Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Culture of Accountability

A culture of accountability makes a good organization great and a great organization unstoppable.- Henry Evans 



In this blog post, I want to share with you Chapter 1 of this amazing book- Winning with Accountability.

In Evans book, Winning with Accountability, he shares how winning begins with accountability.  However, accountability has a very nasty perception and reputation.  Accountability is often punitive and comes up when something goes wrong or someone does something wrong.  It is often a pointing of the fingers and a blame game.

You cannot sustain success without accountability.  Period.  It is a vital part of winning and success.

Look at the definition of accountability as defined by Webster's Dictionary-

"the quality or state of being accountable; an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility for one's actions."


This does not sound punitive, right?  It is a positive statement- obligation...willingness...responsibility...

Evans says it is necessary for us to reframe accountability into a more positive mindset.  It is important that we view accountability as the secret sauce within our schools that can create or prevent us from reaching success. It shouldn't bring about fear, stress, or even those "punitive measures."

Accountability is not necessarily about holding everyone else accountable.  It is about each and every person holding themselves accountable for the results.  It is also about having a willingness to be held accountable by others.

So how do we change the perception of accountability to being more of a positive tone?  

It is all achieved by front-loading accountability.  Front loading accountability means the sender (leader, principal, director, coordinator) has to provide specifics, including clear expectations.  Both parties are responsible - the sender and receiver.  The receiver can ask questions for clarification or restate the message.  This two-way communication style builds trust and sets the road to success.  

For example, in my years as a principal, my superintendent would give an assignment or task to be completed.  She would give suggestions on how it should be handled, completed, and may even tell us how it should look.  The expectations were clear up front.  The specifics were provided.  There's no reason for it not to be completed on time or to the expectations being set.

Front-loading accountability helps to:
  • increase performance
  • allocate resources
  • increase employee job satisfaction
  • improve results
Taking this information and applying it to our school setting is very easy.  I know we need to change the mindset of accountability to be more positive.  Without it, we could possibly all be working on the wrong things or have a lack of direction and purpose. #keepyoureyesontheprize


His book, Winning with Accountability, is tended for business but it is a great read in education or even for personal inspiration too.  I truly think I can take every chapter and apply it to our role as school leaders.

Stay tuned for the next chapter!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Principal and Assistant Principal Organizational Binder

 

 I just can't help that I love gold.  I had no plans of making a change to my current binder.   The Floral with Gold Principal Binder is beautiful too.  I simply love it.  But I had a creative moment and before I knew it... A Texas Principal, Assistant Principal Binder was born.

Honestly, I know without a doubt what sparked me to sit down at the computer and begin to create a new binder.  It was this-a beautiful font called Be Bright.



There are two things I love, besides faith and family.  I love digital graphics and fonts.  I admit I have an obsession with these things.

So here's a look at the new Texas Principal, Assistant Principal binder.  It has editable pages so you can create additional dividers and additional covers.  If you are not a Principal or Assistant Principal, you can still use this.  Just create your own title on the pages.


The dividers keep all the important documents organized in our binders.  I don't include everything in my binder.  Some items I keep filed in my desk and the rest I keep in my binder.  It's important to arrange your binder with the most important things so you can transport it to all your meetings on or off campus.

New in this binder is a school drill reporting log.  This is a perfect addition to the binder.  Now we can keep better records of the monthly drills.  

Birthdays and Anniversaries, and Important Dates pages are also included. 
Take a look at the To-Do list pages.  They can be printed and placed on your desk or by your phone.  During the day, jot down all the things you need to get done and mark them off when completed.
  
I have also included a journaling notes pages as well.  

The calendars are nondated which allows you to use them year-after-year.  

Monday, November 28, 2016

Core Values that Inspire in the School System

Core Values and Belief Posters for Schools

In business, core values are well-known statements commonly known beliefs and commitments.  Yesterday, I shared The Washington Post story on Facebook that sparked my interest and many of my readers too.  This article is called Why schools aren't businesses: The blueberry story.

This article has great points but, I believe educators can take a few principles from some great businesses and apply them to our school.   This led me to take an inside look at the core values of highly-engaged and successful companies.  I was intrigued to learn what makes them successful, what they believe, and how they do business.

Before you read any further, let me preface my thoughts by saying this: I'm not saying we need to run our schools like businesses.  Students are not "things" to be mass produced.  We simply can't cut our losses and move on.  We just can't do that.  My thoughts are solely inspired by how businesses recognize and have a firm stance on their core value system.


Take for instance the values of Google, Zappos, and Coca-Cola.

Google Beliefs
1.  Focus on the user and all else will follow.
2.  It's best to do one thing really, really well.
3.  Fast is better than slow.
4.  Democracy on the web works.
5.  You don't need to be at your desk to need an answer.
6.  You can make money without doing evil.
7.  There's always more information out there.
8.  The need for information crosses all borders.
9.  You can be serious without a suit.
10.  Great just isn't good enough.

Zappos Beliefs
1.  Deliver WOW Through Service
2.  Embrace and Drive Change
3.  Create Fun and A Little Weirdness
4.  Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded
5.  Pursue Growth and Learning
6.  Build Open and Honest Relationships with Communication
7.  Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
8.  Do More with Less
9.  Be Passionate and Determined
10.  Be Humble.

Coca-Cola Beliefs
1.  Leadership- The courage to shape a better future
2.  Collaboration- Leverage collective genius
3.  Integrity-Be real
4.  Accountability-If it is to be, it's up to me
5.  Passion- Committed in heart and mind
6.  Diversity- As inclusive as our brands
7.  Quality- What we do, we do well

Core values aren't just pleasant sounding phrases, posters, and inspirational statements painted on a wall.  They are everything to a business.


In schools, we can create and apply some of these same values.  If done in the right way, these core values can be the foundations of the school.  They can become what the school is known for and is identified with.  The core values are the reasons the teachers get out of bed every day.  They are why we do what we do and how we do them.

So you already have your mission statement and your vision of your school.  Create a list of core values to support, shape the culture, and reflect what your school values.

Need these posters?  Download Here




Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Lasting Leadership 2017 Conference for School Leaders

I'm excited to announce the news!  I'm hosting a workshop just for school leaders, administrative interns or inspiring school leaders.



The Event is being held at The Grove Kitchen and Gardens in Tyler, Texas.  We will be located inside the private event center called The Greenhouse.

3500 Old Jacksonville Hwy
Tyler, Texas
9:00-3:00

Watch YouTube Video




Registration is $100 and this includes a delicious meal prepared by the chef.  A registration link is below.  Register Here



Seating is limited.  We will close registration at 80 guests.  This is to accommodate the size of the event center, as well as, the activities being planned.

Presenters are Stephanie McConnell (me), Cristi Parsons Audrey Shumate, and Staci Erickson.  The topics are School Culture and Morale, Professional Learning Communities, Flip Your Staff Meeting, and Growth Mindset.  

Expect to have fun, laugh, learn and network with other leaders.

This is not your typical workshop!  You will leave with tons of ideas, handouts, and resources to help you implement these topics right away.  No reason to recreate the wheel when we will share everything with you.


T-shirts can be ordered too with the Lasting Leadership Logo.




Why is it called Lasting Leadership? 3 Principles of Lasting Leadership
1.  To help you create sustainable leadership after you leave the school.
2.  To prepare you for a marathon and not just a sprint in leadership.
3.  To continue to network with other leaders after the leadership conference has ended.

Sponsors of the event:  Principal Principles, Mentoring Minds, American Reading Company and GoNoodle

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

4 Things Principals Can Say That Make Teachers Happy

Principals don't have the power to give out raises or lavish everyone with expensive gifts.  I would love it but that just isn't in our power.  What is in our power is our voice.  One of the simplest ways for schools to bring happiness to their teachers begins by sharing a positive message.

It is so easy to get caught up in worrying about school accountability, student success, and constantly measuring our performance that we forget about the things that make people want to be a part of our campus.  Making our school a happy place to go to work every day is an essential piece to the success of our school.  A happy work environment attracts good people and helps the people who work for you do the best for the school.



Having a happy campus is achievable.  Here's a little bit of research on happiness.  The feeling of buying something new or receiving a gift creates happiness.  It is considered short term happiness.  It is exciting but short-lived.  The next level of happiness, which lasts longer, is the feeling that you have a pleasant life.  That kind of feeling comes from liking what you are doing and feeling good about your job.  The most sustainable level of happiness is being able to feel like you are giving back to this world.  As school leaders and educators, that is exactly what we are doing.  Teachers need to know they are making a difference.  You notice their contribution and significance on the campus.  Why not let them know it?


A sincere Thank You goes a long way.  Best practice of being thankful is to let the person know exactly why you are thankful for them either in their performance or their actions.  This shows the teacher you pay genuine attention to their efforts.


Everyone has something to contribute.  Everyone matters.  I matter.  You matter.  We all matter.  Everyone needs to feel their importance on campus.  A simple way to let your teachers know they matter is to say it.  It's okay to let the teacher know they "rocked the lesson" or "you like the way they handled a situation."  Another simple way to let a teacher know they matter is to listen.  Take time to listen and make eye contact.  This lets them know you care about what they have to say. Everyone you meet and come in contact all want the same thing in life.  They want to matter.  


Admitting fault is something great principals do.  They don't pass the buck or blame.  We set the example.  When we take the fall, it sets a risk-taking environment.  It's okay to fail.  It's okay to not know all the answers.  When a teacher falls short on performance or struggles in the classroom, we should recognize a lack of service to this individual.  It is our job to provide everything necessary for the teacher to perform satisfactorily or at a proficient level.  When a school event goes chaotic, assume responsibility for the oversight of important details.  It is not always the teacher's fault when students are out-of-control or when a parent is upset.  Things just happen.  I have made many mistakes as a leader.  I don't deny it.  However, I do learn from every mistake.  All leaders have made mistakes.  Even if the fault is not really your fault take the hit for it.  The bottom line isn't really about finding who's at fault.  It is really about finding a remedy to the solution.


These 4 very simple words, "what do you think" have a big impact.  Powerful.  When you let teachers come up with ideas and then give them the credit for it, you make that person feel better about their contribution and success of the campus.  Your expertise only goes so far.  Successful principals and school leaders who achieve any level of success can only do so with a team of very smart people. Asking "What do you think" is key to good leadership.  It allows the staff to express their opinion.  It shows that you are interested in what they have to say.   Even if you don't use their idea or opinion at that time you gave them an opportunity to share what they think.  It shows that you are interested and that is just as important.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Systems Principals Use to Communicate with Staff, Students and Community

This month my goal is to share some practical ideas with you.  The first blog post of this series is focused on Systems Principals use to Communicate with Staff, Students, and Community.  I love practical and real examples of what's working.  No one has time to weed through all the fluff.  If you have stumbled upon some great systems that work for you, please share with me.


It is no secret that communication is key to being an effective leader.  Communication is critical and essential.  It is more than a one-way street.  Whether the communication is spoken or written, it is where leadership lives and breathes.

Why is it so important?
Communication is the way we connect with each other.  I could really stop right there because that statement is huge.

What you say is important, and how you say it is probably even more important.
Our tone of voice, our body language, and our facial expressions all have an impact on our message.

What we directly say or indirectly say will spread throughout the campus.  Make sure your message is being spread without misunderstanding.

Ways we can communicate with our staff, students, and community:


1.  Face-to-Face (large or small group, one-on-one) is the most ideal form of communication system. Face-to-Face communication seems to be falling short because of all of the digital systems now available.  We can interact with people all over the world without leaving our office.  We can send emails and messages with the click of just a few buttons.  Face-to-Face meetings are the best avenues when trying to discuss difficult issues, new policies, workplace conflicts, or any other topic that could be easily misinterpreted or miscommunicated.  Face-to-Face allows you to answer questions that everyone may be wondering.  Instead of emailing back and forth all day, a quick meeting during the day can be the best avenue.  We don't always get the opportunity to meet and talk face-to-face because of schedules but it is still the best way to communicate.  If your schedule allows for it, try to do this more often especially when the topic of discussion may be controversial or difficult to formulate in any type of digital platform.

2.  Social Media
Notifying parents and students via social media platforms have proven effective.  If your campus has a Facebook, Twitter or Instagram account, these can spread information rather quickly.  Send reminders of school events or spotlight your campus in pictures.  Parents, students, and teachers love to get recognized on social media.  Your school is doing great things.  Why not let everyone know about it?

3.  Campus Website, Blog
The campus website or blog is a great resource too.  Keep events posted and regularly updated on your site.


4.  Apps (Messenger Platform)

Remind (formerly Remind101)- Gives you the ability to send a message to your entire school, group or a single person.  It schedules reminders ahead of time.  I have never used the translation feature but it has the ability to translate your message into 70 languages.



Class DoJo- This app allows parents to be actively involved.  It generates data on behavior that teachers or principals can share with parents.  If a student is doing well in school, this helps you get the word out to parents.  This app does so much more than just sharing.  It allows students to create portfolios by adding pictures.  It creates a positive platform for students.  



Voxer- I have enjoyed playing around with this app.  It is like talking on a Walkie-Talkie.  With Voxer, you can talk, send text and photos.  These can be sent to one person or to an entire group.

5.  Newsletters, Notes (eNewsletter, Paper)


I have always sent home a monthly newsletter to my parents.  My newsletters have always been printed, but eNewsletters are great too.  Smore.com  is a great website to create beautiful electronic newsletters.  After you create it, you can share your newsletter on Facebook, Twitter or email it out.

School Wide Parent Reminder Notes are sent home prior to any school event.  There are two notes on every page.  Each student receives a half-page note to hang on the refrigerator or hand to the parent.


6.  Home Visits

Home visits have a negative reputation.  However, going to a student's home doesn't always mean something bad.  I have made many home visits.  Typically, I made two or three a month.  Keep in mind this may not be something I recommend for everyone.  There are precautions to take when entering someone's home.  I always have someone with me, and the parent knows we are coming.  I have been to student's homes for various reasons- parent unable to come to school because a lack of transportation, to discuss attendance, grades, behavior, or referral for counseling, special programs or just to understand the child's situation.  In all my years of making home visits, I have only had one situation that I felt unsafe.  Thankfully, I had our school resource officer with me.  Home visits can be effective.  It lets the parents and school staff build a partnership.  If done correctly with the right intent, it can literally open many doors.


7.  Folders

My campus has always had two folders.  One folder is a weekly folder and the other is a daily homework folder.  The weekly folder goes home every Monday.  It contains all the completed work from the previous week.  It will also have any behavior information and any forms or newsletters.  The daily folder is for homework.  The folders are purchased by the school.  I like purchasing the folders for the entire campus because all folders are the same.  My favorite folders to purchase are called Nicky folders.  They last the ENTIRE school year.



8.  Email
Email is quick and easy.   Since we are handling a multitude of daily issues, email helps address many minor issues in a quick way.  We can devote our time to more serious issues in a non-email type format.  The upside of email is that is a written format.  It provides written proof of your thoughts or information.  The downside is that it lacks a personal touch.  It can be misunderstood and overused.  We can all read the same thing but comprehend it a different way.  Be careful not to send emails that confront a "touchy or volatile issue."  Do not send confidential emails regarding student matters/conflicts or issues.

  • Use emails to send information to staff about upcoming news, decisions, and meetings.  
  • To congratulate teachers and staff
  • To distribute materials and resources 


Now it's your turn.  Share some forms of communication you use!

Monday, October 31, 2016

Fluency and Story Elements for Young Learners

Fluency is important.  Reading too slow or too fast will hinder comprehension.  In reality, fluency doesn't guarantee that comprehension will happen.  However, comprehension is difficult without being a fluent reader.  As students move through each grade level, we want them to become stronger in analyzing and interpreting texts, be able to draw conclusions and infer meaning from the text.  In order to do all of this, we must focus on fluency.

I created this set of fluency component posters.  These posters define the different components of fluency- phrasing, rate, accuracy, and expression.

Fluency posters are FREE.
Download Fluency Posters for FREE Here


Teaching students the different story elements is important as well.  Knowing all the different parts of a story increases student's ability to retell, summarize and comprehend the story.


Teaching these simple story elements begins early in school.   As soon as we build a foundation in these, we can move on to more complex topics.  Of course, we should always review and spiral through these as well.

For example, point of view, summarization, compare and contrast, and characterization are just a few we will introduce next.   We cannot build on these until we have a strong foundation in the simple story elements.
Teaching story elements is not a one-time thing.  We should discuss the elements of a story when we read books to our students or when we are discussing any type of text.  

Graphic organizers are one of my favorite ways to introduce and reinforce these elements.  Researchers support the use of graphic organizers in the classroom.  One of most favorite pieces of the research says that students process the information easily when in a graphic organizer because it is separated into chunks or pieced into organized parts.  Our brains like information when it is in organized parts.



Here is a view of the clipart.  I just love the artist who created the graphics for me.