Monday, October 29, 2018

Diversity and Community

Diversity and Community: 
Reference: Glickman, C. D., Gordon, S. P., & Ross-Gordon, J. M. (2014). Supervision and instructional leadership: A developmental approach. in association with Winona State University, EL 704, Instructor: Dr. Howman

Subtractive Schooling

Subtractive Schooling is the perception that dominant culture views cultures of lower-socioeconomic and racial minorities as deficits.  This implies that an issue is presented with diversity (an objective that must be overcome) rather than an asset to build on.

Leaders and educators must find ways to overcome this perception and understand that in order to educate ALL students, cultural implementation must occur in the classroom as well in the community.  The impact on a lack of cultural understanding can have catastrophic consequences on students education and life!

Educator Misconceptions

Often educators are unable to distinguish between lack of understanding and cultural diversity or disability.  Students are lost in inadequate opportunities to display their understanding of knowledge due to assessments that do not take into account cultural understanding.  This is found in the tests taking norms, lack of data collection, and incorrect interpretation of information.  Some of the reasons for this is due to a lack of educator preparation and interaction with the cultural community inside and out of the classroom.  

Culturally Responsive

There are several ways that schools can overcome "subtractive schooling."
  • The simplest idea is to create a school goal to become a culturally responsive school.  While training sessions are an important part of gaining knowledge on different backgrounds, that is not enough.  The identity of the school must be defined by the students within it.  That often includes actively bringing the outside community into the school.  "Keep the lights on!"
  • Academic and social inclusivity can also build upon the culture of the students in the school.  This is done by developing inclusive curriculum that incorporates stakeholders languages and cultural backgrounds.  Classrooms can continually collaborate outside of the building to bring in culturally diverse experiences for students.  Socially, schools must actively strive to develop an educational environment of building sincere, authentic, positive relationships between all people.  Cultural knowledge must be a part of all school operations and activities.  

Ensuring Gender and Sexual Minority Equity

Gender and sexual minority inequity in a school environment can have devastating consequences on a students academic and personal life.  This can include students having low self-esteem, poor mental and physical health, and high levels of trauma symptoms.

What to do?

There are actions that educators and school leaders can take in order to provide a learning environment that provides gender and sexual minority equity.

  • Policy: Districts need to provide GLBT and gender equity by establishing policy that protects and supports ALL students including sexual minority students.  Policy needs to represent the population of the school community and be communicated clearly all stakeholders
  • Training: Overcoming challenges in the area of inequity begins with self-assessment and reflection.  Educators must have an understanding of not only the knowledge associated with gender and sexual minority inequity, but also foster a professional and personal continual understanding.  
  • Culture: Schools must create a culture where prejudice and discrimination are not welcome.  This includes implications presented in curriculum.  School safety and anti-bullying programs also promote a positive and safe inclusive culture for all students.  

Community Building

Communities are vital to the success of students.  Schools need to be immersed in a community as this not only benefits the outside community, but the learning environment as well.  Communities offer members a positive sense of belonging including shared identity, beliefs, values, and goals.  Mutually beneficial relationships are at the center communities. 

  • False sense of protection: Often communities internally feel the need to silo themselves in order to protect their own self-interests.  There is a false sense that only two sides exist... ...the winners and the losers.  This not only depletes the potential resources for collaborative success, but also causes destruction from within.  Members must be committed to the growth and well-being of the each member of the community.  
  • Clarity of role: Communication is a key component to a successful community.  Honest and transparent communication allows for an environment that promotes the common good.  Members need to have a clear understanding of their role within the community and be held accountable.      
  • Inclusion:  Communities must take an honest look at their members and ensure clear representation for all, including the minority.  In a school environment, students often have unique needs that require support in order to be active members of the community.  Promoting the message that all are equal members of the community will support positive representation of ALL members.  

The Four Rs

The 4-Rs are presented as a recipe for creating and maintaining world-class classrooms, schools, departments, and school districts.  They keep the focus on doing what is best for students and the positive impact leaders can have on staff and learning communities.

  • Success starts with relationships!  Students and educators needs to feel connections in a learning environment in order to be successful.  Knowing that there is care and mutual respect provides a foundation where goals can be accomplished (even the most challenging of goals).  Often people find that they don't have time to stop for a conversation or have a cup of coffee with a colleague.  While it seems that building relationships takes more time, the investment in relationships allows educators and students to accomplish more that ever thought possible.  The saying "many hands make light work" rings true.  When we work together in an effort towards success, learning and understanding moves from personal to collaborative and the possibilities are limitless.  
  • Relevance is a personal view.  A connection and network must be made when encountering "new" ideas and topics.  Learning is personal.  Educators must take the time to promote an environment that connects with the people within the environment (students).  Content can be a challenge, but it can also be engaging when it becomes an authentic part of a person's life.  

  • Rigor is personal.  Falsely, rigor is often presented as a system that learning environments implement in order to achieve goals and sustain programs.  Rigor is what people use to get to the next level.  It directly correlates with motivation.  In order to overcome personal challenges and adversities, people must be motivated (intrinsically or extrinsically) rise above.  Rigor is that motivation in action.

  • Resources are needed in order to successfully implement the other 3 Rs.  A collaborative effort must be made when deciding on and implementing resources.  Resources are not just financial.  Connections, relationships, networks, experiences, support, etc... are often more important that funds.  Resources provide the structure for educators and leaders to engage students towards success.  

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Innovative Instructional Leadership: Reimagine PD Reflection

Innovative Instructional Leadership: Reimagine PD Reflection


Professional development is an integral part in the world of education.  As a member of the Winona State University Byron Cohort, I was part developing an event which showcases an innovative approach towards a 21st century style professional development initiative through the process of design-thinking.  As students continue adopt innovative methods of learning, teachers need to do the same.


The invitation for the event went out to districts in the South Eastern MN area.  We wanted be that impacted change in their buildings and  districts.  This included teachers, administration, staff, and collegiate professors.  All were welcome as change-agents in their professional development environments.

Moving forward I think that design-thinking in an education setting is something that everyone should here.  While there are challenges implementing new ways of doing professional development, there are opportunities of building a better and more innovative culture for student learning.

What?  Reimagine PD Website

Design thinking is a process that gets down to what is at the core of challenges and wants when attempting to find solutions.  The first part of the event is a "get to know you," followed by attendees going through the design thinking process, and then ending with the sharing of prototypes.

The big challenge will be to provide the positive outcome desired in a short amount of time in a deeply engaged environment.  Sometimes I find that the best ideas come out of people just chatting in a structured environment.  My hope is that attendees will connect with other professionals and use those connections in the future to better professional development on the home-front.


Structured engagement and an open mind will bring together results.  A benefit to design thinking is that the people involved in the activity must develop a prototype.  A prototype is a tangible item that you can hold, feel, and hopefully use to spark more ideas of implementation.  It's not always about the end product, most often it is about the journey that led you there.


In a 21st Century learning environment we often as education professionals engage in professional development through 19th century methods... ...the "sit and get."

Check out this article by Tim Walker...

No More ‘Sit and Get’: Rebooting Teacher Professional Development

When we comes down to it, we do what we do because if we're not engaged in growth we are in the status quo which eventually becomes obsolete and leads to failure.  It's time to rejuvenate our professional development experience.


We as educators need to take advantage of every opportunity we have to become better at engaging our students in learning.  We need to take full advantage of the resources at our fingertips and beyond.  We need to look beyond the way things have been done and ask ourselves... there a better way?

Innovative Instructional Leadership: Final Course Reflection

Innovative Instructional Leadership: Final Course Reflection

The following course reflection aligns with my E-Portfolio for my Innovative Instructional Leadership Course (link below)

Flickr Photo by Lori Greig, "this is far from over".
Downloaded from on July 20, 2014

Which artifact are you most proud of? Why?

The artifact that I am most proud of is the Reimagine PD Event. I am part of a group that is making a clear and innovative change to how pd is done in an educational institution. So often people just accept the status quo. We are actually putting ourselves out there and saying that yes! it can be different!

What artifact could you have improved the most? How?

The empathy artifact is something that I could have improved upon. I think that empathy interviews take time and while I completed the assignment, I wish that I could have spent more time diving into understanding why our students, teachers, and admin feel the way they feel about professional development. It's a topic that needs a deeper understanding as in the past people have more often accepted it for what it is. Now we are needing to make a connection with how professional development aligns with what we do in the classroom.

What was your biggest challenge in this course? Why? 

My biggest challenge was understanding the objectives of the group. When working as an individual, we are easily able to see our objectives and build a clear path to achieve them. When working with a group, there must be constant communication to make sure paths and objectives are clearly stated. A lot of work goes into the task of achievement and it's important that the work aligns with what is to be accomplished.

Were you able to overcome that challenge? How?

The challenge was overcome at times and looked past at others. As the cohort developed the Reimagine PD experience, we shifted methods of implementation and overall presentation. Much of this was due to limited time and involving a new professional development committee. Moving forward I would work to outline clearer and more concise objectives on a weekly basis prior to implementing a project such as this. 

What skills did you learn that will benefit you the most as an educator, as a leader?

I learned countless skills in this course which will help me to become a better leader. The most important is my ability to dig deeper into the issue prior to finding a solution. This directly aligns with the design-thinking process. While it seems and time redundant, at the end of the process we discover the importance of each step. It is important to take the time to focus on the process, not just the end result. 


Sunday, January 29, 2017

Innovative Instructional Leadership: Truth 8 - 10

Innovative Instructional Leadership: Truth 8 - 10

The following post coincides with the reading of the Chapter 8 - 10 in the book The Truth About Leadership by James Kouzes and Barry Posner.

This will be the final post concerning the book The Truth About Leadership.  The authors have done a wonderful job building on previous concepts that are time-tested through research and experience.  They have interviewed and obtained narratives of the examples from real-life practice.  Today we look at the application inside and outside of the classroom.

My ability to look inside relates to how I interact and empower my students to become better leaders.  There were many concepts throughout the chapters, but a few stood out over others that applied to my instructing and leadership inside the classroom.

Leadership is an Affair of the Heart (chapter 10)

When I show the students in my classroom the love I have for learning and music education, they can't help themselves from jumping on board the learning train.  Just the other day I found myself watching an insightful documentary titled Crescendo: The Power of Music that tells the story of El Sistema, Venezuela's youth orchestra program that continues to bring social transformation to millions of disadvantaged youths.

See the TED talk below which discusses the powerful program...

Watching this film rejuvenated me in my classroom and I found myself teaching with a spark I had forgotten I had.  The director in a band setting controls the context of the classroom on a minute by minute basis.  I often refer to the board in the front of our room that daily states...

Photo Courtesy of

I was able to demonstrate to my students that I have passion!  Passion for music, for learning, and for empowering them as learners.

Chapter 10 also discusses the idea of showing recognition to the people you lead.  I strive to do this on a daily basis.  Giving props goes a long way in the classroom, especially when students don't expect it.  I recently put up a list on my wall of all 200 of the students I teach.  My goal is to contact each student and their parents and give recognition about achievement.  This may all year, but I have no doubt that the effort will be well worth the reward.  Through giving recognition, I believe I am empowering my students to achieve even more.

Lead By Example (chapter 8)

I have found that with co-workers the best work I can do is the work I do myself.  I have found that others follow a positive example that is set for them.  This means that I cannot ask anyone to do something that I am not willing to do myself.

Sometimes this task is as simple as taking out the trash and keeping the space clean.  While I often find myself confused and frustrated as a manager of our auditorium space, I have recently found relief.  As I take a little time to create new ideas and keep the space organized, others have be doing the same.  Through taking pride in the space, the need for verbal instruction has ended.

I often use this method inside my classroom as well.  Instead of asking students to keep their personal spaces organized and clean, I do it for them.  It only takes one time.  The will not leave their materials out and in disarray.  By opening myself up to doing the task I am requiring of others, my students often achieve the goal without direct instruction.

Leading by example outside of the classroom relates directly to getting things done.  So often I find that we talk about what we want to do and how we want to do it, but just getting it done is often more productive and a more positive approach.  Less talking, more doing is a great way to get others to follow.

Life-Long Learner

I find that the leadership trait that I find myself using most often is the best leaders are the best learners (chapter 9).  I have a passion for learning and a self-inquiry into how I learn.  I feel that in an innovative world where the problems of tomorrow are not known yet today, the best trait that I can continue to hone in on is a continued growth model.  How do we grow?  Through learning.

While in some instances learning comes naturally, in others it doesn't.  I find that I have to continue to challenge myself by putting myself in uncomfortable situations.  This sometimes means going into a situation where I am considered the "green" individual in the room.  While uncomfortable and at times fearful, I believe this to be necessary to continue to develop my trait of learning to be a positive, supportive, and productive leader.

Final Thoughts

As I read through this book I continued to be reminded about how I feel about leadership.  What kind of leader do I want to follow?  I come to the conclusion that leaders are not self-absorbed or hierarchical.  Leaders are supportive, empathetic, and life-long learners.  It's okay to be wrong and it's okay to admit that you don't know the answer.  I challenged myself to come up with two words that would describe the kinds of leader I aim to be.  They are...

Positive and Productive


Sunday, January 22, 2017

Innovative Instructional Leadership:Truth 5 -7

Innovative Instructional Leadership: Truth 5 - 7

The following post coincides with the reading of the Chapter 5 - 7 in the book The Truth About Leadership by James Kouzes and Barry Posner.

I continue to be impressed with how this book looks at specific ideas of good leadership and dives deep into what it takes to execute those ideas.  The book is concerned with both the objective parts of leadership and the challenges which one must overcome in order to be a successful leader and make change.  Chapters 5-7 discuss the 3 main "truths" of leadership: you can't do it alone, trust, and the role of challenges.  The narratives in the book give excellent examples of the challenges of becoming a successful leader and the tools needed to overcome those challenges.  The book does a good job of building on one "truth" as it introduces another.  

Trust (Chapter 6)

This chapter starts out with an undeniable fact that trust is imperative to being a successful leader.  On pg 75 the book states that people "trust a stranger more than their boss."  As a leader of change, this shows just how important it is to build a foundation of trust between the people you are working with right off the bat.  

Change cannot happen without trust.  This coincides with the previous chapter Truth 5: You Can't Do it Alone.  Change requires multiple people.  In order to build relationships with those people trust must happen.  Change is all about relationships.  People must be willing to follow you in order to implement an idea.  As leaders we must empower other people to work towards a common goal.  If someone says that they will do something, we must trust it will get done, or else the potential change will stall in its tracks.

Trust is protection.  Trust is communication.  Trust is the ability to get something done.  While we know we need trust, getting trust is not always easy.  One must first trust before they can be trusted.  This isn't  always easy.  Especially when you are a leader.  While in a position where people are listening to you, it's not always easy to open yourself up.  I as a leader must first trust others before they can trust me.  What does this look like?

In a perfect world if I trust other people then they will in a sense put their trust in me.  If this was the case, change would be much easier than it is.  Being at the center of change means be willing to trust other people even when they don't deserve your trust.  The knowledge that you pass onto others about your personal life, personal ambitions, and perhaps even personal challenges can be used against you.  As leaders we don't have the option though.  We must trust all involved in the change in order to get them to trust us.

Check out this New York Times Op-ed article, The Evolution of Trust, where David Brooks takes a look at the change of "social trust" in our society.  He uses an excellent example of the company Airbnb which wonderfully shows of how social trust is changing in our society and the effects of such a shift.

You Can't Do It Alone (Chapter 5)

Having a group of people that share your vision is priceless.  In order to get to that collaborative vision it is important to trust.  We must understand that change doesn't happen by ourselves.  It takes a support team.

When thinking of my own support team I first think of the people that I work with day to day.  These are the people who know me and understand how I work.  These are the people that trust me and I trust them.  These are the people that I can confide in and know that a mutual trust exists.  

Beyond that it is natural to look towards people who share a similar vision beyond the context of content area.  For me, this includes my Winona Cohort for the Innovative Instructional Leadership Class, the department of specialists. and other teachers in the building that take an innovative approach towards learning.  When executing change, it is imperative to gain multiple perspectives from different people from different backgrounds.  This will ensure a broad connection to many different types of people when implementation begins.

The challenge in reaching out beyond day to day associates is the unknown.  People who don't know you often are skeptical.  So the question is how do I build trust with people who do not know me on a personal level.  The answer is simple.  Make it personal.  In order to build positive relationships, we must open ourselves up by trusting the people that surround us.  Even though a risk, it is well worth the reward to build trust.

Final Thoughts

I enjoy how all the different "truths" presented thus far build into a way of change and a way of leadership.  I continue to learn new perspectives throughout the book.

Additionally, chapter 7 discusses grit.  Here is a wonderful application of grit in education.


Sunday, January 15, 2017

Innovative Instructional Leadership: Truth 2 - 4

Innovative Instructional Leadership: Truth 2 - 4

The following post coincides with the reading of the Chapter 2 - 4 in the book The Truth About Leadership by James Kouzes and Barry Posner.

Why Education?

As I continue the journey of learning about myself and developing leadership skills and empowerment, I find that I am here due to a deeper foundation of values and moral obligations.  While I have not yet discovered the roots, I continue to define myself with specific values and beliefs.  Those have brought me to where I am today.

Musical Interest: Through my musical interests came the opportunity for me to be embraced by the world of education.  I went into a post-secondary setting with ambitions to be a philosopher, anthropologist, and sociologist.  Little did I know that music education and the leadership behind working with students in music would draw me into a lifetime of continuous development and growth in the world of education.  I was able to dream and follow that dream both as an educator and a musician.  I didn't know it at the time, but that dream was just a few chapters in a larger book of leadership, education, and seeking out a better tomorrow.

Time for work

The Fog

As I continue to be an educator and advocate for students, staff, music education, and many other areas of academia, I have to remember that the fog will lift.  This helps me to get up for work everyday and before my feet hit the floor say "it's going to be a great day."

Now in defining a great day, that doesn't always mean that everything is going to go how I envision it.  What I mean by a great day is that it's an opportunity to make a change, to put myself out there.  With not knowing what tomorrow brings, I maintain the belief that we have to take advantage of these opportunities.

The fog is all the stuff that keeps us from taking advantage of our opportunity to work in education.  Often times the fog is ourselves making excuses and getting in the way of what could be.  It's imperative to be successful, we must look past the fog.

Top 5 Values and Beliefs that keep me coming back!

1.) Potential: I value that the people around me and the students I come into contact with are leaning towards unlocking their potential.  This excites me and no doubt makes me want to work harder and be better.

2.) Growth: I find the status quo to be good for yesterday, but far from worthy of tomorrow.  This appeals to myself, my program, my colleagues, district, and beyond.  We must reach in order to be successful!

3.) Challenge/Grit:  I enjoy a challenge.  Not for challenge sake, but for a reason.  While not always comfortable and not always enjoyable, I want to challenge myself and others.  My hope is to also empower those around me to challenge themselves to be better than they think they are.

4.) Purpose:  With so much to accomplish in the world, why would we do anything without purpose.  I am empowered when a clear purpose is added to the equation.

5.) Professionalism/Integrity:  I find that it is integrity that wraps up so many attributes that I find essential to success.  I feel that I am part of the fabric of a larger system that is seeking out a better tomorrow.  Not that today is bad, but tomorrow  could be better.


I often think with having a title you need to have credibility.  That is similar to saying that with having a title comes leadership.  The reading offers excellent narratives that get us away from that stereotypical idea.  It puts weight on the importance of maintaining credibility as a leader.

"If people don't believe in you, they won't stand by you." - Pg 27

The statement above is powerful and complex.  There is not an easy equation for a person to become a leader of credibility.  It comes from inside.  There are several factors that lead to a leader being termed credible.  Page 25 in the book talks about how people feel about their leader relates directly to how they work.

Check out the article below through the eyes of a business owner on the subject of credibility...

7 Ways to Build Credibility, Trust and Character That Will Grow Your Business
image credit:

7 Ways to Build Credibility, Trust and Character That Will Grow Your Business


The chapters read for this blog post were situations and topics that most of us encounter everyday.  Here are some thoughts on each chapter.

Chapter 2
Credibility is the foundation of what we do as leaders.  It is important that leaders set clear expectations in order to setup a well grounded sense of credibility.  There are 4 top characteristics of great leaders: honesty, forward-thinking, inspiring, and competent.  This aligns with what research says across the globe in reference to leaders.  The way that a person feels about their leader relates directly to how they go about their work.  "If people don't believe in you, they won't stand by you." (pg 27).

Chapter 3
We as leaders must identify our own values in order to setup growth and success for the people we lead.  It's important to note that it's integral to align personal and organizational goal in order to have a successful organization.  Page 41 states that conformity produces compliance.

Chapter 4
Where are we going?  This needs to be a primary focus of leaders.  Page 46 states that focusing on the future sets leaders apart.  Often times it is important to search the past to find a theme for ourselves and the organization.  Page 51 states moving forward is the "life blood" of an organization.  I enjoyed this chapter very much.

I agree that we as leaders must thrive, not just survive!

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Innovative Instructional Leadership: Intro - Truth 1

Innovative Instructional Leadership: Intro - Truth 1

The following post coincides with the reading of the introduction and chapter 1 in the book The Truth About Leadership by James Kouzes and Barry Posner.  It's to be a general look back on the personal formation of how I view leadership and what it took to arrive at that conclusion.

State of the Union

When thinking back to how I got to where I am today in the context of leadership, I can only think of the phrase "we all have gifts."

photo courtesy of

Historically I never found myself seeking out leadership qualities.  I often was the person who spoke little and observed a lot.  I was looking at peoples' words and actions, and watched for how others responded.  This led to a draw towards figuring out what motivated people as well as what made them genuinely happy.  What I discovered is that people are different!  There wasn't one thing that made people happy.  This was the beginning of my journey inward.

While I have met many folks that I would call "good people," I've never met a flawless person I would truly want to emulate.  In an open-minded fashion, I began to characterize people and draw on what I saw as "gifts."  I began to look at these "gifts" as qualities that make up a good person, a leader.

Thus begins a never-ending social experiment into the world of finding the good (which for all of us can sometimes be a challenge).

Milestones and Risks

I am a big believer that where we are today is due to where we have been and the choices that we have made.  That's heavy to think about, but very true.  Opportunities are right in front of us everyday, even if we don't always acknowledge them.  Our choices define us.

In thinking back to risks and choices in reference to where I am at today, there are specific actions that come to mind...

1.) Put myself out there - I have found that I often open my mouth and speak in a quiet room.  Not because the room is quiet, but because I feel there is something to say and it's not being said.  I recall doing this in the middle of my undergrad tenure.  As a musician we are given the chance to perform for playing assessments called juries to a panel of music professors.  This at times was extremely nerve racking and seemed more like a right of passage than an assessment.  I intentionally chose repertoire which I couldn't fully do.  For some reason I wanted guidance more than a pat on the back for my work.  The down side of putting yourself out there is that the response is often unknown...

2.) Agree to disagree - As a music educator who believes in what music does for students and the necessity of engaging student learning through music, I often find myself at odds with folks not of the genre.  I'm always open new ideas, but not at the expense of the learning.  With this concept at the forefront of my thinking, I respectfully and often agree to disagree.

3.) I know what I know, not what I don't - While I strive to apply what I know to unknown situations, knowing will always trump not knowing.  This is something that I continue to work on daily; opening myself up to admitting I do not know.  Once done though, this opens the doors to personal learning and growth.

4.) Taking advantage of and seeking out opportunity - I enjoy a challenge and find that status quo is hard for me to park at.  This means that I am always seeking out and taking advantage of opportunity.  As a younger person in my twenties this didn't seem to be a problem.   I slept less and worked/played more, but I could do it.  As my family has grown I am prioritizing my opportunities.  I still want to believe that I can do it all...

If you can dream it, you can do it. - Walt Disney

Qualities That Define

When I think of leaders that I have looked to (the "gifts" that they portrayed), there are specific qualities that stand out.  These qualities have had a large impact on who I am and how I go about living my life.

1.) Setup for success - As an educator I use this phrase everyday with my my students and colleagues.  In order to be successful we have to do what is necessary to make it happen.  Success doesn't fall in our lap and say voila!

2.) Empathy- While some people may be the smartest, the brightest, and the most passionate, if that can't be shared with others it will never be what it could have been.  We as leaders must have the ability to look through the lens of other people who are different than us.

3.) Grounded - There is a reason why we do what we do.  Sometimes that reason is defined and sometimes not.  A leader I am drawn to is someone who has the ability to have the why always at the forefront.

4.) Talk the Talk... ...Walk the Walk - I have found the leaders I have confided in do as they say.  This builds a sense of validity.  Honesty is present.  If they say it, then it's true and it will get done.


I find that there are many qualities that make up good leaders and they are all in a different context.  Overall leaders are genuine, they are themselves and use their "gifts" to do whatever needs to be done.  Leaders make it happen in when there doesn't seem to be a solution.


Image result for make it happen quotes