Teaching Students Executive Functioning Skills with Mitch Weathers, Leading Better and Growing Faster with Joe and T.J.

Teaching Students Executive Functioning Skills with Mitch Weathers, Leading Better and Growing Faster with Joe and T.J.

Mitch Weathers Joins Joe & T.J. 

Mitch became a gifted teacher because he was a mediocre student. He rarely felt comfortable in the classroom. In fact, it took him 7 years for him to graduate from college.

Choosing to become a teacher, Mitch was fortunate enough to experience school as if it was happening all around him. He was unsure how to jump into his learning with confidence. There is a loneliness to experiencing your education as a passive object as opposed to an active subject. 

From the moment he entered the classroom, Mitch relied on his personal experiences as a learner. He recognized that what we teach, the content or curriculum is secondary. We must first lay the foundation for learning before we can get to teach. In fact, unless students develop a solid foundation for learning it does not matter how great your teachers deliver content, or how emergent the technology, or even how engaging a lesson might be. 

Mitch designed Organized Binder to empower teachers with a simple but research-backed strategy to teach students executive functioning skills while protecting the time needed for content instruction. The secret is found in establishing a predictable learning routine that serves to foster safer learning spaces. When students get practice with executive functions by virtue we set them up for success.

What You’ll Find in this Podcast Episode with Mitch Weathers

Mitch starts this episode with a clear definition of executive functioning, including debunking the myth that it’s only for special education students. 

He says that executive functioning skills is an umbrella term with a bunch of other skills working toward executive functioning.

Mitch is surprised that more people aren’t talking about executive functioning because it’s so foundational for how students learn. 

We can’t just focus on what students learn, we need to teach them how to learn. This results not just a bump in their grades but a big boost to their confidence. 

Joe asked a very poignant question: why don’t we teach executive functioning skills, making our life as teachers even harder than it needs to be? Here is what Mitch says about time and Zone of Genius.

How are executive functioning skills best learned?  Modeling and deliberate practice in a safe space. 

T.J. brings up the point that executive functioning skills have to be part of our equity work. If EF helps to level the playing field for all students, they need to be embedded in our equity plans. 

One key to helping students develop executive functioning skills is to have very predictable routines in the classroom. Mitch talked about the fact that consistency is a huge factor in students’ ability to learn. 

Joe asks Mitch to outline how he teaches teachers to help students with these skills. Mitch mentions that a school-wide approach is important. Listen to what he says about shared learning routines. 

Don’t miss Mitch’s five-part series on executive functioning skills, which is totally free.  

The tenets of executive functioning: clarity, routine, and modeling.

It was a lot of fun to hear Mitch talk about “working memory” and how teachers can learn to use students’ working memory through routines at the beginning and end of every classroom period. 

Don’t miss the discussion on what good instruction looks like!

  • Success criteria
  • Clear goals
  • Structured reflection

Mitch brings up Marzano and the importance of exposing students to concepts multiple times. 

The Leading Better & Growing Faster with Joe & T.J. Show

Let us know if there’s a guest who you want us to have on the show by leaving a comment below or by contacting us at contact@theschoolhouse302.com. And don’t miss our leadership content updates every week by subscribing on the site. You appreciate a like, comment, follow, or share. And, if you’re reading our books, please rate them on Amazon

 

We can’t wait to hear from you. 

 

Joe & T.J.

Why Every School Leader Needs To Use A Beginner’s Mindset When Solving Perennial Problems – Leading Better and Growing Faster with Joe and T.J.

Why Every School Leader Needs To Use A Beginner’s Mindset When Solving Perennial Problems – Leading Better and Growing Faster with Joe and T.J.

In our most recent book, 7 Mindshifts for School Leaders: Finding New Ways to Think About Old Problems, we introduce 7 Mindshifts that principals and other school leaders can use to solve problems that are constantly plaguing our schools. It’s important that not every problem requires these shifts, but rather those that are important, persistent, and urgent. When a problem is IPU, we use our first mind shift, A Crisis Mindset. 

Take a moment and think of a problem that you are facing and compare it to the chart by answering the questions in the third column to see if it meets the IPU threshold. 

Important Fundamentally impacts teaching and learningHow does it impact teaching and learning?
Persistent Ongoing, complex, with long-term implicationsHow long has the issue been a problem? 
UrgentTime-sensitive, needs immediate attention and requires skillful resolveWhy does it require immediate attention?

In this episode, Joe and T.J. explore what it really means to use a Beginner’s Mindset when solving a problem. It’s hard to accept, but our experience can prevent us from seeing solutions. Joe and T.J. were first introduced to this concept when they interviewed the late Richard Elmore on what it means to be a learning leader

Key Points from Joe & T.J. About Using a Beginner’s Mind

  • The Beginner’s Mindset sheds preconceived ideas and thoughts on what should be done. 
  • Our own expertise can get in the way of seeing ideas and opportunities.
  • Look to great business examples like Sarah Blakely of Spanx who sought to solve a problem she was facing as a real estate agent. Who would have thought she would have revolutionized shapewear? 
  • The Spaghetti Tower activity says it all.

Each mind shift in the book is equipped with a model to help school leaders navigate the process of analyzing a problem and finding new solutions. The Beginner’s Mindset Model is designed to ignite the childlike mind needed to see new possibilities and dream new realities. 

As we wrap up, take a moment and think back to the problem that you identified using IPU filter:

  • Based on the problem you identified, is the team’s expertise working for or against them? 
  • How could you incorporate more diverse perspectives when discovering information about the problem? 
  • Who do you know who knows nothing about the problem who you could consult for different thinking? 

We hope you enjoy this book to lead better and grow faster as school leaders. We always appreciate a like, a follow, a comment, or a share. And, if you’re on Amazon, please rate it.

Let us know what you’re reading by contacting us at contact@theschoolhouse302.com. And don’t miss our leadership newsletter every week by subscribing to the site. 

 

We can’t wait to hear from you. 

 

Joe & T.J.

Why Every School Leader Needs To Use A Beginner’s Mindset When Solving Perennial Problems – Leading Better and Growing Faster with Joe and T.J.

The One Book that School Leaders Should Read to Attack Persistent Problems in Education – Leading Better and Growing Faster with Joe and T.J.

Joe and T.J. Recommend that School Leaders Read 7 Mindshifts for School Leaders: Finding New Ways to Think About Old Problems

We want to share some of our favorite aspects of our newest book, 7 Mindshifts for School Leaders: Finding New Ways to Think About Old Problems. Written with our co-author, Connie Hamilton, this book calls into question some of the problems with our Educational Industrial Complex, problems that have persisted for too long, and the mind shifts that it will take to truly challenge the status quo. It’s for any school leader who wants better outcomes for all students. If you’re fine with the way things are, it’s not for you. 

Consider a problem, which is frankly too common: poor attendance. Lots of students miss days here and there rather than stringing them together with an obvious and long absence. The problem is that a student who misses a couple of days in September is likely to miss a whole month of school by the end of the year. Think of the type of impact that this kind of poor attendance has on student performance, socialization, reading proficiency, and a host of other things. We might otherwise not even catch the problem, and when we do, we often don’t have models for examining and fixing the problem. 

A nuance here is that attendance is not always on the radar screen. Picture a school that is uber-focused on elevating reading proficiency. This could be a costly mistake, spending money and time on reading resources when the problem isn’t the reading program but rather student attendance rates. Maybe if students were in school for a great percentage of the days that school is in session they would have better reading proficiency scores. That’s why this book is so powerful. We introduce 7 models that can be used with your teams to help examine problems in a new light.  

In this episode of Leading Better & Growing Faster with Joe and T.J., we feature two of our favorite models from the book. Joe describes the Octopus Approach and how it can be used to help make sure that the many variables associated with an issue are brought to the table before a decision is made. This model is designed for implementing systems thinking in your school.   

T.J. covers a second model called, Disciplined Tunnel Vision. Having tunnel vision can be seen as a negative response, but there is a need at times for an all-out, complete-and-utter, focus on an issue for it to be solved. T.J. discusses our six-part practical change model that schools can use from developing a vision for a change all the way to the creation of a specific model for what that change looks like in practice. The first three steps are common, but that’s only 50% of what will get you to the implementation of something new in your school.  

Enjoy this book to lead better and grow faster as school leaders. We always appreciate a like, a follow, a comment, or a share. And, if you like this new book, please rate it on Amazon. It helps. 

Let us know what you’re reading by contacting us at contact@theschoolhouse302.com. And don’t miss our leadership newsletter every week by subscribing to the site. 

We can’t wait to hear from you. 

Joe & T.J.

Amplifying Student Voice with Paul Bloomberg – Leading Better and Growing Faster with Joe and T.J.

Amplifying Student Voice with Paul Bloomberg – Leading Better and Growing Faster with Joe and T.J.

Our job is to make the learner’s thinking visible. ~ Paul Bloomberg 

About Paul Bloomberg

Dr. Paul Bloomberg is the Founder and CEO of The Core Collaborative Learning Network based in San Diego, CA, and New York City. The mission of the Core Collaborative Learning Network is to expand learner ownership and agency by building a culture of belonging and efficacy through collaborative inquiry. The Core Collaborative defines “learner” as ALL the people in a system who partner with students. The Core Collaborative strives to cultivate learners who embody empathy, open-mindedness, patience, and perseverance and who use their energy and expertise to make a positive impact in the world we share with others.

Dr. Bloomberg is the co-author of the best-selling book, Leading Impact Teams: Building a Culture of Efficacy, and a lead author of Peer Power! Unite, Learn and Prosper: Activate an Assessment Revolution through Mimi and Todd Press and a lead author on The EmpowerED Learner eToolkit. Paul has led multiple, successful school turn-around efforts and believes that public education must play a major role in deconstructing systems of oppression.

His new book, which we talk about in this episode, is called Amplify Learner Voice through Culturally Responsive and Sustaining Assessment

Paul served on the National Parents Union Board of Directors. The National Parents Union is a network of highly effective parent organizations and grassroots activists across the country that is united behind a set of common goals and principles to channel the power of parents.

Paul lives with his husband, Tony, in California. Alex and Taylor, Tony and Paul’s sons, are the inspiration for launching the Core Collaborative in 2014.

Paul starts with the concept of systems. He talks about how some schools are thriving more than others and what we need to do to re-think formative assessment through a cultural lens. 

What You’ll Find in this Podcast Episode with Paul Bloomberg 

Paul starts with a vital aspect of how all educators can effectively engage students, Culturally Responsive-Sustaining Education (CRSE). This is about changing what we do to meet students’ needs through culturally responsive formative assessments. 

We dive into the conversation about assessments and the cross-section between traditional grading and equity. None of us can answer the question about why more schools aren’t moving to more culturally responsive grading? 

There is power in interviewing students. Listen to what can shock teachers into creating a different type of learner-focused environment. 

Don’t miss what Paul says about the textbook industry: “I can’t do it anymore” applied to cover all the concepts that we’re giving in our content areas. 

Paul mentions Dr. Allen Daly as his mentor. The social justice focus of his doctoral program left a mark that he uses in all of his work today. 

Paul talks about “active listening” and reflecting back on what people are saying and feeling as a super-tool for leadership, teaching, and for learning. 

Paul talked about wanting to learn how to be a restorative practitioner. His answer is heartfelt

  1. Reframe negative thinking 
  2. Wake up and be optimistic 
  3. Treat people with dignity

T.J. mentions the wisdom from Tiny Habits by BJ Fogg that links to #1 above. 

He talks about The Science of Happiness Podcast as a learning and growth strategy for himself. 

Paul answered the last question with something he learned from Omar Mercado: a trigger is your own responsibility, not that of others, even the people who trigger you. 

Let us know if there’s a guest who you want us to have on the show by leaving a comment below or by contacting us at contact@theschoolhouse302.com. And don’t miss our leadership content updates every week by subscribing to the site. 

We can’t wait to hear from you. 

Joe & T.J.

Thanks for listening to FocusED, an educational leadership podcast brought to you by TheSchoolHouse302 @ theschoolhouse302.com where we publish free leadership content. Go to the site, subscribe, and you’ll get all of our content sent directly to your email. 

 

FocusED is your educational leadership podcast where our mission is to dissect a particular focus for teachers and school leaders so that you can learn to lead better and grow faster in your school or district with more knowledge, better understanding, and clear direction on what to do next.

Season 4, Episode 6 of the FocusED School Leadership Podcast with Christine Ravesi-Weinstein

Season 4, Episode 6 of the FocusED School Leadership Podcast with Christine Ravesi-Weinstein

Christine Ravesi-Weinstein Joins FocusED to Discuss How School Leaders can Disrupt the Status Quo…and Much More 

This is Season 4, Episode 6 of FocusED, featuring our guest, Christine Ravesi-Weinstein. It was originally recorded live for a studio audience in Delaware, and provided as a professional development experience in collaboration with the Delaware Department of Education, the Delaware Academy for School Leadership, and The School House 302. Don’t miss what Christine says about school leadership and how we must Disrupt the Status Quo in our schools…and so much more.

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Christine Ravesi-Weinstein Brings Tons of Experience to FocusED Listeners

Christine Ravesi-Weinstein serves as a high school Assistant Principal in Massachusetts and previously worked as a high school science department chair for four years as well as a classroom teacher for 15. Diagnosed with anxiety and depression at 23, Christine began her journey toward mental wellness. She began a non-profit organization in June of 2017 aimed at removing the stigma of mental illness and promoting physical activity as a means to cope with anxiety.

As an avid writer and educator, Christine became passionate about bridging the two with her advocacy for mental health. Since March 2019, she has had numerous nationally published articles, including the number one most-read article of 2019 on eSchool News (she also had the number six and eight most-read articles in that year). She has also published articles with District Administration, the Teach Better Team, Tech & Learning, and SmartBrief.  

Not only is she a highly sought-after speaker, but Christine is also a MASCD Board Member, and author of the books Anxious (by Times 10 Publications), Fighting Your Inner Voice, and Disrupt the Status Quo (both by Code Breaker, Inc.). 

Follow her work on Twitter @RavesiWeinstein and on YouTube at The Runner’s High

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FocusED Show Notes with Christine Ravesi-Weinstein  

Christine and her co-authors focused on the four areas of the book because everything fell into those four categories, including culture. 

Joe asked Christine to dive deeper into the conversation about positive toxicity. 

Don’t miss what she says about perspective building. 

Christine talks to us about listening strategies and hearing what others have to say. 

The seed of toxicity is the parking lot conversation that’s not productive for anyone. 

It’s the million decisions that we have to make in a day that prevent us from listening. ~ Christine Ravesi-Weinstein 

Sometimes the reason for our lack of failure is that we forget what the goal is. 

Don’t miss what Christine says about the power of face-to-face conversations. 

Christine wants to eliminate numerical grading to improve the student experience. She believes that this can change the SEL landscape for kids. 

You have to hear what she says about Jim Hensen. 

Christine shared that she reads a lot of books about running. 

She mentions Edutopia and Code Breaker as places to go for leading and learning. 

Thanks for listening to FocusED, an educational leadership podcast brought to you by TheSchoolHouse302 @ theschoolhouse302.com where we publish free leadership content. Go to the site, subscribe, and you’ll get all of our content sent directly to your email. 

 

FocusED is your educational leadership podcast where our mission is to dissect a particular focus for teachers and school leaders so that you can learn to lead better and grow faster in your school or district with more knowledge, better understanding, and clear direction on what to do next.

A School Leader’s Guide to Systems Thinking: Using the LIST Model to Solve Problems

A School Leader’s Guide to Systems Thinking: Using the LIST Model to Solve Problems

Systems Check

There she was–angry, frustrated, scared, and thankful all at the same time. The emotions ran together as she stared at her blown-out tire on the side of the highway. Now that she was safe, and the car was on the side of the road, she was angrier than anything–angry at herself for not taking care of the issue when she first noticed it. For weeks now, she felt how the car was pulling to the right more and more, and she sensed that her wheel alignment needed correction ever since she hit that massive pothole after the snow melted away. 

But, it was easily ignored with a little adjustment to how she held the steering wheel, and her work got in the way of what she knew was the need for a systems check and tune-up. Even though she knew that she was compensating for the alignment being off, she never realized the wear-and-tear it was causing on the tires or the potential harm she was putting herself in by ignoring the issue. Stuck on the side of a major interstate, she could kick herself for thinking that she was too busy to address what she knew was an issue, and now her situation is much much worse.  

Aligning Systems 

Alignment is critical to overall efficiency, and it impacts the performance of the car. More importantly, it is part of a network of critical components of a vehicle that allows it to function properly. Schools, businesses, and other organizations are really no different. They are made up of many parts that all serve specific and necessary functions, and if one part is misaligned, the entire organization will suffer. The challenge is to identify the parts that aren’t functioning properly, understand the context of the misalignment, and pursue a solution that will be sustainable. As such, school leaders need to be able to align systems and take notes when they’re not. 

Kirsch, Bildner, and Walker tell HBR readers that for solutions to organizational issues to work, “systems entrepreneurs must have a deep understanding of the system or systems they are trying to change and all the factors that shape it.” In other words, leaders need a deep understanding of their systems to implement new solutions to problems that may, in fact, be caused by the system itself. One such system, with all its facets, policies, and engrained practices, is our school system. From federal policies to state departments to local school districts and even school reform specialists, systems thinking is needed for any substantial changes to be made, especially when problems are age-old and persistent

The problem is that leaders often make four critical mistakes: 1. Implementing solutions before we truly understand the problem, lacking the discipline for learning within the system before looking for solutions; 2. Treating the multitude of symptoms rather than taking a holistic approach to the problem; 3. Mandating wholesale general solutions for unique situations before gaining an understanding of the context; and 4. Making rash decisions that ultimately won’t make sense to the people who matter most. It’s why we developed a new model for school leaders who want to use a systems-thinking approach, but first, let’s define “systems thinking” for school leaders. 

What is Systems Thinking

Systems thinking is defined in a number of ways, but the essence of the notion is that systems thinkers bring together the complex parts of a whole so that sense is made regarding how each part is interrelated. The idea is mostly applied to problem-solving in terms of understanding the larger context before applying a new theory of action. Systems thinking is used in teams so that leaders build a unified perspective before moving to problem-solving whereby everyone might otherwise have a unique perspective of the problem. 

Not using systems thinking as a leader compounds issues because the dynamics and complexities are misunderstood or the team doesn’t have a common vocabulary or there is a lack of discipline with learning (both individually and together). Without systems thinking, the solutions proposed will likely be misaligned to the actual problems at hand. And, the larger the system, the more important it is to have a thinking strategy for problem-solving. We propose a simple model for applying systems thinking to school leadership. 

LIST: A Model for Systems Thinking 

Our model for systems thinking is simple so that school leaders can lead better and grow faster. We use LIST because, at the core of s systems-thinking approach, we are listing all of the parts of the system, which are intertwined to make up the system itself. These cogs are called the interdependent parts of the system. But, that’s not enough, organizations that excel at systems thinking need to be learning-oriented, improving themselves through new developments; they need to understand the context of the system through sensemaking; and they need to have the temperament to build the relationships necessary for sustainable change. 

That makes up LIST and it demonstrates that the technical aspects of interdependency and sensemaking are bookended by the soft skills of learning and temperament. School leaders can remember LIST as a model and use it to address problems in their schools before the wheels are wobbling and we’re on the side of the road. 

Learning: Effective school leaders use the discipline of self-improvement to impact organizational development 

The more a leader learns, the more they develop their capacity, and the greater they equip themselves with the skills to handle complex situations. A focus on self-development also leads to an impact on organizational development. When the school or school system is in a constant cycle of learning and growing, it handles change faster and better than when it’s stagnant. We wrote about this concept of learning in Passionate Leadership, where we uncovered one key to schools that have high levels of achievement for students and teachers. We named this type of environment a “learning culture.” In a learning culture, everyone is apt to learn, bringing their “I’m a learner, first, and a teacher or student, second” mentality to school each day. This completely changes the organizational dynamics in how we approach problems. And, it works best when the school leader sees themselves as what Ryan Hawk calls a “learning leader.” 

The good news is that if you’re reading this blog, you want to lead better and grow faster. You’re already practicing what it takes to be a learning leader, applying the discipline for self-improvement, and hopefully modeling that for others in your system. It’s the first aspect of systems thinking that we introduce because without learning as a core tenant, all other aspects of systems thinking will fail. You can’t take a systems-thinking approach if you’re stuck in the way that you see yourself or the system in the first place. 

Interdependent Parts: Effective school leaders can identify all of the moving parts that make up the whole

One requirement of systems thinking is that all of the moving parts are identified. Understanding the parts in and of themselves is not enough. It’s critical to know what they are, the purpose they serve, and how they function within the whole system. Each part plays a specific role and has a relationship with other parts. In other words, each part functions individually and as a fraction of the whole. 

Recognizing this is especially important when organizations are large or simply complex due to the nature of their scope. This interdependent connectedness means that leaders can unintentionally make decisions in one area that initiates a domino effect in other areas. And, weak areas, or areas with multiple deficits, put an unnecessary strain on the system as a whole–much like the tire that blows because the wheels aren’t aligned. Very small misalignments in one moving part can have a major impact on the system as it moves in unison. 

School leaders can easily fall prey to a misaligned systems problem because of how many moving parts are within a school. We can identify these parts in the curriculum as it unfolds for the learner or as each part of the school works in isolation but also within a system–food services, teaching, and learning, mental health and wellness, buses, etc. The more moving parts that you can identify, the more you need to apply a systems approach, most notably when there’s a problem. 

Sensemaking: Effective school leaders understand that context plays a role in problem-solving 

Every school and the school system is multifaceted and complex. From large to small schools, there are hundreds of moving parts and people, each with its own context. Karl Weick, the organizational psychologist, coined the term “sensemaking” as the leadership skill in understanding the context of situations to draw out issues needing a solution. Executives who are strong in this capability know how to quickly capture the complexities of their environment and explain them to others in simple terms.” For systems thinking to be at its best, teams have to engage in sensemaking as a precursor to problem-solving. Understanding the true nature of an issue is the only way for a solution to be complete.

Sensemaking often leads to empathy as well, which is a leadership superpower. When we know the context of a person or situation, we can see more clearly why something is a problem. And, we can address the circumstances far better if we don’t use blame as our first reaction. Sense-makers do so through the use of a “beginner’s mind.” Rather than applying the typical preconceived notions and foregone conclusions that come from an expert stance on things, they ask questions and create space to make the most sense of what’s actually going on

Temperament: Effective school leaders stay calm, show care, and build relationships with the people they serve 

As a leader, your temperament is important in every scenario, but it’s even more critical in times of change and when we’re implementing new ideas. That’s why we’re including it as a key aspect of systems thinking for school leaders. Complex issues are dynamic and traditional problem-solving methods fall short. Instead, leaders must bring calm to a scenario, show care for the team of people interested in identifying the moving parts and making sense of them for a solution, and build the relationships necessary between people and departments for change to be sustainable. 

Baldoni, the executive coach, and author, says that temperament is a strong attribute of leadership; those with a temperament that is more focused on others will be those who can lead the most effectively.” Systems thinkers have to be focused on their own emotions; they realize that their reactions–positive and negative–are contagious. Being calm brings necessary peace to the people as they work to solve big problems. Without it, we don’t maintain proper perspective, which ends up damaging relationships between people and departments.  

That’s our model for systems thinking. We have used LIST in large and small organizations, and we encourage you to employ this with your team to ensure that you’re applying the important principles of thinking systems as a school leader.

As always, we want to hear from you. Please hit us with a like, a follow, a comment, or a share. It helps us and it helps other readers, like you, to find our work so that more school leaders can lead better and grow faster. 

 

We can’t wait to hear from you. 

Joe & T.J.

Claim Your FREE Copy to Our Praise Practice- Practical Praise Giving Tips for Principals

Claim Your FREE Copy to Our Praise Practice- Practical Praise Giving Tips for Principals

Learn how you can give practical praise each day as you lead your school to develop a better and more positive culture through this complimentary eBook we use in our workshops to help principals all over the nation and subscribe for more resources like this one delivered to your inbox. 

Congratulations on claiming your copy - you may download it here: https://theschoolhouse302.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/Technical-Tip-Praise-Practice-A-Model-for-Specific-Praise.pdf