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The Power of Vulnerability

The Power of Vulnerability

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I require each of my administrators to administer a 360 survey as a component of their evaluation process each year. Every time this portion of the year rolls around they are quick to express the dread this process causes. After the surveys are sent out and data collected, the results come back overwhelmingly positive with 90+ percent of their faculty and staff strongly supporting the efforts of the principal. Not surprisingly, those pieces of data are largely ignored. The negative feedback, which ranges from blunt to constructive to downright mean, is typically all my leaders can focus on. Tears come. Rationalization is right behind. And anger is usually a quick third. My advice is always to understand that each bit of criticism brings forward (at least) a nugget of truth…
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What ails rural schools

What ails rural schools

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As first seen in EdWeek Teacher in a blog series hosted by Larry Ferlazzo . . . Whether you subscribe to the ranking systems of schools put forth by outside entities or not, for the sake of this blog I encourage you to indulge me. Of the Top 60 schools in my state (Illinois) as ranked by US News and World Report, only one school could be considered rural, and it is certainly not poor and boasts a teacher: student ratio of 1:13. My steadfast belief is that students in rural areas are not inherently any less academically talented than their peers, so how could such discord between achievement levels of students in urban, suburban, and rural districts exist? I think there is only one possible answer - inequity. I…
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Happy Teacher Appreciation Week

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week

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My favorite teacher is a man named Colin Hopper. He was an Abe Lincoln doppelganger who had a passion for history. He single-handedly turned my least favorite subject as a 10th grader into my future profession. He would encourage debate, treat teenagers like adults, and force me to think. I would leave his class so fired up sometimes the entire lunch conversation was about the debate in History class. Man, could that guy teach. He taught me to love learning. More importantly, he taught me to love thinking. A close second for me was Ronald Sawin. I was a student who did not need much help to do well in school. At a time in my life when I did need help, Mr. Sawin was there. He gave of himself…
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The Price of Progress

The Price of Progress

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Culture eats strategy for breakfast - Drucker Education is changing rapidly. Every year, as the world we are preparing students for changes, so too must education. I admit, as an educator, the change can be daunting at times, but not only is it the appropriate thing to do it can also be exhilarating. In a great number of schools and districts throughout the nation, however, the change process is something that is feared and in essence conspired against by cultures that reinforce a B,C,D culture. B,C,D cultures focus on (B) blaming others, (C) complaining, and (D) defending personal actions or the status quo. This concept and codification of the behaviors was recently popularized by Urban Meyer’s book Above the Line. As we start to think about B,C,D behaviors let’s not…
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7 Tips for Transforming Parent Teacher Conferences

7 Tips for Transforming Parent Teacher Conferences

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How many of you have sat through a Parent-Teacher Conference (PTC) that has been an utter disaster? I know I have been on both sides of the desk when a PTC has gone awry and actually serves to fracture or diminish relationships between the parent and teacher. Think about it – PTCs are just about the most public representation of our school system that exists and the most systematic effort to engage families in the educational experience. Therefore, PTCs are hugely important, but are not commonly treated as such. Despite their importance, most leaders do not set expectations or provide training for the teachers on how to conduct a successful PTC. From the perspective of a former teacher, current administrator, and demanding dad I have constructed a template that if…
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