Byron's Babbles

I Was Needed!

I love that a lot of what I do is helping teachers get better at their craft. Teaching is such a beautiful cross of science and art. Leonardo da Vinci would be having great fun if he were around helping us improve our teaching for learning today. He believed science and art were very tightly connected. This week I have had the honor and pleasure of facilitating professional development for teachers at Nashville Collegiate Prep and Knowledge Academies in Nashville, Tennessee. I have truly been inspired by this group of professionals. Every day I am excited to get the day of learning with them started.

“Change the audience, change the meaning.”

Leonardo da Vinci

On Wednesday I did a session entitled “Engagement Strategies: Teachers As Facilitators, Knowledge Navigators, and Co-Learners. At the beginning of this session I do an activity that begins with the prompt question, “What do you want students to say at the
end of the week about your facilitation?” The groups got five minutes to write everything that came to mind on Post-it® notes. This is part of a larger activity and participants get to share out after each part. I love walking around and looking as they are writing. There were literally hundreds of sticky notes being made, and I was inspired by all of them. But, one caught my eye and required my attention (the featured photo of this post).

On one of the Post-it® notes of Jamie Martineau, Kindergarten teacher at Nashville Collegiate Prep she had written four bullet points:

  • I was part of something
  • I was important or needed
  • I am a part of this class
  • We did it

I was blown away by the thought of every student feeling this way. After getting to know Jamie this week, I have no doubt that her students will feel that way. Going through school is where many of students begin learning to be part of something bigger than themselves. It’s during this time in our classes that we can help make our students feel valued as individuals. The developing personalities of our students need a strong and secure environment in order to flourish in academia. Let’s face it; our students learn more and behave better when they receive high levels of understanding, caring and genuineness.

We cannot underestimate the importance of cultivating a classroom culture in which students feel valued, respected, heard, and an important part of something. One way we can build this solid foundation for learning is to listen to our students. Fostering conversations about real world and relevant issues, topics, and problems ensures that our classrooms become places of academic inquiry and collaboration founded on a sense of fairness and mutual respect.

If a student considers their teacher to be caring and accepting, they’re more likely to adopt the academic and social values of their teacher. This, in turn, influences how students feel about their school work and how much (or how little) they value it. Here are some tips on how to make sure our students belong and are part of something:

  • prioritising high-quality teacher-student relationships
  • creating a supportive and caring learning environment
  • showing interest in students
  • trying to understand students’ point of view
  • respectful and fair treatment
  • fostering positive peer relationships and mutual respect among classmates to establish a sense of community
  • positive classroom management
  • Giving students a voice

We all want to belong. ALL of our students deserve to be an important and needed part of our school communities. We can do it!

Loving Teachers

As we close out Teacher Appreciation Week for 2021 I wanted to weigh in with my thanks and call for us all to love our teachers year round, not just a designated week. During a presentation I recorded for ASCD’s Annual Conference this week, I talked about how we needed to love our teachers if we wanted to stop losing great teachers and change the trajectory of teacher retention in a positive direction. I do not take the term “love” lightly and learned about this form of “love” from Beverly Kaye and Sharon Jordan-Evans, authors of Love ‘Em Or Lose ‘Em. To love our teachers we must be providing opportunities to grow and develop and be the best at carrying out their purpose of serving students every day. I am a former teacher and school leader who has shifted to creating and developing meaningful learning environments and transformative professional learning opportunities for educators and leaders, both in my day to day professional life, and as a citizen leader and policy maker. As a believer that everyone is a leader, we need to make sure we are doing everything possible to love our teachers, listen to their needs and desires, and honor them every day.

We have learned much about leading through a crisis during the past year. The pandemic has challenged us to be more agile in educating our children. Our teachers have met the challenge. Responding to new conditions and new data prompted us all to see school as no longer a single place. My hope is that we will double down on rethinking what success looks like in education. I also want to acknowledge the adjustments that teachers have always made every day to increase equity, access, rigor, and engagement for all students. As I write this I am reminded of the great teachers I have had over the years and continue to have. I am very fortunate to work with teachers every day and must say that I still learn from them each and every day. I was blessed to have teachers who had amnesia for the mistakes and my sometimes (okay, maybe more than sometimes) less than perfect actions. My teachers were pivotal figures in my life. They not only educated me, but set me up for a life of success.

Thank you teachers for inspiring our students to think outside the box, outside of the classroom, and into the future. We need to be guiding students toward their largest, best, life-long interests; not just the narrow obstacle course we now control. Therefore, I stand committed to showing you love by continuing to push for, advocate for, champion for, and be a cheerleader for creating space and flexibility for creativity, curiosity, and innovation you deserve.

Pathways To Quality Principals

Yesterday I had the opportunity to be part of a great National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) webinar where Susan M. Gates presented findings from research conducted by RAND Corporation. Click this recording link to view the recording of the webinar entitled Using State-Level Policy Levers to Promote Principal Quality. I was honored at the end of Susan’s presentation of the findings to, along with NASBE’s President and CEO Robert Hull, provide some thoughts, observations, and feedback.

First of all, this is such an important topic for state boards and all policymakers to contemplate. Leadership matters. The research suggested, as we might have all guessed, that there is no “one size fits all” policy that will miraculously place quality principals in all schools. Another point that came out in the research was that professional development alone is insufficient. Highly effective pre-service development must also be a part of the pathway to quality principals. As a former principal, I reflected as I was reviewing this report and was thinking about the complexity of being a principal. Ultimately, the principal is a leader of learning, but there are many parts to that. Highly effective teachers and facilitation of learning and leadership define how successful any school is. A school without a strong leader will likely fail the students it serves.

The RAND report gave us four key levers to use as policymakers. Those four levers are:

  1. Standards
  2. Licensure
  3. Program Approval
  4. Professional Development

Interestingly, four things came to mind as I was reviewing and listening to Susan’s report. Here are my thoughts, observations, and feedback:

  1. As state board members, we need to take the approval of teacher education and leadership development programs very seriously. In my own state, our department of education does a tremendous job of evaluating and providing us reports for revue prior to approval of programs. We still have an obligation to study these reports and make sure the programs meet the test of equity and excellence. We also need to make sure that any pathway to the principalship is not rewarding the person who can best meet meaningless requirements.
  2. As I listened, I wondered if there were ways to leverage the attention we are now rightly giving to teacher leadership. Teacher leaders are so important to building the capacity is schools and it seems to me we could better leverage identifying those teachers with the leadership dispositions and develop those skills. Notice I said dispositions, because many teachers are very interested in being teacher leaders but not, at least in the present-tense, being a principal. As a believer that everyone is a leader and that leadership should happen where the data is created, in this case the classroom, it makes sense we would be developing teacher leaders to make decisions that traditionally have been cascaded down to teachers. This real-time development would give teachers practical pre-service development that would be important to effective leading for learning whether a teacher or principal. I would argue that a well developed and highly effective teacher/teacher leader could be the best bet to become a high quality principal. You’ll want to check out Susan’s response to this point in the recording.
  3. Another point made was the fact that sometimes we need to look at subtraction as well as addition when formulating policy. We deal with this a lot in education where we continue to place mandates without taking anything away. We need to allow for more flexibility. Additionally, how can we more effectively use incentives or information sharing in the place of mandates?
  4. Finally, there was a suggestion in the report of finding opportunistic ways: “Be opportunistic: link principal initiatives to key state education priorities and build on related initiatives.” By doing this we might find new ways to streamline, provide flexibility, or identify those things that can be removed.

I really appreciate the research and this report. Again, it provides levers for us to consider using as policymakers as we contemplate how to better prepare and provide quality pathways for the development of our critically important principals.

Spreading The Wealth

Over the weekend a teacher leader asked me how her principal should be deciding which teachers should get development opportunities and be empowered. I said, “That’s easy; all of them should be getting those opportunities.” As I learned from Kim Scott, author of Radical Candor, everyone has potential. Everyone should have empowerment and opportunities for development. Really, our teacher leaders should all have individualized development plans. Therefore, everyone should be in development mode and be empowered to lead from where they are. Everyone is a leader, so leadership should happen whenever and from wherever it is needed. We need to be very careful to not fall in the trap of “earned empowerment.” In other words only empowering the chosen ones who someone thinks has earned it. This might yield empowering and developing 10% at best. I blogged about this in Earned Empowerment is Dangerous.

Then tonight I was reminded how important it is to have the whole team empowered and ready for action. In the first quarter of the New Orleans Saints big 38-3 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, quarterback Drew Brees had thrown completed passes to nine different receivers. At the end of the first half he had thrown completions to 12 different receivers. That is a big deal. Think about how much more successful the Saints are with that many empowered targets.

So, we probably better take a page from the Saints playbook and empower and develop everyone. Think about it; if we are able to empower all of our people with projects and responsibilities, aren’t we really expanding the capacity of our organization. Really, mass empowerment equals capacity building. This in turn means leadership development of our teams. It also allows us to tap into all of our resources and expertise, which can lead to achieving amazing results.

Great leadership is shifting from telling everyone what to do, to empowering and developing everyone to be ready to come up with the best and brightest ideas and solutions that have ever been thought of before. This will give you a receiver core for big wins like Drew Brees and the Saints.

Focused Perspective

Posted in core values, Global Leadership, Leadership, Pandemic, Teacher Leader, Teacher Leadership by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on September 30, 2020

Have you ever noticed a cat’s ability to focus like a laser on something that interests them? There is never a challenge to get them to focus, but they become oblivious to what others around them are focused on. This is one of the things I love about cats; they do not need constant attention. But, when they do, you better be prepared to give it to them because that will be their sole focus. If you’ve ever been around cats you know that when they want some affection, they will not notice that you may be focused on something else. I was watching one of our barn cats this morning sitting on a feed pan I had just moved and flipped upside down after a show heifer was done eating. He was hyper-focused on something and I could not take his attention away (see picture).

When working with developing leaders I always talk about the effective leader is focused on self, others, and the wider world. The art of being self-aware and self-managing is about being centered. This enables us to notice our thoughts and feelings, label them, reappraise things that do not serve the situation and lead forward. This centered perspective is important so that understand our own values and how those values fit in the big picture. This also determines what lens we are looking through to bring context to situations. Perspective enables a leader to clearly assess the reality of today while also envisioning what is possible for tomorrow.

We also need an empathetic perspective that has the heart to understand others and identify those who might be struggling and provided compassion. Remember, empathy plus action equals compassion. We need to give people space and permission to take care of themselves. Particularly right now, everyone is in just a little different place dealing with the pandemic. We must remember that their reality is just that, their reality. Asking those we serve what they need and then truly being prepared to help them is crucial. Just thinking through priorities and plans for action can many times do the trick. We don’t have to tell people how to do their job, but syncing frequently on priorities and plans of actions can be very supportive.

How about you? Are you so focused, like a cat, that you may be missing opportunities to focus on those around you and the wider world?

Leaders Crashing & Flying Higher

IMG_9434So what traits do great leaders have? That’s such a loaded question – different great leaders demonstrate different traits. If you ask a group of teacher leaders to select the top traits they think are important in a leader, you’ll find as many answers as you have teacher leaders. No one has ever been able to come up with a definitive list of leadership traits that everyone – or even a majority of people contemplating leadership – agrees on. This doesn’t stop me from trying however. During our August 3D Leadership gatherings I always do a discussion/activity called “Good Leader/Bad Leader: Crashing & Flying Higher.” This involves an activity where participants fly paper airplanes to each other with good leadership traits on the left wing and bad leadership traits on the right wing. They then keep adding to the lists as we fly the planes. This is really fun virtually on Zoom. Yes, you can fly paper airplanes virtually! Ultimately, their task is to develop a top five good leadership trait list and a top five bad leadership trait list,

Screen Shot 2020-09-01 at 9.29.10 AMThe exercise enables a great discussion and thought provoking debate. What we find is that each person’s list of good and bad traits is heavily dependent on her or his experience with different leaders. I get to do this activity 9 or 10 groups per year and every group’s lists are always at least a little different, but many times are very different. Things like who is leading the school, turnover of leaders, style of leadership of leaders, culture of the school, et cetera. This activity somewhat reinforces the idea that the trait theory of leadership is not the end all be all. “The trait theory of leadership focuses on identifying different personality traits and characteristics that are linked to successful leadership across a variety of situations. This line of research emerged as one of the earliest types of investigations into the nature of effective leadership and is tied to the “great man” theory of leadership first proposed by Thomas Carlyle in the mid-1800s. The idea with trait theory is that if you can identify the personality traits or characteristics a great leader has, you can look for those same traits in other leaders, or even develop those traits in people who want to be leaders.

Screen Shot 2020-09-01 at 9.29.48 AMThe differences that I see when doing the “Good Leader/Bad Leader: Crashing & Flying Higher” activity suggest that this may due to situational variables in which different leadership skills emerge when opportunities for leadership arise. These situations might include turnaround work, poor leaders in place, war, a political crisis, or in the absence of leadership. As a believer that everyone in an organization is leader, I believe that there must be adaptive leadership for many situations.

Screen Shot 2020-09-01 at 7.20.28 PMI just finished reading Robert Gates’ great new book, Exercise of Power: American Failures, Successes, and a New Path Forward in the Post-Cold War World. Having served for eight Presidents of the United States, he certainly saw different leadership styles and traits. He explained that most want to put Presidents into ascribing to idealism, realism, or transactional. As he stated, great leaders must be all three. He gives examples of Presidents being all three. In other words, to be effective, leaders must be able to adapt. When I reflect on the top five “good leader” traits that our 3D Leadership group from Tennessee came up with this past Saturday, I believe they are traits that would serve all leaders well. Here is there top five list:

  1. Listening to understand
  2. Authentic
  3. Being consistent
  4. Straight forward
  5. Relationship builder

Here of the top five “bad leader” traits causing leaders to crash, from our Tennessee teacher leaders if you are interested:

  1. Insecure
  2. Belittling
  3. Negative
  4. Leads by intimidation
  5. Doesn’t walk the talk

 

More Smithsonian Exploration

As a former Smithsonian Teacher Ambassador, I am very excited to be partnering with the Smithsonian Science Education Center (SSEC) to provide a webinar in our series of Noble Education Initiative opportunities for learning. Back in April we partnered with the Smithsonian Learning Lab and had two fantastic webinars and were able to provide outstanding resources to educators. I blogged about these webinars in Bringing The Smithsonian To You. Since then, we have continued to be asked for more from the Smithsonian Institution.

Tomorrow, May 20th, we will do just that with More Smithsonian Exploration: A Journey To The Smithsonian Science Education Center. We want educators and caregivers to join us to learn to use the resources that provide tremendous opportunities to learn with their students. The SSEC offers curriculum and digital resources that support educators and caregivers in providing authentic STEM experiences. EVERYONE is welcome and can still register here: https://m.signupgenius.com/#!/showSignUp/60b0b44a5a92ca7fe3-more.

I am really proud of this partnership to bring make this free webinar possible because of the aim of the SSEC to transform and improve the learning of science for K-12 students. Click here to view the SSEC fact sheet to learn how the world’s largest museum, education and research complex is bringing an interdisciplinary approach to education using science, history, art, and culture.

The SSEC is also providing tremendous resources and support to teachers who work with newcomers from all over the globe and English Language Learners (ELLs). Our webinar will be engaging and inquiry-based to model the strategies that are effective for effective learning with our ELL students. We will also get a first hand experience with the SSEC’s real world and relevant featured curriculum dealing with COVID-19: COVID-19! How Can I Protect Myself and Others.

Join us tomorrow and see how the Smithsonian Science Education Center is transforming science education.

Life Is A School As Well

img_8394Today, during our “best of week” of educator professional development, I repeated my webinar, “Angry Teacher 1: What Can We Learn from Angry Birds About Engaging Students?” During the webinar a teacher made the comment in one of the discussions that “Life Is A School As Well.” This comment really struck me as we were discussing student engagement and making sure we were teaching students to adapt and use concepts to solve real world challenges and issues. We really have this opportunity right now because of the COVID-19 Pandemic. We have a socio-scientific classroom at our fingertips right now that can be easily accessed virtually with our students. Our students are living this right along with us. Therefore we must consider the intersection of our students real life and education. Right now the lines are pretty blurred.

Living through this time has taught us the that “life is a school” and that “school is no longer a place.” We need to make sure and honor living as part of the educational process. Henry Adams taught us this when he said, “Your life’s journey is your education.” I blogged about this in Your Life’s Journey is Your Education. We need to remember we are preparing citizens. Part of the answer for improving education is improving the sense of calling and commitment of students to take ownership of their learning and development. Burdens can many times create blessings and we need to keep in mind that our students have lives outside of the traditional education “walls” that we see the kids. We are learning to deal with this now more than ever. We cannot take this learning lightly and must use what we have learned to guide our path forward while we are on this path with no footprints.

If we really use “life” as part of education then we need to begin to reverse engineer how we educate using fulfilled adult lives and careers in the here and now to help inform the education content and process. We are not really doing this if we are honest. Most curricula are not designed by people who have experienced world-wide success in the areas being taught. This is why I am such a believer in the need of involving business/industry as partners in education. We must break through the barriers of:

  • Teaching to deliver on, rather than change, expectations.
  • Teaching to redeploy old ideas rather than originate and ideate new ones.
  • Teaching about the dangers of originality.

These are the reasons why we get compliance instead of student engagement. Much of our education system teaches kids to be very good at being outwardly and entirely obedient. We need to provide an education where school work looks like real work and we have more than just very narrow parochial outcomes in mind. We need to be guiding students toward their largest, best, life-long interests; not just the narrow obstacle course we control. Life truly is a school as well.

Bringing The Smithsonian to You!

During the COVID-19 Pandemic and the many webinars we have been doing to support teachers as they facilitate learning virtually, I keep commenting that the Smithsonian Institution is a tremendous resource. Or, should I say, plethoras of resources and services. Then I got to thinking that if I was going to keep saying that educators needed to check out the Smithsonian, we needed to do a little “show and experience” for them. As a former Smithsonian Teacher Ambassador, I really value all the resources available for educators. So, I decided to reach out to Ashley Naranjo, Manager of Educator Engagement at the Smithsonian Learning Lab, and ask if she would be interested in doing a webinar together. She was quick and enthusiastic to respond in the affirmative. Needless to say, I was excited.

Ashley and I had a great planning session where she had great ideas for engaging webinar participants in actually navigating and using resources. In fact, she and I will be modeling an activity at the beginning – I can’t wait! As I mentioned earlier in the post, I was a Smithsonian Teacher Ambassador back in 2010 and 2011. During that ambassadorship I was talking to groups of educators and organizations about the over 1,600 Smithsonian resources available. I told Ashley this asked how many there were now; she laughed and said, “Over 5,000,000.” Boy did I feel outdated.

Bottom-line: educators won’t want to miss this free webinar. This interactive and engaging webinar will include an overview of the Smithsonian Learning Lab and how teachers can curate their own digital collections of resources across subject areas and grade levels. The great part is that educators will learn, by doing, how to use Smithsonian Education museum resources in their own teaching and learning contexts. Please join us for this journey of bringing the Smithsonian to you!

Angry Teachers 2

Today we started the second part to a great professional development webinar that I am calling Angry Teachers. The title of this webinar is “Angry Teachers 2: Interactive Lessons and Engaging Tools.” The through-line of the webinar is the game Angry Birds. At the beginning of the webinar I always say, “Everything you need to know about teaching you can learn from Angry Birds.” In Angry Teachers 2 we pondered the question, “Many people believe that learning should feel like work.” We then discussed the Finnish model of education where learning looks like play.

During the gathering, we actually play the game and we do a “design the solution” activity where the participants actually design a lesson while playing Angry Birds. At completion the groups had to answer the following:

  1. Explain your lesson’s objective(s) and standard(s) covered.
  2. Explain what teaching strategies will be used.
  3. Explain why you chose what you chose.

With over 25 groups in some of these webinars time does not allow for all groups to share out. So, I offered to the groups that if they would send me their designs I would post them in a blog. Since I’m facilitating six sessions of Angry Teachers 2, I will add to this after each session. So keep coming back to check it out for the next week or so. Here is what has been sent in as of 04/28/2020:

Group 7 (04/28/2020

7th Grade Geometry

Essential Question: What is the right angle and trajectory to hit the correct structure(pig)
Standard- MAFS.7.G.2.5- Facts about angles multi step problems…
With this play the students could feel the difference among some angles, acute obtuse, right, straight and their effect on the game and which angle will be most appropriate.

Group 4 (04/23/2020)

  • Small groups based off of levels (scaffolding of groups with high, medium, low in reading and math)
  • Social and Emotional (ok to make mistakes, but we have to learn from them our next chance and how to recover from failure)
  • Rewards chart (every so many levels gained, trip to treasure box on Friday’s)
  • Balance of wanting to play, but must get work done first
  • I Do (model on board, discuss elements), You Do (choose children to go to board and take 1 turn), We Do (small group break up)
  • Respect (each bird is a different shape and size, but have their personal strengths, so they work together as a team for best practice of the task ahead of them)
  • Build on lessons taught (can go back and retry lessons to practice a skill needed in level)
  • Feedback (given as an OREO method (GLOW, GROW, GLOW))
  • Include cross curricular ideas
  • Rigor (levels get harder the further you get, so have to use critical thinking skills)
  • Incorporate the 4 C’s (collaboration with group, critical thinking of what to do next, creativity to beat the level with what birds are given, and communication amongst group members to help those struggling succeed)

Group 5 (04/23/2020)

This group made a great Doodly® of what their lesson would be. Check this out:↓

Doodly® created by Dawn Eibel of Manatee Charter School in Bradenton, FL

Group 11(04/23/2020)

Objectives/Standards:
  • characterization
  • social-emotional: anger/empathy/hidden feelings, etc
  • compare/contrast video game with movie segments
  • mapping/sequencing/ordering (steps to get most boxes, etc)
  • groupings of characters by traits
  • writing a backstory event for a character – a childhood moment, embarrassing situation, etc
  • LOTS of writing: setting, events, characters, develop themes or moral of story
Strategies:
Include groups/partners, sharing out, gallery walks, art representation, comic/storyboard, etc
We chose these objectives and strategies because they
were an EASY, NATURAL fit!  🙂
Group 16 (04/23/2020)

Our objective had to do with a 3rd grade standard of sequencing order of events.  The objective specifically stated that SWBAT provide a sequence of events in order for each level of the Angry Birds game that they have gotten through.

This quickly turned into what we said could eventually be a “strategy guide” of sorts that the students could collaborate on because we don’t do work just for ourselves but we are creating for the world to see and consume.  An extension activity that we thought would be beneficial is if the students could do a STEAM ativity to where, over time, they create a real world Angry Birds level to test out different scientific principles.

On a personal and professional note I have enjoyed your PD’s so much because I’ve been a proponent of looking at different mediums to promote  and incorporate into education.  I actually started a You Tube Channel for parents that covers different pop culture references and relates it back to education.  If you have any amount of time please check it out.  www.youtube.com/c/jeremywhiteeducation (It’s called LIFT Tutoring)

I hope your blog post for this specific idea of incorporating Angry Birds into the classroom is beneficial to a lot of educators as we continue to rethink what education is, especially during this time of remote learning.