Saturday, April 30, 2016

#Leadupchat Reflections on Accelerating Team Growth!

This morning I participated in #leadupchat. It's every Saturday morning at 9:30 EST. I love it. When I start thinking about what I like about it and why I love it so much, I realize it's mostly because it makes me think! Today's topic was about accelerating the growth of team, identifying potential barriers to team growth, and monitoring the progress of team growth. I wanted someway to capture my thoughts so below you will find a compilation of my tweets from this morning's chat:

1. We must remember the talents of an individual will never supercede the work of a team. One is never greater than ALL!

2. We need to remember that intellectual conflict is about attacking ideas, not people. I question ideas, but it's not about you!
3. When you're smack dab in the middle of something your view becomes routine. New eyes see things we overlook. Perspective matters
4.Embrace conflict. Harmony feels good, but conflicting perspectives make collaborative solutions. Don't be afraid of it.
5. Invite all perspectives to the table-even those we don't understand/agree. The best compromises are born out of conflict.
6.Yes. We need analytical thinkers to make us better, not a bunch of "yes men"!
7.We've got a real problem in education with confronting the brutal facts. We end up working on symptoms instead of root causes.
8.Real problems call for real solutions. Don't use band aids when you need an antibiotic. Be brave enough to face the facts.
9.Be honest about your current reality. Don't use the "we need to be positive" to avoid dealing with the brutal truth.
10. Goal setting is a simple way to monitor progress. Set a goal, be strategic in action steps to reach it, check progress, repeat.
11. Selflessness takes intentional practice. Understand excellence isn't about you! It's about the organization. Team before self.
12. Comparing ourselves or our organizations to others also slows growth. Make the standard the mirror not the telescope.
13. Nothing slows down team growth like a lack of FOCUS. Trying to do it all instead of do it well. Quality trumps quantity every day.
14. Selfishness prevents team growth. Professional jealousy is poison to organizational excellence.
15. To achieve team excellence we must work on changing mindsets from believing success is luck to believing success is the result of intentional and deliberate action.
16. Inspiring others to believe that they don't have to settle for average is leadership. It is possible to be excellent and to be the best.
17. Making people uncomfortable with the status quo is an art. We must move them to believing and not wishing. Understand that success is addictive and once experienced it is likely to create a desire to experience it again.
18. Excellent teams understand everyone has a role. No point guards trying to play power forward! Get in where you fit in & work!
19. Team growth happens when we capitalize on the strengths of members of the organization & combine those to achieve excellence!
20. To accelerate team growth, we must master recognizing untapped potential. Organizational excellence is team excellence.

I don't know about you, but I believe these are 20 good thoughts worth remembering about working toward team excellence. Join the tribe next Saturday at 9:30 EST for another great and inspirational #leadupchat!


Until next time, be you, be true, be a hope builder!

-Latoya
@latoyadixon5

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Teachers Are The Real MVPs!



Because Teachers are the MVPs!

This morning I was scrolling along my Twitter feed when I saw a tweet from a teacher on our staff:

Forget losing teachers to other states, why are we losing teachers to other professions? #wedontvalueteachers #evenpennieshavevalue

It sparked a flurry of tweets from me because when we get right down to it, whether we are talking about improving achievement, improving our schools period, and helping students reach their maximum potential...
TEACHERS ARE THE MOST VALUABLE PLAYERS! 

When the rubber meets the road, nothing good happens in a school  without a relentless dedication and commitment of teachers. No initiative succeeds unless teachers make it so. You name it-PLCs, Responsive Classrooms, Whole Brain Teaching, Collaboration, Common Assessments, RTI, and anything else you are trying to implement in a school and the defining factor in fidelity of implementation and quality of implementation is the TEACHER.

It's high time we value teachers in every way. In NC, where I currently serve as a coprincipal of a middle school, teacher pay ranks 42nd and per pupil spending ranks 46th. As coprincipal, I can organize meetings, complete evaluating and observations, conference with parents, and so much more but the reality of it is this TEACHERS make it happen. My coprincipal and I can work collaboratively with staff to develop a collective vision for the school but TEACHERS are the ones who carry it out day in and day out. The daily grind of the hard work belongs to TEACHERS. 

TEACHERS deserve more. None of us chose the profession because of the money, but none of the teachers I know agreed to take a vow of poverty. The service orientation of our work does not mean teachers are ok with being poorly compensated. Many of the teachers in our school have second, even third jobs. I am constantly torn when I ask them to do more when I know they are working every hour of every day, except when they are sleeping. How can we give our students the best in every way when we treat those who serve them as if their work is a sort of sacrifice in which one diligently exerts effort, time, and talent all while struggling to make ends meet? Get married and have children and the struggle intensifies. That's why I cringe when I hear others say: "I don't know how y'all do it! My hats off to you!" Because I want to say, it's very apparent that many don't know how we do it, don't have a clue what we are dealing with daily, and are pretty much comical when they talk about what needs to be done to "fix" schools-especially when the conversation comes back to accountability and firing of bad teachers. 

I don't have the right words or enough of them to adequately provide a written description of how urgent I believe it is that we do something major to demonstrate the following:
1. Education is a profession worth pursuing.
2. Teachers are valuable to our schools and communities and deserve to be compensated accordingly.
3. If we want to recruit and retain the best and brightest, we must provide a competitive compensation package that encourages such instead of doing the opposite.

Some days I feel our profession is under siege in every way. But all I know to do is fight hard, work hard, and be courageous enough to speak the truth. Sometimes my courage scares me. I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing, but I can't help it. I lead and work with my heart. It's my blessing and my curse-and also my gift. One thing I know for sure, is somewhere some teacher is reading this and nodding and saying "Amen!" (I'm from the South!) and so glad that I finally wrote what's on their mind and in their heart every single day like it will be tomorrow...when we go back to school and keep trying to MAKE A DIFFERENCE! 

Until Next Time-Be you. Be true. Be a hope builder!

-Latoya
@latoyadixon5

Saturday, January 16, 2016

An Open Letter Regarding The Flint Water Crisis and the Children Affected

To Whom It May Concern:

I am deeply disturbed by the news regarding the Flint, Michigan water crisis. I have been reading about this a great deal. Articles abound regarding the high levels of lead in the tap water and some sources are alleging that a variety of officials were aware of this and took no action. The pictures of the water alone will move you. Google "Flint Water Crisis" and read from reliable sources. Article after article appears with pictures of the water and of those affected. A few of those links are listed here:
1. From CNN: http://www.cnn.com/2016/01/13/health/flint-michigan-water-crisis/
2. From NBC:http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/michigan-prosecutor-opens-probe-flint-water-crisis-n497286
3. From the NY Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/16/us/flint-water-michigan-attorney-general.html?_r=0

Exposure to high levels of lead can have a variety of effects on people, none of which happen to be good. Researchers at Virginia Tech conducted a study on the water crisis in Flint. Dr. Marc Edwards is the primary author of the following article that describes the timeline and inquiries that lead to the present state of affairs. Researchers began making their inquiries regarding lead levels far before now.
At some point, I look forward to the whole truth of this crisis coming out, but this article by Dr. Edwards is interesting to say the least: http://flintwaterstudy.org/2015/12/michigan-health-department-hid-evidence-of-health-harm-due-to-lead-contaminated-water-allowed-false-public-assurances-by-mdeq-and-stonewalled-outside-researchers/ Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital has a great article that details how lead poisoning can impact children titled, Neuropsychological Effects of Lead Poisoning on Child Development. You can read it by clicking on this link: http://www.mwph.org/programs/lead-treatment/effects

The following is an excerpt from the article on their site:

Checklist of Possible Neuropsychological Problems Associated with Lead
  • Delayed language or motor milestones (infant, toddler)
  • Poor speech articulation
  • Poor language understanding or usage
  • Problems maintaining attention in school or home
  • High activity level (hyperactivity)
  • Problems with learning and remembering new information
  • Rigid, inflexible problem-solving abilities
  • Delayed general intellectual abilities
  • Learning problems in school (reading, language, math, writing)
  • Problems controlling behavior (e.g., aggressive, impulsive)
  • Problems with fine or gross motor coordination
Real-World Outcomes of Lead Poisoning in Children
  • Learning Disabilities
  • Problems Paying Attention
  • Disorganized Approach to Learning
  • Poor Work Completion
  • Increased Risk to Drop Out
  • Communication Deficits
  • Impulsive, Hyperactive Behavior
  • Problems Sharing and Taking Turns
  • Increased Aggression
  • Increased Need for Adult Supervision
What Can Be Done?
  • Lead-safe housing
  • Education of public, medical and educational communities
  • Universal early identification
  • Lead-safe housing
  • Aggressive early medical treatment
  • Aggressive early behavioral treatment
  • Rehabilitation and special education services
  • Adequate nutrition

It is the law of our land that all are innocent until proven guilty, however I cannot help but think about this from the educator's perspective. Is this an isolated event? Could this be happening elsewhere? And if it is, do the victims even know it?

As I think about those affected by this, my heart breaks at the thought of the children in Flint who may have been exposed to or have high levels of lead in their bodies. They will all enter the classrooms of teachers who will be held accountable for their learning or lack there of, for their test scores, for their growth from the start to the end of a school year, etc. If the children have difficulty learning, they will be expected to find and use a multitude of academic interventions to change their learning trajectory. If they have difficulty behaving, they will be on the never ending search for a different set of rules, a different reward system, a more engaging strategy or methodology to increase their compliance so that they might learn at the rate required by district, state, and federal expectations. As teachers sit across the table from their principals to discuss their student learning outcomes, they will rack their brains thinking of what else they could have done, should have done, or need to do to improve test scores and increase student achievement. Their principals will do the same as they are held accountable for student achievement of students within their schools for all students. They will scratch their heads, attend conferences, read more, research more, and learn more so that next year's results will be improved and their jobs won't be jeopardized. While I don't presume to know the outcome of the future for the children of Flint, my heart goes out to those who will have the distinct opportunity to teach them. The children's struggle will become that of their teachers, as it happens for educators all over the land.

When we talk about holding educators accountable for student learning,we treat accountability as if it is a singular responsibility, especially if students don't learn at the rate and levels that we expect them too. I've yet to see an EPA official or health department official sitting at the table discussing test scores and explaining why student outcomes in learning are what they are or are not. The accountability table is a lonely one that only teachers and administrators seem to be invited to sit and chat. If the children of Flint have neuropsychological effects of lead poisoning that impact their learning, who will be held accountable? That is an important question that I, and others I am sure, anxiously await to be answered.

With love for the children, parents, and educators of the children of Flint,

Latoya
@latoyadixon5