passion projects from Hacking Leadership

How to Put the Passion Back Into the Teaching Profession

Listen to “74: Hacking Passion Projects for Educators” on Spreaker.

It’s time to put the passion back into teaching and professional growth.

Episode 74 of the Hack Learning Podcast explores Passion Projects, as illustrated in Hacking Leadership, by renowned school leaders Joe Sanfelippo and Tony Sinanis, in Hack 8: Passion Projects for Adults. Here is an excerpt:

THE PROBLEM:  STAFF MEMBERS NEED TIME TO CULTIVATE PROFESSIONAL GROWTH

Astoundingly, supervisors ask teachers to differentiate instruction for each student even as they continue to give exactly the same professional development to every instructor.

Administrators often put teachers from assorted grade levels, content areas, knowledge bases, and interest ranges in a room for full-day training, expecting the quality of education teachers offer to improve as a result.

While there are clearly times that all educators in a building need the same information, each teacher needs individualized learning as well. If differentiation meets the individual needs of all learners, then this best practice should apply to the professionals as well as to their students.

We know you may not have control over district, state, or federal initiatives. Until educators have a strong voice in such organizations, having initiatives imposed on us is our reality.

Hacking Leadership

Look inside now

If you’re asked to be part of the decision-making body, go do it. If no one approaches you, seek out opportunities to participate in influential groups.

Hacking leadership is about finding a way to succeed by circumventing obstacles. As we deal with the system as it now exists, we can hack ways to meet the individual needs of staff members while still maintaining the integrity of initiatives.

THE HACK: PASSION PROJECTS FOR ADULTS

Our students have profited extensively from Genius Hour, a specific time for them to learn about something that interests them and to express that learning in any format that they choose.

It occurred to us that we could pattern professional development on this success, creating opportunities for teachers to learn what they want when they want and how they want. While scheduling a specific hour for students to explore their passions integrates well with the current model of the school day, reserving similar time for teacher learning presents problems.

Aside from the issue of what to do with the students while their teachers are learning, holding any school time sacrosanct for a particular purpose is almost impossible for teachers, considering the variables that affect every workday.

Teachers have a propensity to “eat last,” or not at all, when it comes to their learning, often because a teacher’s job involves such a variety of complex tasks that little time is left over for lunch, let alone learning.

Professionals deserve our trust in their desire to improve and extend their learning.” -Joe Sanfelippo & Tony Sinanis

Passion projects allow individual staff members to delve into topics they feel passionately about exploring while administrative teams provide the time, resources, and opportunities for the learning to flourish.

The passion project professional growth model allows people to choose topics and decide on a personalized learning plan. We have not rejected any teacher’s learning plan goal in the last three years.

We want people to own the process and take it on in a way that suits them. We trust teachers to find an effective process, although we specify two non-negotiable elements:

1) Every plan must include a student data component so teachers can reflect on the process and satisfy state requirements for educator/teacher effectiveness or whatever your state is calling it. Analyzing student data allows educators to reflect on ways to integrate emerging trends and patterns into practical classroom applications. We want to be very clear that the data should inform but not drive decision making. There is a distinct difference.

When data informs decisions, teaching professionals consider the data and other relevant information to find ways to improve student learning. In contrast, having data drive decisions implies that reading the data objectively determines future actions.

Giving teachers the opportunity to own their learning from start to finish shows how much we value their work and abilities.”Hacking Leadership

Many factors should influence decisions about instruction, and we want to give the professionals who work with the students on a regular basis the latitude to make decisions as they see fit.

2) We ask simply that teachers strive to get better. As teachers work to improve, leaders must be willing to stand back and allow them to progress at their own paces. Growth is particular to each individual—teachers change at different rates according to their needs, backgrounds, and abilities. We have to trust people to improve without constantly trying to quantify that improvement.

We want to make sure we are not criticizing someone’s growth, especially since making errors is a common sign of taking risks. Progressing in a complicated endeavor like teaching tends to be a recursive process, one that is unlikely to happen if teachers do not feel wholly committed to their goals. Trust your staff to be professional by allowing them to take ownership of their own learning.

We have seen a significant increase in collaborative effort as teachers work through their growth model goals. Most goals are more carefully written, more rigorous, and more innovative than they were before we initiated passion projects. People take bigger risks when they set their own goals because they feel personally compelled to increase their capacity to help students.

Even though a few teachers will try to skirt the system by creating a goal that is easily attainable, remember that allowing teachers to choose their own goals has not caused these people to “cop out.” They would have done the same thing with the antiquated processes of the past.

Rather than responding to the problematic few by attempting to control everyone, we need to make decisions based on our best people. They are the ones we need to make happy. Giving teachers the opportunity to own their learning from start to finish shows how much we value their work and abilities.

What You Can Do Tomorrow

Stepping out of the professional development comfort zone is going to take some time and a great deal of trust. When you implement passion projects some staff members may search desperately for a topic they can commit to. Many have been told how, when, and what they will learn for years. What you can do tomorrow is provide time, resources, and opportunities for your staff to engage in professional growth.

Lead from the middle - Hack Learning

Learn how to lead from the middle

Finding ways to offer any of these three things to your staff right away will establish innovation and ownership as part of school culture. Once staff members trust the process, they’ll be eager to continue learning on their own.

  • Get teachers thinking about their passions. Introduce the idea of passion projects and ask teachers to begin thinking about what they want to work on so that they will be prepared to dive into their projects as soon as you can make time available to them.
  • Pass good resources on to teachers. Once you know the goals and interests of your staff members you may be able to provide suggestions for relevant resources. This is where we see leaders moving to the middle to facilitate the passion projects. We are not leading the charge, but connecting staff members and resources. Find connections between different topics of interest so you can put people into contact with each other. Keep your staff in mind when you come upon resources, whether online, face-to-face, or in books and journals.
    • Shoot off a short email or stick a photocopy in a teacher’s mailbox.
    • Both of us use Twitter a great deal, so when we see an article or resource on Twitter that would fit someone’s goals, we retweet the post and tag the staff member.
    • Giving specific help with resources need not cut into the budget and it’s worth your effort because supporting professional growth is such an essential component to growing as a staff. Proving that you value a teacher’s work elevates your instructional leadership.
  • Provide opportunities for informal meetings. The first step is to listen when you ask your staff what kinds of connections they need. Then, find a way to make opportunities for those connections to happen.
    • This could be in an “’Appy Hour” after school where staff connect and talk about apps that are working in their classroom.
    • It could be in a “Lunch and Learn” where a group spends time discussing a topic of their choice.
    • It could be an asynchronous meeting using a platform like Voxer to discuss a book or topic of their choice.

Understand that the opportunity to connect may yield few results when you start. Your first meeting may attract only three people, but think of it this way: Three people showed up and learned something. Once word gets around that the meeting was useful, more people will filter in.

Find your passion

To better understand what a Passion Project looks like in action, check out Hacking Leadership: 10 Ways Great Leaders Inspire Learning That Teachers, Students, and Parents Love.

Subscribe and Never Miss an Episode
itunes button

 

Hack Learning podcast on Stitcher

 

 

Be Our Guest

Got something hacky to share? Learn how to be a guest on the Hack Learning Podcast.

Hacking Leadership excerpt is copyrighted material, reprinted here with permission from Times 10 Publications

Naomi Austin - Hack Learning Podcast

Journey of a First-Year Leader with Naomi Austin

In Episode 56 of the Hack Learning Podcast, Missouri school principal Naomi Austin shares her journey as a school leader, just completing her first year. Austin explains a new leader mistake she made and how she turned that apparent loss into a victory with her staff.

Plus, she provides excellent advice for new and veteran leaders in classic Hack Learning style–with What You Can Do Tomorrow tips to build rapport with your stakeholders and to maintain momentum throughout the school year.

Hacking Leadership

More about Austin’s Journey of a First-Year Leader

  • Austin explains her early struggle with the decision to leave the classroom to become a principal (time index 3:00 on the audio embedded above).
  • A surprising problem Austin faced and how she hacked it (time index 9:55).
  • Using Google Forms and Badges to incentivize teachers to improve their EdTech skills (time index 12:50).
  • How Austin overcame self-doubt (time index 15:20)

Connect with Naomi Austin on Twitter @AustinELA8.

Thanks for Listening

Without you, Hack Learning wouldn’t exist. Thanks for your support. If you enjoyed this episode, please share this page, using the social share buttons above.

Also, please leave an honest review for the Hack Learning Podcast on iTunes. We love every rating and review and read them all. We even share them on our show notes archive here! Ratings and reviews make all the difference in the rankings of the show, so please take a moment to tell the world what you enjoy about the Hack Learning Podcast.

Subscribe and Never Miss an Episode
itunes button

 

Hack Learning podcast on Stitcher

 

 

Be Our Guest

Got something hacky to share? Learn how to be a guest on the Hack Learning Podcast.

make people smile - Hack Learning Podcast

Hacking Positivity: 3 Surefire Ways to Make Your Stakeholders Smile


These three quick teaching and learning hacks, taken from Hacking Leadership, are awesome for improving education at any school. Better still, they make people smile, and that’s a beautiful thing.

3 Ways to Make Stakeholders Smile

Here are three do-it-tomorrow strategies from Hacking Leadership, by Joe Sanfelippo and Tony Sinanis.

1 – Write positive notes. Start your day by writing two positive notes to staff members. We suggest getting cards imprinted with your school logo, but any card will do. By starting your day writing a few positive notes, you are putting yourself in the right frame of mind. Jeff Zoul, Assistant Superintendent in Deerfield, Illinois, often remarks that writing a positive handwritten note to a staff member makes two people feel better: the staff member and the leader.

2 – Make five positive phone calls about students to start or end your week. This does a few things. First, it changes the lens through which you view everyday events. It is really easy to get sucked into what is going wrong at school because the unfortunate truth is that negative stories take up a good deal of a leader’s bandwidth.

Knowing that you are going to start or end your week with calls to parents changes what you are looking for and helps your overall mentality when walking through the school.

Second, it ensures that you are out of your office seeking out positive events and interactions. Visibility is a key to trust and your commitment to being with students and staff develops social capital. Finally, when your first contact with a parent is positive you create a positive home-to-school connection that will clearly help you in the long run.

3 – Send cards to family members. Being a teacher or a staff member in a school can be extremely draining to those around you. We often forget that the people we work with go home to an entirely different life, one they need to tend to so everyone stays happy. How often do we say thank you to those who help our staff members get through tough times with students, colleagues, and yes, even administrators?

Taking the time to write and mail a quick note to the spouse, children, or parents of your staff members shows you value your staff and their support systems. The reaction of spouses and families is astounding. We can’t even begin to tell you how many times we have been stopped by families of our staff members so they can thank us.

The notes were quick, but the reaction has been extremely beneficial. Such small gestures forge trusting interpersonal bonds.
WAIT! Subscribe and get an amazing new episode every Wednesday
itunes button

 

Hack Learning podcast on Stitcher

 

 

Hack Learning podcast in app store

 

 

Thanks for Listening

Without you, Hack Learning wouldn’t exist. Thanks for your support. If you enjoyed this episode, please share this page, using the social share buttons above.

Also, please leave an honest review for the Hack Learning Podcast on iTunes. We love every rating and review and read them all. We even share them on our show notes archive here! Ratings and reviews make all the difference in the rankings of the show, so please take a moment to tell the world what you enjoy about the Hack Learning Podcast.

Be Our Guest

Got something hacky to share? Learn how to be a guest on the Hack Learning Podcast.

Hacking Leadership Hack Learning podcast

How New School Leaders Create Culture, Empowerment, and Collaboration

Renowned educators Joe Sanfelippo and Tony Sinanis are not your traditional school leaders. In fact, they prefer to lead from the middle, which is quite unorthodox, when you consider the typical top-down leadership model.

In a recent conversation with Hack Learning creator and Times 10 Publisher Mark Barnes, Sanfelippo and Sinanis, co-authors of the new Hacking Leadership: 10 Ways Great Leaders Inspire Learning That Teachers, Students, and Parents Love, explain how to create a positive school culture, how to empower teachers, and how to facilitate a collaborative community in schools.

Hacking Leadership Takeaways

  • Leaders must be authentic in their relationships and make that the default with staff.
  • Empowerment means leaders must be willing to make sacrifices.
  • Hacking LeadershipLeaders must help teachers put the power of school culture in students’ hands.
  • Give teachers complete ownership of their professional development.
  • Communication and transparency are at the core of school culture.

What Leaders Can Do Tomorrow

  • Sit down with students and see what school looks like through their eyes.
  • Cover teachers’ classes (who does this?) to create collaborative time.
  • Eliminate the “drive-by” mentality and be present with teachers daily.

Learn more about Joe Sanfelippo and Tony Sinanis at HackLead.org and on the Hack Learning Team page. Look inside Hacking Leadership now.

Subscribe to the Podcast Now
itunes button

 

Hack Learning podcast on Stitcher

 

 

Be Our Guest

Got something hacky to share? Learn how to be a guest on the Hack Learning Podcast.

How to Use Social Media to Build a Powerful Learning Community

If you want to build an engaged, vibrant learning community at your school and in your school district, you need to connect with teachers, parents, and community leaders on social media.

School principal, connected educator and author of the popular Learning and Leading education blog, Bethany Hill, joins Mark Barnes in Hack Learning Podcast Episode 46 to discuss community building in and around schools, using the power of social networks, blogs, online courses and other social sharing tools.

Building a successful learning community, according to Bethany Hill, is about transparency and sharing:

Being transparent and open to sharing with families, community and even beyond is a way to build trust; it’s a way to make people feel more involved and to see inside. It’s a way to tear the walls of the school down.

Hill also says that school leaders must empower teachers by providing opportunities for them to grow professionally through social media and other online resources, so they can become more efficient at helping to build strong learning communities.

One of my favorite moments is when a teacher pops her head in and says, ‘Hey, do you have a minute? I have something I want to share with you.’ You can see that glow and that excitement in their eyes when they have found something that they think will work for kids.

For more about building learning communities, listen to the entire podcast episode embedded above.

Learn more

Bethany Hill on Twitter

Bethany Hill’s blog

Hacking Leadership: 10 Ways Great Leaders Inspire Learning That Teachers, Students, and Parents Love

Subscribe to the Podcast Now
itunes button

 

Hack Learning podcast on Stitcher

 

 

Be Our Guest

Got something hacky to share? Learn how to be a guest on the Hack Learning Podcast.