Tag Archives: administrators

3 Steps to Creating Empowered Leadership in Your School

This post was also a guest post for McGraw-Hill Education.

All too often in education – whether that be at a conference, in a professional learning workshop, or even at a faculty meeting, we have become used to one person in the room being the “expert”, or the “Oz” around a particular topic. While these leaders are certainly needed to help us shift our thinking and culture around teaching and learning, they should not stay the only authority on a topic for long. As educational
leaders; superintendents, assistant superintendents, directors, principals, and assistant principals – are we investing the time to build leadership capacity in others? It is my belief that the best leaders create more leaders. We should all strive to be a 
“multiplier”, someone who wishes to increase leadership capacity in others.

So, how do we do this? I would like to offer a few suggestions.

  1. Help others realize their influence potential.

In my experience as a leader in the world of educational technology, I have watched many teachers over and over again not give themselves enough credit in terms of their ability to influence their colleagues. This usually starts with a fair amount of fear followed by self-doubt of their ability to offer anything substantial to their fellow teachers. We have to diligently keep encouraging educators to try moving forward with one thing at a time. More often than not, teachers attend some type of professional learning event and come back to their classroom not knowing where to begin; feeling overwhelmed and therefore not doing anything. This is the worse possible post-event outcome I can think of. Pick one thing, get really good at it and boom! You’re now in a position to influence others; whether that be in a face to face setting, writing a blog post about it, or just sending out an email to colleagues for some healthy “Hey check out this awesome thing I tried!”.  In being a connected educator for just over 8 years now, this is such a rewarding thing to witness for me personally, to see other teachers have success, and be excited to share it with others.

2. Create opportunities for others to spread their genius.

Are you making time for others to share their stories? During that next professional learning workshop, faculty meeting, or even in that next electronic newsletter, is time being devoted/given for your own people to share the great things they’re doing? If no, then why not? As someone who leads presents conference sessions and workshops quite often, one of my upfront disclaimers is always something to the effect of, “By all means, please not only stop me with questions, but please also stop me to share your own story about how (insert topic here) has changed teaching and learning for the better in your classroom.”. Make a commitment to give a teacher 5-10 minutes of your next staff meeting to share something awesome they did. You’re not only creating the opportunity here for a teacher to spread their genius, you’re creating a tremendous sense of empowered leadership in them too!

Have you looked at digital options for people to share? What about creating a professional learning blog for your school or district and having a guest author each month? Just like our students, some teachers feel way more comfortable expressing themselves electronically than they would if you ask them to speak face to face to their peers. Create a district hashtag for sharing professional learning (our district’s is #GVEaglePD) and get teaches sharing their learning out loud on Twitter. It not only gives a voice for others to share the great things they’re doing, but it also creates an online learning community within your school or district that can be a source of learning for others.

3. Commit to a plan of sustainability

The bottom line here, is that this can’t be a “flash in the pan” thing. None of what I’m sharing with you in this blog post is meant to be a “one and done” event. It must be ongoing, and become the norm; an everyday component of how we grow as educators to be the best we can be for our students. We’re at the verge of 2017 and we still are talking about “21st-century skills” or creating “21st-century teaching and learning environments”. How about it all just becomes “teaching and learning”? Don’t we owe it to our teachers and our students to see the importance of learning from each other on a regular basis?

Have you ever thought about creating edcamp style professional learning opportunities for teachers? The chances are really high that at least one person in your school or district has been to an edcamp before. Creating your own edcamp learning event is a prime way to get people sharing the great things they’re doing. I promise you that after you do this once, teachers will be wanting it again and again so just plan on doing this at least a couple times a year. I have seen this offered in the summer before the start of a new school year, and also as part of a district professional learning day when students are not at school. It’s awesome!

We have so many teachers doing great things in our schools. That knowledge and expertise can’t remain contained within the 4 walls of their classrooms. To keep it that way is a professional disservice to our colleagues and a learning disservice to our students. It’s not about finding the time, it’s about making the time.

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Google Docs for Administrators – 5 MORE Ideas

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Just barely over a year ago I wrote a post titled Google Docs for Administrators – 5 Ideas to Get Started. To date that post has been my most popular ever since I began blogging. So thank you to so many who have read it and shared it via various networks.

As the current school year has progressed, myself and the rest of our team have worked multiple times with administrators in our district on how they can use Google Apps. More specifically, Google Docs. Many of our administrators have made this a learning commitment for themselves so they can model effective use for their teachers. Major kudos to them for doing so!

I made a quick list of the ways we have seen administrators using Google Docs this year at their buildings so I thought I’d write this sequel to last year’s post to give you some more ideas to try. If you’re not an administrator, be sure to share this with him/her!

1. Master Scheduling

Spring is the time of year when all schools begin working on the building’s master schedule for the upcoming school year. From everything to planning periods to lunch to early release days. It all has to be scheduled well before next school year even begins. Google Docs is a great way to collaboratively build this schedule with your administrative team or your scheduling committee. I recently worked with an administrator doing this and it was all put together on a Google Spreadsheet. Each specific schedule had its own tab across the bottom. The planning team will be meeting to collaboratively edit the schedule(s) and then once it is finalized, it will be shared with the entire staff via a Google Docs link.

2. Grade Level/Department Collaboration

Our district has a late start day once per week to allow teachers and staff to collaborate in their PLCs (professional learning communities). During this time we have grade levels collaborating at the elementary level, and more specialized departments meeting in various places around the district. Many of the PLC teams this year have chosen to keep all of their collaboration topics, agendas, and minutes in Google Docs. This way the entire team has access to the information during PLC time and can easily access it after PLC time is over. Where administrators have loved this is how the notes, minutes, etc. that their teachers keep can quickly and easily be shared with them. For example, I helped one of our elementary principals set up a shared folder for each grade level and then shared those folders with the appropriate teachers. Teachers then were able to drop the necessary docs into the folder shared by the principal. The principal then was able to access everything and leave feedback and other comments directly on the document.

3. End of Year Fun

With the end of another school year approaching, many schools (around here at least) have either a school carnival or a school “field day”.  Again, while it is beginning to sound redundant, the collaborative component and anytime/anywhere access makes everything flow much more smoothly. Google Docs is a great way to organize events like this to multiple committees that include both teachers, parents, and other stakeholders from the community. Using Google Forms can also be a great way to get community involvement and support for events such as these.

4. Sharing Among Administrators

Given the busy schedule that many administrators have, their time to get together with other district administrators face-to-face is pretty limited. Collaboration and sharing in Google Docs can be a great supplement to the “facetime”.  Administrators can brainstorm ideas in a Google Doc or using a Google Drive app like Lucidchart they can create flowcharts and diagrams to collaboratively plan and share. Administrators like to be social and talk shop just like teachers do so Google Docs offers them another way to do this and learn from each other at the same time. Making updates to commonly used forms, ideas for assemblies, instructional technology implementations, PTA events, etc. all can be shared via Google Docs between administrators.

5. Inventories and other Record Keeping

So we all know that the amount of paperwork and record keeping  required of principals is enormous. This can be things like keeping an inventory of technology equipment, building expenditures, professional development, and behavior referrals just to name a few. Moving this kind of information to Google Docs (make sure this is acceptable with your district before replacing any existing forms) can make editing and sharing with other district leaders or office staff a breeze.

Administrators and teachers alike can sometimes be hesitant to move things to “the cloud”. It’s still a new way of working for many educators and educational leaders. Please don’t feel like you have to try multiple things at the same time. I’d definitely recommend not doing that! Pick one thing to transition to this new way of doing things and get really comfortable with it. Then add on something else. I’ve seen comfort levels gradually increase; (usually with some speed bumps along the way) which leads to increased usage, leading to sharing with others, leading to finding better ways of doing things.