Sunday, March 11, 2018

Balancing Numbers

This past week I was gifted with a really fantastic connection; Principal Kafele followed me on Twitter.  Yeah, he followed ME!  Wow, right?  We are now learning from each other, and that really is something in my book.  He may garner something new from me like I like I do from him so often on Twitter.

So, why is this notification so momentous for me?  Well, Principal Kafele is known in education circles to challenge the status quo.  He fights for ALL children's access to education, and he cares deeply for the professionals with which he works.  In essence, he is kind of a big thing, and when he speaks or tweets or video posts, I listen.  And that is why I stopped and really noticed what he posted on Saturday.  His word for the day was balance, and his definition spoke to me.  Kafele challenged the reader to "...give the fulfillment of your dream your all, but also ensure that there is balance in your life."

When educating children is our dream, so much of what we do then engulfs our waking and sleeping hours.  We worry over teachers and students, we work to meet a menagerie of deadlines, and we reflect over practices and policies constantly.  We facilitate great work in our buildings, and we dedicate our hearts to the service of our students and staffs.  Untold numbers of hours are spent on this good work, and that is what we love to do.  So, when Kafele posted an article about a principal who had passed away at her desk shortly after he posted his definition of balance, I took notice.  In the article about Trish Antulov, the author quotes an alarming statistic.  “On average, 53 per cent of principals worked more than 56 hours per week during term, with 27 per cent working upwards of 61 to 65 hours per week" (Miner, 2018).  Miner (2018) proposed later in the article that principals often work so many hours that they cannot maintain a healthy lifestyle.  My understanding about the need for balance for all educators - not just principals - weighed on me in that moment, and I believe any leader and educator who leads from the heart will feel the same way.  

So in response I began to ask myself a variety of questions.  How do I lead from the heart professionally while balancing my personal needs as well?  Furthermore, how can principals help one another so that the profession is not so lonely and the work not so heavy?  I am not sure that I have an answer yet, but I know that we cannot do this work alone.  It is going to take a team to figure out how to balance the numbers so that we are ALL resilient enough to do the work ahead.   Finding the right leadership team is certainly going to be crucial, and leveraging shared leadership practices is also going to be a must.  But, I think even more important will be my ability to find that critical friend, that one person I can trust, so that I may share my worries AND my joys in a candid way.  Ultimately, as a principal I must find ways to balance the numbers - the tasks, the hours, the joys, and the hardships - so that I can truly be the servant leader I want to be.  #balancematters #resiliencematters

Miner, K. (2018 February 21).  Principal dies at her desk. The West Austalian. Retrieved from 

Sunday, February 25, 2018

The Ten Things Challenge

Image from:

Recently on Twitter, I came across the ten things every educator should say more often.  As I read them I kept thinking, we really should be saying these every day and all day - not just more often.  For if we begin with "I believe in you" and "I won't give up on you," how different would the reaction of the listener be?  How would their response to the feedback change if we led critical conversations with these statements?  How different would my own tone, stance, and reaction to a person's response be if I led with the "you count" mindset?

My attraction to these statements should not surprise me.  See, I have been wrestling with what radical candor sounds like, particularly when you are about to have a truly tough conversation.   I think many of us in the education business tend to care personally more than we speak candidly.  We never want to hurt feelings.  But, Scott (2017) espoused in her recent book that even when we are speaking candidly, we can show that we care for others personally by being critical when work is not "up to snuff."  I think that the language, however, must be crafted in such away that the listener can hear, and this is where I slightly veer away from Scott's assertions.  I believe that we should always be radically candid, but the heart of the conversation should always come from love.  So, when I am opening even my most critical conversations, they should begin with "I believe in you" or "I care about you."  However, we must move into "and that is why I am calling you and myself to a higher standard here.  What truly is best for kids, and how can we work together to make sure that happens?"  (Notice, I am not using "But" in the statement above.  That's intentional.)  Having these kinds of conversations will always be difficult, but we still must have them.  The hearer may not "feel" my intentions; however, I still must show that I care by holding us all accountable.  In a "Radical Candor" podcast about ruinous empathy and criticism, Scott and Laraway (2017) suggested that a manager draft and practice these kinds of conversations prior to sitting down with the employee.  I cannot agree more.  Moving forward, I will prepare for the tough conversation just like I am doing my teacher observation debriefs.  I have will have a set agenda with prepared questions.  I will move into the refinement and offer help and suggestions as best I can.  We will then land on a plan of action with specific steps for myself and the employee.  This is forward thinking and forward leading, and I am excited to begin practicing it as I continue my work as an aspiring principal.

Scott, K. (2017). Radical candor: Be a kick-ass boss without losing your humanity. New York, NY: St. Martins Press.

Scott, K. & Laraway, R. (2017, January 24). Ep. 4: Ruinous empathy and criticism [Audio podcast]. Retrieved from 

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Happiness and Mercy

It has been quite awhile since I posted to the Oz Buzz.  This was a fairly regular practice of mine when I was a Technology Integration Specialist many years ago.  As a school leader, I essentially got out of practice sharing my learning in a public forum, but boy have I learned in the last six and a half years!  So, I wanted to begin my new journey on the Oz Buzz with a reminder about happiness and mercy.  I wish you all much learning and happiness in the new year.  Thank you for joining me on my journey!


January has been a difficult month.  It has been a month of loss and has been full of goodbyes, tears, and ample hugs from family, friends, and students.  But... even in the midst of sadness, it has been a month of laughter and love.  It is this juxtapose relationship between happiness and sadness that has taught me so much about my own personal and professional journey in resilience.  More importantly, my journey in January has taught me that mercy and happiness are the keys to taking the next step when resilience is waning.  This has particularly been poignant in the final steps I have taken with my student "B."  Those that know me well know that "B" and I have a special bond born out of struggle and caring.  It had been my ardent wish to make my school the first one "B" was enrolled in for the entire school year.  However, his needs were specific and better met in another location.   In his last two days, "B" struggled to function in our setting.  He was reeling from the news that he was to be moved once again, and he struggled to understand why.  In that last day, I had a decision to make.  Was I going to chose mercy and happiness for his sake, or was I going to take a hard line?  And in those moments when I felt the pull of mercy or consequence, I remembered my own feeling of loss, and I chose mercy.  I chose to hug him and play checkers; I chose to work on a puzzle and play legos.  Looking back on my last day with "B,"  I am thankful I chose happiness and mercy.  And, you know what?  I want my character and leadership to be remembered by these two characteristics - both happiness and mercy.  Because if they are, my discussions around consequence and expectation will be softer and more effective, and in turn the hearer will be more ready for the critical feedback.  In some cases, this is the first step, really the only step, we can take towards resilience as a team.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Spying 21st Century Skills: March A Edition

Here at the beginning of March, teachers have had kids spending a lot of time on making judgments and decisions based on content knowledge.  The skill of evaluating, or making judgements based on criteria and standards through checking and critiquing, is the second highest category in Bloom's Revised Taxonomy.  Our teachers here are making GREAT strides to give kids a safe environment to practice this skill.

1.  EF (Gr. 5 - ELA) has posted an LMS Discussion Board where she has students evaluate the movie trailers for popular books.  She asks kids to answer the following questions: What do YOU think movie makers are thinking when they transform a book into a movie? What are their motives?.
(Make Judgements and Decisions: Interpret information and draw conclusions based on the best analysis)

2.  JP (Gr. 5 - Soc. Studies) has posted an LMS Discussion Board where she has students read a passage about Adolf Hitler and explain what they think "Anti-Semitism" means.  As part of the process, Mrs. Palen is responding to each child's post validating their answers and asking further questions for clarification.
(Reason Effectively:  Deductive Reasoning; Make Judgments and Decisions: Interpret information and draw conclusions based on the best analysis; Communicate Clearly: Articulate thoughts and ideas effectively using written communication & to communicate for a range of purposes )

3. SL (Speech) is having students record themselves as they speak using the program Audacity. Students use these recordings to assess their own progress on speech skills, and Mrs. Lunsford is using these recordings as evidence for progress monitoring.

(Make Judgments & Decisions: Reflect critically on learning experiences and processes)

Teachers have also spent time having kids reflect on their own learning and progress!

4.  JP (Gr. 5 - ELA) has asked students to create their own LMS Quiz Show and Crossword Puzzle games based on major themes they have studied in language arts.  This has included games about figurative language, point of view, etc.  Students crafted their own questions and answers and with the help of the teacher created the game on the teacher's LMS page.
(Collaborate with Others; Be Self-Directed Learners: Go beyond basic mastery of skills to explore and expand one's own learning and opportunities to gain expertise)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A 5th grade social studies teacher here at school used a debate format to assess student knowledge about the social welfare programs of Depression Era United States. This was a great example of making kids think, evaluate, and support their findings! It was amazing to see kids support with evidence why a certain program from the '30s was the best social welfare program from that time. The teacher structured the debate as follows:

- 2 minute Introduction to the program - multiple students could speak from that group
- Two 1 minute rebuttals from other groups

Logistically, the teacher thought through student movement and preparation. They all wore these "debate signs" where they wrote the position on the front and the evidence on the back. The students used the notes on the back as guides for the Introduction and during the rebuttals. The teacher also allowed students to change positions as they listened to the introductions and the rebuttals. However, if the student moved, they had to explain why they changed their minds. This was a great example of kids completing higher order thinking inside of Social Studies. The best part about the process is that the kids were excited and passionate about their points of view. Because the teacher built in the rebuttals, the debate became a true summative assessment of this standard.

Civic Literacy: Understanding the local and global implications of civic decisions

Reason Effectively: Use various types of reasoning (inductive, deductive, etc.) as appropriate to the situation

Make Judgements and Decision: Effectively analyze and evaluate evidence, arguments, claims and beliefs; Analyze and evaluate major alternative points of view; Synthesize and make connections between information and arguments; Interpret information and draw conclusions based on the best analysis

Communicate Clearly: Articulate thoughts and ideas effectively using oral, written and nonverbal communication skills in a variety of forms and contexts; Listen effectively to decipher meaning, including knowledge, values, attitudes and intentions; Use communication for a range of purposes (e.g. to inform, instruct, motivate and persuade)

For some ideas on how to grade this kind of activity, check the links below:

Spying 21st Century Skills - Progressive Storytelling

Here at PHES, we have registered for a progressive storytelling opportunity with students and teachers from around the world.  I saw this great idea on the ASCD Brief last Friday, and I just knew that our upper grades would want to try it out.  The neat thing about this option is the interactive and collaborative nature of the storytelling process.  Our students will post various story starters once the Spring session opens. When this happens, others from around the country and in oversees schools will add paragraphs to the stories as the time passes.  In the end, the students' story starter has led to a version of the story the student has never thought about!  To learn more about this opportunity, check out the wikispace below.  The last day for Spring registration is March 11th!

21st Century Skills
- Collaborate with Others: Assume shared responsibility for collaborative work, and value the individual contributions made by each team member

- Communicate Clearly: Articulate thoughts and ideas effectively using written communication skills in a variety of forms and contexts

- Work Creatively with Others: Develop, implement and communicate new ideas to other effectively; Incorporate group input; Demonstrate orginality and inventiveness in work

- Think Creatively: Create new and worthwhile ideas (wikispace for project) (Article from the ACSD Brief)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Spying 21st Century Skills - February B Edition

1. Guidance & Computer Lab teachers are having kids take an interest survey on the My Next Step website in order to narrow down career interests. Students are now using the data from the survey to research more about the careers which best fit their personalities and interests! (Make Judgements & Decisions: Interpret information and draw conclusions based on the best analysis)

2. The Computer Lab teacher is working with 5th grade students to research, paraphrase, and cite in MLA style information about topics in Social Studies (Information Literacy: Access and Evaluate Info, Use and Manage Info; Media Literacy: Analyze Media; Apply Technology Effectively)

3. A Third Grade Teacher had groups of students to use digital cameras to take pictures of geometric shapes found around the school. Students are going to take these images to create a video where they explain how they know what shape the item is. (Collaborate with Others, Communicate Clearly: Articulate thought and ideas effectively; Reason Effectively: Using Deductive Reasoning; Apply Technology Effectively)

4. A PE Teacher is using LMS Discussion Boards as a station during one of his gymnastics lessons. He is having students evaluate their performance during the lesson. (Make Judgments and Decisions: Reflect critically on learning experiences & processes)

5. A 2nd and 4th Grade Teacher had students to jointly write Destiny Book Reviews as part of the Book Buddy process. They plan to upload these reviews to the Destiny site during this nine weeks. (Work Creatively with Others: Develop and communicate new ideas to others effectively; Communicate Clearly: Articulate thoughts and ideas effectively in a variety of contexts; Collaborate with Others; Productivity and Accountability: Produce Results; Leadership and Responsibility: Guide and Lead Others)

6. 3rd Grade Teacher - Students are blogging about geometric shapes in the world around them. In the blogs students included evidence to prove how they knew the item was a certain shape. (Articulate thought and ideas effectively; Reason Effectively: Using Deductive Reasoning; Apply Technology Effectively)

Click here to learn more about the 21st Century Skills highlighted in this post.