Good Leaders Read…A Lot

Educators know that reading is power.  I’ve been reading What Connected Leaders Do Differently by Todd Whitaker, Jeff Zoul, and Jimmy Casas. It’s a solid read with an american focus, and I’ve found some great nuggets.

Here’s one: great leaders read all the time.

Photo Credit: The Fresh Feeling Project* Flickr via Compfight cc

Great leaders also always seek to improve. They want to learn and to get better. They’re never satisfied with good enough. Reading is part of that continuous improvement. How else can you explore new ideas and create new schema?

I read a lot, mostly at night or on the weekends. I have a paper book on the nightstand (no screens before bed!) and spending 15 – 20 minutes winding down helps me on two fronts: I can take my mind away from the whirlwind of the day and read something of interest.

What do you do to amp up your reading?

A Simple and Powerful Leadership Truth

We love to ask grand questions. What was your best day ever? What was the worst part of your vacation? What is your favourite book of all time? These kinds of questions can be great conversation starters, but I always have trouble answering them. How can I choose one book of the hundreds I’ve read?

Then last December, Will Gourley posed a big question through a #tweetthehalls hashtag. (It’s a fun idea that promotes lots of interaction on Twitter.) Day 2 was to share your best new learning so far this school year. I jumped right in! Here’s my tweet:

Since then, I’ve also come to realize that making assumptions about anything is a pitfall. You might ask why it’s taken me so long to come to this. After all, that old chestnut says, “Don’t assume, because you make an ass…”, you know the rest. I think agreeing with a statement and understanding the impact of that behaviour are two different things.

An example might illustrate this better:  this year, I’m involved in a Pupil Accommodation Review, a government process initiated by trustees that takes a close look at a group of schools to decide what is needed in that area of city – consolidation, renewal etc. It’s where trustees can decide to build or close schools in the city. I’m facilitating this technical yet highly emotional process with a group of parents, staff and community members to provide advice to trustees before they make their final decision. And I can’t make any assumptions.

I’m immersed in the daily business of education at central office as well as the work of the Board of Trustees. I know the policies, background to decisions, staffing, and pretty much the inner workings of how it all happens. That informs my reactions and decisions. But of course, the committee mostly has none of that. So I can’t assume that they understand how decisions are made or how schools really work.  And why would they? They are immersed in their own contexts, whether at work or at home. So I have to explain clearly and make sure they have the information they need.

The need for setting context, checking in and explaining can be linked to the difficulty of communication. We’ve all experienced how hard it can be to truly make yourself understood. Because we cannot truly know what others are thinking and feeling, unless they tell us, we are often guessing how our messages are received – guessing through facial expression, body language, and words we hear. And all that is filtered through our own experiences and bias.

I’ve read many leadership articles and books that urge over communication and understood that on an intellectual level – sure, sounds great! Good idea. But now I’m getting it in a deeper, more visceral way. I’m paying more attention and seeing this powerful leadership truth. We all need repetition and explanation. All the time.

Andrew Kelly – #HWDSBaccelerate

I first met Andrew Kelly as a classroom teacher. His curiosity, questioning and deep thinking stood out then and are even more evident now. Andrew embraces learning and always welcomes others’ viewpoints as he seeks to understand. Andrew’s blog Stop Start Continue showcases his thinking and provides entry points for any educator and parent. He talks below more about why he loves to blog. You’ll find his ideas fascinating!

What is your role in HWDSB?IMG_20160517_194834 (1)

Currently I am a Character Networks Pathways Teacher.  Using the CPS approach, I work with teachers, EAs and administrators to figure out how to best support students who display challenging behaviour. Beginning in September, I’ll be working with the 21CL team supporting the TLE project in Special Education classes.

What led you into education?

I got into teaching for two reasons: my interest in History and a desire to positively impact others. I figured I was signing up for a job where I’d be delivering Chomsky-influenced lectures on U.S. foreign policy during the day (probably wearing a tweed vest) and editing lengthy essays in the evenings.  Although my job doesn’t resemble my initial vision of how my career would play out, I feel fortunate to be in an occupation devoted to removing barriers and empowering young people.

What are you go-to pieces of tech?

My Lenovo ThinkPad R500 is my work laptop.  Originally designed in 2008, it weighs a ton and doesn’t have any bells or whistles but the extended battery pack helps with longer meetings.  Because I travel between 15 schools, I use web-based tools to collaborate on plans with staff on a regular basis.  The R500, although almost a decade old, is fast enough to access web-based applications such as GAFE, WordPress, and Piktochart.  Proof you can be connected without having the newest tech.

Last year I got rid of my iPhone and switched to Android.  The customization options, innovative apps and relative low-cost of the device made it an easy decision.  My Moto X phone is my go-to piece of tech.  Main uses: Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp, podcasts.

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Twitter or something else?

Twitter really is a game-changer for professional development.  The staff room, hallways, structured PD, AQs…all of these places where PD traditionally occurs have their value, but they’re limited in the audience and the ideas to which you have access.  Twitter allows you to connect with (or even silently observe) educators in your district and beyond.  One hashtag that broadens my perspective and enriches my professional learning is #educolor.  Equity and anti-oppressive practices are foundational parts of my pedagogical stance (and Twitter feed) and #educolor is an easy way to stay current and keep these things in the front of my mind. Checking out these hashtags and following some of the active contributors is a must (@RusulAlrubail and @ChrisEmdin are good places to start).

Other hashtags I frequent:

#criticalpedagogy

#selfreg

#TMCtalks

My next steps on Twitter are to explore #MakerEd, #MakerSpaces, and to participate in one weekly chat session.

In addition to Twitter, I listen to education-based podcasts and find them a great tool for accelerating my learning.  I regularly listen to Ross Greene’s parenting podcast, his school-related podcast, and to the House of #EdTech podcast.  Since I drive between schools, podcasts really work for me and my schedule.

How has technology shifted the way you learn?

Being a connected educator allows for quick access to a wide range of sources allowing for professional learning that wouldn’t otherwise be possible. It’s not just about learning new concepts or ideas but also about finding inspiration.  Twitter extends the reach beyond your in-person PLN. For example, I follow Dan Scratch, a progressive educator who is truly empowering students at Inner-City High School in Edmonton.  Inspiration also comes from inside the HWDSB and the group of educators that contribute to the online community by tweeting or blogging their ideas and experiences.

What’s your best piece of advice for those wondering how to use tech to accelerate their learning?

Start blogging.  No other tech-supported learning compares to it.  It feels risky to put your ideas into public space, but educator generated content is what drives the learning for everyone else. Additionally, an enormous amount of thought goes into one blog post, causing personal reflection while challenging you to both articulate and justify your pedagogy. Simply put, blogging connects you in a way that “lurking” doesn’t.  So fire up the WordPress and give it a try!

Behind this series: Inspired by the innovative and trailblazing Royan Lee and the #workflow series on his Spicy Learning BlogI’m asking connected educators around our district how they use technology to accelerate their learning.  In HWDSB, we’ve been talking about how to transform relationships, environments and learning opportunities. The driver is pedagogy, but the accelerator is technology. I’m hopeful that educators’ insights and experiences will kickstart a conversation and even spark some action.