Sunday, November 8, 2015

It's the Small Moments that Count

It's the Small Moments that Count

Recently I had a huge 'Aha' moment. I realize that many of us spend our 'early' years celebrating big events or waiting for the next big thing to happen in our lives. As I get older, it's the small big things that make me truly happy. Vanilla nut coffee, ice cream with my kids, cuddling with kids, a movie with my baby girl or husband, watching an Alaska reality show with my son, a hot bubble bath, a PEDICURE...Yes!
I'm now learning to spend my time creating and being truly mindful about my small moments.

The grown folks were right! Live for the small moments. Work can't be your everything. Find your balance.

Have a great week!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Are You Leading With Questions?

Are You Leading With Questions?

Always the beautiful answer who asks a more beautiful question. -E.E. Cummings

Think back to your last leadership or team meeting. As facilitator, did you create opportunities for the team to process and discuss questions? How did the team engage?  Many of us walk into meetings with exhausting agendas that lack opportunities for dialogue or problem solving through questioning. Research indicates that questions, the right questions, can positively influence an organization in a variety of ways. A question has the power to identify problems, challenge the status quo, identify biases...all catalysts for creativity, collaboration, and change.

Asking the right questions after 22 years
After 22 years as an educator and educational leader, I’ve recently learned about the importance of effective questioning. I engage in the challenging and satisfying work of creating an organizational culture of risk-taking and problem-solving.  I’ve learned to be mindful about asking questions in a number of settings and situations. My goal is to balance questioning with listening when engaging with students, teachers, and parents. The results are remarkable. The focus has shifted from what I think or want to what WE think and want for OUR school. I find myself doing less talking and becoming a deeper listener.

Who’s asking the questions?
If research indicates that questioning is transformational to an organization, why aren’t we doing more of it in the educational setting? Simply stated, our educational system does not foster, support, or encourage questioning. In a traditional system, the leader is the authority and keeper of knowledge. Questioning is often perceived as challenging authority. It’s impossible for an organization to identify problems and develop solutions when the team isn’t encouraged to think. Change the mindset and encourage your team members to take risks by asking questions. The entire organization will benefit.

Courageous Questions = Courageous Conversations
Questions challenge the status quo and disrupt dysfunctional systems. What if we didn’t go along with what’s always been done? Addressing achievement gaps, educational inequities, and a number of other educational and societal issues require us to ask courageous questions and engage in courageous conversations. We will continue to fail our neediest students if we lack the courage to ask “why?”

Inspire Creativity and Change
The most difficult part of our work is implementing change. Change requires one to release old habits and adopt new behaviors, forcing us out of our comfort zones. The process of change always begins with a great question and asking exploratory questions is crucial to problem solving and creativity. How might we begin to push our teams out of their comfort zones with the right questions? What are the right questions for change?

Our current educational system takes a solution-based approach to solving problems. We are eager to solve problems and provide solutions without dialogue and questioning. We are graded or evaluated based on coming up with solutions for problems that we may not necessarily need to solve. Asking the right questions has the power to transform not only our educational systems, but our lives. Questions spark innovation and creativity and challenge us to continue to improve our work. Great leaders lead by asking, not telling. Great leaders lead by asking the right questions, even if they do not have the answers.

How might you use questions to lead change in YOUR organization?

"Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers." – Voltaire


Berger, W. (2014). A more beautiful question. New York, NY: Bloomsbury

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The English Learner's Schooling excerpt from my research on Long Term English Learners

The schooling experience is a particularly crucial time for English language learners as they develop their academic identity.  From the moment English learners enter public schools, they are expected to adapt to the dominant language and culture, acquiring English and mastering grade level content at the same rate as their English only peers. These expectations have a “significant impact on the language skills and academic performance, as programs can either promote language loss or language maintenance and development over time” (Menken & Kleyn, 2010, p. 399).  In addition to the demands of mastering content in all curricular areas while learning the language, middle and high school teachers and administrators are ill prepared and struggling to support this diverse group of ELs.  “These students are likely to be segregated in the classrooms and in their communities…they are also likely to be taught by teachers who lack the preparation and skills to meet their academic needs” (Horwitz et al, 2009).  A school’s and teacher’s level of commitment and encouragement can foster or hinder a student’s commitment to academic achievement.  
Calderón and Minaya-Rowe’s (2011) research identify a number of factors that contribute to the development of this growing EL group, the Long Term English learner.  The major factors include inconsistencies with language policy and attention to ELs, inconsistent instructional programs, limited primary language support, low expectations, segregation from other students, and teachers who are ill-equipped to work with LTELs.  Olsen (2010) also identifies partial access to curriculum, social segregation, and linguistic isolation as contributing factors to the creation of LTELs (Olsen, 2011).  Educators across the nation have begun to discuss best teaching practices for educating LTEL students; however, they have not established concrete systems to support them or prevent them from attaining this unreasonable level of language proficiency.

A variety of factors contribute to the substantial underachievement and social gaps for this population of ELs, preventing students from achieving English proficiency and academic success.  Educators and policy makers are clearly contributing to the educational oppression of LTELs, as legislative policies and teaching practices shape the students’ schooling experiences. 
As an educational leader, I strive to be part of the discussion and solution to this monumental issue.  What can be done to provide the best possible schooling experiences for our English Learner students?