Read This To Unveil the Impact of Masterminds and the Exponential Growth You Can Experience as a School Leader

Read This To Unveil the Impact of Masterminds and the Exponential Growth You Can Experience as a School Leader

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: Danny Bauer

Featured Books: Mastermind: Unlocking Talent Within Every School Leader

Why We Love This Book for School Leaders

We’ll say it up front and just get it out of the way, Danny is a friend of TheSchoolHouse302, and we are thrilled about his new book. You might say we are biased, and that is impacting our review. Honestly, we would agree 100%. But only because we curate authors as often as we curate books, and Danny’s last book was a hit with us as well.

We carefully select what we read at this point, and each page that we turn is with the expectation that we will learn something new to apply in our roles. This book achieves that for us with a twist. As Bauer quickly writes in the beginning of his book, Masterminds are not a new way to develop leaders. In fact, we first read about the concept of a Mastermind in Napoleon Hill’s classic, Think and Grow Rich. Before we go on, if you have not read Think and Grow Rich, pause right now and buy it. Don’t let the title fool you. The riches Hill describes are far beyond material wealth and include what many educators truly desire–making a difference for the betterment of this world.

Back to Danny’s new book. Here’s why we consider this book a must read:

  1. Danny tackles several taboos that limit our growth as school leaders.
  2. The book uncovers the A, B, & C of successful professional learning.
  3. It is written almost as a testimony to how Masterminds have changed leaders for the better. The case studies are fantastic.
  4. The book dives into the power of emotional intelligence, which is needed now more than ever.

A Better School Leader

To be a great leader we have to be willing to venture out and experience learning in new and different ways that can stretch and challenge our thinking. Reading is a great way to do that if you build a system to implement what you read. Another great way is to join a community of individuals who don’t want to be average leaders and who truly want to do something great for their community. 

The second best thing you can do right now is to take the time to learn about the power of masterminds and how they can transform and unlock your thinking. The first best thing you can do is to enroll yourself today. 

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.

The Number One Question Every Principal Leader Must Ask Before Spending ESSER Funds

The Number One Question Every Principal Leader Must Ask Before Spending ESSER Funds

Don’t tell me where your priorities are. Show me where you spend your money and I’ll tell you what they are. ~ James W. Frick

Is Education Underfunded? 

This question is rhetorical. It’s a fun one to discuss for fireside chats and dinner table debates. On one side, we would argue that education is underfunded, making the case that teacher pay needs improvements and many schools need infrastructure repairs. On the other side, an argument might be made that such a large bureaucratic industrial complex has excess and waste where accountability should be improved, if not a systemic overhaul. 

This post isn’t intended to address the concern with educational funding formulas, although we wrote about the need for teacher salary changes in our newest book. The point here, rather, is to help leaders with decision-making about the funds they do have, including the new installments of ESSER money. School leaders must be good stewards and understand how to turn available resources into transformational change.  

The number one question that every leader must ask before spending any dollar in any school is this: how will this purchase build the capacity of the people to do the work in the future? 

One argument that we do make regarding education and spending is that we don’t always do the best job with sustainability, especially when our funding streams have expiration dates. Quick fixes that promise to make a difference or mend a gap are attractive. These promises, coupled with our deep desire to make things better, get us into trouble when we want to buy something that we can’t afford and sustain over the long haul. It’s why schools fall into what we call the Lilypad Effect–long-term visions supported by short-term solutions, where we jump from one initiative to the other as resources become available or a change in administration is rampant. This only results in initiative-fatigue and disillusionment with leadership at the school, district, state, and federal level. Now, with the initiation of ESSER funds, we have great potential to improve our schools, but we need to be careful about how we spend the money. There are many lessons we learned from No Child Left Behind and the installments of money that many schools received.The number one way that you can make sure that your ESSER funds are sustainable is to use them to build capacity.  

What is ESSER and How Will Funds Be Distributed?

The following excerpt was taken directly from the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Congress set aside approximately $13.2 billion of the $30.75 billion allotted to the Education Stabilization Fund through the Coronavirus Aid Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act for the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER Fund). Signed into law on March 20, 2021, the Department awarded these grants ­to State educational agencies (SEAs) for the purpose of providing local educational agencies (LEAs), including charter schools that are LEAs, with emergency relief funds to address the impact that COVID-19 has had, and continues to have, on elementary and secondary schools across the Nation.

https://oese.ed.gov/offices/education-stabilization-fund/elementary-secondary-school-emergency-relief-fund/

You can get a state-by-state breakdown of the funding allocations from the National Conference of State Legislatures and a popular example of how funds are being distributed and reported upon can be found at the California Department of Education website. The bottom line is that the money is provided through a grant program, and as far as anyone can tell, the dollars run out after they’re spent over the next two year period. 

We Did Your School Funding Homework for You

At this point, you might be scratching your temple. Asking yourself: how do I build capacity for the sake of sustainability? It’s a great question. It’s why we break down school funding–all school funding–into three primary spending buckets. It doesn’t matter from which budget you’re spending, you should think of your pot of money in these three ways: 

Spend Your Money By Paying Your People

If you ask us what the best money spent on teaching and learning in schools is, we’ll always say “people” first. Whether it’s paying someone to run your after school programs or overtime for custodians to do a deeper clearing in the summer, your money is well spent on people. Here’s a tip: for the sake of sustainability, think about your people as builders. Even if you can’t buy a program in perpetuity, you can buy people on timesheets to build something (a program or resource) that can outlast any contractor you might be able to afford for the short term. 

Spend Your Money on Resources for Your People

One of the number one things that people cite as the reason they’re grumpy at work is that they don’t have the resources necessary to do their jobs well. If you’ve ever been in classroom where the teacher hung showerboard on the walls because she wanted white boards but the school couldn’t afford them, then you know what we’re talking about. It’s too common of a problem in education, but if you start to think about your budget as having only these three levers, you’ll put more money in this bucket then you might have before. Here’s a tip: when we say “resources,” we’re not necessarily talking about learning resources but the actual physical resources that teachers need to be at their best. 

Spend Your Money on Professional Learning Experiences for Your People

When budgets get tight, the first line item that districts look to cut is professional learning experiences. Bad idea and unnecessary. When budgets are tight, the best place to invest is in your people. In learning cultures, professional learning never gets cut; it might become creative, but it’s set as a core value rather than just a spending item. Growing people is the responsibility of the leader and that should always be a top priority. Professional learning experiences likely have the highest ROI for retention, capacity-building, and sustaining a positive school culture than any other item we can list. Here’s a tip: conduct a professional learning survey to find out the areas and aspects of each person’s role where they want to grow and become stronger in the next 3-5 years. 

The Top Five Ways to Spend Your ESSER Funds

All five of the following resources are investments in people so that your ESSER funds, even after they run out, are sustainable through the new and improved skills that staff will gain from implementation. Note: we are not currently sponsored nor do we accept direct payment from any of these sources. We believe in them as good decisions for where to spend money in education. 

Enroll Yourself or a School Leader Who You Support in a Mastermind Program 

When leaders get better, everyone they serve benefits. That’s the core tenet of Danny Bauer’s Mastermind in terms of a theory of action. Mastermind groups have been a way to sharpen skills through the use of like-minded yet diverse collection of leaders for centuries. These groups meet on a recurring and regular basis to learn from one another and present problems of practice that we either all have in common or that one or more people have already solved for themselves. Danny, who wrote Better Leaders Better Schools also just released Mastermind, which explains the ample rewards of being in a Mastermind. 

Consider using COVID19 relief funds to join a Mastermind group for professional learning for either yourself as a principal or a leader you support (principal or assistant principal). You can typically pay off a Mastermind in one chunk for the year versus a monthly fee so these funds, even though they expire, are a good way to invest in leadership. Making a leadership investment is sustainable, versus buying a program that you can’t afford when the money runs out, because your leadership growth will not expire. There are other groups besides Better Leaders Better Schools, but we like Danny’s model as an example of a Mastermind that we know works for school leaders. 

Support Teachers and Students as They Return to In-Person Instruction with Organized Binder

Organized Binder is a proven system that equips educators with a protocol to create predictable learning routines. From goal setting to retrieval practice, OB helps both teachers and students get and stay organized. OB is a tactile resource that supports all kinds of learning needs, including career and technical education, students with disabilities, core instruction, and the overall success of any student. We like it because it supports the research regarding cognitive science and self-efficacy (among other features), and it builds habits and routines that are transferable in any aspect of life where you need to use organization skills.

Organized Binder is a wonderful use of ESSER, ELO (if in CA), Title 1, and CTE funds. For reasons that include learning loss, when students return to school, parents will thank you if every student has an Organized Binder for each of their classes.

Enroll Your New Teachers in a New Teacher Mastermind 

For similar reasons as we mentioned above, enrolling new teachers into a Mastermind has tons of benefits. There may not be any more vulnerable group than teachers who started their careers just before, during, or right after the pandemic hit. Any teacher new to the profession was already susceptible to burnout, but being a new teacher during a crisis is a crisis. The solution is a new teacher Mastermind group where they won’t suffer from isolation and fear of not being good enough. 

We like the Teacher Off Duty model because we’ve seen it work. It’s all about getting new teachers together in a support group to solve problems and lean on one another when the going gets tough. We consider this a retention strategy as well as an acceleration strategy for new teachers’ skills. Whatever you do, consider using ESSER funds to support new teachers; they need our help, and we simply cannot afford to lose teachers over the next few years.  

Purchase TeachFX for Your Schools to Improve Student Discourse  

TeachFX is a great resource for any size school or budget because their pricing isn’t fixed (meaning they’ll work with you on your specific needs), and they don’t just provide a tool; they offer professional development. If you don’t know about TeachFX, the simple explanation is that they invented a technology that tracks the percentages of classroom time dedicated to student versus teacher talk. In other words, the software, when used by a teacher, generates data regarding how much time students get to talk throughout a lesson. Used for everything from reflecting on the types of questions teachers are asking to the equity of the demographics of the learners who are doing most of the talking, we can’t say enough about the benefits of implementing TeachFX

ESSER funds are a perfect way to get started with TeachFX and getting kids talking in the classroom is going to be even harder after the pandemic when they may come back with a hint of shyness and in a time when teachers might feel like they need to “cover” so much unlearned content. TeachFX can give your staff the data to slow down, ask the right questions, provide needed think-time, and let the kids handle the rest. Let’s all work to give our students the voice they deserve in every classroom. If your school or district is talking about SEL and equity, like so many are around the country, take a look at this tool.  

Build a Brain-Based Teaching and Learning Library of Resources for Teachers 

We don’t believe that there is enough emphasis in education–from teacher prep to professional learning–on the concepts being studied by cognitive and neuro scientists. For students to truly retain what they’ve learned, teachers need to implement the strategies that the brain research indicates have the highest effect sizes on memory. With that said, schools shouldn’t wait to begin exploring the science by building a library of resources for teachers. “Learning loss” isn’t just mitigated by extra time programs and online platforms. A stronger, better equipped, teacher for every student when they return is a great place to invest. 

We recommend only the books that we curate from the lists we have in our own libraries. There are three titles that we believe all schools should be reading to support teacher development. 

Powerful Teaching: Unleash the Science of Learning by Pooja Agarwal and Patrice Bain 

Why Don’t Students Like School? by Daniel Willingham 

Make It Stick by Peter Brown, Henry Roediger, and Mark McDaniel 

All three are fantastic books for educators. We listed them from most practical to most scientific. They all dive deep into the science of learning, but Powerful Teaching is very teacher-friendly, Why Don’t Students Like School? will challenge your conventions, and Make It Stick explains very complex research in a digestible way. Read them for different reasons, but read all three.  

The Next Big Thing with School Funding 

Consider multi-year contracts. Because ESSER funds are frontloaded and then expire, for the sake of sustainability, consider multi-year contracts for support and services. For example, you can buy slots for Mastermind groups and if you don’t use them, you can save them for future dates. You can also buy someone a Mastermind experience and pay for 24 months rather than 12. For a teacher who plans to use a class set of Organized Binder, consider buying 3 years worth of the materials. TeachFX can be purchased on a multi-year contract. Finally, and especially in this case, anywhere you plan to work with a trainer or consultant, consider stretching the contact out to gain access to their host of implementation strategies over a period of years rather than months. Sustainability is an issue in education because we think of money and spending in terms of fiscal years; it’s time for that to change and ESSER is the best place to start.

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. 
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.

Read This To Learn from One of the Most Influential Thinkers and Educators in the 20th Century

Read This To Learn from One of the Most Influential Thinkers and Educators in the 20th Century

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: John Dewey (October 20, 1859–June 1, 1952)

Featured Books: Experience and Education and How We Think

Here’s Why Every Principal Leader, Administrator, and Educator Should Read These Books by John Dewey

Leaders are busy. Educators are always running short on time so it is of the utmost importance to select the right books, ones that will take your leadership skills to another level. 

Think about the following reflection questions as educators:

  • Do you want to think more clearly about thoughts, balance of mind, and how to think critically? 
  • Do you want to understand how to analyze your school and thoughtfully determine what decisions will lead to the greatest gains for students? 
  • Do you want to better understand how to lead change, maintain high standards, and not suppress individuality? 

If you answered a BIG YES to these questions then take some time and enjoy these two incredible books by one of the most influential educational reformers in history, John Dewey.

Experience and Education

  • We’ll start with Experience and Education. Honestly it’s tough to choose what books to select since John Dewey was such a prolific writer. However, these two do a great job encapsulating the guiding thoughts of John Dewey. 
  • Experience and Education is a relatively short work in which Dewey analyzes education. This is one lens to read this book from–not only to learn what John Dewey thought and believed in but to also understand how he critically examined our profession as a philosopher. This is a very important skill for any administrator. 
  • What we find sobering is that when you delve into this work and read how Dewey contrasts traditional and progressive education, you almost can’t believe that it was written so long ago. It reads like a present day reform effort. There is no doubt that education has advanced, but the system itself has not fundamentally changed

How We Think

  • The second book we chose was How We Think (free download), partly because it shines an amazing light into what it means to be human, and, also, because we are educational leaders, we must understand the importance of how we operate as people. Our thoughts and our actions are what define us as leaders; by understanding ourselves better, we create greater potential for success in others. 
  • An example of how Dewey delves into our inner workings is in Chapter 2 with our need to train our thinking. This is a concept that has spanned many works from Tony Robbins, Awaken the Giant Within, to books on Emotional Intelligence. Check out Dewey’s quote below.

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. 

Support, Opportunities, and Engagement: 3 Claims that John Dewey Would Make About Learning During the Covid-19, 2020-2021 School Year

Support, Opportunities, and Engagement: 3 Claims that John Dewey Would Make About Learning During the Covid-19, 2020-2021 School Year

Looking at Learning through A John Dewey Lens 

Such happiness as life is capable of comes from the full participation of all our powers in the endeavor to wrest from each changing situation of experience its own full and unique meaning. ~ John Dewey

When many educators hear the words: reformer, progressive, whole child, etc. their minds are immediately drawn to the profound work of John Dewey, Columbia University Philosophy Professor. A cofounder of pragmatism, a philosophy that embraced utility and action, Dewey’s thoughts on education centered on engagement and interaction for both the teacher and the student. This post focuses on what we believe Dewey would glean from this incredible school year to advance teaching and learning in a post-pandemic era. 

Our Favorite John Dewey Quote 

The quote above centers on the happiness that is found when we uncover “unique meaning” in what we experience, no matter how challenging. His claim is that if we are fully invested in what is occurring and we “wrest” from the changes and challenges, we will learn and grow. In fact, we will be happy. It is actually our struggle during times of change and the outcomes thereafter that lead to our contentment. The paradox is that many believe that happiness is a derivative of comfort, and the opposite is true. 

Can We Find Happiness Because of What We Learned During Covid19?

Over the past school year, two words that we have not often heard associated with one another are Covid and happiness. And, although we won’t follow Alice down the rabbit hole regarding the meaning and history of happiness, we do want to identify that happiness, in this context, is a state of being that occurs when someone experiences meaningfulness and worthy contribution. 

For more on the concept of happiness, visit the Greater Good Magazine for tons of information and resources.

Now that we are emerging from Covid19 in a post-vaccinated society, we wanted to reflect on the past school year through the lens of a renowned education reformer, John Dewey. Our hope is that we can find happiness and success from what we’ve learned. If we can, then we will make significant strides in education. 

Forced Change Due to a Crisis 

This year was challenging on many levels. Covid19 either disrupted your life, or worse yet, imposed devastating outcomes. As for the educational workforce, everyone within the system experienced significant challenges through forced change. At TheSchoolHouse302, we consider forced change to be beyond the realm of our control and something that we must respond to  accordingly using resilience and flexibility. 

Forced change is beyond the realm of our control; we must respond and adapt to it in order to continue to effectively teach and learn. ~ TheSchoolHouse302 @TSH302 Click To Tweet

Change happens all the time. It can be foreseeable or not, welcome or forced. Changes in education often come from the Federal Government or from an outside interest group. But a change due to a pandemic is something that no one expects or sees coming. The bottom line is that regardless of where the change comes from, schools and school personnel must change to the degree equivalent to the strength and potency of the change itself. The problem with Covid and the educational community is the degree of change that is required. The difficulty of this school year wasn’t due to another change initiative but to the dominance that Covid possessed. We aren’t talking about new standards or legislation on high quality early learning services, we were, and still are, dealing with a complete upheaval to how we traditionally operate schooling. 

Educators worked hard through the end of the 2019/2020 school year in the best possible way to educate students to the best of our ability given the unprecedented worldwide reaction to the virus. But, once teachers and leaders realized that there was a strong possibility of not returning to in-person learning in 2020/2021, mindsets had to shift to embrace the virtual learning reality.

As the primary place where students learn became off limits because of social distancing, whether completely, partially, or intermittently, school buildings were no longer the center of where learning needed to take place. This forced change had incredible ramifications, many of which were cause for absenteeism, increased rates of failure, and learning loss. However, amid the challenges of the forced change, there exists the triumph of a year whereby many of the educational values that John Dewey espoused were put into place and embraced faster than had we not experienced a crisis.  

Let’s be clear, we could all easily fall back into our traditional way of doing things if we are not intentional or if we fail to reflect on what we’ve learned during these trying times. We look to the educational vision of a man who was born in 1859, but that vision, albeit more than a century old, is often absent from today’s student experience. We are now able to ask ourselves: what are the claims that John Dewey would make about the post-pandemic educational system that we should embrace for the advancement of teaching and learning? 

3 Claims that John Dewey Would Likely Make About Teaching and Learning as the Result of Covid19

John Dewey Claim #1: 21st Century Schools are the Central Hubs of Our Community

One glaring truth that emerged from Covid19 is that schools are the centers of our communities. We could argue that churches and other organizations were once a central space to reach the community, but, throughout Covid19, schools were the community institutions that were used to reach, communicate, support, feed, and aid our students and families. 

This is primarily due to the simple ease of connection that schools have with every child. The incredible community centers and outreach programs throughout Covid often needed a place to reach the greater community, and one way to quickly get in touch with people was through school communication systems all the way down to teacher rosters and district pupil services.  

Dewey claimed that a critical responsibility of education is to provide a social service that will lead to social progress. During Covid, schools shifted quickly to include social and emotional learning, prioritized standards, mental health centers, medical resources, and more. Faster than ever, schools realized Dewey’s vision for re-imagining what a classroom looks like and provides for students. 

Next Steps From What we’ve Learned from Covid19: 

Similar to the efforts of 211, which combines and harnesses community resources, schools can also be a conduit of resources and services within the community. The stark reality is that many students are suffering both mentally and emotionally and have very specific needs that the school itself is not necessarily equipped to handle. Schools are fundamentally places of learning and any responsibilities beyond that need extensive support. This is not to say that schools cannot serve these students, actually it’s just the opposite. 

Schools can curate the potential services within the community and create a system to connect families to services as needed. With a synthesized list of community services, counselors and other support staff will know where to send families for the help they need. Anything from flu shots to food drives, schools that know the available resources become the hub that Dewey intended the school to be. 

John Dewey Claim #2: Meaningful Student Engagement and Learning Must Take on Many Forms and be Evaluated Routinely and Often 

The amount of problem solving and concerted effort to educate students throughout Covid was simply amazing. It’s important to note that these weren’t necessarily new efforts but that the intensity of the efforts were significantly elevated. This is also not to say that it was all a success but the level of experimentation and risk-taking taught us what to do and not do faster than ever before. The review of student performance data and other sources of information to evaluate what works, what doesn’t, and what to try next is an outcome of the pandemic that we hope educators will stick to for the future of schooling.

Whether it was making sure that students attended classes by reviewing work samples or trying new and dynamic virtual tools, educators increased the frequency and review of data to determine if students were learning and engaged. One key realization during Covid that Dewey would agree with is that schools cannot take for granted that a student’s “presence” equals engagement and learning. New products and features of in-person and virtual learning need to include evidence and subsequent data analysis.  

Next Steps from What We’ve Learned from Covid19: 

Student engagement was a central aspect of Dewey’s work. Students need to be meaningfully engaged in learning and the meaning of the lesson. The challenge is in separating the activity from the teacher–the practicality of instruction and the task of the student. At the end of the day, marking period, semester, and year, it really comes down to whether or not the students learned and progressed through a series of tasks to get there. 

Because Covid19 was so bizarre and the obstacles were so high, we witnessed teachers repeatedly trying new things until they settled into what made sense for students. Learning was the primary objective and teachers embraced this idea due to a setting that was so different. This effort to learn and take risks on the part of the teacher as well as the demonstration of grace as it pertains to grades are two key ingredients for success moving forward.  

John Dewey Claim #3: Teachers Deserve and Need Robust Support and Learning Opportunities

In a short amount of time, teachers’ knowledge and expertise regarding technology and various platforms skyrocketed. Pre-covid, many schools were doing great work in regard to providing technology to staff and students, capitalizing on various learning tools, and supporting the technology with a solid infrastructure. But schools were very patient with staff and willingly measured progress slowly with no real rush. Early adopters soared, while school administrators supported and approved our instructors who needed more time.

Covid eliminated the freedom of a casual timeline, and teachers were forced to learn the tools and do so fast. Granted, it was frustrating and unrelenting, but the growth was amazing. From tools like Seesaw for interactive learning to various Google platforms, teachers revolutionized their classroom in zero time flat. Much of what we saw was that our early adopters and subject matter experts pumped out learning opportunities to catch others up.  

Next Steps from What We’ve Learned from Covid19:

Differentiate professional learning (PL) is not a new concept but one that needs to take hold in every school and district. Teachers’ skill sets vary and PL needs to be offered in a variety of different formats and times. Every school should be equipped with one room dedicated to learning new technologies. Handing over tech to teachers and expecting transformational teaching in the classroom without support is an unacceptable practice. Teachers should have the opportunity to identify the challenges and struggles they are facing from classroom management to engaging instructional practices and receive PL in real time. We wrote about this concept, comparing a learning culture to a teaching culture, in Passionate Leadership. What we learned from Covid19 that Dewey would love to know is that we can speed up not only the learning of our students but that of our teachers. 

We herald John Dewey’s prgressive ideas and his thoughts on teaching and learning. The notion of learning as a process that requires active participation is not anything new as we type these words, but the question in front of us today is how well are we doing it across every system? Dewey professed that we can find happiness amid every situation, and we believe that we can transform education through the challenges overcome throughout Covid19. The spirit of reaching every child and transforming our practices to bend toward the needs of every student will guide us and serve us well for centuries to come. A forced change may be exactly what education needed and now we must move forward with what we’ve learned.  

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, & 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. 
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.

Read This and Embrace Practical Ideas To Lead With Appreciation: A Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc. Book

Read This and Embrace Practical Ideas To Lead With Appreciation: A Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc. Book

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 Authors: Amber Teamann & Melinda Miller

Featured Book: Lead with Appreciation: Fostering a Culture of Gratitude

Here’s Why Every School Principal Should Read This Book About Appreciation for in the Workplace

  • Lead with Appreciation is great because it’s written by practitioners. Principals and school leaders are looking for ideas that they can implement right away. Look no further on how to show appreciation than this fantastic book.
  • Not everyone accepts appreciation or desires to experience appreciation the same way. This book not only features some great tools like the enneagram, but it digs into our work-appreciation languages. P.S. You can find our interview with enneagram specialist, Kaley Klemp here
  • This book is littered with primary resources. The pictures are real, and they add an element of authenticity and reassurance. As a visual learner, this is awesome and takes away some of the mental wrestling that occurs when you are trying to understand what something would look like. 
  • Another great takeaway is that this book is written with most of the chapters focused on the months of the school year. It’s a power planning tip when we can pre-populate our calendar with action items months ahead of schedule. 

Buy Lead with Appreciation on Amazon

Visit Amber Teamann’s Website

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. 

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Close the Book on this School Year in Style: The Definitive Four Strategies that Every Principal Must Master To Finish with Peak Performance

Close the Book on this School Year in Style: The Definitive Four Strategies that Every Principal Must Master To Finish with Peak Performance

Finish Strong: Make May Memorable

In schools, the month of May can be likened to grade-5 whitewater rafting conditions—large waves, volumes-upon-volumes of water, the possibility of large rocks and other hazards, and the nearing of a large drop off at any point. Each obstacle requires precise maneuvering. The only quality of May that is similar to other months in the school year is its length. That said, we can’t just ride the wave, hoping or expecting for it to be a great finale. School leaders need to explicitly and intentionally end the school year strong, and specific to a year of COVID, on a higher, brighter, and better note than the way we started.

One of Our Favorite Quotes About Finishing Strong Comes from Robin Sharma

One incredible quote that we appreciate comes from Robin Sharma, best selling author of The World-Changer’s Manifesto. Its simplicity sums up the goal of this post: “Starting strong is good. Finishing strong is epic.” The issue is that May will challenge the greatest of principals and will leave many of our most well-intentioned leaders with their heads hung low in defeat. We’re excited to tell you that it doesn’t have to be that way.

Executive Functioning Skills for School Principals

The month of May demands a highly effective principal leader with excellent executive functioning skills. Time management is crucial, maintaining momentum is essential, relentless communication is a must, and connecting with staff is imperative. Throughout the month, school administrators are planning and delivering a variety of year-end culminating events, completing both formative and summative observations, ensuring that we maintain high engagement and strong classroom instruction, and orchestrating the completion of multiple standardized assessments. There is simply not enough month compared to the work.

To complicate matters, let’s add what appeared at first to be one of those insurmountable grade-5 white water conditions–Covid19–which showed itself like a waterfall that has a turbulent plunge pool at the bottom ready to devour you. Now, with the year coming to a close, schools are considering any of the following this summer:

  • Grade level reading exposure
  • Empowering families to support summer learning
  • Summer learning opportunities from accelerated learning academies to tutoring
  • Social and emotional support
  • The implications of retention 
  • Filling gaps during 21/22

The unique challenge for school leaders within this hectic environment is that we must also finish the current school year strong, bringing everyone to their highest level of performance before students, and then teachers, take off for the summer. As you work through these final weeks and hours, consider Kahneman’s peak-end rule: “The way an experience ends determines the happiness we ascribe to it.” This has implications for all of our year-end events, activities, and meetings, and it sets the tone for the students and the faculty for next school year. Ending this year strong is the single greatest way to starting summer programs and beginning the upcoming school year right.

Four Strategies that Any Principal Can Employ for End-of-Year Peak Performance

Stay Connected to Know What’s Going On

Despite being an overall good practice, being visible to connect with the staff and students during the last month of school is critical. We promote three primary ways for administrators to move throughout the building with purpose:

  1. Teacher observations: Arguably the vast majority of observations should be done, but this is also a great time to have end of year conferences. Be sure to go to the teacher’s room to have the conference. This practice not only creates a comfortable environment for the teacher, but it creates an opportunity for you to get out of your office. 
  2. Walkthroughs: These short classroom visits–12 to 17 minutes each–should be done till the end of the school year. The end of the school year should be filled with a lot of fun activities, even during Covid, but these activities should not come at the expense of learning or classroom instruction. It’s critical to use time at the end of the school year wisely, and being in classrooms is always a good use of time. 
  3. Management by Walking Around: This is great practice to use so that you can touch base, connect, and see all of the operational functions of the school. The primary purpose of MBWA is for you to learn about and improve the systems in your school.  

Teachers and students should feel your presence in a positive and supportive way. Not only will you continue to keep your finger on the “pulse” of the climate, but it also sets the tone that instruction is still the priority. 

May poses many obstacles that can increase frustration, which can end the year with a negative vibe. That’s the opposite of what you want. Stay connected by keeping the routines of being in classrooms and halls (or virtually on Zoom or Teams), by participating in PLCs, and by generally being available. 

Key Take-away for School Leaders: 

How will you structure your calendar to get you into classrooms, both in-person and remote? Remember, there are times of the day that best match productivity for certain tasks. Try to organize your day in a way that maximizes your effectiveness and still reaches your visibility goal. 

Reinforce Consistency to Ensure Quality Instruction

Despite all the May-hem, the primary focus should always be on teaching and learning. One way to ensure a smooth May is by following the routines that have been in place all year that reinforce quality instruction and student engagement. If learning remains the primary focus, and all of your faculty members embrace this mentality and work together to ensure a strong finish, the likelihood of success is much greater. 

This year presents another unique challenge because of the various modalities that are being used for learning. Schools are working to understand the impact of Covid19 and the potential learning loss. Don’t miss what Richard Elmore says about that. Whether it is a slide, a couple months of lost learning, or a slowdown, a couple weeks of lost learning, schools must finish the year strong and also find ways to understand and determine how much the students have and haven’t learned throughout the school year. 

Students can make significant gains this time of year, so using every second of the day is vital. School’s that understand this concept–end-of-year gains–see the month of May and early June as “time is running out.” This means that we’re in full engagement mode. Instead of hanging on for dear life as the rocks and waves pummel the boat, navigate with a clear focus on getting to the end with success in mind. We can’t slow down when the waters get rough, we need to increase our response rate for the sake of success or failure.

Key Take-away for School Leaders: 

What assessments will you use to determine what students have learned this year? And, how will you use that data to inform summer programming and learning in the fall? These assessments can range from in-house assessments to standardized assessments. 

Over-Communicate to Inform the School Community

The key here is to provide ongoing and routine communication on all available platforms. That being said, staff should be informed through one primary tool. A weekly principal’s memo is a tried and true method that works amazingly well. The memo should be organized  in such a way that is informative, uplifting, and reinforcing of key practice and ideas.

It’s incredible to think about all of the information that schools communicate, but as the school year wraps up there are several pieces of information that also help end the year smoothly. Daily and weekly schedules with activities, events, and reminders that are purposeful and valuable should be sent each week, ahead of time. This information should complement the school’s online master calendar, and when applicable, should also identify key people associated with the event. This lets everyone know exactly what is going on so that folks aren’t left with any uncertainty, including staff, students, and families. 

Because Covid has created an enormous amount of uncertainty, over-communication will also reassure people in terms of what to expect and when. Especially if you are offering various programs throughout the summer to support learning, communicating ahead of time is a key way to put people at ease about what’s happening and where they fit into the work. Clear communication should be the goal throughout the year, but in May, with so much happening, it needs to be abundantly clear. 

Lastly, this communication effort needs to come in many forms—morning announcements, website notifications, memos, emails, etc. The school itself and the main office need to be the lighthouse in the storm, directing the way to calmer waters.

Key Take-away for School Leaders: 

What is your system for collecting all of the pertinent information from key people in your school so that you can put together a single message (put out in multiple places)? Pro Tip: Always keep your main office secretary in the loop about everything–even the stuff you don’t think they need to know. They are a primary connection to the community and can create a very receptive environment for staff and families. 

Celebrate Often to Sincerely Offer Praise

This is the most important suggestion for finishing May on a high—celebrate. Find appropriate times to celebrate and recognize staff and students in meaningful and purposeful ways. Teacher appreciation week is a great way to launch May and to maintain a month of recognition, positive reinforcement, and the desire to highlight the “bright spots.” 

Make May into an all encompassing Staff Appreciation Month. May is the month to make your school come alive through recognition and the positive story that you have to tell. Strive to create an energetic and warm environment. Again, this is a strategy that can be used year-round, but May needs to be the icing on the cake. Covid definitely places some limitations on what can be done to celebrate, however, there are still ample opportunities to lift the work that you school is proud to share. It’s also a reminder that your school has a brand, and May can make or break how people feel about it. 

Teachers have been working tireless hours doing what they can for their students and celebrating is a great way to demonstrate that you recognize those efforts. People need to leave for the summer thinking that they have a great place to return to in August. It is very easy to end the school year abruptly with confusion and dismay because of a disorganized hectic month so make May special as a positive reflection of all of the good that has happened this year. If you’re not intentional, we warn, people will remember the worst parts, not the best.

Key Take-away for School Leaders: 

What opportunities do you have to offer sincere praise and recognition for your staff–individually and publicly? Be strategic with celebrations as often and as authentic as possible. Make May memorable by making it fun and commemorative.

Leaders need to be mindful of the peak-end rule. May is both the peak and the end of the school year, which will be what people remember as they head into the summer and beyond. The month of May has implications for students learning, teacher satisfaction, the way you start next year, and even the overall brand of your school. Don’t miss this important period of time to reinforce all of the great work and positive reasons to be an educator . 

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, & 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. 

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. 

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