Sunday, September 06, 2015

Today's Reads, Views, and Listens

Thought I'd push one final post of resources out before summer is all but gone.

Here is the Labor Day edition -

To fire up anyone who might be a little hesitant about beginning the school year:  Keep the late Rita Pierson's message in mind -

Here is a great op-ed piece she wrote shortly after his TED Talk went viral.


This one is another piece that I've posted before, but it's excellent: A veteran teacher turned coach shadows 2 students for 2 days . . . Imagine if we all had this amazing opportunity.  And just imagine all that we would have a chance to learn!


For a couple years now I've been answering the question - how do you separate teaching from your personal life? by referencing Tony Hsieh: I don't go for work and life separation; rather I go for work and life integration.

Other companies and industries are following suit in flipping over the old idea of work and life organization.

This article also brings up how organizations are shifting from the rigid top down decision making processes of the past.  In its place they are using holecracies where the key decisions rest with the team doing the work, not the boss.

I see quite a bit of this actually reflected in how LHS is run.

In that past decisions would be made (hello Kaffir Boy . . . The Prowler POWER Process . . . The Baldridge decision making process . . . the code of conduct policy . . .) strictly top down.

The most ridiculous example I can recall comes from our previous superintendent, Irv.  Our principal at the time had just taken a leave of absence after his house burned down.  Mr. Brekke took Mr. Hunt's spot as our principal.

At one of our first staff meetings poor Mr. Brekke, who was just doing Irv's ridiculous bidding, tried to pass around a code of conduct policy that he said the superintendent wanted us all to sign.

As then union president, I stood up and advised every teacher not to sign it, for we knew absolutely nothing about it.

So we didn't sign it, and the code of conduct was never heard from again.

That is a great example of the old (and totally ineffective) way of running organizations.

Irv might have been able to pull off the code of conduct if he had gotten teacher feedback in while he was planning this.  But he didn't bother with that.

Decisions now are not made like that at it.

Here is an upcoming example at LHS: there has been talk of introducing a backpack policy.

In years past, the principal or a select few would have made the decision and the policy would have been in place, but now we have discussed it.  It will then be passed on to our leadership team (which has members from every department represented).  Students will be given a chance to weigh in.  And then after careful consideration, we will make a policy or choose not to have one (personally, I'm hoping they don't have a policy, but that's just me.  And I will certainly follow along with the policy if it is put in place not because I have to, but because I know I will have the chance to state why I think it's unnecessary).

So my real question is, how can we turn our classrooms into holacracies?


I know the beginning of the year isn't really the time to focus on professional learning as we are all up to our eye balls with the launch of the new school year, but file this one away for later in the year: Six Ways to Boost Your Professional Learning.

Here is a quick run down of the six ways -

1.  Log questions, blog answers.  Of course, this one is near and dear to my heart as a blogger for a decade now.  I still love what Don Tapscott said about many new businesses and their approach to transparency and authenticity - they are requiring their workers to get blogs and blog about the problems they are solving.  I love that.

2.  Make connections, test implications.  Almost every thing that is amazing about what I've been able to do in teaching (whether it's been attending and presenting at TIES (connection to Tim Vagle), presenting at NCTE (connection to EGF and RRVWP teacher, Judy Sheridan), teaching at UND (connection to Jodi Holen), presenting as part of a UND panel (connection to Bonnie Gourneau and Jared Schlenker), teaching College Comp (connection to Avis Dyrud and Ruth Christensen), and my College Comp 2 exit interviews out at Digi Key (connection to Cathy Fynbogh and Sara Pederson)) they have all come about as implications of a connection.

3.  Build a learning project.  How cool does that sound?  Include this as part of your Learning Plan. Imagine if we instituted something like this for our seniors to develop and research throughout their senior year exploring their plans for college (and "college" meaning not just four year universities or community colleges, but any "learning" needed for employment after school) and their career path!  What a great exclamation point that would put on their entire Ramp Up process.

4.  Build a learning campaign.  In short pick a large problem to tackle or issue to address.  Then work with three or four people to accomplish it.  What a brilliant way to model all of that we profess to teach in our subject areas!!!  Keep in mind that the three or four people you work with don't have to be fellow teachers.  They could be as diverse as you wish.

5.  Share what others are learning.  This is where I spend so much time.  My blog (and posts like this) do some of this.  My addiction to podcasts include what the folks at Entreleadership are constantly learning and what Michael Hyatt is learning too.  Those are two of the best podcasts I can recommend.  Read the blogs of others is another great way to soak up and keep in tune to what others are learning.

6.  Find something beautiful every day.  Now why didn't I ever think of this?  In fact, I should develop a new blog series documenting the beauty of each day.    Why is it vital to find beauty around you?  It keeps you positive.  What's so important about that?

Give this TED Talk a watch, and you'll know what I mean -


Speaking of learning and staying on top of your game professionally, here is a great list of 40 reasons why you should blog about your research (or teaching).


There is nothing like working with a new colleague to make you feel like you've been sleepwalking through those first days when you hand out your syllabus to your class!

Thanks Mariah for the wake up call.  This is amazing.

English 9 Syllabus


After reading this, I am considering ordering copies of On Writing as a text for College Comp.  I forgot how amazing it is.  And King's advice on writing is great.  But the experiences he writes about are just as powerful.

I need to get another copy of this and re-read it.


This blog post is a must read for beginning teachers.  It's about a topic that I still continue to struggle with even 18 years in: Building Parent Partnerships.

After talking with colleagues for a number of years about this topic, it's clear they are often scarred by incidents (usually just a handful, or one terrible encounter) with parents.  I know I am in the same boat.

But I have to realize that out of the four or five negative experiences I've had with parents, I have had hundreds more positive experiences, yet I let those few cloud my impressions.

I love the "Fab Fridays" example where a teacher ends his week by calling five parents and bragging up their kids.

I am stealing that.


This article focuses on one of my very favorite quotes: "Find What You Love and Let it Kill You."


And I'll end with a little humor.  Listening to these twins have a full blown conversation is hilarious.  Just look at all that communication!

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