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A Review: School Climate: Leading with Collective Efficacy

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I have read a few books on school climate, how to change it and how to create it, but it was this one sentence written by the author, Peter M. DeWitt, that finally brought it all together for me:

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As educators and leaders we have many goals, responsibilities and initiatives that we want to successfully implement, but regardless of our best intentions, none of our efforts will matter if we do not have a school culture that works and learns together and  supports our best efforts with the one end in mind: the success of our students.

School Climate: Leading with Collective Efficacy written by Peter M. DeWitt (@PeterMDewitt) is a relevant and thought-provoking read for anyone hoping to make a positive change in their school culture. DeWitt uses a collection of educator/leader experiences and questions designed for the reader to reflect on and to challenge the reader’s perception of what school climate is and why it is essential to all we do.

DeWitt refers to the collaborative leadership framework throughout the book as an opportunity for reflection and as a tool to support the growth of all – including the leader. Together with the resources provided, the reader can determine where they are in the framework in various scenarios and understand how and why a shift might be needed to truly engage all stakeholders.

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The power of collective efficacy,  “…the collective self-perception that teachers in a given school make an educational difference to their students over and above the educational impact of their homes and communities (Tschannen -Moran and Barr 2004), requires strong collaborative leadership to empower each and every stakeholder in the school community. The leadership framework supports leader reflection and feedback as leaders assess their leadership style for moving forward.

Throughout this book, I kept reading the book through the lens of both a leader and a learner, and I particularly enjoyed the topic of parent efficacy. Recently tasked with supporting the rollout of a family engagement tool, I found DeWitt’s ideas of building parent self-efficacy engaging and relevant. When we talk about a truly collaborative approach to educating our learners, we need to pause and reflect on the role assigned, if at all, to our families and consider what part of the leadership framework we are at when communicating with our families.  We need to ask ourselves, “are we communicating with them or at them”? We are rolling out the platform as a consistent and convenient communication tool for families and schools but it is not the silver bullet for our family engagement challenges: “…we have hundreds of ways to communicate ….but the increased volume of the possible tools doesn’t mean we communicate any better. What we have to do is understand why we are communicating in the first place” (Dewitt, School Climate:Leading with Collective Efficacy, 146-147). By building both our collective efficacy and our parent efficacy we can all do better at working together to meet the needs of the learners we serve.

To be honest I have always wondered how any educator could not possess collective efficacy and make the decision to enter into education. After reading this book, I truly get now that it doesn’t matter what my belief about efficacy-self, collaborative or otherwise because unless our school teams support and demonstrate collective efficacy, our well-intentioned efforts will not gain traction and have a lasting and sustainable impact. Moving forward without collective efficacy would like be building your dream home on an unstable foundation. Outwardly the home may be beautiful, but eventually, the cracks will show and the building itself will shift and lean and be unable to support its intended goal of being your dream home. As educators, we need to have a solid foundation for all we do. A positive, supportive school climate is our foundation. It doesn’t matter if our focus is curricular, technology-enabled learning, well-being, experiential learning, family engagement or any other education goal we want for our students, without a positive school climate that opens our hearts and our minds to collective efficacy and collaborative leadership our efforts will not be as purposeful regardless our best intentions. 

As Dewitt, stated, “ a positive and inclusive school climate can engage the unengaged and can maximize authentic learning experiences as opposed to compliant ones. (Dewitt 176) and in the end that is all we want for ALL our learners.Throughout the book, DeWitt makes it clear that real change and purposeful leading and learning cannot rest on one person alone and this book will support leaders willing to undertake the steps necessary to create an inclusive learning environment. A positive school culture belongs to all us and begins the minute we belong to a school community and continues long past the bell.
If you are a leader and learner and want to create an open and supportive environment in which all welcome, all are equal and all are working together towards common goals than I highly recommend reading School Climate: Leading with Collective Efficacy. 

Please feel free to read other reviews of resources of other school climate resources that I have had the opportunity to read:

School Culture Recharged By Steve Gruenert and Todd Whitaker

Innovtaor’s Mindset: By George Couros

Professional Capital: Transforming Teaching in Every School

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A Review: The Third Path

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Educators are busy. This is a fact. They are tasked on a daily basis with curriculum and non-curriculum demands while managing busy classrooms and meeting the unique needs of the individuals in their classrooms. When introducing new initiatives it can seem that the new expectations, no matter how well intended, can be another “extra” in an already jam-packed day.

Although educators have long been supporting the well-being of those that they serve, in 2014 in Ontario, the Ministry of Education released its Achieving Excellence:A Renewed Vision for  Education in Ontario document and well-being was one of the pillars of the document. Further supporting documents has formalized the importance of well-being for our students and brought the work that was being done to the forefront of board and school learning plans. Undeniably student well-being is key, but tension exists around how introducing well-being to students can be “fit in”  and “added to” to existing classroom structures against the overwhelming importance of meeting curriculum and achievement expectations in and amongst the many other things that compete for attention in our classrooms.

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The Third Path: A Relationship-Based Approach to Student Well-being and Achievement, written by Dr. David Tranter, Lori Carson and Tom Boland (tbayboland), is a timely read that addresses a growing issue for educators.

The Third Path supports educators by removing the perception that well-being (Path 2) is separate from achievement (Path 1) by making a strong case that these two key aspects of education are not mutually exclusive. By incorporating well-being into our practices, and by focusing on our relationships with our students, we are supporting their ability to achieve and to “…help young people develop into healthy and well-rounded adults who know themselves and are able to meet life’s challenges with a sense of purpose and self-efficacy.” (The Third Path, 21).  

In choosing the third path, we are integrating well-being into the classroom using the best tool that we have as educators: the relationships created with our learners. These relationships are key as the “the educator-student relationship has been found to be consistently among the highest correlates with academic achievement” (Hattie, 2011). (The Third Path, 23).

By outlining the 8 conditions needed for our students to fully develop as learners and individuals in our classrooms, the authors have provided educators with the skills to align their current teaching practice with our moral imperative to support our students to be the best that can be. According to the authors, to truly support our students and to get at the heart of well-being in our classrooms we need to look no further than the relationships we have with our students. By understanding our students, we can implement the 8 conditions that support well-being and achievement:

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The conditions are linear which means each one builds upon the other and help identify student needs. If a student struggles with one of the conditions, it may prove that the issue lies in the condition that comes before it. Thus, it is in knowing our students that we can successfully implement the conditions in a way that will allow each student to achieve success in his or her own way. The 8 conditions are briefly outlined as:

1)   Safety:

Students require more than physical safety; they need emotional safety too. They need to know that the adults in their lives truly care and are responsive to their needs.

2)   Regulation:

Stress is a necessary part of growth, and learning how to regulate—to successfully recognize and address stress—is a critical and lifelong challenge. School provides an opportunity to help students recognize their signs of stress, understand its impact, and develop successful coping strategies.

3)   Belonging:

The more connecting experiences students have, the more they feel they belong. Belonging can be strengthened by increasing the number and depth of connecting experiences that the student has with the school, their educators, and their peers.

4)   Positivity:

Positivity leads students to be motivated and open to discovery. For educators, positivity is about spreading the joy of learning and believing in the extraordinary uniqueness and potential in each and every student.

5)   Engagement:

Engagement is about being fully open to learning, connected to others, able to take on complex challenges, and reach conclusions that are thoughtful and accurate. Engagement doesn’t just lead students to make good decisions—it also provides them with a deeper sense of satisfaction and confidence.

6)   Identity:

School is important for students’ exposure to a variety of ways of being, and for them to develop a stronger sense of who they truly are. They begin to form an identity that is their own, as well as come to appreciate and support the similarities and differences between themselves and others.

7)   Mastery:

Successful learning and development requires a sense of self-efficacy. Students need regular and accurate feedback along the way. Recognizing the value of effort and experiencing success is critical to maintaining motivation to learn.

8)   Meaning:

Meaning: Meaning is a powerful force for ongoing motivation and personal fulfillment. Students are much more likely to commit to lifelong learning and personal development when they are able to experience the intrinsic value of the activities they engage in.

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Educators recognize the need to support well-being not just for our most at-risk students but for all our students but they may not recognize within themselves the skills and strategies that they possess to achieve this goal. Given all the pressures that educators have on any given day in a classroom, it is reassuring to know that supporting student well-being doesn’t come at the expense of student achievement. The Third Path is an excellent resource for educators who are looking to develop their toolbox to engage in the well-being conversation and to support all their learners in their sphere of influence. If you are unsure of how to “get started” with supporting well-being, I recommend The Third Path as a resource to begin with. It will reinforce that educators are already on the right path when it comes to promoting well-being within their students.

To watch an overview of the Third Path click here.

 

A Review (and a Reminder): Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone

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This book review is dedicated to the lone wolves, the lone nuts  ( if you are not sure what a lone nut is, click the link) and the outliers who dare to live authentically, on the fringes, with integrity, courage and honesty so that they, in turn, can give their best version of themselves to the world they live and lead in. Call them what you may, but to all the lone wolves, lone nuts and outliers….thank-you.

Written by  Brene Brown (@BreneBrown), a social researcher who for years has been studying how courage, vulnerability, love, belonging, shame and empathy shape us. Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone, spoke to me in two different ways, on a personal level as well as my professional level, but both centred on the theme of belonging. Whether in your personal life or your professional life, belonging has a profound impact on our emotional, spiritual and physical well-being and this book is an excellent read for those seeking to be braver in any aspect of their lives.

Today In these increasingly divisive times, it is much easier to retreat behind the walls with those that are seemingly “like you” or to hunker down silently, individually; closed off from others: “…we’ve geographically, politically, and even spiritually sorted ourselves into like-minded groups in which we silence dissent, grow more extreme in our thinking, and consume only facts that support our beliefs.” (Brown. Braving the Wilderness, 47)

Isolating oneself is counterintuitive. We need to be connected in meaningful ways to not only survive but to thrive.  The world today can make lasting, rich relationships much easier to opt out of but it is our shared collective human experiences that shape us, for better and for worse.

“We don’t derive our strength from our rugged individualism, but rather our collective ability to plan, communicate and work together. Our neural, hormonal, and genetic makeup support interdependence over independence (Brown, Braving the WIlderness, 53).

The irony is that as we live in an increasingly connected world but there is a greater sense of disconnect. Brown offers up 4 practices in to help guide us in having a better understanding and greater sense of perseverance in our own search for connectedness:

  1. People Are Hard to Hate Close Up. Move In.
  2. Speak Truth to Bullshit. Be Civil.
  3. Hold Hands. With Strangers.
  4. Strong Back. Soft Front. Wild Heart  (Brown 36)

Belonging is key to our individual and societal survival. If this is so then why is belonging so hard?  What happens to those who work in an environment where their sense of belonging is challenged? Where fitting in is valued more than belonging? If you are anyone who has ever questioned current practice, took a risk or wondered “what if”, it is easier to “fit in” than to question, to take risks, and be out front. The risk is high. There is a risk of failing. There is a risk of isolation. That risk of taking that first step is lonely and it is scary. It takes a tremendous sense of self. But as Maya Angelou states, …“The price is high. The reward is great.” 

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Do our organizations and systems truly support a culture of belonging or do they covet a culture of fitting in? As a leader do you celebrate the uniqueness of your team? Do you actively seek out those with different vantage points for new learning? 

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If you are working on the fringe there is hope. For each lone nut, for each lone wolf, there are other lone nuts who have braved the wilderness before you and the company is so worth the risk. Seek out your people. Your people who will challenge you, push you and most importantly accept you.

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We must do better at sharing our experiences. In sharing and communicating the deeply personal experiences of being lone wolves, you make the path to the wilderness a little easier for someone else. We thrive when we connect. David Truss (@datruss)and Donna Fry (@fryed) have both been strong advocates in connecting others who lead from the edge, in creating and supporting learning communities in which people can connect and belong. Read David’s Letter to the lone wolves here. It serves as a reminder that despite how you might feel, what you are told, and regardless of your role in an organization, you are not alone. You do belong.

This year, I had the opportunity to attend a conference and I wasn’t sure who else would be in attendance. I was soon approached by a new colleague who said her friend had spotted me walking into the room and recognized me from Twitter. Her friend said to my colleague, “isn’t that …(and she paused because she couldn’t recall our shared provincial job title) one of your people who likes ships ( I am a self-professed #boatnerd)?” I laughed and said, “yes, I am your people.” That phrase stuck with me for the next few days. On the plane ride home I kept repeating that phrase over and over again and It struck me how comfortable I was with that phrase. How it made me smile. I had been lucky enough to find my people. I belonged.

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Go ahead. Be true to yourself. Find your people. Look far and wide for them. Look for them in face to face and in virtual spaces. Braving the wilderness will require courage, empathy, and vulnerability, but do not fear, it will bring great reward and there is a community of brave souls waiting for you. Never stop braving the wilderness. Take that first step,  but as Brene Brown stresses, belong to yourself first

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A Review: Code Breaker

 

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Brian Aspinall’s (@mraspinall) passion for hands-on, student centred learning and computational thinking that transcends all curriculum and grades is evident throughout  Code Breaker  (@codebreakerbook) and is a great resource for those starting their computational thinking journey.

Sometimes it can feel lonely when you try to implement new learning, especially coding,  in your classroom, but in Code Breaker the author not only outlines his journey into computational thinking as a classroom teacher, but he also includes the voices of other educators who have had different coding experiences within their classrooms. You are not alone in starting your and your students’ coding journey.

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Although Brian is a strong advocate for technology embedded learning and coding in the classroom, he is a much stronger advocate for students and their abilities to be creative, critically empowered learners. Brian’s passion is a result of his own empowered learning opportunities as a high school student.  He teaches with the same faith that his teacher had in him because he knows what it is like to be empowered as a learner and how coding  changed the way he thinks and communicates.

Code Breaker is an honest account of Brian’s classroom coding experiences. He admits to his missteps, but like any good educator he uses these experiences to improve his teaching experiences for his students. When given the opportunity to explore coding to support and demonstrate their learning, Brian’s students were highly engaged and empowered and in the end, taught Brian as much as he taught them. The educators in the book who share their coding stories range across all grades, including kindergarten teachers which reminds us that all students have the potential to learn to code. Coding provides all learners with multiple entry points (low floors) that build upon developing skills (high ceiling) and is structured in such a way as to appeal to individual student interests (wide walls).

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(Mitchel Resnick (@mres), Lifelong Kindergarten, 64)

Brian and the other educators in the book embrace co-learning with their students and all express a willingness to take the leap and to jump into coding alongside their students. All acknowledge that the possibilities for their students to be creative, critical learners far outweighed any nervousness or trepidation that they had about not being “coders” or the expert in the room.

 

After reading Code Breaker, you will be inspired to integrate computational thinking into your classroom practice and the activities provided throughout the book will get you started on you and your students’ coding journey. Like any authentic learning, the learning and the direction you undertake in learning to code with your learners will be personal. That’s what computational thinking affords learners…the freedom to collaborate, to think critically, to be innovative, to be creative, but most importantly it allows the student to personalize the learning. As Aspinall states, there is no right way to do start, just as long as we start.

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Computational thinking opportunities not only provide students with powerful learning but enhance the personal learning and relationships in the classroom. Learners can use coding to solve problems and have a meaningful impact on their lives and the lives of others.

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If you are looking to get started with coding in your classroom, Code Breaker is a resource that will not only provide the “why”, but the “how”. Your next? Just get started!

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A Review: Empower:What Happens When Students Own Their Learning

 

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Our world is changing and so are our learners. The authors of Empower: What Happens When Students Own Their Learning, A.J. Juliani (@ajjuliani)  and John Spencer (@spencerideas) believe that the way to create the  “doers, makers and tinkerers” (Resnick, Lifelong Kindergarten) needed to meet our changing society and economy is to challenge the way we teach and how our students learn.  As educators we need to shift from a compliant, one size fits all classroom, to a classroom that is not only as unique as the learners in it, but one that empowers those learners to be in control of their learning.  

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Do our classrooms today reflect the learning environments needed to shift the learning from a teacher centred to a student-empowered learning environment? The authors use their passion for empowering learners, and their sense of humour, to encourage educators to flip their traditional ideas of teaching and learning on its head.

Juliani and Spencer have dedicated the book to those teachers who are willing to take the risk, to take the leap to empower students with control over their own learning, but in essence they are making a plea on behalf of all the students sitting at desks, disengaged with a system that will no longer provide them with the learning necessary to thrive in our increasingly digital and connected world:

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Juliani and Spencer are passionate about allowing students to have greater control of their own learning because when the learning is owned by the student the work becomes authentic as the learning is connected to them on a personal level which allows them to persevere through the challenges that occur with rich, authentic  learning:

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Throughout the book,  I found myself constantly reflecting on my days in the classroom and remembering all the energy I put into my lessons to engage the students. I tried everything in my power to engage my students, but looking back, I rarely empowered my learners. In the end, it was still my voice that owned the learning. As the authors point out, I was a “tourist teacher”.

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This ah-ha moment was impactful, but it also made me sad. How many opportunities had I missed to prepare my students to be critical thinkers? To be nimble with their learning?

I am grateful for my current role as the #TELTC for my Board and for the opportunities to learn from so many fabulous educators such as Lisa Anne Floyd (@lisaannefloyd) and Karen Enders (@MSE112) who model student-empowered learning because now I am able to support learners in ways that truly empower them. It is no longer just my voice that I am hearing when I get to learn with our students. These empowered learners, in turn, make me a better educator.

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The authors don’t let us focus on our missed opportunities with students. They empower us with the WHY and HOW so that moving forward we can shift our thinking and teaching to better prepare students to be nimble learners-learners that are passionate, inquisitive and can unlearn and learn as necessary.  Because ultimately as educators, this is what we want for our students and most importantly because this what our students deserve. 

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I came across a powerful quote tweeted by Brian Aspinall (@mraspinal) this week, and I think it ties in nicely with the message that John Spencer and A.J. Juliani share in their book:

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Will you take the first step in empowering your students? All it takes is that first step, and you can change your students’ worlds as well as your own!

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A Review: Lifelong Kindergarten: Cultivating Creativity through Projects, Passion, Peers and Play

 

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As computers and all things digital become increasingly more prevalent in our lives one might think that words like “play”, “tinker” and “creativity” would be less important in developing the learners needed to continue to advance and support the complex world of algorithms, coding, computers and robots. Author, Mitchel Resnick (@mres), Professor of Learning Research at MIT and leader of the Scratch Programming team, argues that as computers and digital tools become more complex, we actually need more creative thinkers to meet this technological demand.

We need to decide what is important:

If we truly care about preparing today’s children to thrive in tomorrow’s society…[we need] to focus on what’s most important for children to learn, not what is easiest to measure.” (Lifelong Kindergarten, 153).

In today’s education system we know how to develop the “A” students who can master school and master the content and respond to questions that they most likely already know the answer to.  What Resnick argues, is that the world already has these learners, but it also has new, unique,  local and global opportunities and challenges that require thinkers that are creative, collaborative, risk-takers who can use a variety of skill sets to approach solutions from a non-standard, non-textbook approach.   We need “X” students who are “…are willing to take risks and try new things”(p.2).

Resnick believes that the approach to nurturing these “X” students is found in our littlest learners and the environment they learn in. In Lifelong Kindergarten: Cultivating Creativity through Projects, Passion, Peers and Play,  Resnick believes that the approach to learning through play, to letting students re-create their world through their eyes, and allowing kids to be creative, collaborative and passionate  “tinkerers” is the approach needed throughout our learners educational and post-education lives.

In Ontario, Resnick’s Lifelong Kindergarten aligns with Ontario’s  primary curriculum  and its goals of creating curious, lifelong learners: 

“… in the Kindergarten program, inquiry is not a set of processes and skills but a pervasive approach or “stance”, a habit of mind that permeates all thinking and learning throughout the day. It is not limited to a subject area or topic, a project, or a particular time of day. It is not an occasional classroom event, and it is not an approach appropriate for only some children.” (The Kindergarten Program, Ontario 1.2)

In fact, it is this inquiry stance that Resnick advocates for that is embedded throughout the Ontario K-12 curriculum inquiry. Resnick believes that the approach to learning found in our kindergarten classrooms is the model for all learners. Resnick’s Creative Learning Spiral, allows students to direct their learning by identifying problems and seeking out its solution.

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The learning is not one size fits all and it is not designed to have on standard, correct answer.  By providing these learning opportunities and trusted learning relationships our students can and will be the learners we wish for them to become:

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MIT is putting its belief in supporting “X” thinkers into action by changing the way that learners access and participate in education. Students can study at MIT with its Poverty Action Lab .     Candidates participate in 5 online courses that do not require any previous academic pre-requisites. Upon successful completion of these courses, students can then apply to MIT to complete a Master’s Degree. The game is changing. What we value in our learners and leaders is changing. Are we preparing them for their future or for our present?

 


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(Tom Goodwin)

Lifelong Kindergarten is an excellent read that helps educators rethink how the creative learning process can have a profound impact on the lifelong, critical thinking skills our students need. We owe this to our students.

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A Review: Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t

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 Leadership of any capacity is a gift, but with such a gift comes great responsibility and accountability. In Simon Sinek’s (@simonsinek) book, “Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t”, he outlines the responsibilities that leaders have to support the growth and sense of safety and security the people they serve

This book had me at the introduction:

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Do you recognize a leader in the above passage? Are you fortunate enough to work with someone like that? These leaders support what Sinek calls “the circle of safety” for all people within the organization. Their organization pulls together, supports one another, and builds a culture that defends itself against the external and internal forces that threaten the very security of the organization. The author provides many examples of what happens to organizations that value their people and what happens to those that do not. From the United States Marines, national corporations and global corporations, he provides many examples of how their long-term success is directly related to the culture created by its leadership.

Interestingly, Sinek makes the connection that humans are driven by chemicals such as endorphins, dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin and it is these very chemicals that drive the leaders and the decisions that they make. Endorphins and dopamine in a leadership capacity can drive growth and progress, but easily work against the organization if the leader becomes driven by the “next” in an attempt to release more of these chemicals at the expense of the organization. In the pursuit of the next dopamine or endorphin hit, leaders lose sight of the factor that supports, growth: ALL people in the organization. Serotonin and Oxytocin are the leadership and feel-good chemicals which make coming together and building relationships possible.

Sinek points out that approximately 80% of workers are dissatisfied with their current job (P. 18), thus it is imperative that leaders within all organizations take note and reflect on how they are contributing to such a staggering number and the impact that this is having on their organization. Sinek makes a valid and strong case as to why providing a safe, secure work environment, reduces the factors that undermine the ability of an organization to thrive.

Perhaps the most important message comes at the very end of the book. Sinek states that leadership does not belong to the “…bastion of those who sit at the top. It is the responsibility of anyone who belongs to the group”. (216).

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True leadership isn’t and shouldn’t be placed on one person or the senior management team. This puts too much responsibility on the few and negates the talents of others who are not assigned a formal leadership role. True leaders don’t hide behind their titles. True leaders don’t covet their title in such a way that they feel threatened by recognizing and supporting leadership in people from all aspects of the organization. In fact, the more leaders acknowledge leadership from various people and encourage and support their team, the stronger the leader and the organization becomes.

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Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t is another excellent leadership resource for anyone wishing to expand their understanding of what it means to be an authentic leader. Sinke’s message is simple, care for your people and your people will care for you. It really is that simple.

Click here to view Simon’s inspirational leadership videos on his YouTube channel.

 

A Review: Code in Every Class

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#CodeInEveryClass had me at the dedication:

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Code in Every Class written by Kevin Brookhouser and Ria Megnin will not make you a coder. It will not walk you through step by step block coding so that you can be a proficient coder. It will not have you writing and decoding javascipt.

If it doesn’t teach you to code…then what is it about? How will make you a “coder”? Code in Every Class gives you the inspiration, encouragement, professional imperative and permission to be true co-learners with our students on the coding journey. It’s about empowering our learners with the opportunities to learn the 21st century skills that will provide them leverage in the post-education world. It’s about teaching our learners to demonstrate innovation, creativity, logical thinking and, most importantly, grit in all aspects of their lives. It’s about giving them the power to shift from being  consumers of technology to creators of technology.

Still not convinced? Code in Every Class will  provide you with the inspiration to take that leap and incorporate coding into a small part of your classroom. Yes, Megnin and Brookhouser provide many reasons why providing equitable access to coding opportunities for all our students is vital to our students’ futures as well as ours and yes, they do provide resources to get you started with this new learning, but what they do best is make the case for educators to take the leap and get “coding”.  The authors humanize the coding experience in such a way that it makes the idea of coding attainable. It makes the impossible possible for all. it will inspire and encourage you and that is why I recommend that all educators across the systems we work within read this book.

As an Ontario  educator, one of the most compelling reasons to “get coding” is to model the lifelong learning that we want to see in our students. The Standards of Practice of the Ontario College of Teachers support lifelong learning as a standard of  professionalism:

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Ontario College of Teachers, Standards for the Teaching Profession

Continue to be curious. Continue to be a learner. Continue to challenge yourself.

Coding is scary. I get that. Trust me. I mean, if the Chief Product Office for Amplified It doesn’t consider himself a “coder”, what hope is there for me?

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I will never consider myself a coder, but I am a learner, and in today’s classroom that is what matters! Not only do we it owe it to ourselves to push our comfort zone, but we owe it to our students and in the end, that is all that matters…

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To view my visible learning on Twitter click here.

To join the Teach Ontario  #CodeInEveryClass Book club, click here.

 

 

 

A Review: Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being

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Flourish set out quite the spectacular goal in just the first sentence; “This book will help you flourish”…..

That’s quite the statement. Taking into my particular mindset when I began the book, I honestly felt put off by such a grand statement and, I must admit, this mindset remained  for most of the book.

Based on the foundation of positive psychology, the author, Martin E.P. Seligman, outlines how positive psychology is not based on the subjective study of  happiness but on well-being and how we flourish as individuals. Our well-being is based on the 5 pillars, he calls PERMA:

(P): positive emotions

(E): Engagement ( a state we are unaware of until reflection as we are so engaged at the time)

(R) ; Positive Relationships

(M): Meaning (belonging to or being part of something bigger than yourself)

(A):Accomplishment

Although Seligman starts off by identifying his goal (to have us flourish) and provides us with a background to his well-being theory, he tends to veer of course and provide more background on the organizations  (education, United States Military) that have adopted his well-being program than on the strategies to help readers accomplish the intended goal.

One aspect of the book that resonated with me was the Losado ratio. The Losado principal identifies the ratio of positive to negative comments that you make as you communicate. Obviously a more positive Losado number will lend itself to supporting positive relationships, which as Seligman explains, is key to well-being. Reflect on how you speak with those closest to you. Aim to increase the positive comments, and decrease the criticism. Obviously this a worthwhile goal for all of us to strive for.

I also liked the “active, constructive responding” strategy that he provided about how to respond to someone’s comments about their experiences.When someone is recounting something about their life, they benefit from the emotions that come along with retelling  their story. As Seligman pointed out, “how we respond can either build the relationship or undermine it”. By asking questions that prompt that memory (positive) or validate their feelings (negative) rather than providing a superficial response, we once again create opportunities for supporting positive relationships in our lives. I am going to make a greater effort in responding with this “active, constructive responding” strategy in mind.
Flourish is not an easy read. The author started off with grand intentions, but in the end, I  am no closer to flourishing than I was before I read this book. For those truly looking to flourish and looking for strategies to support this goal, this is not the resource to read.

 

A Review: SocialLEADIA: Moving Students from Digital Citizenship to Digital Leadership

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The use of technology and social media in our classrooms is a topic of constant debate and motivated by many different, passionate views. At the heart of the debate is our students.

Written with passion, insight, student voice and from the heart of the author, Jennifer Casa-Todd (@JCasaTodd), SocialLEADia: Moving Students from Digital Citizenship to Digital Leadership, not only deftly navigates the topic, but it makes a solid case for moving beyond acceptance of social media but to embracing it to ensure equitable access to the skills necessary to provide the well-rounded education necessary to thrive in our world today and tomorrow.

As an advocate for the use of social media to support, engage and connect learners, I fully expected to be in agreement throughout the entire book. I anticipated that the book would be “preaching to the choir”, but every now and then the choir needs to be preached at! We need to be reminded that we are not alone in our  beliefs. SocialLEADia had many insightful “ah-ha” moments that made me stop and reflect on my current practice and beliefs. Many a night I found myself scribbling ideas onto post-it notes or tweeting ideas from the book to share with my PLN. As a result of reading this book, I have a lot of ideas to share with our student leadership team and the Technology Champions that will hopefully impact those in my sphere of influence and ultimately directly impact our students in a positive way.

The sign of a good educational read is the ability to not only see yourself in it, but to see your students in it and to be able to envision something bigger and better than is currently in place. Jennifer Casa-Todd has written a practical, reflective book that honours student voice. She advocates not only for the need to for us to provide the opportunities that truly empower our students to be the learners and leaders we envision for them, but also for the equitable access to the skills and opportunities to equip all of our students with the skills and opportunities to be digital leaders. In fact, her suggestion that not modeling and supporting digital leadership opportunities for all learners may further contribute to the digital divide that is a reality for many of our students. If all student voice is not honoured in a way that allows them to connect with others, advocate for their passions, support their strengths and connect with a wider audience, we are simply doing a disservice as educators.

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This  book resonated with me because at the heart of the book are the students that Jennifer has had the opportunity to connect with face to face or virtually. The student’s stories and experiences throughout the book not only show us the potential for digital leadership and student empowerment, but leave little argument as to why we should  equip our student with the necessary skills to be able to successfully leverage the power of social media to drive their passion and change the world.

SocialLEADia is a must read for any educator, at any level in the organization who are at various spots along the digital leadership continuum. SocialLEADia is much more that a debate about the use of social media and technology in our schools. At its heart is our students and the moral imperative that we have to provide them with the positive opportunities to flourish:regardless of our comfort with social media.As technology and social media becomes more prevalent in the lives of all learners in our building, we must embrace it and empower our students and honour their voice in order to prepare them for the increasingly digitally challenging world. It is not about us-it’s about our students. And, in the end, as Jennifer Casa-Todd writes, that’s what really matters:

SocialLEADia
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