Thursday, April 24, 2014

Addressing Stress

When I visit a new campus I am invariably told by multiple sources that, “The teachers are really stressed,” or “We are really concerned about the amount of stress that teachers are under.”

To which I always ask, “What exactly is the source of all the stress?”

The answer is presented as a list of changes which almost always includes a couple of the following:

A. A new leader
B. A new curriculum
C. New pedagogy expectations
D. New technology
E. A changing student body

But here’s the catch, on these "stress filled" campuses, I rarely see any of those things being actually addressed or implemented.  And I’ve been doing this for a long time, at hundreds of campuses across the county.

Here is what I think is really causing the stress.

Fear of the Unknown:  The education landscape is changing rapidly and we are a risk-adverse profession.  We don’t know what funding will look like, accountability will look like, or what schools will look like in the near future.  This is stressful.

Lack of Control:  Before accountability, all a teacher had to do was cover material related to the content, maintain decent classroom discipline, not upset parents, and maintain an acceptable pass/fail rate. Not easy work, but work where the teacher had near complete control and was questioned by essentially no one.  Now in the accountability era, the teacher must teach specific content at specific rigor levels and have near 100% mastery.  And now everything the teacher does or does not do is in question, by anyone. This is stressful.

Inadequacy:  It’s time to be honest, what is expected of today’s classroom teacher far exceeds what was expected of yesterday’s teachers.  This requires better tools, better models, better training and better support to build this new level of teacher capacity.  And if the district and campus is not doing its part, teachers are being asked to perform at a level that they are currently unable to do.  This is stressful.

Guilt:  There are teachers who know they are not attempting to do what they have been asked to do.  This is stressful.

Stress not addressed can be debilitating. Stress inappropriately diagnosed leads to frustration and wasted effort on empty solutions.  Stress appropriately diagnosed can be managed and alleviated.

So what are the real stressors on your campus?

Think. Work. Achieve.
Your turn...

  • Call Jo at (832) 477-LEAD to order your campus set of “The Fundamental 5: The Formula for Quality Instruction.” Individual copies available on Amazon.com!  http://tinyurl.com/Fundamental5 
  • Call Jo at (832) 477-LEAD to order your campus set of “Look at Me: A Cautionary School Leadership Tale” Individual copies available on Amazon.com!  http://tinyurl.com/lookatmebook 
  • Now at the Apple App Store: Fun 5 Plans (Fundamental 5 Lesson Plan Tool); PW Lite (Basic PowerWalks Tool); PW Pro (Mid-level PowerWalks Tool) 
  • Upcoming Presentations: TASSP Summer Conference (Multiple Presentations); Texas ASCD Summer Conference; ESC 14 Sumer Conference (Keynote Presentation); ESC 11 Summer Conference (Keynote Presentation); NEASP National Conference; The Fundamental 5 National Summit (Keynote Presentation) 
  • Follow Sean Cain and LYS on www.Twitter.com/LYSNation  and like Lead Your School on Facebook

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A Reader Shares... The Fundamental 5 in an Elective Class - Part 1

In response to the 1/28/2014 post, The Fundamental 5 in an Elective Class, a LYS Fine Arts Supervisor shares:

SC,

I had to print this one! I am going to give copies our district's Fine Arts teachers the next time I get to meet with them.

SC Response
Great! We have found that some of the biggest “Local Heroes” when it comes to Fundamental 5 implementation have been the elective teachers.  Especially art teachers, band directors and vocational teachers.  If you teach performance-based subjects, intuitively the Fundamental 5 makes sense.  It takes great teaching to get students to exceed in performance settings and the rubrics of success for these teachers is greater than the typical classroom.  Don’t believe me? Consider this, an essay that scores a 90 is pretty good.  The band that hits 90% of the notes in a piece of music is pretty bad.

Bottom line, The Fundamental 5 is just solid teaching and coaching in all settings and classes.  

Think. Work. Achieve.
Your turn...

  • Call Jo at (832) 477-LEAD to order your campus set of “The Fundamental 5: The Formula for Quality Instruction.” Individual copies available on Amazon.com!  http://tinyurl.com/Fundamental5 
  • Call Jo at (832) 477-LEAD to order your campus set of “Look at Me: A Cautionary School Leadership Tale” Individual copies available on Amazon.com!  http://tinyurl.com/lookatmebook 
  • Now at the Apple App Store: Fun 5 Plans (Fundamental 5 Lesson Plan Tool); PW Lite (Basic PowerWalks Tool); PW Pro (Mid-level PowerWalks Tool) 
  • Upcoming Presentations: TASSP Summer Conference (Multiple Presentations); Texas ASCD Summer Conference; ESC 14 Sumer Conference (Keynote Presentation); ESC 11 Summer Conference (Keynote Presentation); NEASP National Conference; The Fundamental 5 National Summit (Keynote Presentation) 
  • Follow Sean Cain and LYS on www.Twitter.com/LYSNation  and like Lead Your School on Facebook

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

An Attempt at Meaningful Dialogue, Round 1 - Part 1

In response to the 1/15/14 post, “An Attempt at Meaningful Dialogue – Round 1,” the LYS Nation writes:

SC,

This is an excellent example of an informed superintendent! I appreciate leaders like this! Actually, I learned a lot from this letter. 

Thanks so much for sharing this!

And...

SC,

This is extremely enlightening... from a teacher perspective as well as an aspiring administrator.  

Thank you. 

SC Response
Don’t be afraid to answer the question and don’t be afraid of bullies.  In our field we should not apologize for knowing more than even the most interested layperson.  It is our job to know more than they do.  After all, the best among us think, study, and do education 24 / 7 / 365.  

I don’t go visit my doctor, assuming that we are equals in terms of medical knowledge, even though I have put on hundreds of band-aids and have self-medicated cold symptoms. 

Like my doctor, we do need to treat people with dignity, listen to them and answer their questions.  But my doctor does not agree to disagree with me.  Imagine if I walked in for my annual check-up and with complete conviction told my doctor that I think that I should be able to smoke, drink to excess, eat to excess, and not exercise because that was good enough for my Grandfather and he lived into his 90’s.  He would politely tell me that I was wrong and enjoy my diminished life.  And trust me, it wouldn’t bother my doctor in the slightest if after this discussion I left his office unhappy.

Think. Work. Achieve.
Your turn...

  • Call Jo at (832) 477-LEAD to order your campus set of “The Fundamental 5: The Formula for Quality Instruction.” Individual copies available on Amazon.com!  http://tinyurl.com/Fundamental5 
  • Call Jo at (832) 477-LEAD to order your campus set of “Look at Me: A Cautionary School Leadership Tale” Individual copies available on Amazon.com!  http://tinyurl.com/lookatmebook 
  • Now at the Apple App Store: Fun 5 Plans (Fundamental 5 Lesson Plan Tool); PW Lite (Basic PowerWalks Tool); PW Pro (Mid-level PowerWalks Tool) 
  • Upcoming Presentations: TASSP Summer Conference (Multiple Presentations); Texas ASCD Summer Conference; ESC 14 Sumer Conference (Keynote Presentation); ESC 11 Summer Conference (Keynote Presentation); NEASP National Conference; The Fundamental 5 National Summit (Keynote Presentation) 
  • Follow Sean Cain and LYS on www.Twitter.com/LYSNation  and like Lead Your School on Facebook

Monday, April 21, 2014

Top LYS Tweets From the Week of April 13, 2014

A number of you in the LYS Nation are now Twitter users.  If you haven’t done so yet, we want you to join us.  To let you see what you are missing, here are the Top 10 LYS Tweets from the week of April 13, 2014.

1. The best part of education starts and ends with the students. (By @montelongo_john)

2. Confidence comes from being prepared. (By @CoachKWisdom)

3. Today's Quote:  "In education, positive thinking alone gets nothing done - but it's a better starting point than negative thinking." (By @DrRichAllen)

4. Leadership is the key to school success. And failure. And mediocrity. (By @Snowmanlearning)

5. Accountability systems in place across the country put an undue burden on the teachers of academically fragile students. (By @LYSNation)

6. It is a lot easier to criticize a leader than it is to be one. (By @ToddWhitaker)

7. Teachers in Finland must score in top 10% of their class in order to be accepted into teaching college. Job is much more respected. (By @JonRysewyk)

8. Confusing: Teachers want to know all details and why we do what we do, yet resist doing the same for kids about what they are learning. (By @CabidaCain)

9. A comfortable, happy, inadequately educated childhood leads to a stressful, comfortless adulthood. (By @LYSNation)

10. Being a leader means you have to have more conviction than anyone around you about where you're going. (My @MySOdotCom)

Think. Work. Achieve.
Your turn...

  • Call Jo at (832) 477-LEAD to order your campus set of “The Fundamental 5: The Formula for Quality Instruction.” Individual copies available on Amazon.com!  http://tinyurl.com/Fundamental5 
  • Call Jo at (832) 477-LEAD to order your campus set of “Look at Me: A Cautionary School Leadership Tale” Individual copies available on Amazon.com!  http://tinyurl.com/lookatmebook 
  • Now at the Apple App Store: Fun 5 Plans (Fundamental 5 Lesson Plan Tool); PW Lite (Basic PowerWalks Tool); PW Pro (Mid-level PowerWalks Tool) 
  • Upcoming Presentations: TASSP Summer Conference (Multiple Presentations); Texas ASCD Summer Conference; ESC 14 Sumer Conference (Keynote Presentation); ESC 11 Summer Conference (Keynote Presentation); NEASP National Conference; The Fundamental 5 National Summit (Keynote Presentation) 
  • Follow Sean Cain and LYS on www.Twitter.com/LYSNation  and like Lead Your School on Facebook

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Getting the Job

I was recently visiting a secondary campus where the principal asked me to meet with one of his assistant principles who was beginning to get disgruntled due to his lack of success at securing his next job.  I agreed. When I met with the AP, I asked him what he was thought set him apart from other applicants.  He shared his background, which was solid, and he had some professional experiences that were valuable and unique.  As his principal had attested, he was (and is) a viable principal candidate. 

I then asked him what in his experience was hurting him in the selection process.  He said that in his district a lot of informal hiring power belonged to a specific Assistant Superintendent and his lack of a relationship with that person meant that lesser qualified candidates were being hired instead of him.  This may be an honest assessment, but it was something that I had no knowledge of, so I asked him what about in other districts?  And there was the rub. 

The Assistant Principal told me that he had not applied in other districts and would not be doing so. In fact he had an extensive list of "not's."  He would not move; he would not consider an elementary principalship; he would not transfer his children to a different school in a different district; and he would not entertain the pay cut that would come with a job at a smaller campus/district.

I looked at him and told him that obviously he did not want to be a Principal.  Regardless of how he believed the World should work, here is how it actually works.  There are three ways to get a principalship.

1. Be in the right place at the right time.  This is the Assistant Principal at a campus who inherits the job when the sitting principal leaves.  Though this is not a rare occurrence, you should never plan on this happening.  I suspect it happens less than 15% of the time.

2. Know the right person.  This is the Assistant Principal that has a relationship with someone who has an impact on the hiring decision.  This too is not a rare occurrence, but it is not as prevalent as many AP’s believe.  My guess is that this type of hire occurs about 20% to 25% of the time.

So one could postulate that 25% to 40% of principal hires are because of timing and/or connections.  Thin odds for an aspiring leader.  Which brings us to...

3. Play the numbers game.  Long time blog readers will be familiar with this rule.  Plan on sending out 100 applications, to get 10 interviews, to get 1 job.  Which means if you can expand the geographic territory you would be willing to move to you have a greater pool of jobs to apply for.

Work of all three avenues concurrently and your chances greatly improve.  Purposefully limit your options and the typical result will be that your first principalship is much further off than you want it to be.

Think. Work. Achieve.
Your turn...

  • Call Jo at (832) 477-LEAD to order your campus set of “The Fundamental 5: The Formula for Quality Instruction.” Individual copies available on Amazon.com!  http://tinyurl.com/Fundamental5 
  • Call Jo at (832) 477-LEAD to order your campus set of “Look at Me: A Cautionary School Leadership Tale” Individual copies available on Amazon.com!  http://tinyurl.com/lookatmebook 
  • Now at the Apple App Store: Fun 5 Plans (Fundamental 5 Lesson Plan Tool); PW Lite (Basic PowerWalks Tool); PW Pro (Mid-level PowerWalks Tool) 
  • Upcoming Presentations: TASSP Summer Conference (Multiple Presentations); Texas ASCD Summer Conference; ESC 14 Sumer Conference (Keynote Presentation); ESC 11 Summer Conference (Keynote Presentation); NEASP National Conference; The Fundamental 5 National Summit (Keynote Presentation) 
  • Follow Sean Cain and LYS on www.Twitter.com/LYSNation  and like Lead Your School on Facebook

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A Reader Writes... Advice for a First Year Principal - Part 4


SC,

I am probably wasting my time, but I am going to respond to this anyway.

Teachers have been given an impossible task and then they are blamed when they get frustrated or angry because of it.

Let’s start with a couple of places where both the administrator and the policy (in this case the mission statement) are being dishonest. You start by saying teachers do not believe in the mission and your first statement of the mission is that "all students can learn." Not only is this statement true, every educator believes it or they would not be educators in the first place. No, the mission statement itself is false because the standard for measurement is NOT whether all children can learn, but whether all children can learn up to a standard, and that standard seems to be set at the college entrance level.

You said it yourself, not every child can go to college.

Then you come up with a ridiculous example that has no relationship to the morale problem. A better example would be a doctor with limited time and resources, asking them to focus on a patient who is dying (soon, not eventually) while ignoring a large group of patients who can be helped.

This exposes the fundamental lie of a mission statement like "all children can learn." What it really means is that teachers are required (evaluated) to focus on those students who are at risk of failure while ignoring those who have passed but can achieve a much higher (even excellent) level.

This is like telling the basketball coach you are not going to be evaluated based on how well the team does (wins and losses) but on how many kids make the team. The goal is every kid can be a basketball player and if a kid does not make the team it is the coach’s fault.

This is where you are asking teachers to do the impossible. No wonder you have a morale problem.

SC Response
First, I don’t think that you wasted your time with your response and I appreciate the dialogue.

Second, I do agree that teachers undertake a Herculean task everyday. They are expected to:

1. Educate every student to a previously unheard of level

2. Manage every ill that our communities refuse to provide services for
  
3. Keep everyone safe

4. Do the above with resources that are cut annually

5. Smile when unappreciative politicians and fringe elements kick them in the teeth.

I know that the author of the original post also understands this, because we have discussed it at length.

What I took from the post was the danger to both students and teachers when we allow our beliefs to erode.  And we are at risk for this occurring when the external factors impacting education are the most daunting.  Take the teacher working in the most impoverished neighborhood.  This teacher knows that her students face unimaginable (for her) hardship everyday.  Without aggressive, measurable performance targets, it is easy for this teacher to equate making her students comfortable and happy to classroom success.  But a comfortable, happy, inadequately educated childhood leads to a stressful, comfortless adulthood.  That is why the teacher at the Title One campus has to be a tad more clinical and a tad more focused than the non-Title One campus teacher.  Bottom line, the stakes are higher.  And the Title One campus teacher who cannot deal with this (for any number of legitimate reasons) cannot be considered an asset to the campus.

I would argue that the accountability systems in place across the country put an undue burden on the teachers of academically fragile students while (comparatively speaking) placing a much lighter performance burden on the teachers of non-fragile learners. This very fact runs counter to the argument that accountability is forcing teachers to ignore the needs of higher performing students.  Actually, what accountability has shown us is that the typical campus underserves all of its students.  You don’t have to believe me; just look at any instructional practice observation data.  For 20 years our profession has known the difference between higher-yield and lower-yield instructional practices, we just don’t implement the higher-yield practices, at scale, at adequate frequency.  Which brings me to this.  Yes, the external factors that impact our schools, classrooms and students can seem insurmountable.  But when we (educators) have only begun to scratch the surface when it comes to implementation of best practice, we still have hope. That’s what gets me out of bed in the morning.     

Think. Work. Achieve.
Your turn...

  • Call Jo at (832) 477-LEAD to order your campus set of “The Fundamental 5: The Formula for Quality Instruction.” Individual copies available on Amazon.com!  http://tinyurl.com/Fundamental5 
  • Call Jo at (832) 477-LEAD to order your campus set of “Look at Me: A Cautionary School Leadership Tale” Individual copies available on Amazon.com!  http://tinyurl.com/lookatmebook 
  • Now at the Apple App Store: Fun 5 Plans (Fundamental 5 Lesson Plan Tool); PW Lite (Basic PowerWalks Tool); PW Pro (Mid-level PowerWalks Tool) 
  • Upcoming Presentations: TASSP Summer Conference (Multiple Presentations); Texas ASCD Summer Conference; ESC 14 Sumer Conference (Keynote Presentation); ESC 11 Summer Conference (Keynote Presentation); NEASP National Conference; The Fundamental 5 National Summit (Keynote Presentation) 
  • Follow Sean Cain and LYS on www.Twitter.com/LYSNation  and like Lead Your School on Facebook

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Your After STAAR Plan

I have talked extensively about how the schools that consistently outperform their peers make better use of time.  The tempo of these peer-beating schools is always a notch or two above the norm, and nowhere is this more evident than at the end of the year.  When everyone else is winding down, these campuses are still pushing forward.  If your campus is going to join these ranks, you need to have a “May Plan,” or in Texas, an “After STAAR Plan.”  Here is what my “After STAAR Plan” would look like:

The day after the STAAR test for a given course, I would begin teaching the first unit of the next course.  For example, the day after my 7th graders take the 7th grade math STAAR, we begin day one of 8th grade math and teach at full speed until the last day of school. At the beginning of the next year, I start teaching day one of 8th grade math on day one of school.  No need for review or easing into the subject because my students are already familiar with the material.  Due to that familiarity, all of my students will have better grades on their initial assignments sowing the seeds of confidence and optimism.

Now imagine the long-term effect of implementing this plan on your campus as opposed to 4 week slow down process that is all too typical in May.  So what is your plan?

Think. Work. Achieve.
Your turn...

  • Call Jo at (832) 477-LEAD to order your campus set of “The Fundamental 5: The Formula for Quality Instruction.” Individual copies available on Amazon.com!  http://tinyurl.com/Fundamental5 
  • Call Jo at (832) 477-LEAD to order your campus set of “Look at Me: A Cautionary School Leadership Tale” Individual copies available on Amazon.com!  http://tinyurl.com/lookatmebook 
  • Now at the Apple App Store: Fun 5 Plans (Fundamental 5 Lesson Plan Tool); PW Lite (Basic PowerWalks Tool); PW Pro (Mid-level PowerWalks Tool) 
  • Upcoming Presentations: TASSP Summer Conference (Multiple Presentations); Texas ASCD Summer Conference; ESC 14 Sumer Conference (Keynote Presentation); ESC 11 Summer Conference (Keynote Presentation); NEASP National Conference; The Fundamental 5 National Summit (Keynote Presentation) 
  • Follow Sean Cain and LYS on www.Twitter.com/LYSNation  and like Lead Your School on Facebook