The Power of Feedback

This week as I’ve been visiting classrooms, I’ve been focusing on finding great examples of ways teachers are providing feedback to students.  I saw everything from peer editing, QR codes, small group direct-instruction, and computer programs used to provide immediate and frequent feedback to our students.  It was exciting to see!  Feedback is a powerful and effective tool in moving students’ learning forward.

As a district we use Mike Rutherford’s Artisan themes for teaching as the basis for the language for which we provide feedback to teachers. One of the themes is performance feedback, which is feedback that increases students’ persistence at a task by providing knowledge of results regarding students’ work.  Performance feedback names the response teachers give to the work students are doing, with an expected response within students (persistence).  The development of persistence is a key element to performance feedback.

The idea of performance feedback developing persistence was not something I had previously given much thought to.  I typically think of the results of feedback in terms of mastery of content, not in development of a particular disposition, but when you  consider performance feedback in terms of assessment for learning, it makes sense.  Stiggins writes, “as students become increasingly proficient, they learn to generate their own descriptive feedback and set goals for what comes next on their journey.”  When students become comfortable with the assessment for learning process, they know where they are headed and can see that success is within reach if they will keep on trying.  This will keep them going and help them to develop persistence.

As principals we are the lead learners for our buildings.  We give feedback as part of coaching and evaluating our staff and receive feedback from a variety of sources and stakeholders.  As a new principal, I am finding that I have to develop a thick skin and sort through the feedback I receive.  Some of it is warranted and helpful, directed at decisions and actions that I need to adjust or improve, and some of it is not so helpful.

First I have to sift through whether the feedback is accurate, also taking into account where it is coming from, decide the value I need to place on it, then act accordingly. Even when feedback is warranted and valuable, if it is based on a mistake I have made, or is directed at me instead of the work, it is hard to take.  I find that I can easily handle feedback based on my growth areas I have already identified because I have already been much harder on myself than anyone else will, but when I have made a bad call and feel I should have known better, it’s a much harder pill to swallow.  I can shift to self-beratement pretty quickly.  Teachers have to go through the same processes as they often receive feedback from multiple sources.

In his leadership podcast, Craig Groeschel discusses giving and receiving feedback as a leader.  He tells us that as leaders we should crave feedback.  He quotes Ken Blanchard who says, “feedback is the breakfast of champions.”  Many successful people will echo those sentiments when it comes to mistakes.  You hear statements such as “fail forward,” or “an expert is the person who has made all of the mistakes in a given area.” Much of our success is tied to how we give receive feedback.  How we internalize the feedback and how it moves us forward (or not) determines our future actions.  So how can we move to a place where we, the leaders, and our students crave feedback?

When thinking about feedback with staff, I shared this equation:

Engaging Work + Feedback = Learning

We focused on the equals side of the equation when considering student learning.  We looked at what needs to happen with feedback so that learning can occur (Timely and frequent).  Another way to look at the equals sign is to think about  what needs to happen within the learner for learning to occur.

Considering ourselves as the learners how can we learn from the valuable feedback we receive and the mistakes we make?  Craig Groeschel gives us 3 keys:

  1.  Separate the “Do” from the “Who.”
    It’s about the action, not the identity.  We have to remember when we receive feedback not to take it personally.  It’s not about us as individuals, it’s about something we have done or am doing that’s not effective.  The action needs to be fixed, not our person. Groeschel even goes as far to say that the more we want to push back against that feedback, the more it indicates that it is a significant area of growth for us.
  2. Ask Clarifying questions.
    When given a general statement of feedback we can ask questions that help us to get to the heart of feedback and use it to improve.  Questions include:
    What did you mean by that?
    Can you give me an example?
  3. When possible, get feedback before an event.
    Run it by people you trust. Be open and vulnerable so you can grow.

Giving and receiving feedback is not easy.  For me, when I receive critical feedback, I have to remember the first key–feedback that tells me how to improve is not about who I am, it’s about “performance and actions.”  I have to stop myself from being defensive or going down a path of self-loathing and tell myself to stop, be mindful of where my thoughts are headed, and learn from the experience.  I need to chew on the feedback, reflect, and make a plan to move forward.  Then I need to see the entire experience not as a negative one, but as one that is helping me to improve my skills.  It’s not easy, but it’s critical both in my personal growth and in modeling that disposition for others.  If I am mindful with what I do in context of the “equals sign” in the equation, this performance feedback will not only contine to grow me in “leadership content,”  but will also develop my persistence.

Baby Steps

When I began my blog, I was hesitant.  I didn’t feel that as a new principal I would have much to offer readers in terms of advice or learning.  In my first post, I wrote how I decided to press on anyway because of the value found in documenting one’s progression in thought, ideas, and learning.  I thought if nothing else, I knew I would be able to look back on where I began if I documented my steps along the way.

Recently, this reasoning has been confirmed by a podcast I listened to.  In The Productivity Show, Brooks and Mike discuss how to avoid the 6 “Deadly Sins of Productivity.”  One of the sins they discuss is how to avoid is comparing oneself to some ideal that doesn’t exist.  I’ve heard this advice before, but they take it a step further.  They say that this thinking is based on a gap between where you are and where you want to be and that it breeds discontentment.  On the other hand, a more productive way to measure is from where you were to where you are now.  This is measuring the gain.

As I measure the gain I’ve had from where I started with my electronic communication with staff and where I am now, I feel satisfied with my progress.  I know I have more to accomplish, but It’s helpful for me to see where I began to where I am now.  In addition, if I share with others the steps I took from the beginning of the year until now,  they might know where they can start.

I wish I could say that I did these steps purposefully and intentionally, but that is not the case.   I just did what I could when I could.  It’s been all about taking baby steps but keeping my vision in mind so that I could take advantage of any opportunities I get (like a snow day or a 4 ½ hour plane ride) to advance that vision.

First I started with sending out two emails a week to my staff.  I started with an informational email on Fridays to let staff members know what upcoming events and important information for the week ahead.   On Sundays, I sent out an instructional email where I shared instructional thoughts based on what I was seeing in classrooms or what I felt was important in relation to our school initiatives.

Progression of the Friday Informational Email
It started with a linear structure with these subheadings:
Important Information
Things to Turn in
Calendar for the Week

Eventually, I was able to create a living calendar for the remainder of the month and then the remainder year.  I attached a Google Slide to the email with a link to the living calendar so I don’t have to type the Week’s Upcoming events each week in the body of the email.  In the body of the email, I am now including just a few sentences of the “Important Information.”  The Google Slide includes the “Things to Turn in” and “Big Events” for the week.  I also embedded links for anything teachers need to access. Of course, I stole all these ideas from Andrew, the Middle School principal who got them from someone else too.

Progression of the Sunday “Advancing the Vision” email
When I began, the content I sent out each week was in no particular progressive order and the structure of the email varied.  The content was more random because I really hadn’t had time to plan ahead at that point. Then I made the content based on classroom instruction I want to see or saw that week based on my district’s lesson essentials.  As that progressed, the format of emails changed from a random to a predictable structure  with these subheadings:

Vision
This month’s Teambuilder: (From Kagan Cooperative Learning)
This month’s Classbuilder:  (From Kagan Cooperative Learning)
Review from Last Week
What’s Next:
So…now what?
What to Expect When You Are a Teacher at Paint Lick:
You should be able to
You probably will be able to…
You may possibly be able to

I started making the content progress from concrete structures that should be present in all classrooms to digging deeper into the art and science of teaching.

This week I will only send out one email.  Within the body of the Friday email there will only be “Important Information.”  The Google Slide that has been changed to a pdf with live links will include links to a school blog with weekly posts containing instructional content previously sent out on Sundays structured with the above subheadings.  The slide contains the following  links/information:

  • Living Calendar
  • This month’s teambuilder and classbuilder
  • Tech tip
  • Big Events this week
  • What to prepare for
My communication evolution was a case where I didn’t begin with the end in mind. I thought my 2-email-a-week plan was good. I also received feedback from staff that it was. I didn’t know the Google Slide/Living Calendar/school blog options even existed until I went to a principal ed camp at the beginning of the first semester.
In this case, I wasn’t satisfied with good. Once I saw the possibilities I wanted more. I’m glad I didn’t know about those possibilities in August because I might have put undue pressure on myself to meet those expectations right then. From this progression, I learned a valuable lesson that I can use in the future and pass on to others.   Instead of measuring oneself against an ideal, use the ideal as your vision and map out baby steps to get there. Then keep moving. Take those steps slowly then all along measure yourself against the gain instead of the gap.

Advancing the Vision

I came across an article about this video that has gone viral this morning.  You have to watch it! It’s hilarious. It’s one of many “I Ain’t Doing’ It” videos created by comedian, Heather Land.   This one, which is aimed at CrossFitters checking in on social media,  has resonated with millions.  The article delves into why this video more than others has been her most popular.  In discussing this video’s relatability, Land talks about the commonality of reasons why people post to social media.  She says, “We all essentially ‘check-in’ during the week.  We all throw something out there for the world to see…Our check-ins are, in a sense, an invitation to our world.”

I think as a principal, I need to be sure to send these invitations to my staff.  Before I became a principal I thought about the type of communication I wanted to have with staff.  I knew it was helpful to me as a teacher to have the upcoming week’s important events sent to me, but as I stepped into my new principal role, I felt I needed something more.  When I was an assistant principal, I was a part of the instructional vision for the school with the principal.  I knew her thinking, her vision, her goals, and felt like together we had our hands on the pulse of the school.

I was surprised to find out that what I thought was clear was not so transparent to other teachers.  I had a different perspective from my seat than the teachers and sometimes actions that came from my office were misunderstood or misinterpreted.  So, when I  took the helm at Paint Lick I felt I needed ways to be completely transparent with my thinking about where our school was instructionally and where I want us to head.

That’s when I decided to have a weekly instructional email, as well.  I send out this instructional email (Advancing the Vision) on Sunday evenings.  I want teachers to know where my head is, what trends I am noticing when I go into classrooms, and what vision I have for our school.  To be honest, it probably helps me more to send them than it does for my teachers to read them.  I get clear on what I am seeing and what I hope to see more of, and I think that’s a win.   Just like those “check-ins” on social media are more validating to the poster than the “liker,” maybe that’s okay.  I’ll continue to send out those invitations to my world, hope they help someone, yet not worry about the “likes” or impact.  I’m doing what I need to do and I am good with that.

It’s a Puzzle

Recently my 11-year-old son, Jack, decided we should work on a puzzle together.  We went to Walmart and he picked out a 300 piece puzzle for us.  Jack and my 13-year-old daughter, Emma, easily put it together in an evening while I cooked dinner and completed other chores.  I didn’t even get a chance to contribute.  We decided we wanted a bigger challenge.

Next, we purchased a 1,000 piece puzzle.  Emma was able to get most of the edges together over the course of a few nights and then stalled out.  Overwhelmed by the mass of inside pieces, she gave up and hasn’t touched the puzzle in weeks.  Jack and I turned over all the pieces to the correct side one evening and I got some pieces to go together, but for the most part, it sits lonely on the card table in the living room just waiting for someone to give it some attention.

puzzle

Is this puzzle too much of a challenge for us?  Should we have gone with a 500 piece puzzle instead?  I’m not sure, but I do know I’m not giving up on this baby and I am not finishing it alone.  Emma and Jack better get ready.

As I wonder what I can do to make them interested in the puzzle again, I think, “I need to make some progress on it–get some pieces together and get the kids closer to the end result.” Those of you in education can probably see where I am going with this.  We have a goal or a target we want our students to hit.  We know that it’s not fair to our students to lower our expectations for them.  All students deserve the opportunity to get there.  We can not deny any students the most rigorous curriculum, but certainly, it’s going to be a longer and more difficult road to get to the same target for some students more than others.

The challenge we face as educators is to provide the supports and pieces that give our students a gentle push and a leg up at the same time.  There’s a sweet spot between a puzzle that’s too easy and one that overwhelms them.  We can’t do the puzzle for them, yet we can’t just let them give up.  So what’s the answer?

The answer lies in the way we differentiate.  As we enter into our second semester, I am reading, Leading for Differentiation:  Growing Teachers Who Grow Kids by Carol Ann Tomlinson and Michael Murphy.  Ethically, I know differentiating instruction is the right thing to do.  Tomlinson writes:

In a democratic society and based on our best knowledge of quality teaching, there is a strong ethical imperative to differentiate instruction in the context of heterogeneous classrooms.  Strong leaders have the opportunity to help colleagues establish and follow an ethical North.

I couldn’t believe in this more.  Tomlinson continues:

Teachers who differentiate instruction effectively craft an environment that signals the value of each individual, provides high challenge with high support, and emphasizes the power of community in achieving success for every learner.

I’ve been in classrooms where teachers do this at high levels.  These are the teachers with the highest expectations, who are not satisfied until all of their students master the content, and whose test results reflect those behaviors year after year, no matter the group.

As I dig deeper into the content of the book, I can see that as I attempt to lead for differentiation I’ll be putting together a huge puzzle of my own.  I’ll be learning and making my own mistakes along the way, and I’m sure I’ll continue to feel overwhelmed at times.  I do believe it is among the most noble of causes, though.   Tomlinson writes that “it provides an opportunity for leaders and teachers to honor what should be the promise of every school for every young person who enters its doors:

We see you, we hold you in high regard, and we will give ourselves to your success as a learner and as a human being.”  

Taking Wisdom from Sports

I’m not a sports person.  I like to tailgate and go to games, but I enjoy the spirit, camaraderie, and social parts of sporting events more than I really care about the outcome of the game itself. As I learn about leadership, however, I find so which wisdom from coaches.  The more I look, the more I find that the most successful coaches have lessons applicable across settings.

Alabama coach, Nick Saban is no exception.  His words about systems really resonated with me this week as I have reflected on my first semester.

“When you have a system, you kind of get in a routine of what’s important.  And then you spend a lot more time on thinking of things that would make it better.  Like we met on this camp today. The first year I was here we met for eight hours on how we were going to do the camp. Now everybody else in that room knows how I want the camp run, so we don’t need to spend eight hours on it.”  Nick Saban

At the beginning of the year, I spent a lot of time learning the systems that were already in place at my school and how they fit into my philosophies of school management and instructional leadership.  Then I began tweaking existing systems to meet my style, and putting new ones in place where I felt ones were needed.  This has been a significant investment of time and thought.  As it was happening, I didn’t even realize that this is what I was doing.  I just kept saying,  “everything takes me so much longer than it should because I am having to figure out how to do it and how it should be done as I do it.”

Saban’s words gave me some hope for next year.  I do feel like now that I’ve gotten some processes established, I can improve them in the future instead of reinventing the wheel.  Not only have I had to establish my school-wide systems, but I’ve also had to create my personal systems for organization.  I learned this summer in a productivity workshop that your mind is for creating ideas, not keeping them.  I have found that I need something to capture my ideas, todos, thoughts, and general notes and then a tool to organize and prioritize them.

I use one notebook as a “brain dump.” As ideas come to me I get them out into this notebook.  I also have a separate notebook where I jot down notes as events happen that day–who I have contacted, situations I have dealt with, and phone calls I have made.

Then I have a small A6-sized binder with sections for:
1. Professional Reading–where I take notes on what I am reading
2. Daily Priorities–I write down my mission and vision every day, 3 priorities and wins/lessons learned at the end of the day
3. Lists–I write ideas for summer projects, the weekly email, blog topics
4.  Gratitude–This is where I write down 3 things I am grateful for each morning
5.  Prayer List–Here I keep a list of people to pray for
6.  Prayer Journal–After I do my devotional reading each day, I journal a little bit.

Developing my personal system was a form of stress relief and a way to express my creativity in how I set up the pages.  I am not sure Nick Saban was thinking about a cute binder with stickers and markers when he said, “When you have a system, you kind of get in a routine of what’s important,” but it totally makes sense to me.  No matter what chaos ensues in the day to day excitement of school leadership, I have a system that supports my routines and helps me focus on what’s important.

Purpose & People

One of my greatest challenges as a new principal is how to balance time throughout the day.  By nature I am very task oriented.  When I was in the classroom, especially after I had kids, I didn’t linger in the hallways chit-chatting after school or during transitions.  I was in my classroom trying to “get things done” so that I wouldn’t be taking a bunch of papers and work home with me.  Even so, the bag of work came home as it still does now.  It certainly is a constant struggle.

As we began this year, I spent a lot of time reflecting on my vision and mission. I knew it was important to be clear on my purpose and to keep that in mind so that when I got stressed I would remember why I was here and the difference I am trying to make.  It’s funny, but I think I can be almost too purpose-driven at times.

Lately, I have found that I need to slow down and intentionally make time for people.  I have a tendency to go from one agenda item to the next, looking at unexpected conversations as things that detract from my purpose, instead of as opportunities.  Again, it’s all about balance.  I can’t just sit around and talk to people all day, but I need to be intentionally present in those conversations so that I can take advantage of the opportunities to build relationships and get to know people on a personal level. That’s important.

Our staff members are more than just as a means to fulfilling our school mission.  People come with their own sets of expectations, perceptions, hopes, dreams, and struggles.  I need to see their humanity and not just the qualities related to their positions.

A Worthwhile Investment

“Instead of micromanaging teachers, principal should lead efforts to collectively monitor student achievement through professional learning communities.”

How Do Principals Really Improve Schools? Rick Dufour and Mike Mattos

The article from which this quote was taken discusses the paradoxical position principals are in between the emphasis placed on teacher evaluation and what really works to improve schools.  The authors write that while the approach to improved teaching and learning based on more frequent and intensive evaluation is the cornerstone of many school improvement efforts, it alone is an ineffective strategy to raising student achievement.

When our state first switched to our Professional Growth and Effectiveness system, I felt optimistic about using rubrics to help clarify and identify specific observable behaviors that help teachers become effective.  I appreciate how the Danielson framework takes teaching and learning and places them on a continuum.   I love the emphasis on instruction and in coaching teachers to become more effective.  I do, however; agree with the authors on their assertions that evaluation is an ineffective strategy to rely on to raise student achievement.

While I had come to this conclusion on my own, this article does serve to remind me of the power of the PLC process in increasing student achievement.  It is affirmation that I am on the right track in the emphasis I am placing on team planning, analysis of classroom data, and building structures this year that will lead to a true focus on what Dufour and Mattos describe as the “collective analysis of evidence of student learning.”

As my time from 7:30 to 3:30 is many times is dictated by situations that come up unexpectedly, I have to be very intentional about how I allocate my time.  I have to give priority to those experiences or initiatives that have research behind them proving their impact on student achievement—PLCs are a worthwhile investment

Welcome to the Sisterhood

I’ve had conversations with other women who are built like me–women who work tirelessly to meet an expectation that we ourselves create, and then when one small part of that expectation doesn’t go as planned, we beat ourselves up.  We know we do this.  We can anticipate it, we can see it happening, but in the aftermath we are helpless in stopping ourselves from the negative self-talk or disappointment that follows even the smallest of disappointments in the midst of an overall victory.  We don’t give ourselves the grace we give others.  We talk to ourselves in ways would never dream of talking to our best friend.

Why do we do this?  It makes no sense to me, yet I do it over and over again.  When I approach each week I think if I just get more caught up on Sunday or if journal/pray/exercise/meditate more, this week will be different.  I just keep adding on expectation after expectation and then beat myself up when I don’t meet them.  This makes no sense–yet I do it.  I say, “I just need accountability for getting up at 4:30 AM to exercise…I just need that pretty journal to do my daily devotion…I just need to do yoga…then I’ll get it all done and meet some expectation of success I set forth in my mind.”

But life happens.  The nurse is sick.  You don’t have a sub for PE.  You have “chaos” in the lunchroom. Your people need you to listen to them.  You are left feeling like you got “nothing” accomplished because you didn’t do what YOU set out to do.  Yes, even as I write this I know it’s ridiculous to feel like a failure, yet I do.  Again and again.  What is that?  I laugh, thinking I must have some trait or gene that helps me to be highly successful in some portions of my life, yet sorely lacking in others.  Is it the overachiever gene?

I don’t have any answers tonight.  I read other principals’ blogs and get lots of ideas on how to improve culture, be an instructional leader, manage time…blah…blah..blah..I’m just trying to get through the week.  The only thing I have to offer tonight is solidarity, perhaps.  Girls like me–you know who you are and you are not alone.  You are the girl that goes to a PD, visits another teacher’s blog, or even peruses  Teachers Pay Teachers and beats yourself up for all things you are not doing that “everyone else is doing perfectly.” You are not alone and you are killing it, even if you, yourself can’t recognize it.  Welcome to the sisterhood.

Saying, “Yes!”

At the end of my last post I posed the following questions:

  • How can we live above the line of compliance and fight off the forces of mediocrity so that we don’t become stagnant?
  • What does that look like for us at PLE?
    How can we push ourselves to create instead of merely comply?

In my post, I quoted the principal of Thomas Nelson High School, Mr. Bradley, when I wrote that you don’t ask, “how,” you just say, “yes.”

I believe many of us at Paint Lick have said “yes!”  As I have been meeting with grade level teams during our on-going learning PLC meetings, I have seen seasoned educators challenge themselves to change the structure of their classrooms to better meet the needs of their students.  I have seen teachers look at best practice reading strategies and structures and measure what they do against them.  They are being true “creative directors” as Bradley might say.   Using what they read and what they learn from collaborating together, they are being reflective, thoughtful and learning new ideas and making them their own.  It’s exciting to watch!

I find that I have to say a resounding, intentional “yes” every day…sometimes several times a day.  I have to commit to my purpose over and over again.  I’ve been joking that I need to own the day instead of it owning me.  That is so true. I find that I have to align my day to day interactions, problem-solving, planning, and even the most mundane tasks with my purpose or I will stay in reactive mode instead of being purposeful and intentional.  Without purpose and intentionality I will surely drown in compliance and mediocrity.

Lately, I have found strategies to manage the many tasks that come my way so that I can spend time each day on what makes sense for that moment and that day. I have tools and routines I use to prioritize tasks, but sometimes these get derailed when there is a problem, crisis, discipline issue, or when a parent just needs to talk.  That’s when I get frustrated.  I see these as “interruptions” to my work instead of as the work itself–opportunities to build relationships and serve.

Successful CEO, Cheryl Bachelder writes “in the real world, serving others is the path to superior performance.” Serving others feels natural when I can see a direct path between what I am working on (the way I am serving) and our school goals. Serving is more challenging when I can’t see a direct alignment between the issue and what we are trying to achieve.  I think this is where I need the most work–this is where I need to say, “yes.”

I need to remember to look at everything I do through the lens of my purpose.

My purpose isn’t about accomplishing MY tasks I have set out for myself that day—it’s about serving the people of my community.  In the podcast Principal Matters, William D. Parker shares this important point—“time spent=relationships built.”  I don’t think I’m always fully present when people come to me to with an issue or just to talk.  I need to change my mindset about these interactions and look at them as opportunities to connect with people instead of just as situations that are taking away from my time for my work “getting things done.” These interactions are the work. They are directly tied to my purpose.

As I wrote above in relation to juggling tasks, without purpose and intentionality I will surely drown in compliance and mediocrity.  I need this same intentionality in my interactions with others. Again, I need to constantly say, “yes.”—yes to being present, yes, to listening, and yes to serving. That is the work.

Fighting the Forces of Mediocrity

I discovered that I have a personal bias.  Like many biases, this one was made on assumptions that were proven false as soon as I was presented with an example that blew all my preconceived notions away.  The P3 Principal’s Network gave participants the opportunity to visit Thomas Nelson High School in Nelson County a couple of weeks ago.  I was debating whether or not to go. What could I learn from a high school?  We elementary folks got it going on in terms of instructional strategies, building relationships and school culture! I am not going to learn anything by visiting a high school! That’s what I thought until I visited Thomas Nelson.

From the way teachers create a sense of belonging and care for each and every student, to the way they have branded their school and built teacher and student leadership throughout their culture initiatives, I could go on and on about all of the awesome strategies you can find at Thomas Nelson!  Instead, I am going to take the advice of principal, Wes Bradley, who keeps a ceramic hedgehog in his office to remind him to focus.   The symbol of the hedgehog comes from the Greek parable that tells us “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.”  While the fox has a variety of strategies to catch prey, the one big thing the hedgehog does as defense will win against the fox.  His spines are the perfect defense.  He doesn’t need to do anything else. Thomas Nelson High School staff keeps the focus on their students and their culture and they win.

So, for this post I will focus on Thomas Nelson’s mantra of “fighting the forces of mediocrity.”  Wes Bradley uses the duality between creating and complying to show how this plays out in schools.  He showed our group image after image of how he encourages teachers to create and move past any preconceived limitations to “create their own narrative for what it means to teach.” Teachers are empowered to be “Creative Directors”—the “purple cows” instead of just compliant “brown cows.”

IMG_9950

When reflecting on my visit, I thought about my staff and our school culture.  The last thing I want to do is to create an environment where people simply comply with directives instead of being the “Creative Directors” of their classrooms.  Like most ideas in education, it’s a tricky balance.  There are things we HAVE to do as teachers and places where we get to have more artistic freedom.  The have-to’s include learning targets and formative assessments…but what about the get-to’s?  How can we live above the line of compliance and fight off the forces of mediocrity so that we don’t become stagnant?

What does that look like for us at PLE? How can we push ourselves to create instead of merely comply?  Mr. Bradley says that you don’t ask, “how,” you just say, “yes.”