Sharing ideas on Education, Leadership and Life

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Lifelong Learners as a Pre- Requisite


Last night (October 26th) during Edchat there was a discussion about instilling the concept of being a lifelong learner into educators. Personally I am of the opinion that someone who has devoted their life to instilling a love of learning in others should be expected to be lifelong learner themselves. I do agree that there needs to be leadership to help educators grow and improve and even at times as @tomwhitby said “reignite that flame within educators.”

However the discussion got me thinking should there be pre-requisites for someone who wanted to be an educator. I am not referring to academic degrees but rather certain character traits and values. I think we would all agree that someone who doesn’t have a love of children and who is not a patient person probably shouldn't choose education as their profession.

I would add that being a lifelong learner falls into that category of pre- requisites. If student learning is the focus we must have as educators for our students then teacher/educator learning needs to be a focus we must insist on and have for our teachers/educators. How can we ask someone to teach and impart a skill in others that they themselves don’t have? I probably wouldn’t be a very good English Language teacher and I doubt many members in my PLN would make very good Judaic Studies teachers.

If we are trying to instill lifelong skills in our students than our teachers need to be lifelong learners as the ones responsible for teaching those skills.

We wouldn’t want to go to a doctor that stopped learning when they graduated medical school 10 years ago; Why would we want our teachers/ educators to stop learning?


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Aren't We All Leaders

I posted on my posterous blog a response of sorts to an article that I read entitled “The Four Capacities Every Leader Needs ( and very Few Have) BY FC EXPERT BLOGGER TONY SCHWARTZFri Oct 15, 2010
The focus of that blog was aimed at administrators and how they deal with their teachers. Here is a link to the original post:
Today I saw the following on Twitter from @LeadToday “Anyone that cares about people can lead and anyone that doesn't care about people can't.” This got me thinking that in reality this quote applies to teachers as well and therefore we are all leaders, and would all benefit these four capacities.
Therefore I have amen ended my original post to give you my two cents how these four ideas play an important role in the lives of educators.
1. Great leaders recognize strengths in us that we don't always yet fully see in ourselves- Educators need to realize that each student is unique and has special talents. It is our job to see those talents and recognize the strengths of each student so that they can succeed and learn.
2. Rather than simply trying to get more out of us, great leaders seek to understand and meet our needs, above all a compelling mission beyond our immediate self-interest, or theirs. - I saw a blog post/article that said that the classroom belongs to the students it is theirs not ours (the teachers) and therefore is the needs of the students that come first. We need to motivate them and engage them but it needs to be student driven.
3. Great leaders take the time to clearly define what success looks like, and then empower and trust us to figure out the best way to achieve it.- Students need to be given the tools to be successful in the 21st Century. They need to be empowered to become independent learns and apply what they have learned to real life situations.
4. The best of all leaders--a tiny fraction--have the capacity to embrace their own opposites, most notably vulnerability alongside strength, and confidence balanced by humility.- The classroom needs to be a safe place for our students a place they feel comfortable taking risks and a place where failure is seen a teachable moment which will lead to growth. That can only happen if the teacher is willing to give up some control and be willing to try new things even if they (the teacher) makes a mistake as well.

Remember we are more than teachers, more than educators, we are leaders and we are leading the future leaders of our society.

My 2 cents worth

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

My Educator’s Oath Revisited and My Oath as an Administrator

Today at our faculty meeting we discussed what we want a student after sixth grade to look like form a religious, social, emotional, academic perspective, and what skills should they have. This is a work in progress. However it got me thinking. I have said like many others that educators need to be constantly growing and learning, however how much do we need to grow in a year or two or three and so on and how is that growth measured.
In September I posted a blog about My Educator’s Oath, I thought that I would repost that now and update some of what I have done and areas that still need improvement as a way tracking my growth.

Blog post from Sept 8, 2010
A while ago I was reading a blog post from Mr. Rice entitled “My Educator's Oath" he ends his blog with the following "I challenge each of you to write your own educator’s oath. Forever consider it to be a work in progress. Revise it often. Throw it away and start over. As you evolve, it should too.

(Please note that the list is no particular order of importance since I believe that each point is important)

As an Educator I promise that I will:
1. Develop a close relationship with my students. I will know my students strengths and weaknesses and I will meet the needs of my students to the best of my ability and help each one realize and maximize his/her potential
2. I will love my students and treat each one fairly.
3. I will have a student centered classroom that engages students and pushes them to think and question.
4. I will incorporate technology in my classroom to help engage my students and bring the learning we do to life.
5. My classroom will be a safe place for students to learn and students will feel comfortable taking risks. Failure will be seen as a learning opportunity and not as a cause to be down on one's self
6. I will incorporate 21st Century skills and Differentiated instruction to meet the needs of more of my students
7. I will act as role model for my students and that my students will learn that I don’t know everything and it is OK to make mistakes and ask for help.
8. I will commit myself to always be growing and constantly learning
9. I will develop a PLN to help me grow.
10. I will be flexible and be willing to change and grow. I will also be flexible in my teaching approach knowing that at times I may need to change my lesson based on my students’ readiness.
End of Sept 8th post

Even though it has been only a little over a month since I have wrote my first educator’s oath, I am happy to say that through Twitter I have developed an amazing PLN and I am constantly learning. In that time I have joined EDU PLN and have started a group for Judaic Studies educators and I have become a member of Connected Principals. At the same time I haven’t incorporated technology as much as I wanted to in the classroom.

I realize know that my Educator’s Oath focused on my role as a teacher and yes student learning is the focus but as an administrator I need a oath that reflects my relationship with my teachers which in turn can effect student learning

I promise that I will:
1. Work with each teacher to help them realize and maximize his/her potential
2. I will give my teachers the skills and empower them to take control of their own classrooms
3. I will help create Teacher Leaders
4. I will create open communication with my teachers and communicate clearly the mission and vision of the school
5. I will be supportive

Over the next few months I hope to look back of these oaths and see in what areas I have grown and in what areas do I still need to strengthen.

What’s your oath and how do you or will you measure your growth as an educator?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Positive Steps for Educational Reform

Today people are blogging about positive steps we can take for educational reform. The truth of the matter is that since that very first Tweet that mentioned "Waiting for Superman"I have been promoting that we need to take a positive approach to the whole situation. Therefore here are the steps I believe we need to take.

1. Focus on the Positive- There are a number if not a majority of excellent teachers doing amazing things in their classrooms. Let us focus on what they are doing and model and promote those teachers rather than only hearing about all the negative
2. Empower teachers- Teachers need to be given the freedom and the power to create a certain environment in their own classroom that promotes learning without fear that they are going to be judged by what a bubble test shows.
3. Trust- All stakeholders need to be able to trust one another. We are all professionals and deserve a certain amount of trust that we know what we are doing.
4. Communication- Once you have developed trust we all need to communicate with one another in a respectful way to bring about the change we want
5. A willingness to grow and change - There needs to an understanding that movie or no movie we need to improve student learning and that means we need to change perhaps radically what we have been doing and here again this attitude needs to be adopted by all stakeholders.

I have said from the beginning that if we put student needs first and student learning was our true focus than I believe we can all agree on some very real and positive changes to help us accomplish that goal.


Monday, October 11, 2010

Helping Others to Reach Their Goals

I just read this post by Leadership Freak AKA Dan Rockwell about finding ones Sweet Spot.
Here are some quotes from the post:
“Finding the sweet spot may take patience and persistence.
Finding the sweet spot is about helping others reach their own goals and achieve their own dreams.
In my opinion, the greatest obstruction to finding another’s sweet spot is imposing our own agenda on others.”

I asked myself how can educators or more specifically Principals help teachers reach their own goals and achieve their own dreams?

Then as fate would have it I was listening to Deborah Kenny being interviewed by Bill Cosby and one of the points she made was about how she empowers her teachers to make certain decisions on their own about the curriculum etc.

Based on that interview and some of my own thoughts I came up with a list of what I can do as an administrator to help my teachers reach their goals without as Rockwell said imposing my own agenda on them.

1. Empower them. Let them have control over what goes on in their classroom
2. Find something they are passionate about and let them take the lead in that area. For example of one of the issues we have in my school is getting students more involved in our Prayer program ( we are a religious school) If a teacher had a certain passion about Prayer I would ask him/her to head up that committee
3. Offer choices for areas of Professional growth.
4. Be supportive
5 Value the contribution they make to the school and to the team. We are all individuals with different talents and everyone plays an important role. I often use a sports analogy in speaking with my students. Tom Brady may be a great quarterback but you can’t have a whole team of quarterbacks and if you do you probably wouldn’t win too many games. Every person is unique and important.


Thursday, October 7, 2010

Can Anything be Taught?

At the start of every year I remind my teachers that we can’t take things for granted and assume that our students know things without being taught. Therefore especially when it comes to certain behaviors we shouldn’t assume our student know what the proper behavior is but that we as teachers need to model it and teach it. I don’t remember when I heard this idea nor when I actually believed it was true. I do believe it to be true but I was skeptical at first that anything and everything be taught. Can we teach kindness? Can we teach empathy? I believe we can model it give examples of it and yes for certain grades and ages we can “teach it”.

What about teachers. I have mentioned more than once that you need to lead by example and show your teachers what you want and except. However are there things that can’t be taught?

In the last few days there have been a number of tweets and blog posts about Passion and Enthusiasm, two things which I believe are crucial for a good teacher. However personally I am not sure that these two things can be taught. You either are passionate about what you do or you are not. You either enjoy and love teaching and instill this love and enthusiasm in your students or you don’t. I have heard some say that in the classroom they put on a good act and show enthusiasm. Honestly I think if you do that then you are selling your students short and aren’t given them enough credit. Students know when you truly love teaching and care and love them and when you are faking it.

Do you agree that you can’t teach Passion and Enthusiasm and are there other things we just can’t teach. Please share what you think

I promised myself I wouldn’t get sucked back into the debate about reform etc. I believe my feelings are clear on that. But before we talk about curriculum and before we talk about testing and NCLB or any of the other issues that have come up we need to in the words of Jim Collins get the right people on the bus and the bus pass must only be given to those who are truly passionate and enthusiastic about education and helping children grow and learn.

My thoughts

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Thinking Out Loud

Picture from

Yesterday @BostonHistory posted a link to a blog which said that educators need to ask themselves the question, would they want their child to be in a class that:
“1. A majority of the instruction is focused on memorization and recall
2. If the teacher uses a single textbook for history and does not teach multiple perspectives”
There was a whole list.
I responded that the real question is what we as educators do when we answer NO, we wouldn’t want our children in this type of classroom.
However for me the questions took on a different meaning and resonated with me because what if the situation was that your child was in such a class and You the parent/ educator taught in the same school.
Over the years my family and I have lived in different communities almost always my children where in the same school where I taught. I wore many different hats; I was a teacher, sometimes an administrator, and parent all at the same time.
To be honest I believe I was not always the best advocate for my children.
For those that have read my blog posts before you know that I tend to take a less confrontational approach,this at times is probably one of my weaknesses, but here as well I learned some valuable lessons as an administrator and as an educational leader. None of what I am saying is new but at times I need to remind myself that even though in the short term I may not have helped my children I believe in the long term I not only helped them but others

1. Pick your battles – At times you may win a battle but lose the war
2. You gain more by being supportive and trying to help than you do when you confront someone
3. You need to teach and lead by example
4. You can only get people to grow and change when they trust you- You first need to develop a sense of trust

Thank you for letting me think out loud

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Taking the Next Step

Five months ago if you asked me about Twitter my answer would have been, Yeah I heard about it but it really isn’t for me. I probably would have answered the same thing if you asked me about started a blog and blogging.
That all changed four months ago when I began following educators on Twitter and a whole new world was opened to me and I was learning from educators all over the world. I learned about developing a PLN and I started following many of the people that were associated with Connected Principals. The next step on my journey was to share my ideas on Twitter. An amazing thing happened people were actually interested in what I had to say and that gave me the motivation to start blogging, which again surprised me that people actually valued what an Orthodox Rabbi in Memphis TN had top say about education. Before I knew it I was following over 1,500 people and had over 700 people are following me. One of the things that I preach and practice to both my students and my teachers is that one always needs to be learning and growing.
I asked myself what is the next step? I have always valued the members of Connected Principals and I wanted to know how I could be a member so that I could have more of an impact and help others the same way many of the Connected Principals helped me. Today through a series of Direct Messages and emails with George I took the next step and joined the Connected Principals. My other goal is to form a PLN of Judaic Studies teachers to help bridge 21st Century Skills with Judaic Studies.

The steps that I have taken haven’t been major ones nor have they radically uprooted the status quo. They have been small, measurable and achievable. Perhaps the simple small steps that I have taken over the last four months can serve as encouragement for all of us as we embark on ways to improve and meet the needs of our students.

I encourage you to join me on my journey to grow as a teacher, administrator, leader, and most importantly a person and in doing so help our students reach and maximize their potential.