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

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Real World Learning: Final Reflection

Real World Learning: Final Reflection

The implementation of the Veterans Day Lesson plan is now over.  The evidence has been collected and the students have performed for the assembly.  Now is the time to reflect on what went well, what was a challenge, and how I and others can improve the lesson for next time.

Photo Credit: Boston Globe


I feel that the lesson was a success.  What defines it as a success is that it was a learning experience that made a personal connection for the students and the real world.  We went beyond that initial goal in a couple of different ways.

First we put an interdisciplinary spin on the lesson by bringing together teachers from other content areas in the school.  This brought not only my own students into the realm of real world learning, but also the entire school!  The collaborative environment was exciting and opened up opportunities for other teachers' students to play an active role in the performance and the process.

Another way that the Veterans Day assembly went beyond expectation was the fact that I was able to use the Livestream app to broadcast our assembly and performance to the world.  This was increased by at least ten fold with the social connection of Twitter to announce the broadcast.  Through broadcasting the performance to the public, the students became part of the fabric of the real world learning.

Some expected successes were the connection that my students made to the event and their own life.  The reflection and the research portion of the lesson were aligned and implemented at the same time.  I think this allowed students to have a deeper and truer sense of the meaning of Veterans Day and link that understanding to a person or activity in their own life.  From parents, to grandparents, to siblings...  The impact of Veterans Day on these middle school students' lives is inspiring.


Challenges were expected and always are when venturing into the unknown.  With that in mind at the beginning I was able to setup the students for success by explaining that upfront.  This helped to establish an environment of solution minded students.  While some challenges were small and easy to overcome, others were a bit bigger due to the environment.

I first must preface this with my professional background.  I am in my 3rd year at my current district.  Prior I taught in an expansive high school program.  This sometimes blurs my perspective of what to expect of the students.  So now the problem.  Leadership!  An imperative lesson that all successful instrumental music students must learn.  Our own success is not just based on how well I do as a musician, but how well the group does.  To teach this concept is a challenge in itself and when you need leadership for success, it becomes 1st and foremost

I desired to use the Veterans Day Assembly as an opportunity for the 8th graders to lead their younger 7th grade counterparts.  The problem was macro-process, they are still learning leadership skills.  So this brought the 8th graders to a question...

Why do we have to perform with the 7th graders?  They make us sound bad! 

There it is!  I have a wound that needs to be mended.  Leadership.

Lesson learned.  I now plan on integrating leadership activities into this real world learning experience.  Not only will this benefit the particular lesson, but it will have a positive impact on the students' lives (real world).  It's not always what we do, it's often how we do it!

Next Time...

The goal is to always go bigger and better than before.  I think the best way to go about this is to empower the students to take on a more active role in the process.  Now that I've created the template, the real world learning can be expanded to include building more community while creating a personal and deeper experience for the students.

Final Thoughts

Real world learning is necessary for our students.  Content and application of that content is important to learn in order to successfully move into the realm of real world learning, but it's got to get out their for people to connect with, people to evaluate, people to understand.  Empowering our students towards real world learning will give them the tools for a lifetime of success and continious improvement.  Let's *"ship it!"

*This relates to my readings of Seth Godin in his book Linchpin.  Here is an excerpt of a post...

Fear of shipping
Shipping is fraught with risk and danger.

Every time you raise your hand, send an email, launch a product or make a suggestion, you're exposing yourself to criticism. Not just criticism, but the negative consequences that come with wasting money, annoying someone in power or making a fool of yourself.

It's no wonder we're afraid to ship.

It's not clear you have much choice, though. A life spent curled in a ball, hiding in the corner might seem less risky, but in fact it's certain to lead to ennui and eventually failure.

Since you're going to ship anyway, then, the question is: why bother indulging your fear?

In a long distance race, everyone gets tired. The winner is the runner who figures out where to put the tired, figures out how to store it away until after the race is over. Sure, he's tired. Everyone is. That's not the point. The point is to run.

Same thing is true for shipping, I think. Everyone is afraid. Where do you put the fear?

-Seth Godin