Power of Positivity

Last week Tuesday I offered our staff a challenge, to send students to me with positive office referrals, and I couldn’t have been more grateful for the way that they stepped up!!  I was swamped with positive office referrals all week. If anyone saw me at all it was probably when I was dropping a student off in their classroom after calling home with them, it was a busy week but it was awesome!!!  In just four days our staff wrote positive office referrals for more than 10% of the school! WOW!

Take a second and think about the impact that this had on our community over the last four days.  10% of our students had a positive call home, their families got to celebrate them, teachers got to celebrate them, and their classmates got to celebrate them.  The power of positivity is a real thing, you could feel the positive energy flowing through the hallways by the end of the week.

With just a day and a half left with students before a much needed break I know energy levels are low and patience is wearing thin.  However, I’m going to ask our staff to stay focused on the positive and keep those positive office referrals coming!  

Short week, short post, but if you’re interested in learning about the impact of thinking positively then give this TED Talk a try, great stuff!


Fiestas de Quito

I thought about going against the obvious this week and NOT writing about Fiestas de Quito but after experiencing such amazing performances by our Middle School and High School students I just couldn’t resist celebrating the awesomeness!!

In the weeks leading up to Fiestas de Quito there has been a lot of time and energy put into this celebration of the founding of Quito.  Our Spanish Department deserves a lot of recognition for the time, effort, and crazy amounts of energy they’ve put into helping our students plan such beautiful performances.  Being new to Quito I couldn’t quite fathom the scale to which this celebration would go, it was mind-blowing!  ¡Muchas gracias!

Our students held nothing back and demonstrated an amazing amount of pride, not only in Quito, but in themselves and the work they put in preparing for these performances.  To watch our students push themselves out of their comfort zones while on stage in front of a standing-room only crowd was absolutely inspiring.  I’m impressed more and more everyday with the level to which our students are willing to be risk takers.  However, Fiestas de Quito took that to a whole new level, providing them with a context in which they were engaged and excited to share their efforts and talents with our community.

As educators this is what we strive for, creating an atmosphere for our students that allows them to take risks, learn, and grow in a manner that is comfortable for them.  As I walk around Academia Cotopaxi I see this happening everyday.  Our students are comfortable in their classes and feel safe in their learning environment.  Students see their teachers and the other adults at school as people who care about them, people they can go to if they need help.  The positive relationships we build with our students here at AC create an atmosphere filled with daily opportunities to learn and grow.

Fiestas de Quito is a wonderful opportunity for our community to come together and celebrate the amazing city we are privileged to call home.  As you enjoy the festivities and revelry take a second to stop and think about how you are working to build the positive.  Have a look at this very brief post by best-selling author Jon Gordon.  He talks about the power of positive interactions and the ratio of positive to negative that his research shows to be the tipping point for effectiveness.  It’s very interesting and has applications to life in general (and certainly has implications for the classroom).  Very interesting stuff 🙂

Enjoy the music and parades everyone!  

¡Viva Quito!

The Importance of Celebration in the Classroom

During our Learning Walks a few weeks ago we focused on the idea of celebration and kept a specific eye out for all the amazing things happening in classrooms.  In quick visits to the classroom it’s not realistic for us to see all of the ways that people are celebrating their students and the learning that is happening.  However, we are able to see so many wonderful things happening that we decided we wanted to celebrate you and all of your hard work!  

The importance of celebration in the classroom is something that is often overlooked in the planning process.  With so many other pieces to coordinate and account for, there is a lot to do to get ready for a successful class.  However, celebration can not and should not be overlooked if you want to create a truly positive culture and community in your classroom.  Take the Marzano Teacher Toolkit as an example of the importance of celebration.  There is no doubt about the amount of research that Robert Marzano has put into his work and he includes the reflective question “What do I typically do to celebrate success?” as Element 3.  So, today I challenge you to ask that question of yourself…

As the first quarter has come to a close and reports have just gone home, we have a lot to celebrate (starting with a much deserved 4 day weekend!)  Our students have made it through the start of another school year and they’ve done it (for the most part) with grace.  Some of our students have learned the importance of grit and how to fail.  Others still need to perfect the art of failing and the resilience that goes along with it.  If you’re not one of the 7 million plus people who has watched Angela Duckworth’s Ted Talk about the importance of Grit I urge you to do so soon, it’s fantastic!  However, I digress…celebration is the agenda item today – Our students are worth a lot of celebrations and so are you!

In the High School meeting on Wednesday we started out with the “Shout-Outs” protocol and it went very well, so well that I’m worried there were still more celebrations to share…we’ll continue this practice next time we meet and MS teachers we’ll implement it soon 🙂  This is a powerful tool for celebrating in your classes as well, teach your students and get them celebrating each other (especially after group work or other situations where their classmates were involved in their learning.)  Another great tool is one that I came across while searching for student support resources but it totally applies to everyone, it’s called “The Fridge”.  A great way for students to be recognized and recognize their own hard work at the same time, the best part is that it’s voluntary!  

I love the idea of student self-reflection and even more so when it focuses on the positive.  Have a look at this video (it’s only 1 minute 20 seconds!) to see another great way of recognizing students’ “shining moments”.  How could you implement something like this in your classroom?  At the bottom of a rubric like this teacher?  As an exit ticket at the end of class?  As a blog post?  Maybe a comment on Edmodo.  Self-reflection is an incredibly powerful tool and a discussion for another time; today focus on how you can implement more celebration into your classroom.

Here’s to all of you and the opportunity to enjoy a relaxing 4 day weekend!!

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!!

All week we have been celebrating the outstanding teachers we have here at school and it has been a very positive atmosphere everywhere around campus.  It was great to see so many of you sitting outside enjoying your food and a little sunshine at lunch today.  There were smiles, laughter, and good feelings all around…a great way to finish off a terrific week 🙂

Right across from my office is a HUGE thank you note from all of the Middle School students to you for being so awesome.  The notes and messages on that big yellow paper are inspiring.  For all of those days that your students come and go without a word of thanks, it only seems to take that one bit of appreciation to strengthen the fire.  This week of celebration and thanks couldn’t have come at a better time.

As the weather begins to turn and we come off of such a great week, enjoy your weekend!  We’ve got two weeks left and then we are on Spring Break…before you know it we’ll be on China Trips and shortly after that we’ll watch our students leave us for the summer.  If there is one message I could give to our kids at this point in the year it would be to cherish these last few months with your friends and teachers.  For many of them, and us, there will be tears and hugs at the end of the year as they go in separate directions.  Enjoy your time with your students and colleagues, they’re all wonderful people (even that kid, you know, the one who you just thought about…the one who might drive you up the wall most days…even them, they’re pretty cool too when you stop to think about it!)

I’m a big sports person, I grew up playing all sorts of sports and enjoyed coaching even more…I LOVE sports!  One of the all-time greatest coaches (at least in basketball) was John Wooden.  He coached at the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA) where he helped them win 10 national championships in 12 years, including 7 in a row.  At one point his team won 88 straight games.  No doubt he had some of the best players in the nation BUT he was still renowned as one of the greatest teachers of the game ever.  Anyway, I want to leave you with a quote from Coach Wooden, he understood just how important all of you are to our students and the future.  He nailed it when he said:

“I think the teaching profession contributes more to the future of our society than any other single profession.” – John Wooden

Thank you all for being so awesome for our students, no one can say it enough…you’re all incredible and you change the lives of our students every single day!!

90% Awesome, 10% Room to Grow

I read an interview recently with author Ken Tencer, he’s co-authored a book about innovating for small business owners. I took some of the ideas that he had for business and tried to apply some of the thinking to our school.

Tencer introduces what he calls the “90% Rule” which he explains as really more of a philosophy than a rule.  Basically it works like this:  You celebrate the amazing stuff you’re doing in your company (or school in our case) which he says is about 90% of what a successful company does.  Then you look at the other 10%, the room for growth, and think about opportunities for the next big thing – the idea that will allow your company to excel further.

We do a pretty good job of celebrating our awesomeness around here, we are at least 90% awesome!!  I also believe that many of us do a good job of thinking about our 10%, the room to grow.  Through the conversations I regularly have with teachers in mini-observation follow ups, in the courtyard at break, or even around the lunch table, I know that many of us are focused on growing and becoming better teachers.  I want to encourage each and everyone of you to continue to grow and pursue excellence.

What about that big idea, that home run, the discovery or growth that can excel you to the next level?  You all set a goal at the beginning of the year.  I want you to think back to that goal.  It should’ve been something that you saw as a game-changing area for growth.  Meaning, if you could grow in that target area then your students would greatly benefit from your growth.

Now think…when was the last time you stopped and thought about that goal?  When was the last time you intentionally altered your instruction with that goal in mind?  When was the last time you sat down and read some professional writing about your specific target area?

My hope today, as we round the corner into March and the upcoming 4th quarter, is that you revisit your goal(s).  Think about why you chose that goal in the beginning of the year.  Once you’ve done that, set a short-term target for growth.  Perhaps that means reading something professionally (just one article a week would be a great start).  Maybe it means trying one new strategy every unit or lesson.  Whatever you decide, make it realistic and manageable.  Give yourself a real chance to finish the year strong and perhaps discover that game-changing idea that can launch you to the next level.

Enjoy the weekend and take care of yourselves and each other!!   Hang in there…the warm weather is coming soon 🙂