EduQuote of the Week: May 29 – June 4, 2017 (FAREWELL EDITION – See You in the Fall!)

You know the greatest danger facing us is ourselves, an irrational fear of the unknown. But there’s no such thing as the unknown — only things temporarily hidden, temporarily not understood.

– Captain James Tiberius Kirk

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Teach & Serve II, No. 42 – We’ll See You Next Year!

Teach & Serve II, No. 42 – We’ll See You Next Year!

May 24, 2017

This concludes Volume II of Teach & Serve with a look back over the offerings for the 2016-2017 school year.

Look for Teach & Serve Volume III, No. 1 on August 30, 2017!

I thought I would include, again, my favorite video find of the year. It makes me smile every time I see it!

 

EduQuote of the Week: May 22 – 28, 2017

We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.

– JK Rowling

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Teach & Serve II, No. 41 – Graduations

Teach & Serve II, No. 41 – Graduations

May 17, 2017

So, yes, our students leave us but we, in large part, do not leave them.

The sun is out with more regularity and throughout more of the day. The trees and grasses are greener. The flowers are budding. There is, if you listen closely, more melody of birds in the air. Spring is upon us and summer is not far behind.

For us in the work of education that can only mean that the end of the year approaches.

Rapidly.

Though there are things standing between us and the end of the year, some of them pleasant, some of them hurdles, some of them variable from school-to-school, there is a universal: graduation.

Typically, and appropriately, graduation is viewed primarily as a student event, a moment (or long series of moments strung together in what can seem to be an interminable chain depending upon who your school conducts its festivities) during which the senior class is honored, their names are called and their last steps as members of our student communities are taken. It shines the spotlight on the kids as they leave us and that is a very good thing.

It signals something of an end and a speaker is likely to remind the crowd that these particular groups of students, their families and their teachers will never occupy the same space again.

I used to mention sentiments like that when I spoke at graduations. They were true words.

But, it is important to remember at these times as the names are read and the stages are crossed and the parties are thrown, that the experiences our students have had at our schools go on. These graduates are who they are because of what has happened to them and what they have done in the years at our schools.

The students leave us and, if we are honest with ourselves, it is hard to remember each of them in sharp detail. Our work is predicated on assisting groups of kids to go, it is based on mentoring them away from us and, though the best among us are excellent at recalling the majority of students they have taught (I have never been great at this in all honesty), the fact is one group graduates and another comes in.

So, yes, our students leave us but we, in large part, do not leave them.

They can point to interactions we do not remember. They can identify as critical moments incidents we might recall as insignificant. They can recall the paths we led them down when we did not even know we were pointing them in any direction at all.

That is a heady realization. There is a responsibility in the work we do. We have responsibility for every interaction we have with a student.

This is not a responsibility we should ever take lightly. If we do underestimate it, it is time to look for another vocation.

The reality is that most of those who work in education, who work as administrators and teachers, understand this responsibility and, more than that, they embrace it. They love students and that is why they are in the work.

An old and overused adage goes like this: “A teacher was asked: ‘what do you teach?’ The person inquiring wanted to know what subject the teacher instructed. ‘Students,’ the teacher replied, ‘I teach students.’” We have heard this one before and, while it is worn, it does convey a truth.

If we are in education, the students are entrusted to us are far more important than the content we convey.

Graduations should serve to remind us of the awesome responsibility we have. Graduations should be a celebration of the work that we do. In as much as they mark the accomplishment of our students, let them also mark ours as well. Let them serve as reminders of the good work we do and let them challenge us, as we look to the summer sun, to review, revive and return in the fall ready to serve once again.

EduQuote of the Week: May 15 – 21, 2017

I’m more interested in arousing enthusiasm in kids than in teaching the facts. The facts may change, but that enthusiasm for exploring the world will remain with them the rest of their lives.

– Seymour Simon

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EduQuote of the Week: May 8 – 14, 2017

A child who is protected from all controversial ideas is as vulnerable as a child who is protected from every germ. The infection, when it comes- and it will come- may overwhelm the system, be it the immune system or the belief system.

– Jane Smiley

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EduQuote of the Week: May 1 – 7, 2017

When you study great teachers… you will learn much more from their caring and hard work than from their style.

– William Glasser

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Teach & Serve II, No. 38 – Intention and Purpose Rooted in “Why”

Teach & Serve II, No. 38 – Intention and Purpose Rooted in “Why”

April 26, 2017

If we know why we are doing what we are doing, we can move ahead with intention. We can move ahead with shared purpose. We can move ahead with common understanding.

I have written in past posts about knowing the “why” of our shared work in education. Simon Sinek, the motivational speaker and marketing expert writes eloquently and convincingly in his books Start with Why and Leaders Eat Last about how important knowing why we do what we do really is. He contends that many companies and leaders – for our purposes, schools and teachers and administrators – do not take the time to uncover why they do what they do. He contends that most begin with the “what,” not the “why.”

It is easy to agree with his point.

When we think about the task we face as teachers and administrators, the what is ever in our view. What do we do? We lead our staffs so our teachers can teach our students so our students can learn (skills, knowledge, critical thinking, values) so our students can master so our students can grow so our students can graduate… The what is our meat and potatoes. Being successful at the what keeps our doors open, our retention rates up, students in our desk, money in our budgets. We cannot undervalue the what.

But we can overvalue it or, perhaps, we can get the order of operations wrong.

All too often, leaders look at tasks – at the what – and do not ask the question of why they are asking their constituents to do what they are asking them to do. The what is typically obvious. It is typically tangible. The why? Not so much.

When I was a young teacher at a Jesuit high school, the staff had gathered for a faculty meeting and one of the subjects of the meeting was a discussion of the ways in which we could increase enrollment at the school. We talked and brainstormed and suggested and argued about the topic. In the back of the room, one of my colleagues quietly sat with his hand raised and the principal, who was conducting the conversation, seemed to avoid calling on him and did not for quite a while. Finally, he did.

“Um,” my friend said graciously, “should we be talking about getting smaller instead of getting larger?”

Pin. Drop.

It was such a bizarre question and so far out of left field in the context of the conversation the principal was holding that the principal did not even know how to address it. He blew right by the question and called on someone else. I am not sure I would have handled the situation any differently.

True story.

My colleague’s question dealt with why. My principal’s conversation was all about what.

If we know why we are doing what we are doing, we can move ahead with intention. We can move ahead with shared purpose. We can move ahead with common understanding.

And we can be special as we do.

You do not believe me? Take a look at comedian Michael Jr. as he discusses knowing your why. Take a look and get a sense of why you do what you do.

EduQuote of the Week: April 24 – 30, 2017

The task of teaching has never been more complex and the expectations that burden teachers are carried out in antiquated systems that offer little support—and yet, teachers are finding success every day.

– Tucker Elliott

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Teach & Serve II, No. 37 – Dissenting Opinions

Teach & Serve II, No. 37 – Dissenting Opinions

April 19, 2017

Giving voice to dissenting opinions is not a sign of weak leadership; it is a sign of great strength.

Good leaders determine what to do based on each individual case, weighing the opinions of others as appropriate, considering precedent if necessary, proceeding confidently into each new area. Good leaders make decisions because decision making is part of the work. They do not shy away from this duty even if they understand a decision may cause dissent.

With that in mind, here is the great leadership insight for today. Get ready. It is profound and powerful.

Are you sitting down as you read? We do not want anyone falling to the floor passing out from the sheer brilliance of what is about to come.

Here it is:

People disagree with their leaders.

Thank you, and good day.

Still here? Okay, a few more words, then, on this topic of disagreement and dissent.

Leaders who are just passable in their roles make determinations. Leaders who are simply proficient make decisions. Leaders who are solid and visionary lead their institutions where they may or may not want to go.

Leaders of all skill levels decide directions, accelerate agendas, pursue paths.

No matter the course chosen, there will be those led who disagree. Sometimes, they will disagree quietly. Often, they will dissent vocally.

How a leader responds to dissent defines leadership.

Be wary of leaders (perhaps of yourself as leader) if the goal of decision making is to not offend. Likewise, be aware of leaders (again, this could be you) who make decisions relishing the idea that choices will offend. Look to follow leaders who 1) understand that their decisions may cause waves, and yet they make them anyway and, 2) investigate the waves their decision-making has caused.

Leaders who cannot stand scrutiny of their decisions are not strong leaders. They are leaders who want to be praised for their wisdom without having offered those they lead rationale for that praise. Leaders who will not listen to opposing views are hamstrung in their leadership. They may be respected, they may even be feared, but they will not be truly followed.

Leaders who allow for disagreement, who engage those who disagree and who attempt to anticipate the tension decisions might cause and determine why decisions create friction are comfortable in the role. These leaders know that they cannot make everyone happy and they do not try. Rather they are aware of when their decisions create tension and they consider that tension. They work to understand it. And they do not do this alone.

Weak, arrogant leaders feel offended when you disagree with them. Strong, humble leaders explore dissent.

Giving voice to dissenting opinions is not a sign of weak leadership; it is a sign of great strength.

I want to follow a leader who is strong enough to allow me to disagree with her, confident enough to engage me on my disagreement and wise enough to explain to me when I am wrong. I want to follow a leader who knows my dissent can be a good thing. I want to follow a leader who encourages dissenting opinions.