Things Leaders Should Not Say…

Remember growing up and hearing… “Do as I say, not as I do?” If it was not heard in your house, then you probably heard it somewhere else. Maybe there is a need for it while you are young and learn to be more mature with age, but when did you really take notice of the fact that “Do as I say, not as I do” phrase quit carrying value?

Better yet, let me drop this phrase on you… “Because I said so…” Heard that lately? The same questions from above can be asked here as well. How about this one… “You signed up for this…” or “Well, this is the way we are going to do it, and if you don’t like it…” One more, “We have always done it this way…”

Let’s look at it from an organizational perspective with leadership…

What is going on if you are hearing that from leadership in your work environment? Questions that quickly come to mind… What does it say about the culture of your work environment, and what is it saying about them, as a leader, directly?

As for culture, I believe that it is set by the group as a whole but is determined and sometimes developed by the expectations of leadership. To start, let me say that I believe culture is learned behavior until an agent of change comes in, or there is a paradigm shift. Too often, we forget that our culture is what we make it, not always what is mandated. However, if leadership is not abiding in and with the same parameters of their own expectations, then a disconnect is easily seen. Once it is seen, that disconnect creates breaks that has a hard time healing.

As for why a leader would have to say the above statements, well… Often leaders will say they operate on a different set of “rules.” Really? Different roles, yes, but rules? Nothing brings resentment to the boiling point quicker than a leader asking someone to do something they are not willing to do themselves, or stating they do not have to follow certain rules because they are in a position of leadership.

Last thought… What we say as leaders matter, how we actively live what we speak out matters even more—any saying that limits the originality or the why of your culture shows a mindset that is unwilling to grow, resentment will build, and relationships will suffer.

If a leader is having to say comments like these mentioned above or any others that come to your mind, then odds are they are very close to losing the culture, the respect, and, most of all, their leadership. They might still be in “charge,” but it is truly by title only. It might be due to their insecurities, knowing they really do not understand how to be a leader.

It would be interesting to hear from readers as to what you think leaders should not say… I bet we could get a pretty good running thread…

Go be a great educator and leader today… Our future needs it…

Remember… Think Leadership and Be For Others…

©2020 J Clay Norton

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Are we grabbing our student’s attention?

Question of the day…

Outside of the fact that a student has to come to your classroom because you teach the class they “have to take,” would a student want to take your class?

I will pause to give you time to answer that…

First, we should state that you actually teach your subject. Ok, with that established, let’s discuss…

Walking around and listening and seeing how and what other teachers do is impressive to me. I have often said that if you can get a student wanting to come to your class, regardless of the subject, they will be better students in your topic. Outstanding teachers have a way of “grabbing a student’s attention.”

Most of the time, it has nothing to do with the subject matter. It could be the teacher’s personality, how they speak to students in the hallway, or their welcoming as students come to the door.

I know we always say, “Let’s make learning fun.” But do we do that? Much of that can be answered with the why students “want” to come to your class. What are you doing differently than other teachers? What are you saying to students? And the critical question might just be, how are you making your students feel?

I heard Josh McDowell, Christian author, and speaker, once say, “You can con a kid and kid a con, but you can’t con a kid.” Our students are much more intelligent than we give them credit for sometimes. It does not take them long to figure you out as a teacher or leader.

The challenge to reach students, especially in the middle of our school situation with the coronavirus pandemic, is getting harder and harder. We have to find ways to grab their attention.

Today and every day is a day that we all have another chance to do just that. Some gesture, some tidbit, some __ (you fill in the blank). It might be nothing more than standing a broom up in the middle of the hallway (see pic for today) and with no strings attached.

Go be a great educator and leader today… Our future needs it…

Remember… Think Leadership and Be For Others…

©2020 J Clay Norton

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Teaching on a “wing” and a “prayer” – It is NOT what students need right now…

Our hallways are less crowded, classes have fewer students, the parking lot is easier to maneuver, temperatures are taken before room entry, and lunch is eaten in the classrooms. Lessons are traditional for some, virtual for others, and hybrid based on the alphabet of a student’s last name. To top it off, I write this being “masked-up.” People say this is the “new” normal. I say this is what normal is now. Normal is normal, and we play the hand we are dealt with. You are probably thinking, “What a crappy hand!”

Yes, this is where we are with our education of 2020, thus far. One week from spring break five months ago, who would have thought we would be where we are now in September? Consistency of how we teach as we know it, like Elvis, has left the building. Our apple cart has been upset, and it is turned over.

Given all that we have to do differently now, a few thoughts come to mind after five weeks back in school…

Really great teachers are going to excel even better. That’s why they are fantastic, to begin with. They are prepared, on time, delivery of the lessons only changes for the better, and expectations are still high. They always meet and greet students as they have in the past, regardless of whether they live or on the Zoom screen. These are the teachers who go out of their way, no matter what. Not much really needs to be said about this group other than thank you.

Now it gets a little sticky…

What about teachers who are not so great or just not good at all? Yes, contrary to popular belief, they are out there… Odds are, we all know one or two, or…

While some of us are really good at “winging it” and can teach on the fly (it is a gift, but not always suggested), there are some who are staring at the wall, praying that lessons will somehow magically appear on their computers in a zip file that only needs to be downloaded and open. Those who cannot “wing it and fly,” well… their lessons are stuck at the terminal, and the students are getting bumped.

But guess what? There is hope for them. I believe there is an opportunity for these teachers to grow and improve, but there must be a “want to” in them. Teaching virtual and live simultaneously exposes one’s teaching quickly—especially their instruction delivery. However, what an opportunity teachers have now to make sure lessons are pertinent and intentional. Yes, more preparation will be required, and they might actually have to ask for help. The best way to get rid of a “not so good” teacher is to make them a better teacher.

And for all of us, let’s make sure we continue to be intentional with our teaching. Regardless of whether a student enjoys your subject or not, find a way to provide an inviting atmosphere for your classroom, both for virtually and live. This is a consistency that should not change.

Yes, teaching is WORK… more work now than usual. Education will always matter, no more now than at any other time. However, teaching might be remembered more now than ever.

Go be a great educator and leader today… Our future needs it…

Remember… Think Leadership and Be For Others…

©2020 J Clay Norton

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Mowing your yard and a lesson of teaching…

As I look for ideas to write on each week, I find myself trying to make connections with about anything and education or leadership. Listening, reading, watching, experiencing… all these things help with topics that roll around in my mind. So, as I was mowing our yard yesterday evening, I started thinking…

First, let me say I enjoy mowing. Call me weird or a glutton for punishment, that’s ok. I put my headphones on, listen to a book on tape, and go at it. For three to four hours, I am lost in my own reality.

Well, how does mowing work its way into a blog regarding education or leadership? Today, mowing works its way into understanding and being a model centered around quality teaching of a lesson in a classroom or any other endeavor that can use the analogy.

When you get ready to mow your yard, what is the first thing you do? Please do not say grumble… That defeats the purpose because you are going to do it anyway. To answer, you plan and prepare… mower gassed up, weed-eater gassed up with enough chord and backup, etc.

The same goes for teaching; you prepare in advance. Why would you not? There is nothing worse than running out of gas on the backside of the yard away from the shed and the gas tank. The walk to and from is terrible enough, but mentally having to admit defeat of not planning “gets all over you.”

When you actually start a lesson, it is like mowing the yard—the big picture, per se. You mow “over” everything you want to be cut. That is what we do when we teach. We cover the lesson as we would mow the yard.

Next, I get out the weed-eater and start trimming around all the trees, the flowerbeds, up under bushes, etc. That is what I compare walking around, asking for verbal responses, or spot-checking for understanding in a classroom looks like. Cleaning up areas that I could not get the mower too. Is that not what we do with our instruction? How do you check for understanding?

By now, most people are finished, but not me. I like going for that “real clean” look. I get the edger out and start cutting the clean edge to the brick of flowerbeds or the concrete to the driveway. Usually, this is where I come back to almost wrap the lesson up. This might be where I give a connection to history or society in general. With the case of math, an opportunity to show how it is used or why it is needed. A lot of this depends on what subject matter you teach.

Gatorade Break…

Well, surely by now, you are tired, me too. But we still have two more details to discuss—first, hedging. Now, I do not do this everytime I mow, because sometimes it does not need it. However, every so often, some of the bushes begin to overgrow, and stems start sticking up. That’s when I go in and do a “knock off” of the rough edges of the bushes. As a teacher, you know when you need to do just a little more with your instruction. There are times when “one more example” or “let’s look at this again” gets your lesson exactly where you want it.

Lastly, blowing everything clean. Yes, the last step. Outside of actually mowing, getting the blower out to just clean up the area allows me to begin to see the finished product. Same with a lesson. This is where you can actually discuss what I call “take-a-ways” from the lesson with your students. For me, this is the “good sigh” moment. Almost looks like you never did anything, to begin with—just a perfect clean picture.

The smell of success. Nothing like that “fresh-cut” smell of a yard. Now I know we cannot smell good teaching, but deep down, you “sense” your finished product. As I go and sit on the front or back porch with a glass of good sweet tea, I see and smell success. An accomplishment of a finished project that is what I think good quality lessons can be.

I am sure you can find your own analogy for the steps of what you believe quality teaching is… but there is something about mowing… Yes, a time to be in your own reality.

Go be a great educator and leader today… Our future needs it…

Remember… Think Leadership and Be For Others…

©2020 J Clay Norton

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