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:

What-are-the-strengths (1)

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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My Dream for #dcsdpln

First here’s why I am sharing this.

I am so lucky to work with an inspiring group of women who talk about teaching and learning.  In several conversations, we talked about a hashtag for our district and the learning that occurs in our school whether it is by the students, parents or educators.  We did all the proper research.  We did try several on for size.  #dcsdtlcs or #dcsdtilt Both of these proved to be too narrow and it only a small part of the learning that is occurring.  So we decide to go with #dcsdpln.


What have we tweeted about:

My hope is that more and more educators in my district share their learning and the student learning that is occurring daily.  I want it to be a resource for teachers.  I want to create opportunities for collaboration locally and globally.  I want it to inspire and engage us.   I want it to create options for differentiated PD when we are available.

The exciting thing is this hashtag like all hashtags is not mine or the team’s.  Actually, it’s everybody’s.  Everyone in my district can help shape what the conversation is going to be about.  I can’t wait to see how things develop.

Feel free to follow along or even better join in.

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My #oneword update

This post was inspired by this tweet.

[On a side note, everyone should follow Sue Dunlop for two reasons: 1. She reads, comments and shares a ton of good blog posts.  2. She also writes a brilliant blog.]

So 2015 is over half-way over.  I did join the one word movement.  I chose Presence to be my one word.  You can read about why here.

Words added on

I see a huge change in my personal life.  I feel I have held true to I have been present at my son’s t-ball, watching my two kids climb, listening to my husband.  I find myself shutting off the next step and just enjoying my time with my family.  My worst fears were not realized.  The house did not follow down around us.  The children are still happy.  Actually more things were accomplished because I was not distracted.

I still have a ways to go.  I did succumb and bought a smartphone.  I find that I am quick to ask Siri a question instead of letting it go.  I also annoy my husband because when I check the weather here.  I give him the run down on the weather in other cities.  I will attempt to treat it like my old phone.

Now professionally, I am not there yet, but I know when I get busy and feel like my mind is racing and wandering I can take several deep breaths while focusing on the word.  It tends to solve the problem.  I also know that I had moments of greatness.  I think of the times I was in the classroom reading or working with children.  I was there with the students.  As my position changes, I know I will have to figure ways to continue to be present in the moment and enjoy it.

As I reflect back, here my action steps for the second half of the year:

  • Put down the smartphone.  I do not need to Google everything or check Twitter and Facebook.
  • When my mind starts to race, I will write down my to-dos to keep them organized.
  • I step away from tech when it distracts me from the conversation.

Thanks again Sue for tweeting brilliance!  And thanks to Donna Miller Frye for the great blog post.  So where are you on your #oneword?

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My road block-ME!

Exactly 13 days ago, I wrote my last post.  I have had many experience that were “blog worthy.” I went to EdCamp leadership in St. Louis and came to an epiphany about myself.  I went a conference where I heard the author of Influencers speak. I traveled with my family and watched my son step out of his comfort zone.  I participated in a powerful think tank about digital learning in my district.  Why didn’t they get written? What stopped me?

I was tired.  I was busy working.  I’ll do it tomorrow.  I am traveling.  I am sure no wants to read about it anyway.  I have other things to do right now.  Just for the record, I hate excuses.  If I did this for others, then I would have apologized.  Instead I gave myself excuses.

I’ll tell you the world has a way of bringing a series of things to help me see the light.  First I started reading The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles. It is broke into three sections. First about the road block to creativity, an action plan and finally when creativity hits.  I find myself quoting it to my dear sweet husband.  He knows I really enjoy a book when I constantly interrupt his reading.


I also heard a speaker speak yesterday about busy and how it is the status quo.  If continue to say I’ll do it when I have time, then there will never be time.  She also talked about forcing time to be in a quiet reflective place.  She told us when she didn’t do that she became grouchy or out of sorts.

I had a conversation with a friend  about how she really thinks that writing is great way to process and reflect.  We also talked about the blogging process.

Altogether, these experiences reminded me that I need to commit to blogging.  I think of my April, when I committed to blogging daily during an extremely busy part of the year.  I felt grounded albeit tired.  I am entering another busy period with the start of school, so I will need to process and think about my experiences.

So, I am telling you that I will commit to writing 25 posts by August 25th.  I will commit to spending time every night writing.  Does this scare me?  Heck YES! but I will do it.  I know that it what I need to do.  I am going “Pro” in blogging.


Confession Time

First confession: I did not read Mindset by Carol Dweck, PH. D. until last week.  Yes, I know it came out over nine years ago.   I can’t give you a reason why it has not been on my list until now.  I am glad I read it, but I came to an awful realization which leads me my second confession.


Second Confession: As I read the book, I came to realize I do not have a growth mindset, yet.  This isn’t to say that I didn’t praise students and my children for effort and work ethic. I’ve always believed that intelligence is flexible.  I like to believe that I help nurture the growth mindset in others.

As I was reading the book as they described the fixed mindset person.  I felt like Carol knew me personally.  (Yes, I know I should call her Dr. Dweck, but it’s like she was reading my grade school diary.)  I was that student who everything came easy.  My identity was the smart one.  High school was a rude awakening.  I went to a school where everyone was the smart one at their old school.  I coped by not trying and procrastinating.  My B average was good, but I always said I could have done better if I tried.  This attitude continued through college.

I did figure out that hard work should pay off so I work hard.  Unfortunately it took me a while to figure out what happens when it doesn’t pay off.  It rocks my world.  I can describe the time I worked out hard, ate right and the scale did not budge.  Ben and Jerry’s became a close friend for a portion of time.  I have many other examples of this sort of behavior. I’d like to think I am getting better at when things don’t work out.  I use my analytical skills and create a plan B or C.

Here’s my last step to changing my mindset is my conversation with myself.  I judge myself.  I blame myself for setbacks.  My self talk is appalling.  I would not tolerate anyone to talk to me the way I talk to myself.  I can guarantee that some of the things I judge myself on, no one even notices.  I make assumptions that everyone else is noticing that the copy is not perfectly straight or I gained a little weight.

So yes…I may not have completely shifted my mindset YET, but it is coming.  I will be brave and begin to not judge myself so harshly.  The reasons to embrace this mindset is many.  I ask teachers every day to open their classrooms to other teachers to grow and learn.  I want student to see that the outcome is not fixed, but they have the opportunity to grow everyday.  I want my children to not be afraid of mistakes.  In order to accomplish any of these things.  I need to change my mindset.