Sunday, November 9, 2014

Avoid It

As I have shared in the past, I am currently in my third (and final) year of the MidCareer Doctoral Program at the University of Pennsylvania. As I reflect on the experiences I have had with different professors over the last three years here are some things I have learned to AVOID as an educator and specifically as an educational leader...

1) Don't "reprimand" the whole group if only a few people haven't met your expectations! As a leader my monthly collection of lesson plan books come to mind. I ask that lesson plan books are submitted by Thursday and invariably, about four or five people do not turn them in by that afternoon. So, on Friday, instead of emailing the entire staff and reminding them to turn in their plans, I only email those who have yet to turn them in - there is no need to "punish" or "reprimand" the whole group because of the actions of some. This is something classroom teachers must remember as well - don't punish the whole class when only a few students are struggling to meet the expectations.

2) Don't waste people's time just because you want to hear yourself pontificate! Be concise, specific and keep the information simple so people get exactly what they need - they don't need the whole back story or the "bird walk" you may take while presenting information. Give people what they need to know and keep it short and specific - be respectful of other people's time. As a classroom teacher, try and keep the mini-lesson at 15 minutes or less - don't go on and on and on and lecture after it is clear that you have lost your audience. 

3) Don't make people do "things" just because they have always been done that way. People deserve information/activities that are relevant, current and tailored to their readiness levels. If you are doing the same lesson on November 30th this year as you did last November 30th, then you are just focused on doing what you have always done instead of meeting the needs of those in front of you. As a leader, if Faculty Meetings have always been a time and space for sharing administrative "odds and ends" don't just keep doing it that way - flip the faculty gathering and turn it into a personalized PD experience. 

4) If it can be communicated in writing (an email, tweet, google doc, memo, etc.) then put it in writing! There is no need to call a meeting (staff meeting, class meeting, administrative meeting, etc.) just to review information that can easily be shared (and understood) in writing. Again, be respectful of people's time.

5) If you ask people to do something (a homework assignment, an activity at a PD session, etc.) then you need to place value on it by offering feedback. If it is important enough to do, then it should add some value to the world of those being asked to do it... and often, that comes in the form of feedback or a follow-up conversation to help us enhance our craft.

6) Read your audience and realize when the "train has come off the track" and your lesson, presentation or activity is not meeting the needs of the audience. We should not just keep moving forward because that is what we planned... it must be about meeting the needs of our staff, students, etc. not just following a lesson plan. We must focus on the learning - not just the teaching!

7) Give your students, staff and community a voice in the process - listen to what they have to say so you can best understand how to meet their needs and support their goals. It is not about you... it is about them.

8) Access the expertise around you and play the role of the "guide on the side" to allow students, staff or community members be the facilitators of learning. We don't know everything and we don't always need to be the "sage on the stage." The people around us are smart, amazing and interesting - let's tap these awesome resources.

9) Remember that one size does not fit all and that everyone does not need the same exact thing at the same exact time. Let people express their understandings, passions and interests in different ways!

10) Keep things in perspective and find the humor in a situation whenever possible. Whether facilitating a discussion, or analyzing data, or dealing with a discipline issue remember that this too shall pass and we will soon move on to the next issue. 

These are just some of the things I have learned to AVOID over the last three years in my experiences as a full-time doctoral student that have helped me be a better educational leader. Have you thought about what you need to avoid as an educator? If not, take some time and reflect on what to avoid...  


  1. Thank you so much for sharing your ideas here! So many times I found myself nodding along with what you wrote, and thinking, "my goodness, yes this is so important." I love having a blog for just this purpose. It gives me a chance to reflect regularly on my practices, and figure out ways to improve. I'm by no means perfect, but the blog helps me get better. How do you encourage staff to reflect on their practices, and how do you support them through the process?


    1. Aviva,
      Thank you for the reflection and for sharing that your blog has become a space for you to reflect, share and consider. I definitely use my blog for the same reasons. In regards to our staff, some have started a blog but for most, I think the reflection happens verbally during grade level planning meetings, faculty gatherings or just informal conversations about practice. It is important to devote time to reflection though because that can be a catalyst for enhancement and growth!
      Thanks again for pushing me to reflect even deeper!

  2. Another brilliant post my friend. thank you for the timely reminder on some of these!

  3. Incredible as always. I feel the urge to do some of these things sometimes because it's easy. What a great reminder. Sometimes learning invertedly about what NOT to do is even better than learning what to do.