The Real Lesson

I have been traveling and working with various PD presenters this summer.  Most have been wonderful and gracious-willing to answer my questions give of themselves during lunch and at breaks. This is not a story about them instead it is about the other one.  The story I am about to tell is not about the person, but about me and my reaction.  To quote Dragnet: “The story you are about to hear is true. Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent.” 

I was so excited to get to work with this particular person.  I googled Gabe and knew I was going to learn so much from him.  When I came in the morning to help set up, I reviewed the request to make sure everything was done just right.  Then Gabe got on his phone as everything else was getting set up.   I learned so much as he talked.  I was amazed.

When Gabe gave us work time, he did not leave his podium.  Gabe spent the time checking his phone.  During the lunch break, we had set up some our teacher leaders to meet with Gabe and hopefully learn from him.  As we let him know where we would be eating lunch, Gabe said he needed some downtime.  When Gabe came to lunch, he only answered questions and really didn’t interact with us.  I off-hand mentioned that I wrote something similar to what I heard.  I felt completely blown off by Gabe’s reaction.

Originally, when asked what I thought of Gabe’s PD.  I spoke highly of the PD and then added a BUT.  I thought he was a snob.

A couple of days later, I was setting up for another PD.  I hear someone call out my name.  I didn’t recognize the person, she identified herself as someone I went to college with.  I had seen in over 15 years.  I talked quickly, but really blew her off. I was busy.  I needed to accomplish this task.

As I put these two interactions together, I realize that I was quick to judge Gabe and his behavior.  I quickly went to a moral failing on his part, but I did the exact same behavior.  I went straight to blaming the circumstances instead of a moral fault of my own.

Why did Gabe behave that way?  So I did what we all need to do is put myself in his shoes.  I know that summer is brutal for PD presenters.  This is the time when they travel the most because at least you don’t have to pay for guest teachers.  Also school is out, so this road warrior may not be at home to help lift the load.  This alone could explain it.  Also he could have had to still respond to work as he was away or family emergency was occurring.  When I did this, I realized that Gabe is probably not a snob.

I wonder if the my college classmate assumed what I assumed about Gabe or did she empathized with me and gave me the benefit of the doubt.

So my take-aways:

  1. Empathize-Don’t assume that bad behavior is the result of “bad moral compass.”  More often than not something else is at work.  I need to assume good intentions.
  2. Communicate-When a person approaches me during these busy times, give them the respect-listen.  If I am not able to, make sure the person knows why I am not able to.  If I don’t share my voice, then others will fill the silence with their assumptions.
  3. Be Kind-If I get the chance to do something like Gabe, be gracious and enthusiastic.


So if you are reading this Gabe, I hope you are not offended.  Thank you for teaching me so many lessons that day.  I will work on applying them in my life.

My college class mate will be getting an e-mail from me tomorrow to tell how excited that we are working in the same district and I look forward to seeing her around.

Thank you, Sean encouraging me to blog about it.  Thank you Andy for listening to me and talking me through this.


Dear Danny-My Hopes for You

My son enters kindergarten in a week. It feels like yesterday that held him as newborn. As I wrote this, I thought of all of the other children who will be entering school with him this year.  The hopes for my son are my hopes for all the new students entering school this year.

Dear Danny,

I can’t believe that you are heading to kindergarten soon.  I am amazed how much you have learned since you were born. I remember you getting excited about learning letters and names of things.  As a teacher, I know so much about school and so I thought I’d let know about my hopes and dreams for you in these next 13 years.

I hope you are inspired to try something new daily.  I hope that you learn how to work hard and play hard.  I hope you laugh and have fun at school.  I hope that you look forward to Monday as much as I do.

I want you to learn how to work with others and by yourself.  I want you to struggle and learn how to handle the struggle.  I hope you read books that inspire you.  I hope that some of them are so good that you reread them in adulthood.  I dream that you do things that stick with you into adulthood.  I dream that you interact with the world while still in your classroom.

I dream that you have teachers that stay with you even years after you have left their class.  I want you to say to me, “Miss/Mr. ______ says….”  I want you to accidentally call them mom or dad because you know that they love so much.  I want you to see teachers give everyone a fresh start the next day, so that you give yourself permission to give yourself a fresh start when things don’t work out.

I want you to learn how to learn.  I hope you grow to be confident and brave.  I hope you continue to create.  I dream that you will be able to identify a problem and figure a possible solution.  I dream that you are humble enough to know that your solution is not the only way.  I want you develop patience with others who learn faster or slower than you.

Danny, notice very little in here is about content you will learn in the next 13 years.  Here’s my secret to you: school is place where you learn how to learn, grow and create.  So my little man grow, create and learn because I know great things are headed your way.


Your Mom

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My Why for Teacher Leadership

This week I have been helping provide PD to the teacher leaders.  I have been asking about their why.  You can read about it here.  I was encouraging them to find their why and begin to communicate it to others.  I need to crystallize my thinking and begin to make sure that my actions communicate my why.


I believe in the power of teacher.  Teachers inspire.  Teachers create the love of learning in others.  Teachers change lives daily.

Just like a superstar athletes, teachers deserve a coach.  Teaching is an important skill.  We deserve a person to help us enhance our teaching.  We need make sure that teachers are aware of the great things they do in the classroom that leads to student learning.  So often we have developed great habits that create learning, but we forget that it may not be a habit of all teachers.

Teachers also need a space to reflect on their teaching practice. A coach can help lead a teacher through a reflective process. When teachers discover what they need to do to enhance learning, with support they are much more likely to act on it. We need a fan club to help step out of our comfort zone and grow.

My why for the Teacher Leadership system designed my district created is that it creates a common language for all teachers.  A preschool teacher and high school physics can talk about the art and science of teaching together.  It may look different, but they are doing the same thing.   I believe that teachers in my district are strong and are doing amazing things to grow students.  With support, students will only grow more and teachers will have a greater passion about teaching.

Go with the flow…

This morning war rough. I was presenting PD to a new group form the day before.  My partner the previous 2 days had to be elsewhere today.  I wore brown shoes with a black skirt.  My computer did not have the right output to hook-up to presentation.  My computers would play my videos.  The sound wouldn’t work.  All of this before 7:30.

At 8ish, I began my PD being shaky and uncomfortable.  I gave unclear directions.  I didn’t get into the zone as I usually do.  I felt that I was on my A game.

Or so I thought.  I was sorting through the teacher’s take-away.  When I started to group them, I felt so much better.  One of the biggest stacks was the first thing we did.

We watched:

Then we thought about our why for teacher leadership in our district or you own why.  We used a consensus map to agree on common language about why.

Here are two of my favorites:

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I believe that this activity resonated with everyone because so often we are told what and how, but not often enough why.  A great one take-away is that: “I need to help teachers find their why.”

I was inspired to write about this part of my day by my friend Sean’s post.

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Be Brave

I did something really scary, but important.  I asked for feedback about my pre-coaching visit from a room of teachers.

Let me set the background.  Today was day 1 of training a group of Lead Teachers.  This group was there first time back from vacation and my first time with the group.  As a group we watched a video of me meeting with a teacher before I was going to go into her room to watch her teach.  I had taped it two different ways-A To-Do and Not To-Do.  As we watched the video, I was uncomfortable.  Be proud readers I did not have too much negative self talk. I made my own list of improvements.  I also found it was easier to watch the bad example because I wasn’t supposed to be good.

So I asked these two questions after I shared my video:

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It was wonderful to listen to the feedback the teacher leaders gave.  I will reflect on the feedback and improve my coaching technique.

Why did I open myself up this way?  I believe that I need to grow as a coach.  I have not nor will I master coaching.  With that in mind, I need to be transparent about my learning.  I am learning right with my team.  I also let the teachers know more about my mind-set.  If you want others to take a risk, then model what it looks like.

So, be brave.

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Kitty Cat and Risk-taking

Bedtime was going to be easy because Danny had his pajamas on, picked out his story and was completely ready for bed.  We went to snuggle into bed.  Then he realized that Kitty Cat was missing.  He and I checked his room.  We didn’t panic.  I checked the basement.  Kitty Cat was not there.  We interrupted his sister’s bedtime routine to see if it was there.  Soon the whole house was looking for Danny’s Kitty Cat.


Yes, bedtime was interrupted for this stuffed animal.  Soon, Danny was holding my hand tight and holding back tears because he thought that Kitty Cat was lost.  Finally, I told Danny to lay down.   He was so nervous about going to sleep that he needed the lamp on.  I then slowly walked around the house and Kitty Cat was found.  I handed him to Danny and a sense of calm came over him.  We finished up bedtime and Danny and Kitty Cat went to sleep quickly.

The whole incident surprised me. Danny looks, talks, and acts so big.  He spent the day actively helping.  It reminded me that he really isn’t as big I think he is.  I made assumptions about him and where he is at.

This assumption with Danny also happens in the classroom.  I think about some of the kids who are bigger that are assumed to be more mature or the student has a big vocabulary so we speak to them differently.  We need to realize that sometimes that a child may appear ready for the next step, but they still need some supports.

How about teachers?  Sometimes we are ready to take the next step, but we are afraid. Fear can paralyze a person to act.   We need a support system to take risks.  Just like my son needs Kitty Cat, we need a friend on our side.  This really is a wonderful time to find a support system.  In schools, teachers have data teams, PLCs or another structure to work in small groups.  We also have a wide variety of ways to connect to educators including Twitter.  When I am nervous about taking a risk, I reach out and it helps me feel brave.

IMG_0880Sometimes a friend is all we need to feel brave a take a risk.

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