How would you describe the Mental Health of your work place?

If you were to describe or provide some sort of rating to the overall mental health of your work place what would you say? Is this something that is even able to be described or rated?

Each year my belief in the importance of mental health and wellness has grown stronger – not just for kids but the adults I work with as well.  I know I don’t have a clear answer for the above two questions; however, for me there are some questions I would want to consider when describing the mental health of the school that I work at. Those questions are:

  • Is there an awareness of the importance of mental health for kids and adults?
  • Are there strategies or structures or supports in place to support the mental wellness of kids and adults?
  • Is there an openness to mental health and wellness discussions in the school?
  • Is there an understanding of mental health and wellness and its impact on kid and adult success?
  • Is there a stigma attached to mental health and wellness at school?

I am sure there are many more questions to consider.

While there is always work to be done, I believe we are moving in the right direction to better support kids with their mental health and wellness. I guess a further question I have for myself is how do we move the conversation from kids to kids’ and adults’ mental health and wellness in schools?

What is my next small step to make this change happen?




What would your step count tell you?

At some point near the end of September I decided I wanted to track the number of steps I was doing each day – maybe it was some sort of challenge for me to get out of the office more after a busy September of paperwork. Since I have my phone with me most the of the day, I decided to use the health app and pedometer on my phone. The app was always on and recording steps during the entire day. Here are my stats:

My total number of steps taken from Sept 26 till Dec 22 (Monday to Friday only totals in this number) was 549 254. My average per day count was 8582.

Here is a graph of my step count



When looking at the chart without going back to look at my notes for each day – I do wonder to myself what was happening on days where I had many steps and days when I had a smaller number of steps. Is more steps better? Does that mean more contact with kids and staff in classrooms? Does fewer steps mean less contacts but deeper conversations?

Maybe this number data is not important but the purpose of collecting the data is: to make me more aware of the need to get out of my office to walk around our spaces and talk to kids and staff.

My Scheduling/Planning System

I am at a new school this year and for the first time do not have a teaching portion to my day. I have been trying to sort out a new organization system that allows me to tackle the daily tasks and longer term tasks in my role. I have tried a few different formats (electronic, paper, combo of both) and ways to capture my tasks. My most recent version is one that seems to be working the best for me – and I judge that strictly on the fact that I haven’t changed using it in 7 weeks.

The system I am currently using is based on a few thoughts from readings and reflections I have done over the past 6 months:

  • I need a system that allows me to write stuff down to plan – this way it allows me to sketch out my day
  • the system needs to allow me to plan and schedule batch work like walk throughs, emails, calls, …
  • the system needs to let me write down notes to capture conversations and things to add to my task list
  • blends my calendars, task lists and batching work onto one sheet (printed back to back)

I can’t remember where I borrowed the format for my front page but my template that I use each day looks like this: To Do List I have a stack of these and before I leave at the end of the day I put one in the printer and on the back side of this I print my outlook calendar for the next day using the Tri-Fold option (looks like: Tri-fold Style ) – I set this up to have my schedule of the day in the left column, notes column in the middle, and my schedule of the week in the right column.

My planning has me review my notebook, calendar, task list and call records to plan fill out the tasks, staff to see, students to see, calls and emails boxes. I then plan which teachers I am going to do walk throughs for – my goal each day is to be in 4 spaces during the day and I block out 1 hour of time for this.

Once these parts are set I then flip the page over and using my schedule of the day column I block out my batch work times. I work around my appointments already set in my calendar and block out times for classrooms, calls, office/administration work etc .

As the day goes along I can jot down notes in the notes column, when I do my walk throughs I jot down the block, class and any notes – generally things I liked or questions to ask the teacher later.

What I like about this set up for me is:

  • It is flexible that I can put my blocks of batch work in each day based on my existing appointments
  • It allows me to easily capture my thoughts or notes throughout the day
  • It provides an easy list of items to do during my scheduled times and I have found that my productivity is better when I am focusing on one type of work at a time – the habit of multi-tasking has been hard to break but I am getting there.

I still need to try and figure out a better task capturing system for myself so I don’t miss something, any thoughts?

Who is your GOAT?

I heard this phrase a few weeks ago and it was new one to me.  Who is your G.O.A.T.?  I thought I misheard the question and then when they explained it as, who is your Greatest Of All Time, it made sense.

Then I began to think – who is your GOAT for education?  How would you break that down?  Would it be in categories like GOAT Teacher, GOAT Principal, GOAT District Leader, . . .?  What qualities or characteristics would you consider when determining your GOAT?

I am not sure I could pick a GOAT – it may be more important to realize the characteristics or habits my GOAT contenders have and wrap all those into one and create a “super GOAT”.

How would you pick your GOAT?


Scrambled Thoughts


I came across this image in a blog post I saw and the image resonated with me – not so much the image on the left but the image on the right.  Leadership can be a scrambled mess and how do you change things in positive direction out of that mess.  Maybe mess isn’t the write word – but when I look at the pieces that are woven at a school – students, staff, parents, community, school district, curriculum, ministry of education . . . – it can feel scrambled at times.  Combine this with family, friends, personal wellness and balance and that stirs the scramble even more.

I’ve been trying to sort out a system that will help me for a few months – I try different ways to organize my time and thoughts and planning.  Somethings I have had success with an others have fallen by the wayside.  I keep trying – something will come to me that works.  Do I need to batch my work in a different way?  How do I structure my day to be most effective when I am at school?

I quite enjoyed Chris Wejr‘s latest post “How Taking Email Off My Phone Helped Me Win the Inbox Battle and Live More in the Moment” and have been wondering about this move as well.  I have turned off my email notifications at the beginning of this school year – but full removal of email from my phone . . . maybe I should consider this move.

More pondering to do, more importantly – what is my next action step I need to do?  Not a goal or resolution, but a system to help with the scramble.



Hands On Your Data

Data, bring this up at meeting and the mood in the room changes, sometimes the room deflates – I know I have had those feeling sometimes.  However, data does play a role in helping us determine what is working and what isn’t.   Sometimes I wonder if I am even asking the right questions regarding our data?  Am I seeing trends?  One of the chapters in Smarter, Faster, Better by Charles Duhigg is called Absorbing Data and the story of the Cincinnati’s Elementary School Initiative caught my attention.

The story focused on teachers putting their assessment data on index cards every two weeks.  There was an index card for each student and once the data was on the cards they sorted them in to red, yellow and green piles and looked for any patterns.   After a few sessions of doing this one teacher started asking questions of the data and writing more than test scores on the cards – what questions did each student get wrong.  He asked another teacher of the same grade level to write same assessment data on their index cards and they grouped all the two classes of kids.  In doing this they found a pattern and developed a shared strategy to help their students.  The momentum continued with a different teacher asking a different question the following week and dividing their cards up to answer their question.  Another pattern emerged and another strategy was brainstormed and introduced and the conversations and problem solving seemed to grow.

We can all look a charts and tables until our eyes go blurry.  After our eyes reset does anyone look at the charts and numbers again or do they just sit in a data binder?  What I pondered about from this story was that even though there was some more work on the teachers part with recording the data – the hands-on process of sorting the kids using index cards led to more discussion, questions and explorations of the data.  If they just looked at the numbers and reflected on it – would the same questions be asked?  Would the same conversations happen?

So, I like this idea of asking a question about our assessment data and then a tactile way to organize it.  How would I use this in my math class next semester?  What would be my system?  And probably most importantly, how will it change how I work with my students to help them them learn the skills and content of the course?  Who can I talk to about my student data questions and trends that I see?

Can You Become an Innovation Broker?

Smarter, Faster, Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg is a book that I had heard about a little while ago and checked it out of the library.  It sat on my table and for whatever reason I didn’t read it. I returned it to the library and after reading a few more blog posts and listening to some podcasts, it came up a few more times so I signed it out again and this time I took the time to read it and I am glad that I did.  I enjoyed the story telling the most in the book but had a couple of take aways – one on innovation and one on data which I still need to think about a bit more and will write about next.

One of the sections that stuck with me the most was the chapter on innovation, a term that is used quite a bit in education.  In the book, creativity is about mixing old ideas with a few new ones in a different way than thought of in the past.  I liked this type of definition of creativity – it isn’t about creating something completely new, which I believe is a lot of folks mindsets and can be a roadblock, but it’s remixing and tweaking.  “Creative” people seem to be good at taking ideas from different areas and mixing them together better than the “less creative” person is the sense I get from this section. However… a few quotes that I were significant to me:

The creative process is, in fact, a process, something that can be broken down and explained.  That’s important, because it means that anyone can become more creative; we can all become innovation brokers. (pg 237)

How do I become an better innovation broker?  How do I help the staff and students at my school become innovation brokers?  Will this framework help us move ahead as a school community?

The appendix has a summary of the big ideas here are the ones for innovation.  All points I will return to as we work to be better at my school.

  • Creativity often emerges by combining old ideas in new ways – and “innovation brokers” are key.  To become a broker yourself and encourage brokerage within your organization:

  • Be sensitive to your own experiences.  Paying attention to how things make you think and feel is how we distinguish cliches from real insights.  Study your own emotional reactions.

  • Recognize that the stress that emerges amid the creative process isn’t a sign everything is falling apart.  Rather, creative desperation is often critical: anxiety can be what often pushes us to see old ideas in new ways.

  • Finally, remember that the relief accompanying a creative breakthrough, while sweet, can also blind us to alternatives.  By forcing ourselves to critique what we’ve already done, by making ourselves look at it from different perspectives, by giving new authority to someone who didn’t have it before, we retain clear eyes. (the previous 4 bullet points are from pg 283)

I think as we try and improve in schools it is important to look at what we do in school as well as what is done outside education – is there something that can be combined that would be better for our students and learning?  Could the different ideas (or strategies) be from within a school but from different departments?  How can we promote a sharing of ideas and get people talking?  Maybe I need to think about that pineapple chart talked about in the Hacking Education book I read a while ago.

Who are my innovation brokers at school? How do I support them? What skills, routines, and strategies do I need to develop or improve to become an innovation broker?  Good questions that will tumble in my head for sometime.