alive in the same way for everyone in our diverse classroom).

We’d invest time in serious conversation about those who are invisible among us. Those who might identify with the narrator of Invisible Man who declares that he is “invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see” him.

There’s a lot there, and that only scratches the surface of everything we would get into. It was great conversation, but it was even better knowing that I was sending students out confident that they knew how to engage with their peers and their community for the better.

Though the conversations focused either on the literature or on its implications, students acquired a number of soft skills through the process that were as valuable as the content of the exchanges. Removed from those conversations, I think our students’ education is incomplete without these skills.

Don’t hear me saying that these can only be developed over in discussion of literature. That’s not reality for many teachers, and it’s no longer my reality. Still, students with these four abilities have the skills to create peace, stability, and hope where it is lacking. If that’s not worth pursuing, I don’t know what is.

4 SKILLS EVERY STUDENT NEEDS

Disagree with an idea instead of a person. Too often, we treat this as an all or nothing. We mistake an opinion for an individual, and if we’re not careful, we miss out on a chance to learn something different. I think we’re pretty bad about this as adults. We have work to do to be the models we need to be, but I think it can be done. This, like many of these traits, is remarkable when it shows up. People notice. Look for opportunities to shed light on this concept for your students and peers.

Repay wrongdoing with kindness. This doesn’t fit with much of our mythology. Ours is a story of getting the most, getting the best, getting even, getting what you deserve. But at home, I ask my boys to do this. They’re 2 and 4, and although I believe that consequences are part of our actions, they’re learning from that I don’t care who started it. When wrong has been done, they repay it with kindness (and so does the one who bit his brother, for what it’s worth). I think there’s incredible potential for modeling this as adults. What power we could bring to students. What an alternative to lashing out. I’m not asking anyone to get walked on here. I’m just trying to imagine a better way.

See a situation from another person’s perspective. I loved asking questions that teased out this conversation (especially when students thought they had things figured out). I’m not big on ranking or creating a hierarchy of soft skills, but the ability to step into another person’s point of view, see things from his or her perspective, and respond differently to a situation as a result has to be up near the top. It’s not something that can be forced, and it’s rarely developed as quickly as we would like (or as would be beneficial for those who interact with the learner). But it is an absolute necessity to have this skill. Graduation requirements should be incomplete without it.

Find hope, even when it’s tough to see it. I’m not asking you to be Pollyanna, nor am I asking you to look past a situation that calls for grief or sorrow. What I do think is valuable is to train ourselves to find hope in situations where it is apparent and to quickly move toward it after we have walked through a valley. We know that our brains like patterns, and everything I’ve seen and experienced indicates that the positive patterns take more time to develop than their negative counterparts. So take time to find hope daily. Talk about it with your students. It matters so deeply.

These skills aren’t magic. They don’t eliminate hurt or sorrow or loss, and I would never claim they would. What they do is give us the power to navigate tough conversations with human responses. Responses that need to press into vulnerable spaces in conversations where we have to pursue understanding long before we seek to respond. But these are just four ideas. What else do you believe we need to instill in our students? When they leave your campus, what do they need to be successful, productive members of society?

4 Invitations for Students

4 invitations for students afhogan

Educators work in a seemingly contradictory space. All at once we are surround by people and secluded from our peers. For the vast majority of the day, we are literally walled off from each other in most schools. This undoubtedly impacts campus culture.

I recently wrote about the power of an invitation, especially in view of this isolated life that educators often live. After reading, Bill Ferriter challenged me to take this treatment that I had originally targeted adults with and extend it to the classroom.

I loved the challenge!

Or at least the idea of it.

The more I reflected on this shift in focus, the more I began to realize that each invitation we might extend to students requires a certain amount of vulnerability. I’ve long been a believer that as the adult in the room, we should be the ones placing ourselves at the most vulnerable place in the conversation, but believing that and living that out are different experiences. The reality is that leading new, risky, “out their” change will almost always involve operating out of a vulnerable posture. Embrace it. (Just so you know, I’m telling myself as much as I’m telling you.)

Here are a few ways we can engage students in an invitation into something more. They start out relatively easy, but the level of vulnerability required feels like it exponentially increases as the invitations continue.

Invite Students To Share Your Story

I love the way that I have heard about other educators inviting students into the process of sharing the school’s story online. Adam Welcome even uses students as social media interns on his campus. There is such tremendous value in telling the story of our school (or of your classroom) online, and I love the idea of inviting students into that space. How great would it be to ask students to pay attention to the ways we celebrate our successes at school and value others by sharing about their accomplishments? I’m going to try this next year with the 5th and 6th graders I serve, and I’m excited to see how this invitation goes.

Invite Students to Teach

Many of us have had this experience: There’s a student in class who you think genuinely might know more about a given topic than you know as the teacher, and you have to “teach” him or her. Why not embrace that, model humility, and invite that student into a place to share his or her expertise? I think it would be great! A little out of the comfort zone for most teachers, but a valuable invitation to validate students and share the stage in your classroom.

Invite Students to Share Their Interests in Your Content

I came across these two tweets recently, and I don’t know if I can capture how much I really like this idea!

What would change if we operated out of this posture? What would we do differently? There would be practices we adopt and practices we shelve (some for the rest of our career). We would learn a great deal about what we’re trying to fish for most of the time–what’s engaging to students. I think it’s worth extending the invitation, but I’ll be the first to admit, it takes a leap of faith to put yourself out there for this sort of input.

Invite Students to Coach You

Alright. Stick with me. Some of the easier suggestions seem risky (at least to me), but this seems pretty out there.

I think it could work though.

You would need some clear scaffolding and some specific structures in place to make it work, but think of the power of inviting a student to speak into your life as a professional. There’s a part of me that thinks this is just too risky. Or too much work. Or just too much to fit into an already busy school year. Or just too scary.

I think the ceiling is pretty high on how beneficial this could be though. Even if you just brought in a former student (which might be even better), I think it would be a powerful invitation that would lead to a remarkable experience for both student and teacher.


Still, this seems like a big risk to take, and I want to acknowledge that here. There are well worn practices that could be overturned here. We could learn that a strength really presents to our audience as a weakness. We could find that our assumptions, in all sorts of directions, were off base.

And that’s hard. Don’t hear me oversimplify this. It’s hard. Really hard. But like most experiences that require us to step into vulnerability, it’s worth it.

I thought that this blog post was done here initially. Turns out it wasn’t. I’m going to share the rest here.

I truly see my role as an assistant principal as a teacher of teachers. Thankfully, I’m quite content to not be the sage on the stage. I sure don’t have all the answers even in the conversations I’m most comfortable engaging, and there are just so much that I defer to the expertise of others. Even if I wanted to, I’m not equipped to be the keeper of knowledge.

So, as I look toward next year, I feel the weight of these invitations in a very real way:

  • Invite teachers to share our school’s story
  • Invite teachers to teach our staff
  • Invite teachers to share their interest in what I have to share
  • Invite teachers to coach me (current or former or both)

All of a sudden, I feel the weight of these suggestions.

As a leader, I feel a great deal of pressure to get this right. After all, if my claim is that students will benefit from the ways their teachers live this out, I think that holds true for the adult learners as well.

I’m certainly not claiming to have all the answers or anything like that, but seeing these invitations in a different light reminds me of how important they each are. I’m glad to be reminded of it. It keeps me from thinking life is as simple as a list on a blog post can seem.

Beyond that, it energizes me to lean into vulnerability required from leaders (titled and untitled) as we do what we know is best for learners in our schools. It makes me excited for the next year, and it motivates me to be my best.

So, in whatever role you find yourself next year, find those invitations that need to be extended to those around you. Best of luck in your invitations! Such great growth awaits!

Make an Impact

Make an Impact

I don’t think anyone gets started in education without the hope of making a difference, but some sure seem to make more of an impact than others.

Why is that?

Even among the well meaning, I see a range of successes.

Like most people, when I think back on the teachers I had, I had good teachers and bad teachers, memorable teachers and forgettable teachers. I spent some time today thinking through what pushed teachers to the positive two extremes for me. Happily, the good, memorable teacher was not terribly elusive to me; still, I think it’s worth the effort to dig into what sets apart those teachers who end up being more memorable than the rest.

This motivated me to do all I could to be the teacher who made a difference.

If I could go back to first year teacher me, I would have a lot to say. These five suggestions would be part of that conversation.

Invest Time In Relationships

This should go without saying, but there are more possibilities for this to go awry than I’d like to leave it up to chance. I think it’s important for students to see teachers as professionals; I really do. Many teachers (especially those early in their experience as educators) err on the side of being the “friend” teacher. Don’t get me wrong–the relationships are key, but I think they are key in a different way. One part of the real power of the relationships comes from having a clear role as the teacher in the class and being someone who will care for the prerequisite needs of students in addition to those explicitly academic needs. These teachers make students feel welcome in class and create an environment that helps students know there will are consequences for failure (but one of those consequences is that we’re going to pick ourselves up and keep learning).

Listen Without Judgment

As a high school English teacher, there were a lot of opportunities for me to explain ideas in an official capacity. As the teacher, the onus was on me to answer questions like “What did the author mean when he did X?” or “What’s the author saying about the state of society today when her characters respond like that?” Rather than answering those questions myself, I tried to model the struggle the authors were often encouraging readers to grapple with and pushed the responsibility for answering the question out to the students. Then, my role shifted from question answerer to conversation facilitator (which I greatly preferred). Like it or not, students found themselves free to sort through their beliefs lived out in the context of the narratives we encountered. I usually saw some who seemed so sure of themselves quickly left stuck really considering the implications of their positions, but more I often was floored by the quiet student who, given the chance, took the opportunity to share his or her brilliance with the class. This doesn’t happen if we’re giving them the answers.

Extend Grace

I’m a firm believer that students benefit from high expectations. But more than sending out individuals capable of meeting and exceeding the highest expectations from life’s next challenges, I hope that we send out young people who are ready to make the human decision when the time calls for it. Learning doesn’t happen in a linear fashion for most students. I certainly can’t draw a linear timeline to tie many of my own learning experiences together. And yet too often, I get the feeling that teachers feel they don’t have permission to yield to their better judgment and extend grace to a student. I don’t mean to say that we have armies of teachers out there waiting to enforce rules simply because they are the rules, but I don’t think we can do any harm by taking the pressure off (because as school progresses, we all know it is most certainly on) some of our students with the opportunity to experience a bit of grace under extenuating circumstances. It makes a huge impact.

Notice When It’s An Off Day

Students rarely enter the room and announce that their day isn’t going well. At least not in as many words, right? It comes in all sorts of other forms. Listing those off isn’t necessary here, but it is important to consider how we respond when we notice it. One day I came back from being out, and a student in my first period told me this: “Mr. Hogan, I was having a bad day, but you weren’t here. You always seem to notice it and make those days better.” As a fairly introverted teacher, I was always just looking for things I could make conversation about. I had no idea the impact I was having. I’ll never forget that.

Admit Your Failures

Somehow part of being a leader has morphed into being (or at least presenting yourself as) flawless. I can’t stand that. Reality is that we all are making plenty of mistakes. Not careless ones–just regular, everyday, accidental mistakes. If we don’t show our students a model for taking ownership of our mistakes, what are we saying to them about how they should handle this in the future. It’s important in all contexts, but it’s a special priority of mine to make sure young men see grown men take ownership of their actions–no matter how big or small they may be–and respond appropriately. So many teachers do a great job of this, but the impact is only increased as more educators step into that place of vulnerability talking about our missteps. It’s not always fun, but it’s always worth it.

These five suggestions aren’t magic. In fact, they’re far from it. If you try these out, it will make your job more complicated, more involved, but it will also make it more rewarding. Your impact as an educator doesn’t happen by accident. What are you doing this summer to make sure you make the impact you want next year? What else should we add to this list?

The Power of an Invitation

AnInvitationIn

AnInvitationIn

There is such great power in an invitation.

A while back, someone invited me in to help support a new chat that was starting up. I had spent time in a few chats, but although I knew it felt like I was learning a great deal, I sure didn’t think anything special was coming out of my engaging online that would make someone notice let alone recognize and invite me into a new chat. But someone saw something in me and asked me to be part of something new.

As a result, I’ll never be the same. And not just as an educator.

I think we underestimate our power as educators, as people to speak powerfully into another person. At least I do at times. And on the one hand, it feels like nothing, right? An invitation to join in seems so insignificant that I forget the power that we have to speak hope into situations, to speak life into those we are in contact with until I’m on the receiving end of the conversation. But I can think of several times when something that probably seemed like nothing to the speaker left significant, positive, life-giving impact on me, and I know that I need to stop erring on the side of caution, of reluctance to step out into a bit of vulnerability, and make this a significant part of my regular routine.

But I don’t want to just leave it at that. Acknowledging that invitations are powerful and that change is needed isn’t enough. I need to make a habit of including this communication, and I’d like to share a few ways I think we can make a positive impact with a simple invitation.

AnInvitationIn (2)

Invite someone to critique something you are working on

It’s not always fun to have a critical eye on your work, but asking someone to look over your shoulder to help you refine something that’s important to you is a big deal. To me, it’s a great honor to help someone accomplish a goal that has personal or professional important, and so often as educators our work has both components.

Ask someone to share their voice and expertise in conversation

I host a weekly Twitter chat with my friend and colleague Jeremy Stewart, so this is an easy place, but it’s still one I’ve neglected. I need to be better about thinking through the topics we are discussing and intentionally engaging those who have so much to offer in that conversation. Understandably, most people aren’t hosting chats, but I think there’s an easy face to face parallel; as conversations come up on campus, bring those informed voices into the conversation and take a moment to explain why you brought that person in before or after. It’ll make a difference.

If you blog, invite someone to write with you or to guest post on your blog

Most educators who are blogging are doing so to share the ideas they’ve been mulling over or sort through their learning. I’ve been awful at doing this, so I’m sharing it not only as an idea for others, but also as a call to action for myself. What a great opportunity to share that space and encourage another educator to connect and share!

Here’s our reality: We cannot do our work in isolation. We fool ourselves into thinking we can from time to time, but each time, after we’ve hit the wall (again), we remember that we need others. Take time to get ahead of the curve and invite others into something that matters to you.

When You Know Better #KidsDeserveIt

When You Know Better

When You Know Better

This post initially appeared on the Kids Deserve It blog. To find out more about Kids Deserve It, take a look at #KidsDeserveIt on Twitter or check out their newly released book here

When we meet students under the most ideal circumstances, we know a lot about them. We know about their interests, their family life, their academic performance history, and their behavior at school. We know about what books they like, what works for them, what not to try with them, and what might really push their buttons. When we’re working in the ideal, we know enough that we don’t have to make any assumptions as we prepare to educate the student.

But, all too often, life is not so ideal.

So we set out to do our best with less than an ideal amount of information about students. We try to get to know them as well as we can as soon as possible. We try our best, and in most cases, achieve remarkable results in rapid time. Teachers–you are incredible in your ability to work with so many variables that seem to always be changing as you educate the students you are given.

At some point, though, assumptions begin to creep in and fill the gaps in what we know about our students. I think they’re even made with the best of motivations so that we can serve students as well as we can as soon as we can.

Maybe it’s when things get busy. Maybe it’s when we get tired. At some point, we slip up and do the thing we said we wouldn’t–make an incorrect assumption about the student, and we have to work our way out of the unintended consequences of that assumption.

I’m not going to spend time listing out the ill advised assumptions that are sometimes made. They are out there, and they are too common. What I’d rather focus on is what we can do differently.

What if we committed to making these two assumptions about everyone we interact with at school?

People are doing the best they can.

When you know better, you do better.

I’m not asking you to be naive or to live with your head in the sand. I know that there are exceptions to nearly every rule, but this isn’t a post about those outliers. This is about the everyday. This is about how granting grace to each and every person with whom we interact–even if they’re the fiftieth person who’s doing that thing that annoys us that day.

Operating out of these two assumptions is about not letting little things get to us. It’s about believing that kids can (and will) do better when we teach them. It’s about how we should stop looking at the half empty/half full glass and get busy filling people up.

What if you approached each and every day with the attitude that students were doing the best they can? What would change?

Think about it. Tomorrow, what would change if you moved through your day with those two assumptions?

People are doing the best they can.

When you know better, you do better.

How would you respond to misbehavior?

How would you intervene when you noticed academic struggle?

How would you handle minor misbehaviors that you allow to get to you over time?

I’ll be the first to admit that changing a habit isn’t easy. But this is worth it.

If we made this change, I think our schools would be different. I think they would be better.

Even if things aren’t bad now–even if they’re great now–defaulting to these two assumptions changes our posture as we educate students. Every kid deserves a fresh start with us each morning. Every kid deserves a chance to learn in an environment that’s going to push him and support him as he takes on new challenges. Every kid deserves to be known. Each kid deserves a chance.

We can be the ones to make the difference. We can imagine it better. We can change their world for the better at our schools. Our kids deserve it.

41 Books Worth Reading

41 Books Worth Reading

41 Books Worth Reading

The end of the year always makes me a little nostalgic. I miss my classroom and the conversations that came up at the end of the year. By that point, we had talked through so many books and so many of the big life issues that came up in that process that we knew each other well.

I really enjoyed the challenge of the “I don’t like to read” student. Even with the juniors in my English III classes, we used the reader’s workshop model, so students were given a choice (often with some guidance with regard to genre or subject–but not always) about their reading selections.

I loved it!

The “I don’t like to read” student is really the one who hasn’t found the text that is just right for him. Just the right subject. Just the right cover to pique his interest. Just the right length. Just the right reading level.

In general, I always like a puzzle, and I really like one that could end in seeing a student learn that he, too, can be a reader.

In my current role as an assistant principal, I still share books with students. But what I’ve come to enjoy in this role is the conversations I have with teachers about their own professional development and what I might have on my shelves that could help push their thinking further.

I often run across people on social media who are looking for that next title to push their thinking, and I thought I would take the opportunity to share some of the books on the shelves in my office (and a few that I’m looking forward to reading). I went back and forth about how to organize them, but I’m leaving them as just one big list. Browse through them. Search out reviews for one or two before you make the jump. Download a sample to your e-reader to see if it fits your tastes. But, more than anything, take time to get yourself heading in the right direction as we approach the biggest break and change of pace that educators get all year.

I’m always happy to talk about books, so reach out to me on Twitter (@aaron_hogan) or Voxer (@aaron_hogan) if you have any questions. Finally, I’m always looking to add to my shelves (even though I’m on a shelf “cap” at home–no more room along the walls). What should I add to the list and why?

Without further ado, welcome to my bookshelves.


innovators mindsetThe Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros asks educators to consider what it will take to help all educators, teachers and administrators alike, to grow into forward-thinking, innovative leaders. Couros is widely respected throughout education (if you’re not following him on Twitter, click HERE and enjoy), and his text does not disappoint. Don’t figure out if you’re going to read this; figure out when.

 

wceddIn What Connected Leaders Do Differently, Todd Whitaker, Jeff Zoul, and Jimmy Casas collaborate to create a thorough yet streamlined text that explores the role of connected educators in today’s educational environment. Whether you are looking to get connected or are already swimming in the deep end, this book will challenge you to engage in new ways. This is a book to read and reread. When you do, you’ll be encouraged by your growth and challenged by the number of simple reminders to push you forward.

sheningerUncommon Learning by Eric Sheninger explores a number of aspects of education that educators need to be aware of (if not implementing ourselves) right now. From makerspaces and digital learning to BYOD and digital badging, Sheninger has both the educational experience and the expertise as a writer to communicate clearly on each of these important topics. Rooted in his practice during his time as principal at New Milford High School, this text will push you to explore new ideas in new ways.

41ifeR5HSHL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Adam Saenz’ The Power of a Teacher should be required reading for educators. As a clinical psychologist, Saenz brings a wealth of experience to educators as he dives into educator wellness. The Power of a Teacher explores physical, emotional, spiritual, financial, and occupational well being for educators. Saenz’ stories are poignant and heartfelt, and they serve as a reminder of why we all got into this profession to being with. It has my highest recommendation!

519lHx-UOzL._SX377_BO1,204,203,200_Donalyn Miller’s The Book Whisperer is a game changer of a book. As a former English teacher, Miller’s take on literacy and reading in the classroom is an easy sell. But The Book Whisperer is a book for everyone. It will stretch you, and parts of that will be uncomfortable. But in the end, you will be better for it, and so will your students. Developing students as readers is vital to their success across all disciplines. If you’re excited by this, read it. If it freaks you out to think about being a reading leader, read it. Just read it.

download140 Twitter Tips for Educators is quite simply the best primer on Twitter use for educators that I have ever come across. It’s not surprising that a project developed by #SatChat creators Brad Currie, Billy Krakower, and Scott Rocco would be excellent, but even with the highest of expectations, their text did not disappoint! I feel quite comfortable personalizing my learning on Twitter, but there was a ton I learned from their book. This is a book every educator needs to own. Either it’s time to learn or it’s time to get this and share it with a friend!

personalized pdPersonalized PD brings together a host of connected educators who have flipped much of their own professional development. It’s great as a primer or as a challenge for educators who are comfortable with their level of connection currently. The personal vignettes set this text apart from others on the topic. The front cover lists Jason Bretzmann, Kenny Bosch, Dr. Brad Gustafson, Brad Currie, Kristin Daniles, Laura Conley, and Ben Wikoff as authors with 14 more contributing vignettes.

amplifyEven though I’m at a high school, I’m really enjoyed Amplify by Katie Mutharis and Kristin Ziemke. Their slim volume is a great overview of not only how technology can touch so many aspects of our schools, but also when and why it should integrate with sound pedagogical practice. The authors are risk takers, and we have a great deal to learn from their experiences. I love the “Three Things to Try Tomorrow” sections that end many chapters. EdTech isn’t a new idea, but their reflections on the topic are well worth your time.

hackHacking Education by Mark Barnes and Jennifer Gonzalez is best described by it’s subtitle: 10 quick fixes for every school. What I love about the Hack Learning Series is that more than most of what I read, the authors are willing to take on the tough questions that come along with their proposed changes. This text pushed my thinking, and I’m sure it will do the same for you.

Hacking-Assessment-eBook-coverI’m thoroughly intrigued by the no grades movement. Starr Sackstein’s Hacking Assessment is a great primer on why to consider no grades and how to take the first steps. Her book includes several helpful tips for common push back that accompanies this conversation. If I were in the classroom, I would be using her advice to find my way through this conversation. Instead, I’m working on ways to challenge interested teachers to consider what she has to offer (and the huge upside for students to be able to continue their learning past each test).

sacksteinTeaching Students to Self Assess is Starr Sackstein’s 55 page exploration of the question: “How do I help students reflect and grow as learners?” Sackstein has assembled an accessible introduction that is great for any who are considering helping students learn to self-assess. While it absolutely applies to the classroom as you would expect, administrators and leaders can apply the same logic to their work with educators.

gritIn Fostering Grit, Thomas Hoerr looks at how we are working to make sure our students are prepared to take on the world outside our schools. I love his driving question, “How do I prepare my students for the real world?” Hoerr’s 52 page volume is a great primer for those wanting to enter into this conversation. I’m thankful his primer is out there.

millerFreedom to Fail asks the question, “How do I foster risk-taking and innovation in my classroom?” Andrew Miller’s book offers essential reminders for educators who seek to do just what the title says, regardless of their experience with the idea. Even at just 48 pages, there’s still plenty here to push your thinking.

 

steinbergDr. Laurence Steinberg, a developmental psychologist, shares his expertise on adolescence and how we can best take advantage of this seminal time in our students’ lives. His perspective is so refreshingly different than most of the literature that hopes to equip teachers and parents to survive this time. Steinberg’s expertise and optimism are a powerful combination, and though this might not be on the radar for many educators, Age of Opportunity is absolutely beneficial for our work.

school-culture-rewiredSchool Culture Rewired by Steve Gruenert and Todd Whitaker is required reading for anyone looking to make significant change in the prevailing attitudes on a school campus. This text will help you walk through the steps required to initiate an influential change on campus without bogging down into the minuscule details and minutiae that can seem to slow the pace of other texts. School Culture Rewired comes in at 170 pages.

power of brandingTelling your school’s story can’t be undervalued, and Tony Sinanis and Joe Sanfelippo are two of the best at crafting a meaningful, authentic campus story. The Power of Brandingis part of the Corwin Connected Educators Series (which I can’t recommend highly enough), and at just 72 pages, you’re not going to get bogged down in fluff. You will have to deal with this though: Each page has something meaningful for you to consider, so don’t plan on blowing through this just because it’s a slim volume.

learning by choiceA.J. Juliani’s Learning by Choice is required reading for anyone looking to include more student choice in the classroom. (And, let’s be honest, who couldn’t benefit from hearing more about choice in the classroom, right?) This has heavily influenced my beliefs about choice in professional development as well. I wish I had read it while in the classroom.

download (6)Paul Solarz’ Learn Like A Pirate will push your thinking in a few different directions. Filled with challenges for teachers and ways they can support students in their learning, Learn Like a Pirate is a great resource for new and veteran teachers. It’s essential reading for educators today, and it’s well worth the time you’ll invest in reading

rising strongRising Strong is one of those books that reads really quickly but leaves you with so much to think about that you can’t digest it rapidly. Brené Brown’s latest book investigates what happens after we take the risks that are oh so popular for us to discuss. The reality is that we end up with what she describes as a moment where we are face down in the arena, and we have to be able to pick ourselves up and move forward, learning along the way. It’s an idea I think we all want to embrace, but the process of getting there (and I am by no means there) is less direct than we would like.

originalsOriginals is a book that challenged my thinking. Adam Grant explores a number of qualities we typically associate with being an original and does a little mythbusting along the way. Grant is a great storyteller, and he’s got a wealth of tales worth telling here. It’s worth noting that this is book is one that I listened to as an audiobook, and it presents well in that medium.

breaking nightI came across Breaking Night after hearing Liz Murray speak in my school district recently. To say the least, there’s a lot of story for her to tell; she manages the task brilliantly, and that makes her book both enjoyable and tough to take. Oversimplified, hers is the “Homeless to Harvard” story that’s the stuff of movies (literally–there’s a Lifetime movie that tells her story). But more than one of accomplishment, Murray’s is a story of the value of education and mentors and hope. Tough, but well worth the time it takes to invest.

sketchnoteThe Sketchnote Handbook is a great introduction to sketchnoting. Admittedly, I’m the guy who just needs to jump into something like sketchnoting; that being said, Mike Rohde’s book was just what I needed to develop a foundation of skills for myself. Can I sketchnote anything live? No. It looks like my 4 year old drew it. But given the time, I can put the ideas into practice and create something I’m proud of that I wouldn’t have dreamed of in the past. To me, that makes it worth it. Maybe you’ll think so, too.

passionateIf you’re not familiar with Pernille Ripp’s work, you’re missing out. Passionate Learners: How to Engage and Empower Your Students will undoubtedly challenge educators to engage students in innovative and creative ways. In concert with vignettes from her 7th grade students, Ripp challenges educators to develop our students into passionate learners. Don’t read this if you don’t want to be challenged. You’ve been warned.

relevantI’m a big fan of The Relevant Educator by Tom Whitby and Steven W. Anderson. Both authors are connected leaders, and their text is a fantastic primer for any educators looking to get connected. The slim volume (it comes in at 65 pages in length) covers how to guide your professional development, choose the best social media options for you, and transfer your new knowledge back to your campus. This highly recommended text you can read in a sitting is part of the Corwin Connected Educators Series.

content curationContent Curation by Steven W. Anderson provides a great deal of insight for educators who are looking to sift through the vast amount of resources that are out there for educators today. He offers tips on platforms to use, ways to schedule posts, what to schedule, and why to take content curation seriously. If you’re drowning in the great resources out there or feel like you can’t keep up with all the good material, this is for you. Since it’s part of the Corwin Connected Educators series, this, too, is a quick read full of valuable resources.

bloggingThis blog wound’t exist without this book from Starr Sackstein. I picked up the book with an interest in blogging but no confidence. By the time I was halfway through, I had the tools I needed to get a blog off the ground and share a few ideas with other educators online. It’s succinct, it’s informative, and it’s required reading for anyone looking to blog as an educator.

Shen_DigitalLeadershipEric Sheninger’s Digital Leadership explores why schools must change, how they can make meaningful change happen, and how educators can help make the desired change a reality. He touches on communication, public relations, branding, reimagining learning spaces on campus and many more aspects of digital leadership that educators today wrestle with. Highly recommended reading!

tlapTeach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess is a great place to start for fresh ideas about classroom instruction. This slim volume is packed with great information for new and veteran teachers. In addition, a great community exists on Twitter around the #tlap (like Teach Like a Pirate) hashtag. If you read one book on instruction, read this book.

ditchIf you’re ready for a change in your classroom, Ditch That Textbook is for you. Matt Miller’s recently released text highlights ways that educators can make changes in their classrooms for the better. Interested in more than incremental change? This is for you. Miller explores new mindsets and methods for adopting those in your classroom. You won’t want to miss it.

how we learnBenedict Carey’s How We Learn takes an educational spin on much of the research that has happened recently on the brain and how we learn. Carey makes his way through a great deal of research to provide readers with applicable tips for how they can learn best (and how they can help others learn well, too). He takes multiple factors that impact learning into account without dwelling on research or skimming along the surface of this important conversation.

focus on learningJim Knight’s Focus on Teaching offers a wealth of strategies for using video in the classroom. If you’re creating video in the classroom, you should read this. If you’re flipping your class, you should read this. If you’re an administrator looking to use video for coaching, you should read this. His highly readable text will benefit you now and for years to come. Check it out.

burkeJim Burke’s What’s the Big Idea challenges educators to reframe units around questions. His big example is moving from a study of Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men to an investigation of this question: Am I my brother’s keeper? This text was transformational for me when teaching English, and I hope that it is beneficial for you as well!

art of coachingElena Aguilar’s The Art of Coaching is a great text for educators looking to change the way help is offered to teachers. A coaching model can be transformative for a campus, reshaping our mindsets about how we learn as educators and forcing us to realize the uncomfortable feelings many of our students associate with dealing with their imperfections. This isn’t the only coaching text, but it’s a great place to start your journey into this mode of thinking.

how google worksThis might seem like an odd choice, but How Google Works has had as much impact on me when considering school culture as anything I’ve ever read. As you might expect, you’re not going to find any information about programs, policies, or education lingo here, but the mindset that makes Google so impactful is evident on every page. Authors Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg are experts in their field, and they are both wildly intelligent individuals. We would benefit greatly from listening carefully to their take on what makes Google work.

work rulesWork Rules gives more specifics to the overview provided in How Google Works. Laszlo Bock takes time to get into the nitty gritty of how to shape an organization. Again, you’re going to find a model here that can be transferred to your campus, but you’re not going to see a plan specific to schools. This one isn’t for everyone, but if you enjoyed How Google Works at all, I recommend you at least check this out to see if you’re interested.

inquiryA.J. Juliani’s Inquiry and Innovation in the Classroom is a great place to start the conversation about making changes for the better for students. If you’re looking for fresh ideas on 20% time, genius hour, and PBL, this is for you. It also serves as a great intro to each idea if you’re looking for a primer on any of the topics.

20timeIf you find that 20% time or genius hour is something you’d like to learn more about, Kevin Brookhouser’s The 20time Project is worth investigating. Brookhouser explores why (because “we need wicked problem-solvers”) in the first half of his book before concluding with how to pull that off both in the classroom and across a campus.

creative confidenceCreative Confidence by Tom and David Kelley challenges readers to reimagine their previous conception of creativity. If you think you might be a creative person, but you’re not creative in the conventional sense of the word, this book will help you see where you (and others) truly are creative. I really enjoyed the challenging ideas that the Kelley brothers share here!

creative schoolsKen Robinson’s recent book, Creative Schools, offers readers an overview of creativity in schools with Robinson’s trademark wisdom and wit. His text is both readable and challenging, encouraging and motivational. It’s an easy read with big ideas for the reader to consider. If your’e a person who likes inspirational education quotes, you can’t miss this!

51B3zEFka3L._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_Steal Like an Artist is a quick read that will leave you thinking for a long time. It has pushed me to think more creatively, share more openly, and believe that more is possible. For this guy who didn’t use to think creativity was in my wheelhouse, I’m quite thankful to have stumbled upon a text like Austin Kleon’s.

worldpeaceI can’t remember how I came across John Hunter’s World Peace and Other 4th Grade Achievements, but I’m glad I did. Hunter details how project based learning helped his 4th graders tackle some of life’s biggest problems, and he does so in a way that leaves you thinking that you can take on this kind of challenge, too. I enjoyed the text, and I think it would be a great place to start opening up other’s minds to the possibilities of PBL in the classroom.


So, this is a lot. But I hope that there’s something here that piques your interest. Over the summer, take time to look through a few of these–even if you just do so while visiting a local bookstore. Check out something that will help make you better when next school year starts up. Happy reading!

Lead Like an MVP

Lead Like an MVP (1)

I have to admit it. I love watching Stephen Curry play basketball. With Curry on the court, the game is more exciting and more fun! He’s redefining the game for the better, and this year, Stephen Curry is this year’s undisputed NBA MVP. In a unanimous vote, he was chosen as the most valuable player. Take that in for a moment. The most valuable player in the entire NBA.

For me, that’s a lot to take in. One of the things I like about it the most is that the award is the most valuable player, not the best player. It may seem like a slight difference, but it’s substantial to me. The title “Most Valuable Player” begs the question–most valuable to whom? I tend to think it’s to his team. The organization. The teammates. The fans.

The most valuable player is more about his team than about himself.

The most valuable player represents the name on the front of his jersey–not his name on the back.

The most valuable player makes others better around him.

And it’s clear to everyone who is watching that Curry does just that. He makes success about the team. He represents the organization and team above all. He makes everyone else better around him.

Watching the comments from Curry’s press conference accepting the award, I couldn’t help but think that there is a lot we can learn from him as educators. These four ideas stuck out to me as great reminders for educators who want to want to be the most valuable member of their team–not for a trophy, but to serve others well and put the best opportunities in front of our students and teachers.

Be the Unexpected Leader

Early on, Curry’s head coach, Steve Kerr, commented that Curry’s “own mom didn’t even know if [he] would make it in the league.”

I love that.

How unlikely is it that someone who was passed over for scholarship after scholarship was even to have a chance at playing in the NBA, much less end up as MVP? But Curry doesn’t seem to be one who needs permission or a road map. And we would do well to follow his example. We should be more willing to take the lead, figure it out, and stop listening to the reasons why we shouldn’t do something. There are too many of them. We can’t afford to let them keep us still. Move forward, defy the odds, and lead from where you are.

Push Through Failure & Celebrate Success

Curry’s head coach, Steve Kerr, followed up with a comment on how much Curry struggled the night before. Curry, a prolific 3 point shooter to say the least, missed his first ten 3-point attempts. Not good. But, as Kerr describes, “he made the 11th and shimmied down the sideline.”

Our work is full of this. (Or if it’s just me who experiences this, someone find a gentle way to break the news to me.) Even when we’re operating in our strengths, there are times when the success feels pretty far away. As I watched Curry throughout this game, he never hung his head, never felt sorry for himself. He kept pushing forward, stepping into his role after missed shots, and putting up the next shot that made sense. An MVP keeps pressing forward into what’s right. Don’t let obstacles slow your progress.

Take Inspiration From the Team

Selfless leadership is really important to me. There are a lot of leaders who lead so that they are front and center, so that the attention is on them (along with the credit for a team’s hard work). I really respect Curry’s genuine comments to his teammates. For a guy who is the unanimous MVP to come out and say to his teammates, “You guys inspire me to keep getting better,” I’m impressed. I think it’s important to remember that leading from this sort of posture isn’t just a nice caveat or a feather in Curry’s cap; it’s a prerequisite for being a leader who is this effective.

Aspire to Excellence

Before Curry’s press conference concluded, he shared one final goal: “Let’s win a championship.”

I think that his perspective, one driven out of a pursuit of excellence, pursuit of being the best, is one we should emulate. “Good enough” teaching isn’t good enough. If we are content to sit on our laurels and rest easy as we determine how much to push those around us to be the best, we aren’t going to accomplish what our students deserve. We owe it to our students (and leaders–we owe it to our teachers) to give our all in pursuit of excellence.


One last note–I think there is a lot that we can learn from Stephen Curry’s response to his MVP award. But it’s important for me to remember that for all the attention he will (and should) receive after winning this award for a second season in a row, he never set out to to accomplish this as his goal. He’s aspiring to something far higher than individual gains here. He’s aiming for the greater good. He’s aiming for the best for his people. And he’s just being himself the whole time he’s doing all of that.

As you finish our the year, I hope we will, too. There are too many who will benefit along the way for us to give anything less than our best.