Two Books You Have To Read To Make An Immediate Impact On Your Leadership

Two Books You Have To Read To Make An Immediate Impact On Your Leadership

Growing as a leader is a professional choice. The challenge is that trying to grow during a storm, or in the case of the last year and a half, a pandemic is difficult. Typically, in a storm, we seek shelter and hunker down to wait it out. Although this is great survival behavior, it’s not good leadership practice. Principal leaders, district leaders, and others in leadership roles do not have the luxury of waiting anything out and playing it safe until a time when things are easier. Actually, it’s just the opposite. The leader has to move forward in the storm and brave the elements. 

The two books that we feature this month will help leaders do just that–move forward by braving the elements. Consistent with our theme this month both books can be viewed through the lens of growing through the grind. Our first book, The Art of Woo: Using Strategic Persuasion to Sell Your Ideas, was chosen because leadership success rises and falls on influence. During these times, leaders need the skill set to effectively persuade others to positively move forward, even when they are scared, worried, and uncertain. 

This book really is a relationship book. Richard Shell and Mario Mousa brilliantly break down the four steps to how Woo works.

  • Survey Your Situation
  • Confront the Five Barriers
  • Make Your Pitch
  • Secure Your Commitments

What’s refreshing is that the authors describe the steps in great detail throughout the book and remind us that the four pieces of the puzzle are always a progression. Don’t miss our interview with one of the authors, Richard Shell

Featured Author: Richard Shell and Mario Moussa

 

Featured Book: The Art of Woo: Using Strategic Persuasion to Sell Your Ideas

The second featured book this month is The Culture Engine: A Framework for Driving Results, Inspiring Your Employees, and Transforming Your Workplace. We chose this book because it focuses on culture, and leaders need to constantly tend to the culture of their school or business. Culture building isn’t an event, it’s a full-time experience. This book spends time on you as a leader and how you are responsible for the school’s culture and how you cannot leave it to “chance.” Lastly, the book finishes strong by demonstrating the need to have everything aligned to the overall purpose and vision. Check it out!

Featured Author: S. Chris Edmonds

Featured Book: The Culture Engine: A Framework for Driving Results, Inspiring Your Employees, and Transforming Your Workplace


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 on the site. 

 

We can’t wait to hear from you. 

 

Joe & T.J.

 

This blog post was brought to you by GhostBed, a family-owned business of sleep experts with 20+ years of experience. With 30K+ 5-star reviews, you can’t go wrong with GhostBed. Their mattresses are handcrafted, and they come with a 101-night-at-home-sleep trial. For a limited time, you can get 30% by using our code — SH302 — at checkout. And, even if you tell someone about GhostBed, you can earn a $100 referral reward. Go to Ghostbed.com today and use SH302 at checkout. 

This episode of our ReadThisSeries was brought to you by GhostBed, a family-owned business of sleep experts with 20+ years of experience. With 30K+ 5-star reviews, you can’t go wrong with GhostBed. Their mattresses are handcrafted, and they come with a 101-night-at-home-sleep trial. For a limited time, you can get 30% by using our code — SH302 — at checkout. And, even if you tell someone about GhostBed, you can earn a $100 referral reward. Go to Ghostbed.com today and use SH302 at checkout. 

Growing Through the Grind: 5 Strategies for Staying Focused in a Chaotic Environment for Principal Leaders

Growing Through the Grind: 5 Strategies for Staying Focused in a Chaotic Environment for Principal Leaders

As avid beach lovers and goers, we often look toward nature and how it relates to leadership. There are so many correlations and lessons that can be learned, as long as we are willing to take a closer look than what meets the eye. Our favorite spot here in Delaware is Coin Beach, located just across from a kayaker’s dream, Savages Ditch.

Like so many fascinating and harrowing sea stories, the Shipwreck of the Faithful Steward ran aground after it pushed inland due to storms. Eventually it capsized, taking the lives of 181 passengers. The ship was full of coin-filled barrels that were deposited into the ocean and are said to wash ashore in heavy storms, giving the shoreline name, Coin Beach. Every fall, on the East Coast, we are hit with some incredible storms that range in force and aggression, all with the power to change the course of a ship at sea.

Although we may not be in an actual hurricane as we lead our schools, Covid19 can easily be categorized for the education community as a Category 5. It’s creating what feels like chaos, making our normally difficult challenges even greater and sending us spinning with less of a focus than we would like to have in our roles as school leaders. 

The critical question that we all must ask amidst the pandemic is this: how do we keep our boat–our schools and districts–on course? The short answer: goal setting. At the surface, this may seem trite. But, well-developed, meaningful, and integrated goals serve as beacons, guiding us through any stormy weather. They offer direction, a sense of calm, and even peace. 

The issue is that it’s not enough to just write down your goals on paper and hope the power of the universe brings them into existence. And, trust us, we believe in the infinite potential of our human meditative and cerebral capabilities. That said, ambitious goals are only unstoppable after you write them down and then take action to reach them, no matter the circumstances ahead of us. 

There’s no doubt that the current times are a grind, maybe even chaotic. Yes, teaching and leading in schools through Covid19 is…wait for it…unprecedented. We honor that as the truth, and we also know that leading schools in times of change is nothing new. Michael Fullan wrote Leading in a Culture of Change (the first edition) in 2001. This means that there are proven strategies for making sure that you continue to grow when work and life are a grind and that we have to learn to remain focused, even when the chaos looms. The strategies below are meant to help you during Covid and beyond. 

Putting Your Vision to the Test 

The first thing that leaders should do is ask 4 simple questions regarding their vision:

  1. Does the statement communicate what you desire to accomplish? 
  2. Does the statement communicate who you want the work to benefit?
  3. Does the statement communicate why it is important for stakeholders?
  4. Does the statement convey your purpose or the purpose of the organization?

Again, we want to acknowledge that in many ways the conversation regarding the importance of a school’s or organization’s vision is misguided and artificial. We aim to correct that by offering that the vision of an organization is the fulcrum for decision-making and the basis for accountability.  Figure 1 is a quick way to put your school or district’s vision to the test and determine which side of the chart it lives. Is it hokey and too wordy or is it concise and inspiring? Vision statements should reside in the hearts and minds of those within the organization, not just on a wall or letterhead.

Figure 1

As you can see in Figure 2, we use Google, Facebook, Patagonia, and Nordstrom to demonstrate very vivid vision statements. You might like or dislike the purpose of these organizations, but their statements encapsulate their essence. They do what they say and they say what they do. That’s how a highly effective vision statement should be–both in terms of what we’re communicating with the statement and how much accountability it holds for keeping us centered when times seem disastrous. 

Figure 2

Leading with Your Values 

Richard Shell told us that leaders need to be resilient when they face a value-conflict scenario in life. Inevitably, leaders will be tested with decisions that could go against their core beliefs. Dr. Shell said that when people face challenges to their integrity, they need to ask one simple question: what would a person of conscience do? And, a good answer isn’t to flee or fight back. That’s too basic of an instinct. Our response should be to stop and listen to our own internal sense of right and wrong. 

But even without a value-conflict at hand, we consistently encounter situations that may not align with our core values. Consider the core value that “We always do what’s best for kids,” something that many schools and school leaders espouse, and, yet, we’re often challenged by circumstances where doing what’s best for adults seems like the right decision even if it isn’t ultimately the best outcome for kids. Not that these decisions would cause harm, but adult-driven outcomes are in direct conflict with the value that we claim to uphold. 

Leaders should regularly come back to their values to guide their daily work, and we need to review these values as often as possible when the ship seems to be sinking. These areas of focus should also be where we place our emphasis for growth, especially when things get tough and our strength as leaders is tested. Look at your core values this week, and find a professional learning experience that aligns to them so that you’re not just going through the grind but actually growing through it. 

Don’t miss our interview with Richard Shell in an upcoming episode of our OneThingSeries podcast. Until then, check his book, The Conscience Code.

Determining Urgent Versus Important 

Establishing a worthy vision that is anchored in core values helps with this third strategy for staying focused–determining and working within the important spaces. School and district leaders know the constant push and pull between spending time on important priorities versus being interrupted to handle many of the urgent issues that arise daily. This reality reinforces President Eisenower’s quote: “I have two kinds of problems, the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.”

The challenge is in how we prioritize our day to ensure that we are working on the important all the while effectively managing the urgent. The urgent issues will never disappear, and if they are not handled correctly, they can potentially wreak havoc on an organization, which is why the Eisenhower Matrix below is critical. We like how Check and Click Technologies designed the graphic because it illustrates the action and inaction that the leader should take based on the scenario. 

Determining whether the work is urgent or important as daily tasks arise allows us to maintain our focus on the critical long-term success of the organization. Doing so allows leaders to weather the urgent items in the short-term to be able to decide the best path forward–such as delegating the task–correcting course to refocus on the important. Along with the use of the matrix, we suggest that school leaders ask themselves two key questions when new tasks arises: 

  1. Does this new task need to be done right now? 
  2. Does this new task need to be done by me?

 


Assessing Full Versus Fulfilling

Coupled with determining urgent versus important in terms of how we spend our time, especially when the day feels like a grind and the environment seems chaotic, is the notion that we need to assess whether our workday is full or fulfilling. The reality is that creating a fulfilling work environment for yourself and those within your school or organization is the hallmark of an effective leader. Busy and effective are too different things. We all can get caught up in the race from meeting-to-meeting without truly making a difference in what matters most–student learning and well-being in our schools. 

We have heard from leaders who use a retrospective reflective approach by taking a look at their week on Fridays to assess how busy they were versus how much of an impact they had. We flip that to a forward-focused examination of your calendar. Instead of using Friday to assess the week that just passed, use that time to assess the upcoming week. A great tip we learned from John Maxwell in Thinking for a Change is to look at your calendar 40 days out. As Maxwell puts it, “that way, I get a jump on the month and don’t get surprised.” 

Use this as an activity to delegate and restructure any upcoming meetings. Make sure that the work you’re engaged with as a leader is going to be about 1. your vision, 2. the people and programs (what’s working and what’s not), and 3. innovation for change and future development. Sticking to these three buckets will have the best chance at making sure you stay away from the administrivia that can hijack your time, allowing you to be effective and, most important, feel fulfilled. 

Attending to the Most Important Spaces 

You can only have so many priorities so they need to be limited. One way to keep the main thing the main thing when everything seems chaotic is to ask yourself what the most important spaces are in your school and whether or not you’re spending the majority of your time in that space. The answer to the first part of the question is not likely to be the office, the cafeteria, or the playground, yet school leaders often find themselves in these spaces for a large chunk of their day. The clear right answer is the classroom, with teachers and students. That should drive us to want to be there as often as possible to be in touch with those doing the teaching and the learning. 

But wanting to be there–the classroom–is not enough. Strategies like time-blocking are a great start, but that also is not enough. The best way to attend to the most important spaces is to have a system in place, designed as a fool-proof way for you to visit every teacher every week. For example, last month, we focused on SEL as a key driver in our schools with getting to classrooms and making connections with staff and students a central activity.  

Your plan should involve seeing all of their blocks of instruction throughout the month and doing so on different days of the week. You’ll need a Google Sheet or what we call “a big board” to draw out your map; when the system is in place and the time is blocked on your schedule, this daunting task is manageable, no matter what storm is brewing. 

We can’t say enough about leaders spending time in the most important spaces of any organization (maybe a future blog post, stay tuned). This is the backbone of a positive culture and a management structure for being around when people are doing their best work. Not only does it provide critical insight into what folks are doing on a regular basis, but it allows us, as leaders, to lift the people through authentic recognition and praise. If you don’t have a working system for visiting classrooms, we need to hear from you because we can help. 

Putting your vision to the test, leading with your values, determining urgent versus important, assessing full versus fulfilling, and attending to the most important spaces in our schools are the five most practical and direct ways to keep you growing through the grind and focused when things feel out-of-control. The essential role of a leader is to attend to her own growth while staying focused on the health and direction of the organization. You can’t do that if your own day is as unruly as the times we’re living in. Using the strategies in this blog will ground your work and get you back to calmer waters. 

As always, let us know what you think of this with a like, a follow, or a comment. Find us on Twitter, YouTube, iTunes, Facebook, & SoundCloud. And, again, if you want one simple model for leading better and growing faster per month, follow this blog by entering your email at the top right of the screen.

TheSchoolHouse302 is about getting to simple by maximizing effective research-based strategies that empower individuals to lead better and grow faster.

Joe & T.J. 

This blog post was brought to you by GhostBed, a family-owned business of sleep experts with 20+ years of experience. With 30K+ 5-star reviews, you can’t go wrong with GhostBed. Their mattresses are handcrafted, and they come with a 101-night-at-home-sleep trial. For a limited time, you can get 30% by using our code — SH302 — at checkout. And, even if you tell someone about GhostBed, you can earn a $100 referral reward. Go to Ghostbed.com today and use SH302 at checkout. 

Two Books On Social & Emotional Learning That Are Bound To Make An Impact On Your School

Two Books On Social & Emotional Learning That Are Bound To Make An Impact On Your School

As school doors open this year to welcome back students, successful schools recognize that if they want to reach and teach all students, they need to touch their hearts and their minds. Amid the dual pandemics–Covid19 and the social and civic unrest–students are entering the school year with a host of needs that must be addressed to ensure that they are successful. 

These needs cover the spectrum from a deficit in mathematics to a family hardship. Regardless, in the end, we know that student achievement improves when students feel connected and safe, when relationships flourish in the classroom. There is no substitute for a student having a meaningful connection with a teacher, counselor, paraprofessional, administrator, or other educator at school.

Our blog this month focused on 6 different ways to build SEL in schools, and we hope you found them easy to implement. As educational leaders, we realize that one of the best places to start your learning is by reading great books, which is why we curate our lists of books to help you on your path to leading better and growing faster. 

This month, we recommend two books that we believe can make a difference where it matters the most—in the classroom. The first book is The Formative Five by Thomas Hoerr and the second one is Improve Every Lesson with SEL by Jeffrey Benson.

Featured Author: Thomas Hoerr

Featured Book: The Formative Five: Fostering Grit, Empathy, and Other Success Skills Every Student Needs

The Formative Five focuses on developing empathy, self-control, integrity, embracing diversity, and grit . Each one of the five serves our students (and teachers) well as they strive to deepen their understanding and execution in each area. The five also have a unique way of focusing on the self and others. We found this to be practical for all educators. 

Focusing on others, having empathy, is something that we can all improve upon, and as we seek to understand others, we often learn quite a bit about ourselves. Lastly, Heorr recommends other reads throughout the chapters, which is a great springboard to other books that may be valuable. Don’t miss our interview with Thomas Hoerr. You can find it on our site at theschoolhouse302.com by clicking on the podcast button at the top. 

Key Feature of the Book:

Hoerr created self-assessment surveys for each of the formative five. We appreciate this style of writing that is designed to engage the reader, especially because these are areas that we can continually develop as leaders.

Featured Author: Jeffrey Benson

Featured Book: Improving Every Lesson Plan with SEL

Improving Every Lesson Plan with SEL demystifies the process of weaving social and emotional learning into your lessons. That last thing we want is for SEL activities to be taught in isolation or devoid of the classroom content. The more SEL can find a home within each lesson, the more students will understand the dynamic nature of so many of the topics we discuss. Consider Hurricane Ida that just devastated areas of the east coast, it’s important to know what a hurricane is, the various categories for example, but tying that to the human side of destruction and loss can teach empathy along with the content. 

Key Feature of the Book:

Similar to Hoerr, Benson explicitly outlines specific action steps that are aligned to the content in the book. He also asks the reader to reflect on their lesson plans through what they are learning about how social and emotional learning works for students. 

 

Let us know what you’re reading by contacting us at contact@theschoolhouse302.com. And don’t miss our next live event on this topic. Register here

 

We can’t wait to hear from you. 

 

Joe & T.J.

 

This episode of our ReadThisSeries was brought to you by GhostBed, a family-owned business of sleep experts with 20+ years of experience. With 30K+ 5-star reviews, you can’t go wrong with GhostBed. Their mattresses are handcrafted, and they come with a 101-night-at-home-sleep trial. For a limited time, you can get 30% by using our code — SH302 — at checkout. And, even if you tell someone about GhostBed, you can earn a $100 referral reward. Go to Ghostbed.com today and use SH302 at checkout. 

The 6 Significant Ways to Build Your SEL-Focused School Culture

The 6 Significant Ways to Build Your SEL-Focused School Culture

As schools reopen their doors to their students, welcoming over 56 million learners nationwide in our elementary and secondary public schools, two pressing questions are on every educator’s mind: 

  1. How can I effectively engage and educate every student to accelerate their learning and ensure that they are on grade level?
  2. How can I connect with every student to ensure that they develop emotionally and socially to thrive in and outside of the classroom?

The two areas are interconnected and deeply rooted within one another. We know through the powerful work of Bandura that self-efficacy is vital for student success, including how they view their own achievement and the school itself. As much as we want our schools to be havens of personal and intellectual development, attending school is not always a positive experience for every child. 

That said, we know that when social and emotional learning strategies are woven into school policies down to the lesson plan, we see improvements to student performance as well as their behavior. To be sure that this work is done well and lives within our schools in a productive and pervasive way, it’s important to first establish a working understanding of exactly what we mean by SEL. 

What is Social and Emotional Learning in Schools? 

Schools go far beyond the 3Rs of foundational learning and skills. At one time, reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic were considered to be the drivers of instruction. Although they serve as a good starting point, educators–from principal leaders to teachers–now realize that we need to focus on the whole child. At TheSchoolHouse302 we refer to this as “The Blend” regarding effective evidence-based pedagogy and social and emotional learning strategies. 

We want our educators to be pedagogical powerhouses with a blended focus so as to offer high-level instruction along with a strong knowledge of the individual learner–a balance and blend of curriculum and care, instruction and insight, technology and tenacity, accountability and awareness. The Blend is an approach to planning lessons and school-based activities with a focus on both the academic and social and emotional side of the student. 

Educators must possess a keen understanding of each student’s needs to effectively educate all students and to help them acquire skills to be able to socialize productively and effectively, this includes learning how to cope and process their own emotions and attitudes. For teachers and school leaders to optimize The Blend, it requires a culture within the school that embraces academic rigor as well as SEL. Culture is often an elusive concept so we put together 6 significant ways to build an SEL culture within a school. 

As you get started building your SEL culture, we want to acknowledge the specific work that goes into it. We paint a full picture of what it means to have an SEL approach to schooling, starting with a model and the needed framework to move the work forward. Additionally, pay close attention to how these six concepts build upon one another to demonstrate a full scope of The Blend that you’ll want to achieve. 

A Social and Emotional Learning Framework

When considering a framework for SEL, we don’t have to look any further than CASEL’s wheel. This is a powerful visual that identifies the essential components of SEL that many organizations work to achieve. It is comprehensive and encompasses all of the critical environments that make up a culture–classrooms, schools, homes, and communities. Each element is interconnected. 

SEL Strategy #1: Assembling a Core Team 

Identifying and having a core team to lead this work will support greater collaboration and representation. The composition of the group should represent the diversity and needs of the students and staff. One powerful aspect of having a core SEL team is that they can solicit input from a variety of stakeholders. 

Social and Emotional Learning for Teachers

Education is an emotionally charged profession. Rarely will you hear teachers say that they joined this profession to simply teach a subject, but rather inspire kids, change the trajectory of a student’s life, develop a passion for learning among their students, and change the world. The reasons are endless and the passion is energizing. The challenge is that educators can also experience high levels of frustration, burnout, and disillusionment. That’s why the power of self care is more important than ever. Social and emotional learning doesn’t work for students if our teachers aren’t self-aware enough to take care of their social and emotional needs as well. A quality SEL culture includes everyone.  

SEL Strategy #2: Improving Self-Awareness for Staff to Manage Stress 

Improving self-awareness for staff is easier said than done and not typically something that school leaders think to do for teacher SEL. That said, incorporating activities, such as the following, at faculty meetings and staff gatherings is a way for staff to learn more about their own self-regulation needs. This self-awareness strategy is from Lorea Martinez’s blog post, What do you do with your stress? Building Resilience through Emotional Intelligence. We love the ERC framework and the wisdom that Dr. Martinez shares.

Self-Awareness Strategy

Reflection Question: What are the situations, circumstances or people that are causing your stress? Write them down and assign an E for Eliminate, R for Reduce, or C for Cope:

  • E – Eliminate. These are items that you can probably let go. For example, if you are drowning with a never-ending list of “to dos,” find volunteers at school (students or parents) to help you with the tasks that others can do for you. They might not get done the way you would do them, but you will be able to check them off your list, allowing you to feel less overwhelmed. 
  • R – Reduce. Reducing the strength of your stressors is sometimes a more viable solution than eliminating them entirely. For example, changing your morning or evening routine to make better use of your time is something that has been called a miracle. Ten extra minutes in the morning for a quick mediation exercise can change your level of stress for the rest of the day. 
  • C – Cope. In some cases, learning to cope with stress might be the only option and you’ll have to tap into your problem-solving skills to do so. What are some choices in a given situation? Just knowing that you have control helps with coping. Can you look at this stressor from an alternative perspective? Stress can often make us stronger in the long run. Who can help you? Identify an expert and seek to improve your skills in the area that stresses you. 

To find out more about Dr. Lorea Martinez’s work, visit here.

Social and Emotional Learning Training for Your School

When schools embark on the journey toward developing a training program for the entire school to learn about SEL, one key consideration makes all the difference: SEL itself should be embedded throughout the existing programs, policies, and other training sessions as much as possible. We cannot treat SEL training similar to how we often approach other new curriculum updates and pedagogical professional development. Of course, you can do some upfront SEL training sessions for teachers, but after that, all other training and professional learning should get an SEL spin to it. We draw on the analogy of the common problems with dieting. We often look to a weight loss “program, “ which tends not to be aligned to our lifestyle. Willpower and discipline hold us steady for a while but eventually we regress back to our original way of living. We may even end up worse off than when we started. The problem is the dieting program, similar to initiatives, is that they remain separate from our day-to-day work. SEL has to be woven into the fabric of the school or it will end up being something on the agenda rather than incorporated into the lessons.  

SEL Strategy #3: Taking Certificate-Based Courses

One powerful way to train individuals that can lead this work in our schools, for staff and students, is to earn a micro-credential. Although we haven’t completed this course, which is a partnership between Rutgers and the College of Saint Elizabeth, it does provide the type of credentialing that can inspire confidence and knowledge among those looking to lead this work and ensure it’s done well. As the leader, if you’re not going to get an SEL certification, consider tapping into a teacher leader to take the course and become your school’s subject matter expert

Social and Emotional Learning Resources 

A quick google search reveals a variety of different resources available for schools. We’ve already mentioned the Heart in Mind blog, which offers a ton of information for those seeking to learn more about SEL. You definitely want to read 3 Ingredients for a Strong SEL Year.  We also like Cultured Kids, which has a broad focus with universal themes. This resonates with us because they focus on cultural competence, which is an employability skill. Also, be sure to sign up for LaVonna Roth’s SHINEtastic Lessons. You can get 12 lessons for every age group. LaVonna’s OneThingSeries interview with us has a ton to offer about SEL as well. Finally, sign up for our 302 Thoughts this month. We’ll be talking about SEL and pointing to great resources for your school.  

SEL Strategy #4: Connecting with Meaningful Work

Connect the learning resources to other areas of focus like employability skills. Below are the top skills employers are looking for that are directly connected to SEL.

 

Social and Emotional Learning Curriculum 

Once the team has a good understanding of the resources available, a well-developed curriculum is necessary. We don’t subscribe to a particular curriculum but rather use A.I. to enhance our current curriculum. No, we don’t mean artificial intelligence but rather Associate and Integrate. 

A–Associate what is being learned to the learner so that they can reflect on themselves.

For example, if students are reading a passage, short story, or text connected to a standard “regarding relationships or interactions between two or more individuals, events, ideas, or concepts…” that should be connected to the SEL strategy for self awareness, which is tied to self-regulation and emotion. We really do stress The Blend rather than separating SEL from what and how we already teach. 

I–Integrate the SEL standards with the identified curriculum. As mentioned before, for SEL to be effective it needs to be embedded in the lessons. The humanities courses lend themselves to this integration naturally, where the sciences are terrific fits for analyzing, identifying, and solving in systematic ways. 

The good news is that when done well, SEL supports learning and retention of key concepts. Because a major component of SEL is self-reflection, when students are reflecting on the learning–meta-cognition–they get The Blend of SEL and the standards in a way that unlocks the science of learning

SEL Strategy #5: Using a Simple Table for Lesson Organization

   Unit
Learning Standard
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.5.3
Explain the relationships or interactions between two or more
individuals, events, ideas, or concepts in a historical,
scientific, or technical text based on specific information
in the text.
SEL Standard
STANDARD 4 – SOCIAL AWARENESS – Individual has the ability to
take the perspective of and empathize with others from diverse
backgrounds and cultures.
SEL ObjectiveStudents will be able to recognize the various beliefs and values of the
characters in the story and understand the aspects of a healthy
and constructive relationship.
Instructional ActivityStudents will engage in a socratic seminar, identifying the key attitudes,
behaviors, and conditions that led to certain actions and the more
productive decisions that the character could have made.

Setting Social and Emotional Learning Goals

Lastly, we want to anchor all of this work and effort with explicit goals that are aligned to the school and district’s SEL vision. Random and intermittent offerings for staff and students that are not rooted in the established systems of the school will not last or make any notable differences. Your SEL goals should drive the work of the core committee mentioned above. When setting goals consider Who, What, and How. 

  • Who is the goal targeting? We’ve mentioned throughout this post that the SEL schoolwide culture should encompass the staff and the students so it is necessary to create specific goals for each group. 
  • What are we trying to achieve? Each goal should be explicit and measurable.
  • How are we going to achieve the goal? Each goal needs to have a basic plan that outlines the process for accomplishing it and the action steps necessary to gain momentum.  

SEL Strategy #6: Reinventing the Wheel is Unnecessary

There are a great deal of resources online with standards and guiding principles. For example, we found California’s DOE to have a comprehensive document. The advantage of following principles versus something overly prescriptive is the flexibility that you have to work within your resources and identified needs. Every principle you pick, such as “Students and adults must have opportunities to practice, demonstrate, and reinforce social and emotional skills within the context of supportive relationships” can be achieved through the Who, What, and How exercise we outlined above. 

 

Teachers and students thrive in appreciative, nurturing, supportive, and goal-driven environments. Developing a schoolwide SEL focus that is designed to build a positive human-centered culture transforms environments and, frankly, is life-changing work. Just remember that this work doesn’t have to be done overnight. SEL in modern times dates back to the 1960s, it’s just now amid a pandemic and social injustices that we are relying on ideas that we know build productive students and citizens. Take your time, be strategic, develop your core team, find the right resources, set goals, and make a difference. Let us know how it goes. 

As always, let us know what you think of this with a like, a follow, or a comment. Find us on Twitter, YouTube, iTunes, Facebook, & SoundCould. And, again, if you want one simple model for leading better and growing faster per month, follow this blog by entering your email at the top right of the screen.

TheSchoolHouse302 is about getting to simple by maximizing effective research-based strategies that empower individuals to lead better and grow faster.

Joe & T.J. 

Must Reads to Prepare Every Educational Leader for Leading During Disruptive and Turbulent Times

Must Reads to Prepare Every Educational Leader for Leading During Disruptive and Turbulent Times

Don’t miss this vblog on YouTube or catch our Read This segment of our One Thing Series podcast–books you need to read to lead better and grow faster.

Featured Author: Doris Kearns Goodwin

Featured Books: Leadership: In Turbulent Times

 

Why We Love This Book for School Leaders

We love this book for school leaders, especially now, because Kearns draws on the skills and attributes of four American presidents–Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Lyndon B. Johnson–who encountered times of confusion, fear, despair, and hope. Leadership: In Turbulent Times is destined to be a classic. 

 

Here are just a few reasons to pick it up: 

 

The author points out the specific traits that make for a successful leader in any organization. For example, we learn that not only was Lincoln ambitious–running for the office of the presidency at age 23–he had “the motivation and willpower to develop every talent he possessed to the fullest.” This is something that school leaders can emulate and model to develop a learning culture for themselves and others. 

Reflection Question: What learning experiences do you have lined up for this year that will help to develop your talents to the fullest?

The last four chapters are a ton of fun, including transformational leadership, crisis management, turnaround leadership, and visionary leadership. It’s almost like this book was written exclusively for school leaders, although it’s universal to any organization. 

Reflection Question: How will you communicate your vision for change in your school this year? 

Lastly, this is an incredible book to lead a book study on with other educational leaders. Kearns Goodwin is remarkable about describing each leader’s journey. As we move into our second school year filled with uncertainty and doubt, having candid leadership conversations that go beyond procedures and processes, and into the heart of tough decision-making, can prove to be invaluable. 

Reflection Question: How will you support others this year along their leadership journey?

Becoming a Better School Leader During a Disruptive Time in Education

Another book that we recommend in this ReadThisSeries episode is Leading Schools in Disruptive Times: How to Survive Hyper-Change by Mark White and Dwight Carter. We appreciate this book because it redefines certain aspects of school leadership for those who are experiencing overload and demands beyond control. The authors have a CAT strategy–coping, adjusting, and transforming–strategy that they embed within the conversation about school safety. Safety is no longer just about the physical aspects of school violence but also the psychological safety that students need to be effective learners. This point and many others make the book an important read for all school leaders. Let us know what you think, and don’t miss our podcast episode with Dwight Carter

Let us know what you’re reading by contacting us at contact@theschoolhouse302.com

 

We can’t wait to hear from you. 

 

Joe & T.J.

PS — If you have a topic you want us to cover or need recommendations on books to read in a particular area of leadership, just send us a tweet or an email. 

This episode was brought to you by GhostBed, a family-owned business of sleep experts with 20+ years of experience. With 30K+ 5-star reviews, you can’t go wrong with GhostBed. Their mattresses are handcrafted, and they come with a 101-night-at-home-sleep trial. For a limited time, you can get 30% by using our code — SH302 — at checkout. And, even if you tell someone about GhostBed, you can earn a $100 referral reward. Go to Ghostbed.com today and use SH302 at checkout. 

6 Ways that We Should Think About Student Engagement in the 2021-2022 School Year Because of What We Learned During the Pandemic

6 Ways that We Should Think About Student Engagement in the 2021-2022 School Year Because of What We Learned During the Pandemic

Leading within a Disruptive Environment

The last 18 months have brought nothing but disruption to schools and the students they serve. And although there have been many hardships and catastrophes yet to come, we believe that the crisis strengthened education as a profession and provided all educators, from the classroom to the principal’s office with abundant opportunities for growth. 

When we think about leading during a crisis, we typically picture leaders in two opposing vantage points. On one hand, a crisis can paralyze people. The pressure of any conflict can cause a chemical reaction in the brain and bloodstream that produces the flight or fight response in humans. This can cause uncertainty, fear, and even panic. It slows things down to a dark helplessness. 

But that response is not inevitable nor is it unavoidable. In Becoming Bulletproof, Evy Poumpuras, describes how she and her United States Secret Service colleagues responded, in real time, to the harrowing attacks on the North and South towers of the World Trade Center. She details how their training kicked in and took over. Trained leaders–those who have had practice in crisis situations or who have gone through serious leadership programs–learn to capitalize on a crisis and it’s possible outcomes. The CDC names several positive reactions dependent on effective management and communication, including a “sense of strength and empowerment,” “new resources and skills,” “renewed sense of community,” and “opportunities for growth.”  

When leading within a disruptive environment, the greatest leaders choose to use the situation as an opportunity for growth for themselves and their team. ~ @TSH302

 

The problem is that although our best leaders choose growth and renewal as outcomes of a crisis, the worst choose to blame and to create distrust and a false sense of safety as they try to “return to normal.” The truth is that crises precipitate change, and every leader’s job is to embrace new developments, innovation, and transformation. 

John Hattie Reveals the Learning Loss Fallacy 

As educators look to move forward in the wake of a post-vaccinated society, there are several issues to face–from social and emotional trauma to the learning needs of our students. “Learning loss” is definitely the new buzz in education, but let’s take a closer look. We had the distinct pleasure in attending and presenting at this year’s Annual Visible Learning Conference. It is always awesome to watch Dr. Hattie as he presents new data, sometimes shocking his audience with revelations about how students learn and how teachers should prepare their lessons. 

John was pleased to note that there are already meta-analyses that apply statistical tests to the effects of learning during the pandemic. In particular focus is the idea that students lost some or much of the learning that would have taken place if they had been in school. From what John showed during his presentation, it’s simply not true. In the aggregate, the greatest losses are in writing, not reading or math. And, some students made gains, especially in math. 

Hattie had a great deal to say about why students aren’t showing the losses that everyone expects, including the amount of online math practice that students experienced versus watching teachers model problem solving in the classroom. This is not to say that we don’t have students who missed opportunities to learn. It simply means that we need to diagnose learning loss, not assume it. And it also means that there were a number of practices that improved, some of which improved learning outcomes for students. 

We find this data to be encouraging. It demands a level of precision as we approach the school year, more personalized than generalized. We do know that the pandemic adversely impacted low-income areas and communities of color worse than other demographic groups. Coupled with 1.2 million fewer students in the public education system, our strategies below are designed to prioritize learning needs, target key classroom practices, and provide support for all students. We picked 6 practices that we believe all schools should focus upon for growth and renewal in the upcoming months as we return to whatever format of learning we’re expected to implement. 

6 Classroom Practices that Need to Change and Why

 

Grading and Assessment Practices Have to Continue to Evolve 

Grading and assessment practices, from policy to classroom structures, are maybe the single most controversial topic in education today. Prior to the pandemic, the evolution of grading improvements was moving along at a snail’s pace. Now, more educators are rethinking grading than ever before, and that has to be a focus for all schools. Ultimately, the 100-point scale and averaging are two of the biggest problems with how we calculate grades, but small changes in the way we look at assessment practices can make all the difference in supporting learning. 

Two grading and assessment books to consider reading as a school community: 

Grading for Equity by Joe Feldman

Assessing with Respect by Starr Sackstein (listen to our podcast interview with Starr here)

Student Discourse Has to to be Top Priority 

The more students are able to talk in class and engage in reasoning aloud, the better they perform on content areas assessments. We need our students to get more of the air time in the classroom than have traditionally been granted. The average teacher talks anywhere between 60 and 70 percent of the time allotted for learning in the classroom. It’s also startling to think that during this talk-time, teachers ask between 200 and 300 questions a day, most of which are clerical and clarifying in nature. Student discourse and creative communication have to be a top priority for every teacher and every school leader. We can promote more talk time by instituting specific strategies that help with it and by tracking how often students get to talk and the types of questions with which they engage. 

We recommend TeachFX as a classroom talk-time tracking tool. 

Check out TeachFX if you don’t know about the tool already. Make sure to tell them that we sent you. (Disclaimer: we don’t make any money from our recommendation of this product; if we did, you would know it).

Learning Management Systems Need to Stay Organized 

When we plunged into remote learning, asynchronous time, and the virtual classroom, we saw right away that alignment across systems in the use and structures of a learning management system (LMS) were inconsistent. In some schools, not every teacher was using the available LMS, in some districts the LMS wasn’t consistent from K-12, and some teachers didn’t even have access to use one. We don’t have an LMS recommendation, but we do strongly recommend that schools develop clear expectations for how the LMS is used by every teacher. When students enter the LMS, the setup should be logical and coherent, and this should be true from course-to-course and teacher-to-teacher. Gone are the days when we can do classroom walkthroughs without also doing gradebook and LMS walkthroughs to accompany them, providing teachers with candid and compassionate feedback about the improvements we expect them to make. 

Evidence of Learning is the Key to Professional Learning Communities 

With assessment practices, including the alignment of course-by-course tests and projects, and a congruous use of a learning management system at the forefront of our thinking this fall, we should be able to use the evidence of our students’ learning to drive conversations in PLCs better than ever before. This means that we can use data to support lesson planning along with an item analysis of the standards that students are meeting and not meeting.  We appreciate the model below from Broward County Schools, which encapsulates the elements of effective PLCs. 

 

The best PLC book for school leaders.

Tons of books have been written about PLCs but none are as powerful as Leaders of Learning by Richard DuFour and Robert Marzano. If you don’t have this book on your shelf, buy it today. 

Teacher Reflection and Strategy Implementation Can Be Faster

Teacher reflection and strategy implementation can be faster than we thought prior to the pandemic and shouldn’t slow back down as we enter a new era in education. Teachers were forced to try many different ways to connect with students, and the growth that educators experienced during the pandemic was down right impressive. From teachers mastering Flipgrid to the use of Google Classroom, there was a necessity to explore and try new strategies and tools that resulted in positive changes to the way students engaged with content. This freedom to explore and the speed at which educators shared new ideas accelerated teacher development. Through practice and reflection, a learning culture emerged whereby teachers didn’t hesitate to try something new and then reflect versus our old model of reflect-first-then-shift. The reality is that we should be trying new strategies all the time, and we hope that this cultural shift continues in a supportive and constructive environment where risk-taking is rewarded. 

Reflective teaching is a key component of a learning culture in schools. 

Take a look at David Kolb’s learning cycle, depicted wll by Cambridge Assessment International Education. In the menu bar, notice “Reflective practice in practice” and “Checklist,” both game changers!

Learning Is Social and Emotional 

Classrooms are incredibly complex. Embracing the learner’s experience complicates teaching, but it’s a necessary aspect of a quality learning environment and one that the pandemic made abundantly clear. There must be a balance between the curriculum, as to what must get taught, and ensuring that the students actually learned. This requires teachers to be nimble with how to teach but still laser focused on teaching all the key learning targets. It’s unfortunately easy to think that adding social and emotional learning (SEL) into the classroom is daunting and one more thing for teachers to do. However, without the social and emotional side of teaching, learning and retention are less likely to take place. The key to understanding the power of using social and emotional practices in the classroom is in the realization that learning is social and emotional. Without the social aspect of the classroom and the emotional regulation it takes to engage, all the “teaching” in the world won’t stick. 

For a great resource on SEL, visit the CASEL site. It provides a litany of resources, like their Guide to Schoolwide Social and Emotional Learning.

 

The Buy-In Myth that We Find within Our Circle of Nice in Schools

As leaders work to change culture, using any of these 6 practices–from grading to running a proper PLC–as an example, we see that conflict arises. The definition of leadership is influence, the challenge of leadership is conflict, and the result of leadership is change. You can’t have change without some level of conflict, and conflict is not always unhealthy. We close this blog with three major sentiments that prove helpful when trying to make a change within an established culture. 

  1. Patrick Lencioni reminds us that the healthiest organizations are not democratic. The leader sets the vision, communicates the change, and pushes the work forward. 
  2. Trust is often counterintuitive. Leading through relationships doesn’t require a “culture of nice” in schools. Setting clear expectations, holding everyone accountable, and confronting reality are as important for trust as supporting the people where they are. In fact, support without a level of pressure results in the status quo. Just remember that pressure without support is unfair. 
  3. We learned from Douglas Reeves that “buy-in” is a myth. Buy-in occurs after you’ve made a change, not before. It’s unlikely that any of these 6 practices will be agreed upon and implemented by your entire staff without pushback of some kind. You don’t need everyone to believe in the beginning for a deep change to occur over time. 

Don’t hesitate to reach out for support in making these 6 changes in your school. We hope that the resources here and the ones to come this month will make a difference for you. Register for our Fireside Chat on this topic by clicking the link to receive your Zoom code

Stay tuned for more nuggets of wisdom, podcasts, books to read, and the best resources for leading better and growing faster in schools. Follow us at theschoolhouse302.com to join thousands of leaders who get our content each month. Send this to a friend. 

As always, let us know what you think of this with a like, a follow, or a comment. Find us on Twitter, YouTube, iTunes, Facebook, & SoundCloud. And, again, if you want one simple model for leading better and growing faster per month, follow this blog by entering your email at the top right of the screen.

TheSchoolHouse302 is about getting to simple by maximizing effective research-based strategies that empower individuals to lead better and grow faster.

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