Episode 63 – Greg Moffitt

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GREG MOFFITT is a dad, husband, and the principal at Winters Elementary School in Winters, California. He’s also a doctoral student at UC Davis and a big education geek. Greg has set the audacious goal of reading through all of the books from Dave Burgess Consulting in 2019! Follow his reflections and reviews (along with those from teammate Kali Slusser) at http://readlikeapirate.wordpress.com.

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Episode Summary

Greg recalls the end of the last school year when a staff member gave him the truth, point blank: “You’re not smiling anymore.” A number of people on his staff team had been going through some difficult challenges, and as he felt the weight of his team Greg also found himself questioning his own work. Was he doing enough? But after receiving this challenge – and a strong encouragement to read Lead Like a Pirate – Greg started to rediscover his passion and joy. In addition to the book (and other books like Culturize and Lead with Culture), Greg began building a positive PLN on Twitter and gained enormous strength and encouragement from other education leaders there. He’s never looked back, and he describes this turning point as “life-changing.”

One thing that excites Greg about the state of education today is that social-emotional learning is finally getting the recognition and appreciation that it has always deserved. Emerging research and improving resources are helping educators better understand the needs of kids and connect with their hearts and minds. In Greg’s view, SEL skills aren’t soft skills – they’re essential in leadership and in life.

Greg and his staff instructional coach, Kali Slusser, are aiming to finish reading all the DBC books through 2019 at a pace of one per week. They were inspired by Alicia Ray (@ILuvEducating), and they’ve been tracking their learning at readlikeapirate.wordpress.com. Part of Greg’s professional goal here is to implement at least one idea from each book into his professional practice throughout the year.

Any time he can find the time to get outside and go for a hike, Greg likes to do exactly that. Getting outside energizes him, and whether it’s by the mountains or the sea, reconnecting with nature is such a valuable spiritual practice. He dreams of one day becoming a park ranger and helping others gain a greater appreciation for the positive power of the wild.

Greg loves checklists. He gains momentum from checking things off, and he’ll even add items he’s already completed to his checklist just so that he can check them off. Dr. Todd Cutler suggested he focus in particular on the most important priorities to hit every single day, and Greg now operates according to a 5-4-3-2-1 get-to list: 5 classroom visits, 4 documents or publications to update, 3 recess appearances to connect with kids, 2 check-ins with staff members, and 1 handwritten thank-you note. It’s not an exhaustive list by any means, but it helps him stay focused on what matters most.

Greg’s Quick Picks: Voices and Resources That Shape His Practice

On Twitter, Greg recommends following @MrsHankinsClass and @heARTISTatWORK. These two educators are non-stop sources of positive creativity and inspiration!

In terms of edtech, one tool that Greg has used with great success this year is Facebook Live. It’s been a great tool to engage the parent community and share learning activities between home and school.

Greg shares two book picks. The first is A Mindset for Learning: Teaching the Traits of Joyful, Independent Growth by Kristine Mraz and Christine Hertz, and the second is The Jester Has Lost His Jingle by David Saltzman. Follow the authors of A Mindset for Learning at @MrazKristine and @Christine_Hertz.

Who can’t use another great education podcast to listen to? Greg recommends listening to Aspire: The Leadership Development Podcast, hosted by @Joshua__Stamper.

A YouTube channel that will keep us smiling and interested is Rice Farming TV. Follow this great family on Twitter @RiceFarmingTV.

On Netflix, the Moffitt family pick right now goes to Fuller House. When the kids are in bed or Greg has a few minutes to make his own pick, it’s The West Wing.

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Song Track Credits

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Episode 62 – Beth Houf

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BETH HOUF is a mom, middle school principal, passionate leader & learner, and forever teacher. She’s also the co-author of Lead Like a PIRATE: Make School Amazing for Your Students and Staff. Interact with her on Twitter @BethHouf and engage with ideas from her book at #LeadLAP.

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Episode Summary

Beth is the principal of Fulton Middle School in Fulton, Missouri. She serves about 600 students in Grades 6, 7, and 8. After fifteen years of teaching and leading in elementary contexts, this is her fourth year at Fulton MS. Beth also serves as a facilitator with the state department’s regional leadership academy, and she mentors new principals in Missouri leadership program.

Beth began her administration career in the pressure-packed atmosphere of No Child Left Behind. School test scores were low, requiring the school to issue letters to families in the community saying that the school was a failing school. What a culture-killer! In response, Beth worked hard to move the needle and improve test scores, instead of putting her focus on building school culture. She worked so hard, in fact, that she began to approach a state of burnout, and found herself considering leaving education for a career in nursing. Then in 2014, she attended the NAESP Conference and met Jay Billy, who showed her how to engage better and smarter with other education leaders on Twitter. He also encouraged her to connect with Dave and Shelley Burgess, and Beth soon saw the value of TLAP principles in education leadership.

Lead Like a Pirate was first born out of Beth’s passion for the principles taught in Teach Like a Pirate, by Dave Burgess. After she began building a workshop that would apply the #TLAP principles to leadership contexts, Dave and Shelley Burgess encouraged her to put her ideas and content into print. As she wrote Lead Like a Pirate, one of Beth’s main concerns was to ensure that other administrators didn’t have to experience the levels of fatigue and burnout that she once experienced. Yes, there will be times when we get discouraged or down, but she doesn’t want education leaders to feel like they are all alone or don’t have a support system. Beth wanted to archive best practices and resources but also start to build an active community of education leaders.

When she’s not focusing on education leadership inside and outside of her own context, Beth loves to read. In particular, she loves to do online read-alouds, book talks, book tasting, and any opportunity to connect books with kids and light their passion for reading.

Beth sees improvement as a daily process. She starts each day by reading a blog post — her favorite is one from Rich Cryz (@RACzyz). She also tries to stay current in leadership practices within and outside education and takes in professional development whenever she can. She welcomes free opportunities like #DitchSummit with Matt Miller, and although she’s not currently contemplating a PhD, that’s a possibility in her future. She also talks about her efforts to further promote and amplify the voices of other culture-builders, including Lead with Culture by Jay Billy, Lead with Literacy by Mandy Ellis, and Balance Like a Pirate by Sarah Johnson, Jessica Johnson, and Jessica Cabeen.

Beth enjoys traveling, experiencing other cultures, reading non-fiction, and sampling wines. She traveled to Alaska in October and was blown away by the phenomenal educators there who face overwhelming obstacles. Beth also enjoys sampling and learning about new wines. The best trips are the ones that combine education and pleasure. And when her boys hit on a new area of passion, she finds extra motivation to get involved herself.

Beth starts each day by getting up before anyone else to just relax with coffee and the news. Just the act of sitting quietly for 30-40 minutes gives her to calm she needs to start her workday in a good head space. She also leans on social media to improve parent engagement and involvement, so she makes sure she is taking pictures and video whenever she can as she gets into classrooms. She finds that the best documentation of learning happens right then, in the moment. Beth also calls herself a mobile principal. She carries her backpack with her wherever she goes so that she can get work done wherever she is and not remain tied to the desk in her office.

Beth’s Quick Picks: Voices and Resources That Shape Her Practice

On Twitter, Beth points first to a couple of hashtags – #FMSTeach and #LeadLAP. She also recommends following co-author @Burgess_Shelley and publisher @BurgessDave and @DBC_Inc.

Beth’s edtech recommendations focus on effective visual communication. She points out Quik, Canva, Poster My Wall, and Smore. Follow these great platforms on Twitter @Quik_App, @Canva, @PosterMyWall, and @SmorePages.

In books, Beth just finished The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog: And Other Stories from a Child Psychiatrist’s Notebook–What Traumatized Children Can Teach Us About Loss, Love, and Healing by Bruce D. Perry and Maia  Szalavitz. She also recommends Reclaiming Our Calling: Hold on to the Heart, Mind, and Hope of Education by Brad Gustafson. Follow these three authors on Twitter @BDPerry, @Maiasz, and @GustafsonBrad.

Looking to add some more great education podcasts to your podcast deck? Check out Cult of Pedagogy by Jennifer Gonzales and Aspire: The Leadership Development Podcast. Follow these educators on Twitter @cultofpedagogy and @Joshua__Stamper.

Beth is admittedly not a YouTube subscriber, but she does mention the Fulton Public Schools channel. Check it out here: Fulton Public Schools.

When she is able to find a little Netflix time, Beth has been enjoying flashbacks from The Nineties.

We sign off on this conversation, and Beth gives us the best ways to follow her online. Find her On Twitter @BethHouf, on Instagram @BHouf, and check out Lead Like a Pirate on Amazon.

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Song Track Credits

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Episode 61 – Chris Chappotin

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CHRIS CHAPPOTIN is the principal at Steam Middle School in Burleson, TX. He’s a husband, father, Engage 2 Learn Coach, certified Google educator, and big sports fan. He’s also a bit of a rapper as well.

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*Watch his district’s music video parodies (in which Chris has played an instrumental part) and subscribe to the Burleson Independent School District YouTube channel.

Episode Summary

Chris is the principal at STEAM Middle School, a grade 6-8 campus in Burleson, Texas. He helped start the school in 2015, when he served as assistant principal. After leaving briefly to another school, he was blessed to be able to return and take on the principalship in January 2018. The school’s mantra is all about creating engaging learning through an instructional design process called Engage 2 Learn.

His greatest struggles have related to questions of identity. At times, you wonder as an educator leader if you are having a positive impact, if you are properly equipped, and if you are making the right decisions. Often when you move into a new position you realize that you need to develop new skills sets. Learning to develop new skills in collaborative and authentic ways has been challenging for Chris at times, but the process has helped him gain confidence as a leader as well.

Lately, Chris has been diving into the work of the Visible Learning Institute, including John Hattie and Jenni Donohoo. When it comes to teacher efficacy, Chris asks himself if he is equipping and releasing his teachers to do great work, or if he is limiting them to the role of simply managing. He’s been asking these questions:

  • How are we developing teacher efficacy as a leadership team and throughout our staff?
  • Does the evidence show that our instructional designs and strategies are having the positive effects on student learning and achievement that we want to see?

Referring back to his work on instructional policy and teacher coaching, Chris seeks to grow as a leader. Better leadership means more effectiveness in his own work and also better support and empowerment for his teaching team.

Outside of education, Chris enjoys engagement with his family and community. It’s about strengthening relationships and serving people that he and his wife have known for many years. Chris is also a big sports fan, following the Cowboys and Mavericks closely.

Chris’s favorite edtech tools are the ones that facilitate strong professional conversations. Voxer is still his go-to platform for that purpose, but lately he’s also been looking at another Slack-like tool called Glip. Get to know both of these applications on Twitter @Glip and @Voxer.

On Twitter, Chris suggests following @ShannonKBuerk, CEO of Engage2Learn. In books, Chris points to Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam Grant. Follow the author on Twitter @AdamMGrant.

As a big fan of the Dallas Cowboys and Mavericks, Chris is listening to Undisputed with Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharpe and First Take. Follow these great sports shows on Twitter @Undisputed and @FirstTake.

Although Chris doesn’t subscribe to YouTube channels, he’s watched a lot of content from the Corwin Press channel. You can follow this publisher on Twitter @CorwinPress. And although Chris doesn’t promote his district’s parody music videos, he’s been a big part of their production. They’re pretty amazing! Check them out at the BurlesonISDTV channel.

It’s not on Netflix, but a show that Chris enjoys when he does get the opportunities to watch some video content is Manifest.

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Song Track Credits

  • Intro: Relax (by Simon More)
  • Outtro: Starley – Call on Me Remix (by DJ Zhorik)

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Episode 56 – Jon Harper

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JON HARPER is an Assistant Principal at Sandy Hill Elementary School in Cambridge, Maryland. He’s the smooth-sounding voice of the My Bad Podcast & Co-Host of the Teachers Aid podcast.

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In our conversation, Jon describes a time in his career when the stresses of work and life overtook him and he was unable to get out of bed for two days. Since then, he’s seen the power of being vulnerable and reaching out for support, and that mission now defines his creative work. Jon also explains why he’s excited about education today, talks about a professional goal, and gives us some great picks on Twitter, books, podcasts, and more.

Find the highlights from our conversation at the timestamps below:

  • 1:18 – Jon describes his current context in education as assistant principal at Sandy Hill Elementary School in Cambridge, Maryland. The school is Pre-K to 5th grade, with about 400 students. It’s located in a community that does have significant needs but he also works with an amazing and committed team of educators.
  • 2:50 – Jon describes a time four years ago when the stresses of work and life overtook him and he was unable to get out of bed for two days. Since that time, he’s discovered the incredible power of vulnerability. During his recovery, he wrote a blog post called The Masks We Wear, and the response was amazing. As professionals, we often feel that we are alone and that no one else is struggling the way we are. Looking back, he sees his biggest mistake as not reaching out sooner for support.
  • 6:45 – The Teachers Aid podcast takes on the intense social and emotional issues that teachers deal with. So much of what we hear about in education today is about putting students first, but Jon and Mandy like to talk about the importance of educators putting on the oxygen mask first so that they can help others.
  • 9:22 – Jon’s professional goal this year is to stay more organized and procrastinate less – something a lot of us can relate to.
  • 10:28 – What gets Jon excited about education today is the increasing vulnerability and authenticity of educators and their willingness to be real about their struggles on blog pieces, podcasts, etc. When people share their missteps and mistakes it lets others know they don’t have to be perfect all the time.
  • 12:26 – An area of personal learning that lights Jon’s fire outside of the school context is playing soccer with his son. It’s a great way to build the father-son relationship, and it also helps him keep in shape.
  • 14:42 – A productivity habit that Jon has learned to do regularly is focus on the big things and recognize when good enough is good enough. The Pareto Principle states that 20% of the activities in our lives produce 80% of the results, so it’s important to focus on the 20% as much as possible.
  • 17:26 – An education account worth following on Twitter is that of Oskar Cymerman. Follow Oskar at @Focus2Achieve.
  • 18:40 – An indispensable tool that allows Jon to contribute to his PLN at his convenience is Voxer. Follow Voxer on Twitter @Voxer.
  • 20:12 – Jon’s book recommendation is Girl, Wash Your Face: Stop Believing the Lies About Who You Are so You Can Become Who You Were Meant to Be by Rachel Hollis. Follow the author on Twitter at @MSRachelHollis.
  • 21:08 – His pick for podcasts is the #AmWriting podcast, hosted by @JessLahey and @KJDellAntonia.
  • 22:04 – On YouTube, Jon’s been inspired by Shots of Awe with Jason Silva.
  • 23:05 – When he’s got no energy left for anything productive in his day, Jon and his wife are enjoying the Atypical series on Netflix. It’s a fun but illuminating look at the life and experience of one high school student’s journey with autism.
  • 25:33 – We sign off on the conversation, and Jon shares the best ways to follow him and get more of his content online. See above for details.

Subscribe to the Teachers on Fire podcast on your mobile device: iTunes | Google Podcasts | YouTube | Spotify

Follow the podcast on Twitter @TeachersOnFire and on Instagram @TeachersOnFire.

Song Track Credits

  • Intro: Relax (by Simon More)
  • Outtro: Starley – Call on Me Remix (by DJ Zhorik)

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Episode 55 – Dr. Todd Schmidt

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DR. TODD SCHMIDT is the principal of Harbor View Elementary School in Corona del Mar, CA. Follow Todd on Twitter @tsschmidty and catch his thoughts on education at http://tsschmidty.blogspot.com/.

In our conversation, Todd recalls the challenges he faced around entering administration and describes his ongoing journey with Shiny Object Syndrome. He discusses his commitment to fatherhood, the inspiration he takes from #LeadUpChat, and the reasons he’s so passionate about caring for the whole child in today’s education system. He also shares a great productivity tool, a personal habit that contributes to his success, a book worth reading, and much more.

Follow Todd online here:

Find the highlights from our conversation at the timestamps below:

  • 1:00 – Now in his 23rd year in education, Todd has taught at the elementary, middle, and high school levels for 13 years. Harbor View Elementary School, where he serves as principal today, is set on a hill overlooking the ocean. It’s an amazing school with a parent community that is committed to doing whatever is best for its learners. This will be Todd’s seventh year at Harbor View.
  • 2:45 – Todd recalls the challenges of trying to move from classroom teacher to the role of administrator. After hitting a number of closed doors, a district superintendent encouraged him to apply in a different district. Soon after following this advice, he found a role that was the perfect fit. Another challenging area for Todd has been what he calls Shiny Object Syndrome – the possibility of being captivated by too many exciting opportunities and spreading himself out too thin in that process. Today, he’s setting up accountability structures to live out the ethic of “more is less” and do fewer things (but better) for the education community he serves.
  • 6:23 – As a committed father, Todd shares about his passion for fatherhood and his contributions to #DadsasPrincipals and  #MakerDads on Twitter. He points out that the job of education leader is demanding – not just professionally, but physically, mentally, and emotionally. By networking with other education leaders who share the same challenges, Todd has derived helpful support and encouragement towards his mission of building relationships and making quality time for his daughters.
  • 9:21 – #LeadUpChat, which is open to all educators at all levels and in all fields, seeks to find the right blend between learning and culture. It comes from the John Maxwell idea of leading up, pushing and supporting people in positive ways. Todd says there’s nothing quite like the ability to connect with people in real time and have quality conversations with like-minded educators who are seeking to be more innovative, creative, and inspired.
  • 14:19 – In terms of what really makes him passionate about education today, Todd points to the recent shift in education to focus more on the needs of the whole child. He’s excited by the power of technology to engage learners – not to replace the teacher but to enhance the learning. He also talks about the ways that PBL and makerspaces give some students the reason and the purpose they need to go to school. When students know they are loved and supported, they have a purpose and something that motivates them, that formula puts them on a path to success.
  • 16:18 – Todd talks about the importance of spending time to care of himself. He sings the praises of the positive peer pressure built within Orange Theory, crediting this fitness company with helping him shed 30 pounds and get into better shape than he’s been in for some time. He’s also a big sports fan, and lately he’s enjoyed reading books that he can recommend to kids.
  • 18:39 – One personal productivity tool that has really worked for Todd is the Michael Hyatt Full Focus Planner.
  • 20:41 – A Twitter account worth following is that of the skateboarding principal, Hamish Brewer. Follow him on Twitter @BrewerHM and find out more about his incredible story.
  • 23:01 – In terms of an edtech tool that is advancing learning in his classrooms today, Todd points to FlipGrid. Follow this amazing app on Twitter @FlipGrid.
  • 24:29 – Todd’s book recommendation is The Happiness Advantage: How a Positive Brain Fuels Success in Work and Life by Shawn Achor. Follow Shawn on Twitter @ShawnAchor.
  • 26:10 – Todd shares three great podcast recommendations: Check This Out, The Google Teacher Tribe Podcast, and EdTech Confessions. Follow these great podcasters on Twitter @CheckThisOutBR, @GTeacherTribe, and @EdTechConfess.
  • 28:06 – On YouTube, Todd recommends subscribing to Brad Gustafson’s channel. Nobody brings the energy and authentic stories like Brad!
  • 29:23 – Leaving all things educational and serious, Todd’s current pick in streaming entertainment is Jack Ryan, featuring John Krasinski of The Office fame.
  • 31:18 – We sign off on the conversation, and Todd shares the best ways to get in touch with him and follow his content online. See above for the details!

Subscribe to the Teachers on Fire podcast on your mobile device: iTunes | Google Podcasts | YouTube | Spotify

Follow the podcast on Twitter @TeachersOnFire and on Instagram @TeachersOnFire.

Song Track Credits

  • Intro: Relax (by Simon More)
  • Outtro: Starley – Call on Me Remix (by DJ Zhorik)

Listen to this episode on YouTube and subscribe for more episodes!