Adieu. has many redeeming qualities, but I don’t use Evernote enough to make it one of my go-to blogging resources. I will eventually transfer these posts to my main space at and close this account.
Thanks for reading!

How Do You "Scale Up" Excellence?

As a school leader, I recognized excellence in our classrooms. Pockets of excellence, here and there. But how to make that excellence contagious? Infectious? It was a dilemma that plagued me often. It’s quite difficult (although probably not impossible) for a single person or team of teachers to move an entire organization forward into greatness. Scaling addresses “the problem of more." We want more greatness reaching more customers/constituents/students more of the time. As the leader, as a change agent, it’s important to recognize why and how to spread excellence throughout your organization.

Scaling Up Excellence: Getting To More Without Settling for Less, written by Robert Sutton (@work_matters) and Huggy Rao (@huggyrao) is an important read for leaders. Whether you are a building leader such as a principal or assistant principal, team leader, department leader, or the superintendent acting as the head of the organization, you can glean important insights from the ideas and research shared by Sutton and Rao in this book.

I first read the work of Robert Sutton when I was working as a principal. I enjoyed and recommend Good Boss, Bad Boss (and this other book he wrote) immensely. I know most leadership books are published for those working in the business sector, however I always find key take-aways from Sutton’s work that help influence my role in educational leadership.

Sutton and Rao describe the scaling mantras and strategies leaders can use to spread greatness by presenting vignettes from corporations and organizations who have done just that. They’ve summarized their findings into seven "scaling mantras." Consider:

1. Spread a mindset, not just a footprint.
  • Influence how your people think, act, feel, and filter information; believe in and live a shared      mindset for success; requires constant vigilance
2. Engage all the senses.
  • Sights, smells, temperature, touch, visuals, and surroundings influence perceptions and mindsets. Pay attention to these cues.
3. Link short-term realities to long-term dreams.
  • Achieve short-term goals, and do it well, all without losing sight of future goals. Link the present to what you hope to achieve in the future.
4. Accelerate accountability.
  • Accountability means “that an organization is packed with people who embody and protect excellence (even when they are tired, overburdened, and distracted), who work vigorously to spread it to others, and who spot, critique, and (when necessary) push aside colleagues who fail to live and spread it." (p. 20)
  • How many of us can say we expect our staff to embody accountability in this way?
5. Fear the clusterfug.
  • Illusion, Impatience, Incompetence. "This trifecta causes scaling efforts to fail big and late rather than early and cheaply." (p. 25)
6. Scaling requires both addition and subtraction.
  • Leaders must recognize that the things that were successful in the past may need to be eliminated in order for excellence to spread. Strategic subtraction is necessary.
7. Slow down to scale faster- and better - down the road.
  • Organizations must learn how and when to shift gears in thinking. They must thoughtfully consider what they’re doing and why.
"Scaling excellence requires the kind of grit required to run a marathon rather than a sprint." (p. 32).

How to connect people, how to deal with the complexities of leadership, how to nurture your people so they “own the place," how to build upon former successes and learn from failures… these are just some of the issues explored and detailed in this book.

I appreciate that the authors acknowledge the struggle of it all. Becoming great is an exhausting, infuriating, overwhelming, exhilarating, and ultimately, rewarding process. But getting there- that’s no easy feat. Especially for those of us who work in public education, with increased mandates and less funding and more rigidity and less autonomy, it’s easy to give up the fight before even finding the energy to engage.

The battle to greatness is worth it- it’s for our kids. They deserve not pockets of greatness here or there, but phenomenal efforts, achievements, and care everywhere.

Ramblings on enforced independence #rhizo14 (week 2)

I'm way off the #rhizo14 schedule and I have a lot of catching up to do. You'd think with the silly amount of snow days and school cancellations I'd be able to get more done at home.

So in week 2, Dave says that if rhizomatic learning is going to be successful, people have to be more responsible for their own learning. We have to be able to "self-assess" and "self-remediate."

I'm thinking of how in schools we craft specific schedules to remediate kids. And other subjects/content/experiences are often sacrificed in the name of those remediations.

Kids don't get a choice. We schedule them into it because their data indicates they need it. We don't, for one second, think our youngest learners will be responsible for themselves, enough to self-remediate.

Do they know how to? Can they self-assess?

Can we use learner contracts with our youngest learners? To what extent?

Once you give people freedom, it's hard to take it back.

Have you ever worked in a school where administration has changed? And your first principal empowered you as a teacher, acknowledged you as a professional and encouraged you to take risks and supported you through the messy process of learning....... and then his/her successor micromanaged every aspect of your work in the classroom?


But kids live that. One year in a classroom with a teacher who values their independence. And the next year with a teacher who stomps on that freedom the child once found so exhilarating and freeing? Rough.

When do we see kids being assertive enough to say to their teachers, "I don’t know what this is, I’m going to go figure it out." (to quote Dave). That, to me, is a child who is responsible for his learning. And who will be successful.

As Dave describes about his own learning spaces, he crafts the conditions to "make" his students independent.

He leaves us with this question: How can we use enforced independence to our own advantage to make people more responsible for their learning and therefore more successful?

To which I add: Even our littlest learners?

A curious #edchat.

I thought it was interesting and odd that yesterday's #edchat focused on PowerPoint and its alternatives. I shared a resource or two I've used about presentations in general such as Steal this Presentation! , but it was hard for me to get too passionate about such a tool-centric topic.

I thought, well, #edchat always sends out polls for tweeters to vote on their most desired topic, so I guess enough folks wanted to talk about it.

What emerged in the conversation was the blatantly obvious, "Don't do this with PPT" and the realization that it wasn't PowerPoint itself that was the issue, but rather the skills of the presenter and the ways in which the tool was used.
At least one person shared my thoughts on the topic choice:

And I feel like Mike nailed it with his suggestion of a topic that would capture my full attention:

I love #edchat and similar educational chats that have emerged. But we talk too much about tools and not enough about teaching and learning. I've heard principals proclaim that PowerPoints were revolutionizing literacy blocks because teachers were using them to keep links handy and outline "to-dos" for kids and lesson agendas.

That's a nice organizational strategy, for the teacher. But to laud it as some sort of example of technology integration that has a real impact on learning? Nah.

Off to work on a Keynote.

A new year. A new word.

What’s your One Little Word for 2014?

Last year, my word was Beginnings.

2013 was certainly a year for beginnings!

New to parenthood, new job… it seemed like every time I turned around there were changes to accept and embrace.

I did accomplish some of the goals I outlined in my 2013 post.

I wrote more. I am even wrapping up writing my first major contribution to a book, a chapter on social media for professional learning.

I taught my first graduate course, technology for educational leaders and I taught my first eCourse, Educational Leadership in the Digital Age for PLP. (I’m facilitating the course again this January! Join me!)

I got my crafty on. I discovered Project Life and I’m stoked to begin this week, to capture 2014 family memories weekly and preserve them creatively and colorfully for my family to enjoy.

Who knows what 2014 will bring? I have ideas. I have goals in mind, but nothing set in stone. I may let 2014 take me where it wants to take me.

A lot can happen in a year.

I have one little man whose first year of life was nothing short of miraculous and beautiful and awe-inspiring and hilarious and messy and exhausting and brilliant. He is my everything. I’m so looking forward to more of our adventures together.

My word for 2014 is Embrace.

Embrace life’s challenges. Embrace one another. Embrace the beauty in what, at first glance, appears chaotic and disorganized and lazy. Embrace opportunities.

Embrace life.


I’m in the midst of completing a project with a deadline.

A looming deadline.

I’m a procrastinator, and I know that about myself. I am not very skilled at blocking out the noise when I’m working.

Tweets, Facebook statuses, emails, IMs, texts, you name it. My attention goes there when it should be on the task at hand. Oh, and let’s not forget it’s less than a week until Christmas and my mind is all over the place thinking of holiday preparations.

And I’m sleep deprived. #oneyearold

This is what our kids experience, day in and day out. They’re not going to just be able to filter out the noise because we tell them it’s essential to their productivity.

They’re going to need to learn how to cope with it. They need to learn how to navigate in and out of digital spaces, some social, others not. To determine how their time should be spent. To know when to power on, for how long, when to take breaks, and how to take them.

Powering down isn’t always the answer. I need the resources I find online to complete most of my project work. I need access.

So it’s a management issue. MY issue. It’s very personal, how we choose to engage with and navigate digital spaces.

Our district is going to start blocking YouTube for students in the new year because of the amount of bandwidth being consumed at our MS/HS campus streaming high-def music videos.

My first thought was, Why are those kids watching YouTube all day? Why aren’t they working?

Those kids are consuming. But maybe while doing so, they’re also producing.

What tips do you have for focusing your attention? For paying attention? For developing your attention literacies?

Rheingold is my go-to resource on attention and digital literacies. I blogged about paying attention awhile back.

“Attention to intention is how the mind changes the brain.”

-Howard Rheingold

I need to be more intentional.

Be thoughtful.

Kids need to FAIL!
Kids need DEVICES!
Kids need to MAKE STUFF!
Kids need to CODE!
Kids need to BLOG!

Our kids need to do and learn a lot of things.

It's scary for teachers when they're bombarded with a wealth of ideas which certainly can add value to any student's educational experience, but perhaps the teacher isn't "there yet." This might be due to district/state mandates on what instruction needs to look like and how time must be spent, or the teacher's lack of knowledge/understanding of/experience with the ideas/concepts.

Kids need to be loved and cared for.
Their needs must be considered.

Beyond that, I think the most important thing a teacher can do is to be thoughtful about the classroom activities he plans.

Do the research. Get your hands dirty. Thoughtfully include new and varied learning opportunities into your daily plans. When at all possible, let kids take the reigns. Thoughtfully.

A classroom teacher doesn't have the time to incorporate several new methods and practices into his classroom in a single year. (Even though his Twitter feed is swamped with teachers proclaiming how the latest and greatest have revolutionized their classrooms. So he thinks- shouldn't I be doing that, too?)

He doesn't have the time.

There, I said it.

So we must choose to use our time in thoughtful ways. What will make the most impact on your students and their learning? Choose to invest your time learning more about that strategy and that idea and that concept. Try it with your students. Reflect, assess, reimagine, revisit, implement again, take action.

School leaders need to be thoughtful about what they're asking classroom teachers to do, and how, and when, and for how many minutes per day. School leaders, can't we back off, just a little? Can't we cherish the teacher as a professional who's capable of designing a day of learning filled with exploration and new opportunities? Can't we honor them with the gift of autonomy and freedom to explore?

We can do this, thoughtfully.

Sharing our best isn't good enough.

Today I was listening to Dean Shareski who was a guest of John Pederson via Google Hangouts. Dean talks to teachers a lot in his role, and I know he's inspired many.

Turns out, that isn't what he's trying to do, most of the time.

He made the point that, just maybe, teachers don't need to be inspired. They need to be heard. Their efforts need to be validated. They need to feel appreciated.

Many teachers are run down. They're exhausted, tired, and sick of mandates. Some feel hopeless, like the work they do isn't good enough, and that the hours and hours of their life they dedicate to the profession isn't cutting it.

Not all feel this way. But some.

And then, when we from the Twitterverse and elsewhere proclaim how "fabulous" a tool or technique is and blog about the latest and greatest happenings in our classrooms and schools, we can really make a teacher who isn't "there yet" feel like garbage. (My words).

I think it's true. I think most of us put our best selves online. We share what's working in our classrooms and schools, not what's falling apart at the seams.

We want to share the successes and highlights, the blissful moments and the glee, because we want everyone to know how teaching is the greatest profession in the world.

Well, it is.

But that doesn't mean every day is rainbows and unicorns and pizza and babies giggling at puppies videos.

I will remember what Dean said today, and the next time I speak with one teacher, or a team of teachers, or a roomful of educators about how important it is to be a connected educator and how it will change your life and how you will be a better teacher for it and your kids will reap the benefits and you'll ask yourself, "How did I ever teach before finding Twitter?" I will be sure to keep my wits about me and keep it real, and validate what they're currently doing.

Maybe I'll blog more about the daily grind - how I have about 14 different projects started but not finished, how I commit to things I have no business taking part in because I don't have the time or the energy to finish them, how I'm not doing as much push-in teaching or individualized teacher support as I'd like to in my schools because I know my teachers are overwhelmed and I don't want to be a burden or bother anybody. About how I see the latest tweets and blog posts from tech integrators doing really innovative things with kids and wonder, Will I ever get to do that? Are we ready for that? Will we ever be?

These are the things you learn in a new role, these are the growing pains, these are the feelings that someone who cares about education and kids and teaching and learning ponders on her too-long daily commute.

So I encourage you to share your worst.

Someone will be happy you did.

Kindness and care.

I really can't understate the importance of treating kids with kindness and care.

Even when we're tired.

Even when we're stressed, overworked.

Even when we feel as though we're being buried by unfair demands and mandates.

Even when a student asks a question we just answered ten seconds prior.

Is there ever a time when it's necessary for a teacher to be short with a child? No.

Kindness and care. Patience and understanding.

No powerful learning can occur if these essential components are missing from our classrooms.

A new space to write.

I have a variety of different spaces where I publish writing on any given day.
I don’t know what compelled me to create yet another space.
I like the look of it.
I don’t use Evernote very often.
I guess I was just intrigued by it all.