A-Z: Leadership Traits and Attributes

“Titles don’t make you a leader, impact does.” Unknown

Effective leadership is essential in moving schools forward to evolve and grow. Being a good leader isn’t something everyone can do because leadership is a journey and takes time, reflection and intentional goals. Many effective leaders share several traits and attitudes; below I offer 26 ways leaders can be effective.

A strategy I suggest is choosing one trait or attribute a week and self reflecting where you are in your leadership journey with the attribute or trait. Using this strategy will help you start to make small changes in your practice to becoming an even more effective leader. 

Authentic: Being your true authentic self at work will allow you to enjoy what you’re doing every day because it will will align with your skills, values and passions. It won’t be a job you have to go to but a job you want to do.

Balanced: Being a good leader means making sure you are modeling positive behaviors such as work/life balance. It also helps you be the best leader you can be when you are also taking care of yourself.

Communicate Effectively: Communication is an integral part of being an effective leader. You need to be able to synthesize information along with being able to frame problems as opportunities in order for staff not to feel confused or overwhelmed.

Decision Making: Effective leaders need to feel comfortable making decisions in response to rapidly-changing information. As a leader, your decisions need to be responsive and guided by your priorities, purpose, and data.

Empower: It is important you understand that great work can not be done alone and that you need a team to be able to be successful. You can empower staff by acknowledging others strengths and potential contributions.

Focused: It is key to stay focused and not lose sight of your goals. There will always be lots of distractions; you need to be able to filter and focus on moving forward, keeping in mind the goals you set.

Gratitude: Expressing gratitude not only shows you care and recognize people but it also builds trust and creates positive, feel good interactions. Check out this article to learn more, Why Gratitude Makes Leaders More Effective.

Humble: Being humble makes great leaders open-minded and willing to listen to others. It shows you trust your team/staff and respect them. Humble leaders don’t let pride get in the way; they take constructive criticism to improve their craft.

Inspirational: As a leader people are looking up to you. You need to have the ability to communicate that passion, purpose and meaning to others to help inspire them as it will define your culture.

Joy: Bring joy to work is an essential attribute for leaders for many reasons. When leaders lead with joy it is infectious and spreads like wild fire to create a culture of joy. Having a culture of joy makes staff happier which means more productivity and engagement. Do you want to learn how to bring more joy into the workplace; check out theses 12 ways.

Know Your Self: Effective leadership involves leading by example which means you need to know yourself as a leader. Your personal experiences, values and strengths make up your leadership philosophy. Here is a great exercise that takes 10 mins to allow you to create more self-awareness.

Learning: As a leader you should be constantly learning and growing your practice. No one is saying you have to know everything but be willing to learn and grow by saying things such as “I don’t know the answer but I will find out.
This also models for your staff that learning never stops.

Mindful: It is important to pay attention to the present moment as much as it is important to look forward. You need to keep in mind not everyone is in the same place as you and to have empathy for others.

Nimble: Nimble and agile leaders are those who can adapt to an ever-changing and uncertain world. As a leader you need to be able to see how your school, department etc can continue to grow and develop while making pivots.

Openly Listen: Effective leaders need to listen to others around them. Openly listening to not only their ideas but also the barriers they see. You also need to listen to them when they are having struggles in and out of the workplace in order to be supportive.

Proactive: As a leader you need to be proactive to take time to strategically think and plan. Too often as leaders we get caught up in the tactical and day to day we don’t leave enough time to strategically think. One way to making sure you have time to strategically think during your week is to block it off on your calendar like it is a meeting.

Questioning: Asking questions helps leaders understand concepts, ideas and others. When you don’t ask questions you make assumptions and that doesn’t help anyone. Asking questions to clarify, identify gaps in understanding and to learn helps leaders facilitate discussions. Questions are also a great way of challenging people to think differently or to think about the outcomes they want.

Relationships: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel” by Maya Angelou. Building relationships is the most important thing you can do as a leader and you must remember to continue to foster and nurture them.

Servant leader: Being a good leader means you need to put people first. To do this you must help others with their goals and grow their skills. Check out this article to gain ideas on how to put people first: The Power of Putting People First

Transparency: When you are transparent with your staff they don’t have to tell themselves stories of what is happening because they know what is happening. The more openness and honesty you promote, the quicker you and your team will be able to work together.

Understanding: As a leader, you must understand that everyone has different needs and that there isn’t a one size fits all solution. You must tailor your coaching and supporting style to match their working style.

Visionary: Having a vision and using it as a foundation helps to move the work forward. The vision needs to speak to the staffs purpose and why it’s important for the school/department/organization to exist. You need to be able to create not only the mental but also the verbal pictures of desirable future state.

Wondering: When you wonder, it sparks curiosity and innovation. Never letting the status quo exist helps you keep you on the cutting edge.

X-Factor: Each leader have different X-Factors that make them unique. Figuring out your x-factor will help you know yourself as a leader and understand your strengths.

You Elevate Talent: The greatest leaders distribute leadership and elevate others talents by knowing their strengths. As a leader, take the time to list the strengths of your staff and then meet with them one on one to listen to their goals and ambitions. Use this information to determine ways you can elevate their talents.

Zest: To have zest as a leader means having positive energy. Positive energy motivates and inspires people and helps you network as no one wants to be around someone that is miserable or complaining, except those that are miserable.

Leadership can be hard to define but I like how John C Maxwell defines it, A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”

Want to read more of my lists A-Z? Check out my previous blog post – Personalized Learning from A-Z

Collection of Digital Learning Activities and Lessons

“I dream of a digital India where quality education reaches the most inaccessible corners driven by digital learning.”By Shri Narendra Modi

Over the last week I have been capturing lessons and activities that educators are posting to help other educators. #bettertogether

Why I Took a 6 Month Hiatus

“Taking a break can lead to breakthroughs.”  ― Russell Eric Dobda
I am back from my six month blogging hiatus and I feel good about my decision. Many of you asked when I was going to “come back” to writing again and a few of my readers were upset that I decided to take a break so I want to explain why.
I decided to take my hiatus because I was beginning to see blogging as a chore. I didn’t want that as I know how valuable it is to learn and grow through reflections and sharing of ideas, so instead I decided to take a break. During my break it helped me reevaluate my goals for blogging and reset boundaries.
During my time off from blogging weekly I was able to still write; I published a few blog posts on Education Elements website and an article with ASCD.

I look forward to learning and sharing again with all of you!

Building Empathy with Educators

“The great gift of human beings is that we have the power of empathy.” by Meryl Streep

red-scribble-heart

Empathy is the experience of understanding another person’s thoughts and feelings  from their point of view, rather than your own. An empathy map is a tool that I like to use with teachers to take a human-centered approach when thinking about personalizing students learning.  Originally designed for businesses to think about their customers needs, schools are now using them to think about their students needs. Empathy maps shed light on which problems to solve within your school or classroom through a protocol.

The purpose of an empathy map activity is to empathize with end users, our students. When we better understanding how they think and feel, it will allow us to design classroom practices that work for them. You can create empathy maps several ways but my favorite way is to interview multiple students to gain perspective and truly hear their voice. Example questions for an interview would be:

  • What would make you excited to come to school?
  • Describe a class you feel most successful in and why.
  • How could all teachers help you feel successful?
  • Tell me about a time when you learned to do something really difficult? How did you learn it?
  • What would your ideal learning experience look like?
  • What change do you feel would make the biggest difference in your learning experiences? Why?

Then when I sit down to do an empathy map, I take a blank piece of paper, draw a circle in the middle and then section it off into the four sections below:

  • Said: What are things this student might say in your class?
  • Thought: What are things this student might be thinking while in your class?
  • Did: What are some things this student might be doing in the class?
  • Felt: How might this student feel?

Inside the middle circle I put the students name and then answer the above questions for said student using the data I gained from the interviews. If you don’t have time to do the interviews, that is ok too. You can then walk through this activity and think about what they would say, think etc- just know with this approach you can unintentionally add judgements.

Empathy Maps are a great way to disclose the underlying “why” behind students actions, choices and decisions so we can proactively design for their real needs; not based on what our needs as teachers are. After completing the empathy map activity you can now adjust an upcoming lesson, task, classroom environment etc to address students’ needed. 

Other activities to build educators empathy:

Resources:

Lots of images of doing an empathy map

Google Drawing Empathy Map Template

STARTING WITH STUDENTS: ONE TEACHER’S DESIGN THINKING JOURNEY

EMPATHY MAPPING IN THE TEACHING AND TRAINING CLASSROOM

Social Emotional Learning Resources

“When you listen with empathy to another person, you give that person psychological air.” by Stephen R. Covey

Developing Social Emotional Learning (SEL) skills within students is not only one of the most important ways that classrooms and schools can raise student achievement scores but the skills also prepare students for life. Here are my favorite ways to integrate social emotional learning into the classroom at any grade level:

  1. Morning Check In: Greeting students at the door and gauging how they are entering can help reshape a students day. When you see a students demeanor different, you can have them step aside to find out whats wrong and how you can help turn their day around. This not only shows you care but also can allow for less disruptions in the classroom. For younger grades you can make a chart and have them tap the feeling that they are having. such as happy, sad, etc with pictures to help them recognize their feelings.
  2. Read Alouds: Reading aloud stories that have social-emotional themes help student understand situations. Read aloud for the younger grades can be pictures books and for older grades can be chapter books.
  3. Morning Meeting/Advisory Time: Holding morning meeting is a great way to start off the day and build classroom culture. Having SEL activities as part of morning meeting makes them even better. For older students, I usually call it advisor time. This time set aside empower all of your students with a voice and allows ownership of their learning environment.

Other great resources:

ASCD: Whole Child Initiative 

CASEL

Character Lab

What’s New with Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) in 2018

13 Powerful SEL Activities

8 Apps for SEL

Common Sense: SEL Resources

Connecting Via Social Media

“Social media is the ultimate equalizer. It gives a voice and a platform to anyone willing to engage.” By Amy Jo Martin

I love social media as a way to learn and grow as an educator. To me, it is eyes and ears into so many different educators classrooms, schools and districts. Recently I have been getting a lot of Facebook (FB) requests from educators. To me it is important to keep these worlds seperate as I believe that it is a key component for digital citizenship, especially as educators. This is what led me to make a seperate FB profile as an educator. I can accept other educators as friends to continue to learn and grow and not annoy my other friends when I post about education topics. 😉

Below are all me education social media links:

Facebook 

Twitter

Linkdein

*I have not done instagram at this time but I may on day.

 

Breaking Reality Down: AR, VR and MR

“I’m excited about Augmented Reality because unlike Virtual Reality which closes the world out, AR allows individuals to be present in the world but hopefully allows an improvement on what’s happening presently… That has resonance.” Tim Cook, CEO, Apple

AR, VR and MR which are know as ‘realities’ are fast tracking into education in many ways. Are you thinking, AR, VR, MR – oh mylanta?!? Let’s break it down so that together we can understand the differences and start thinking about how we can apply these realities into the classroom! AR, VR and MR provide new ways for teaching and learning to happen that engages all students!

AR = Augmented Reality

  • Overlay of objects in the world around you
  • Uses a phone or viewing device
  • Examples of AR in the real world: IKEA Place (lets you overlay IKEA furniture in your home to “see” it.) Snapchat lenses and Pokemon Go.

VR = Virtual Reality

  • Immersion into another world.
  • Often requires a headset (but not always)
  • Does not interact with the real world
  • Examples of VR in the real world: Playstation VR and DiscoveryNow (Education)

MR = Mixed Reality

  • Combines elements of both AR and VR, real-world and digital objects interact
  • This is still very new and I see it becoming more popular within the next few years as people get more comfortable with AR and VR.

This is a great video explaining the difference between VR and AR in less than two minutes.

I love this Thinglink of educational resources for AR and VR!

Read more about AR and VR:

How Reality Technology is Used in Education

What Is the Difference Between AR and VR? A Lesson in Altered Realities

25 resources for bringing AR and VR to the classroom

Why VR? 8 key reasons VR will transform education

AR vs VR in Education

The difference between AR, VR, MR, XR and how to tell them apart

I would love to hear how you incorporate AR, VR or MR in your classroom!

Empowering People to Make a Better Team

“Empowering those around you to be heard and valued makes the difference between a leader who simply instructs and one who inspires.” By Adena Friedman

All leaders want people who show initiative by taking on and completing tasks with little guidance. In order to do that leaders need to empower people which is not always easy when there are many initiatives to balance, lack of time and guiding employees  that are facing personal challenges. Below are tips and tricks I have learned and continuing to develop as I grow as a leader.

  1. Cultivate Open Communication: This can be done many ways and needs to be often referenced back to help employees continue to feel safe. One way to cultivate open communication is having an open door policy. Employees can come in anytime the door is open if they have a question or an idea. During this time, the leader needs to stop doing what they are working on and listen. This is not always easy as you as a leader also have items on your plate and to do items to be done but it is something that needs to be done. I know I am not the best at this but hoping that writing about it will help me practice what I preach! Another way to cultivate open communication to empower others is to building a community of authentic feedback. We do this as a team through reviewing all our work as a team so that many eyes are on it and we are always producing our best content. This does not happen over night and will make some employees uncomfortable but over time they will open up as they see that it is a safe learning environment. The other great part of this approach is that it nudges people to produce their best work because they know others will be looking at it with a different “eye.” Just like how students produce better work when they know they have an authentic audience verse just the teachers.
  2. Be Transparent: I feel that the more transparent you are, the easier change becomes and it empowers people with the right information . This doesn’t mean as a leader you don’t filter things to protect employees. For example, for me, I do not tell employees things until they are facts! There are often times many rumors floating around and I will address that with them because they are just that…rumors. If I know a change or changes are going to occur but the leaders above me have not made final decisions, then I do not tell them what could be, I tell them the facts, there are going to be some changes and they are not sure what they are. Another way I am transparent is by having an employee handbook for our department so that each person knows what is expected of them and there are no surprises. If I make a change to the handbook, it is something that we have discussed as a team.
  3. Show Appreciation:  Everyone likes to feel appreciated and for many that empowers them to want to do a good job for the team. I like to show appreciattion differently so they see that I truly care about each one of them (I may be bias but I do have the best team).  Sometimes it is through celebrations at our staff meetings, sometimes it is a thank you note on their desk while other times it is a favorite treat. I also like to do team appreciations such a making breakfast  or getting pizza for them or doing a fun activities such as bowling. It is important to note here something I have recently learned as well, you may feel you are doing a good job of showing apprciation but that does not always mean other on your team feel that way. It is important to try to find out how they view apprecition too.

As always, I would love your ideas and feedback because leadership is always something I am trying to improve my craft in.

Google For Education Certified Program

“The core of what Google is about is bringing information to people.” By Sundar Pichai
I am excited to announce that I recently became a Google For Education Certified Trainer! A Certified Trainer is part of a Professional Development program offered by Google to help schools effectively implement Google in the classroom. As a Certified Trainer, you’re a part of a selective group of technology experts with special access to resources, product updates and networking opportunities within the Google ecosystem.

Training Logo Graphic

Are you ready to start the Google for Education Certified Program? To become a Google for Education Certified Trainer you must be admitted by Google into the Program through a selective application process. The application steps are:

  1. Pass Google Certified Educator Level 1
  2. Pass Google Certified Educator Level 2
  3. Pass a Trainer Skills Assessment
  4. Complete Application
  5. Complete Case Study

Once you are selected as a Google for Education Certified Trainer, there is a commitment that you need to uphold. You will need to…

  1. host twelve sessions per year and report all training activities to Google.
  2. help educators pass Google Level 1 and Google Level 2.
  3. complete and pass product update assessment every 12 months.
  4. participate in the Google Trainer community and share resources.

If you are interested in starting your journey to becoming a Google for Education Certified Trainer, let me know as I would love to help!

Teachers as Leaders

“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” John C. Maxwell

A few years ago I wrote a blog post called, 10 Ways to Build Teacher Leaders.  I feel it is such as important topic, I wanted to add to it because enhancing teacher leadership can help schools and districts with:

  1. Improve teacher quality
  2. Improve student learning
  3. Provide opportunities for professional growth

Teacher leaders assume a wide range of roles to support school or districts. Some roles that teachers can take to become teacher leaders:

  1. Instructional Coach
  2. Mentors
  3. Professional Learning Specialist
  4. Data Coach
  5. Lab Teacher

To recognize all teachers, here are some ideas to try that can help build teacher leaders:

Super Teacher of the Week: Each week at staff meetings, one teacher is recognized as “Super Teacher of the Week” based on nominations from other staff members. Their nomination is read out loud at the staff meeting. Reward: They’re given a superhero pin to wear all week.

Teacher Shout Outs: Celebrate teachers accomplishments and/or failures to show it is okay to take risks.  Reward: Shout outs are given at staff meetings. If you have sponsors or PTA, gift cards are a nice perk.

Above-and-beyond the Call of Duty: This recognition would go to a teacher that went above and beyond the regular job requirements. Reward: You can take a teacher’s duty for a day.

Spotlight on Support: Establish a bulletin board in the workroom that ‘spotlights’ a different support staff each month. This would be a way to recognize TA’s, Custodians, Bus Drivers, etc. Reward: Hang a bucket or envelope from the bulletin board where staff can fill out notes to recognize that support staff member for his/her special talents etc.

Other teacher leadership resources:

Ten Roles for Teacher Leaders

The Many Faces of Leadership