Friday, March 27, 2015

Have students REALLY changed?

This past week, our 5-12 graders, had the opportunity to listen to @KarenHaase speak about cyberbullying, sexting, and online safety. First of all, if you have never heard Karen or Bobby Truhe (@btruhe) speak, it is a MUST. What was amazing to me, was the engagement of our students and the comfortable vibe they were demonstrating. However, it makes sense to me because she was "speaking their language".  The engagement did not end on the last slide of her presentation, some students stayed a little longer to visit with her and a few even caught her attention at the end of the day while she was preparing for her parent presentation. At the time, I thought about how much our students have changed because of mobile devices, smart phones, social media and just 24/7 connection and communication.

A few days later, as I was viewing my personal Facebook page, a post appeared in my timeline that caught my attention. It was posted by a former student and tagged a few other past students. The post was a #TBT for their last day of their senior year at CHS (1998). It was fun to see them 17 years ago and brought up great memories. What stood out to me as I watched the video was that they used an old camcorder which they must have snuck into school (they must have hid it in a BIG backpack!). There was some video shots from the girls restroom (NOT anything inappropriate--just being silly). As I watched this, it made me think that this was before cell phones and mobile devices but they still found a way to record and upload 17 years later on social media!

Today, we are teaching our students about photos, video, and social media. I would have never thought about teaching that to our students 17-20 years ago but obviously they even found a way back then. As I thought of the conversations we can have with students today about digital citizenship and speakers like Karen Haase who reinforce our teachings, I am glad that we as educators are aware of this need and teach our students effective use of all these devices and online activity.  I don't think our students have really changed at all--I think we have (and I am glad)!

This post is also posted on the #nebedu website at

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

We All Can Be Leaders!

“...behind excellent teaching and excellent schools is excellent leadership—the kind that ensures that effective teaching practices don’t remain isolated and unshared in single classrooms...with our national commitment to make every single child a successful learner, the importance of having such a high-quality leader in every school is greater than ever” (Wallace Foundation, 2006).

Schools today are calling for Instructional Leaders. No matter what your “title” is, we all can be a leaders in our district. In the past, teacher leadership positions were limited. Teachers served perhaps as department heads, association officers, and curriculum chairs. In these roles teachers often served as "representatives" rather than "leaders" who would enact change.  Many teachers that wanted to take on more of a leadership role left the classroom and pursued an administration degree. Recently there has been a strong movement to expand teacher roles because teachers have daily contact with our students, are well informed to make critical decisions on instruction and curriculum, and they are capable of implementing change.  In the past it has been difficult for teachers to perform leadership roles because of lack of vision, structure, time, and training offered by the district. The teacher leader must be part of the overall vision of the school and district. If it is not part of the vision, it will lack the support of the stakeholders. The school must accept the new role and enable teachers to provide leadership. Teachers need time to become leaders in their district. They need time to experiment, collaborate, reflect, communicate, and build relationships. Teachers also need access to resources, information, and training to build leadership skills in their role as a teacher leader.  

The demands on schools today require leadership at every level. Schools must create an environment in which it is possible for teacher leaders to grow and flourish. Administrators must realize that leadership must be distributed to capable and effective staff. Principals cannot lead alone, nor can they lead in isolation. The “age of experts” is over, and we are all learners. It is critical that every teacher and administrator embrace this change and begin to connect to others, both inside and outside of their own district. Leadership is not about one person or one position, it is about building a shared commitment and building a leadership team. This leadership team should include teachers. Teacher leadership is important for change and improvement at the school and classroom level. Teachers who work together in a meaningful and purposeful way feel valued and supported in their work. Teachers in leadership roles can improve the quality of teaching and student achievement. Teachers have first-hand knowledge of classroom issues and they understand what is needed to be effective in their positions. When teachers are involved in leadership roles, education reforms will be successful.

So is leadership enough? I say that we must go another step--innovative leadership. Who are  innovative leaders? Innovative leaders are visionaries who have big ideas and do not settle for “that is the way we have always done it”. Innovative leaders are motivators of those around them. An innovative leader works with their team and encourages them to add to the vision and make it greater. An innovative leader is motivating and inspiring.  In our district we have really focused this past year on innovative leadership. We have some teachers and administrators with passions and creative ideas. They are great communicators and team players. With these individuals, our school is seeing some great changes.

Last week, my colleague Dave Evertson (@dave_evertson) and I, moderated the #nebedchat. Our topic was focused on innovative leadership. If you missed the chat, here is an archive of our discussion: I have also shared a few of the powerful tweets here. From this twitter chat, I realized that we have so many wonderful educators that are truly innovative leaders and are willing to help their school and other educators move in that direction. It is definitely a great time to be in education.

As educators, we can make a difference--we all can be leaders! Have you taken that first step? Are you willing to continue to move forward? Each step forward makes a difference in improving our students’ learning.

Quote from: The Wallace Foundation, Leadership for learning: Making the connections among state, district and school policies and practices. New York, NY: Wallace Foundation, 2006,