10 Ways to Boost Teacher Morale.

supportThe New York Times recently reported an all time low in teacher morale. The article refers to perceptions of teacher worth and effectiveness. Change fatigue, increased levels of accountability and tight budgets also play a major role in teacher job dissatisfaction.

Last year, when faced with many of these same issues, I felt it was important to communicate and cultivate the notion of team support. I continued to ask my staff what I could do to support them. More often than not, they just wanted me to listen to their challenges, recognize their hard work and celebrate their successes. I expanded our Renaissance outreach to staff, sent more personal notes, emails, public recognition in staff and board meetings and additional treats in the staff lounge. It’s the little things that add up over time.

Additional morale strategies include:

  1. Creating an incredible Teacher Appreciation Week (get your PTO involved). May 5-9, 2014.
  2. Have a pot luck at least once a month.
  3. Have admin. cook breakfast for staff.
  4. Have teachers model their successful teaching strategies at staff meetings and board meetings.
  5. Always SUPPORT your teachers when parents complain about them.
  6. Provide ample, valuable and meaningful professional development. This is a critical budget line to protect.
  7. Follow through with promises to teachers.
  8. Have a team “ropes course” adventure at the beginning of the year.
  9. Encourage your teachers to come to you with their concerns with an open door policy.
  10. Be the example! Model a positive, healthy and enthusiastic attitude.

There are times when I’ve needed my own cheerleader (My PLN has been invaluable). Persevere! Continue to show teachers they are making a difference.

9 Reasons to Move to Standards Based Grading!

“Perhaps the most counterproductive aspect of schooling as we know it is the conventional system of letter grades. The problem with grades is not the use of symbols, but the use of any DEFENSIBLE plan for coming up with the symbol……most grades reflect what is easy to count and average into a final grade”.–Grant Wiggins

Does your grading system guide students toward excellence and mastery? If not, it’s time for a change. Standards based-grading (SBG) can and should replace age-old point and percentage based grade policies.

Here are 9 reasons why:

1. SBG is more authentic. Grades MUST be meaningful. If you are unable to specifically describe the qualitative difference between an A,B,C,D, or F grade, then it’s time to change the assessment.

2. SBG saves trees. Standards-based grading reduces meaningless paperwork for teachers and students. This allows for more meaningful and timely feedback to students and for teachers to get the most out of every paper turned in. Writing feedback only on homework saves time and still gives teachers the knowledge of where students are in their learning.

3. SBG helps teachers adjust instruction. Students who struggle can continue to retest and use alternate assessments until they show proficiency. They are NOT penalized for late work. Their learning styles can easily be accommodated and modified and the grade book does not need any adjustments. The grade book simply shows where students are in meeting the standards.

4. SBG reminds teachers of how valuable daily formative assessment strategies are in classrooms. Standards are clearly understood and discussed much more with colleagues. Standards-based grading does not work without a clear understanding and use of standards.

5. SBG moves us past status quo. It’s high time we faced the reality that there is a better way to give quality feedback to students about their proficiency in a subject area without punitive damages along the way.

6. SBG reinforces Quality. The ability for one to measure their own work is a learned skill. This is “real world” stuff! If adults on the job make poor decisions and/or cannot determine the quality of their own work, the results are not good. We must teach and demand quality. Students cannot be allowed to turn in sub quality work without being asked to revise. Student behavior, attendance and effort will be reported separately from academic achievement.

7. SBG motivates the students who need it most! Grades can demotivate many students. They try hard, but never get the “A”.

8. SBG motivates students to reach for the highest level of Bloom’s Taxonomy; CREATING. Grades make it more tempting for students to go for the lowest level of the taxonomy, because REMEMBERING, is much easier to quantify.

9. SBG eliminates traditional grading practices that are inconsistent, often subjective and more about effort than outcomes; and not closely linked to the big goal of college and career readiness. For many high school students, the goal is to figure out the grading game and do the least to get the grade they need.

Shifting from the traditional grading game to a more reliable standards-based system is a challenge. It’s extremely important that our education system embraces high expectations and personalized learning for all students.

I would love to hear your feedback on this article!

9 Leadership Lessons Learned as a Conductor

Raised in the Seattle area, I have been a professional musician since my teens. I have directed award-winning High School Bands, musicals and community orchestras. My expertise in percussion and keyboard have allowed me to perform throughout the United States with orchestras, jazz and rock ensembles. I am also a high school principal.

Here are 9 valuable lessons I’ve learned along the way.conductor

1. Great conductors  turn their back against the audience to conduct the orchestra. No matter what challenge is at hand (or audience response), they focus on doing the right thing with their team.

2. Great conductors spend hours and hours reviewing the musical score and “vision” of the end result. Now, I spend an inordinate amount of time reviewing our school’s vision.

3. Great conductors practice. Practice definitely makes perfect. I review and practice my leadership skills weekly. I just don’t assume the “music” of a great working team will happen by itself.

4. Great Conductors get the best out of their team. They ensure that individual musicians, and the “team”, feel significant and valued.  I do my best to take the time for relationship building.

5. Great Conductors are aware of their gestures and the impact they have on the ensemble. Everything’s done with “intention“. They are role models.

6. Great conductors always share the spotlight. Without the orchestra, the conductor is nothing. Together Everyone Achieves More.

7. The conductor stands on a podium and is visible to every member of his orchestra. Visibility is key when leading an effective organization.

8. Great conductors strive for balance with the orchestra. One section should not “overplay” other sections unless directed. The conductor pays attention to every section of the orchestra, or organization, to help them perform effectively within the entire orchestra.

9. Great Conductors lead! They inspire, and create an exciting environment, and share a clear vision for the orchestra.

Are you a great conductor for your organization?