Climate · Culture · leadership · Mandy Froehlich · reflections · relationships · Trust

The Breakdown of Trust

Trust should be the concrete foundation of a relationship, and yet it can also be the reason that the relationship ends or is in constant question. When I talk to employees about why they are unhappy, trust for leaders is often recounted as one of the main reasons that they feel unsupported. There are so many ways that trust can be broken besides the typical flat out untruth, and sometimes I think it can happen without us really even realizing it until it’s too late. I do know that trust is imperative for a supportive culture and positive, collaborative climate.

I don’t trust you to keep me informed

I’ve often found that a lack of transparency can lead to feelings of distrust. When people feel that there is more information needed to make a decision, or to know the “why” behind a decision, they tend to feel like it’s possible that the information was intentionally hidden. This can be made worse if a decision was made that fails and subsequent data or information is released that doesn’t support the original decision. When details are missing, people wonder why, and trust in the people making decisions can be shaky. Withholding important information will often be seen as the same level as a blatant lie because both are done with intentionality.

I don’t trust you to try your hardest

In having a conversation with my friend Rodney Turner one day, he told me “You can’t place your own expectations on people and then get disappointed when they don’t live up to them. Your expectations are yours alone.” I found that when I had high expectations for someone and they didn’t rise to meet them, that I would begin to feel like I couldn’t trust that they were doing everything they could to create a successful situation. I would begin to not trust that they would ever do it, and therefore not trust the person. Knowing this has made me more cognizant of the expectations I have for people and if they are reasonable. Also, reflecting on if they would be general expectations or if I have made them higher because of who they are or their relationship to me, and also if I would place the same expectations on myself if I were in that situation. I try to be aware, however, that just because I deem them as reasonable and appropriate, still doesn’t necessarily make my expectations right.

I don’t trust you to be consistent 

Along with expectations, I have written this post about creating trust by being as close to your real self as possible all the time. When we meet people, work with them, begin to trust and know them, we begin to pick out certain aspects of their personality that are constant. When those traits unexpectedly change or a decision is made that doesn’t jive with previous decisions, we start to mistrust not only the person but question their reliability. I, personally, really struggle with people who have unreliable personalities as far as I never know what I’m going to get when I talk to them from day to day. The more constant and reliable someone is, the more likely we are to trust them because we know what to expect all the time. The problem is when they waiver from that reassuring consistency. The more consistent their personality, the more an off decision or act will give the feeling of whiplash. On the flip side, someone who’s only consistency is being inconsistent may never have the trust that is needed because people don’t ever know what to expect from them.

I don’t trust you to do what you say you will

Follow through might be one of the most important aspects of trust, especially if trust has been broken at some point. When people know that you’ll stand behind your word, they are more likely to trust that whatever needs to get done will get done. Also, the quality of follow through matters. If a task is accomplished only half-way or with little effort, trust will begin to waiver as people will wonder why it couldn’t have been done right in the first place.

I don’t trust you to tell me to do something you really believe in

People often place a high amount of value on what they choose to spend their time on. Therefore, when they’re asked to spend their time on an idea or implementation, they generally want to know the reasons behind that, and rightfully so. The problem comes in when they are asked to do something that is not being modeled for them, which brings on the question, “why is it important for me to spend my time on it, but not that person?” making people leery of the person assigning the task. When this is done repeatedly, it can lead to mistrust. (This is, of course, assuming that the task is not just part of that person’s role.)

When distrust has been part of a culture, it takes a great deal of time to get back. I know for me, when I have broken someone’s trust, it has taken effort, time & consistency to get it back. Because trust is one of the foundational tenets of any relationship, not having it can be detrimental to both the relationship and the positive climate & supportive culture we dream of building. We often discuss teachers not trusting administrators, but I’ve seen it the other way around as well. Generally, I’ve found that when administration doesn’t trust teachers, they insert compliance measures (sometimes label it as accountability), which starts the vicious cycle of the teachers then feeling not trusted, and subsequently not trusting administration to be supportive. But trust needs to go both ways, and not only do we need to work to cultivate it, but we need to also be trustworthy and reliable to sustain it.

simon

Mandy Froehlich · reflections · relationships

We Need More Student Voice

One of my favorite people in the world, Jen Williams, shared an article today called From a Rising Senior to Her Teachers: Things to Never Say or Ask About College written by a high school student named Audrey Mullen. I’m not going to lie, as the mom of a child who was once a high school senior, and several children who will one day be high school seniors, I was a little taken back at first. Mostly because in glancing through the article, I had asked those questions not only my own children, but several friends’ kids as well, and I thought, “I was just trying my best to talk to teenagers!” (which Ms. Mullen addressed in the post when she said, “What seems like innocent small-talk to you unleashes a tidal wave of insecurities and stress for us.”). Ok, ya got me.

In reading closer, there were two parts of the post that Ms. Mullen struck me with that as an educator made me both cringe and smile. Two areas where I said, whoa, this kid gets it. The first:

Dreaded Question #2: “What do you want to study?”

Most of us shrug and say, “I’m not sure yet” with a forced laugh. Even the students who seem to have their lives together really don’t. We spent the past four years forced to take classes for credits, not on learning but rather getting an A. How are we supposed to know what we truly like? Does an A in Chem mean we should go pre-med?

They spent the last four years making sure they had their credit requirements, and figuring out what they needed to do for each teacher in order to get the grades needed to get into college. We spend so much time on making sure that kids are college and career ready, that we forget to help them figure out their passions. If our students cannot answer the question, “What are you passionate about?” when they graduate, we have absolutely failed them. Good grades in a specific content area don’t equal interest. It may simply state that area comes easier than others for the student, but certainly does not necessarily equate to passion.

I’m not going to lie, this kind of thing breaks my heart for my kids, mostly because I want kids to spend their adult lives doing what they love because I know what it’s like to work in a profession that I am passionate about. Success is not measured by how much money we make or how quickly we get a job. It is measured by how happy we are doing what we love. So many people spend way too much of our adult life trying to figure out what we want to be when we grow up. If we spent more time in school trying to help kids find their passions, we might not have so many adults disliking their jobs.

Ms. Mullen goes on to say:

Dreaded Question #3: “What did you get on the SAT/ACT?”

I have a friend with a 4.6 cumulative GPA who got a 1200 on the SAT. How does someone so exceptionally successful in class get such an average SAT score? The answer is simple: standardized testing is not an accurate representation of college readiness and shouldn’t be such a major factor in the college application process. Most teachers already know this. So when it comes to SAT scores, don’t go there. Just assume we’re all perfect.

For the last few years, I have been touring college campuses with my son. I would love to say that the college application process is standardized and considers the whole child. That’s not true. We learned that some schools have a fairly comprehensive, whole child approach, but we still found that there were some schools that still fell back on a very literal calculation of numbers in order to determine admittance. If the number came in within a range, they were admitted. And this wasn’t some back-woods school, but a Division 1, well respected university.

But, what really struck me about this paragraph was that we do things in education that we know don’t work and we continue to do them anyway. We know that standardized testing is unreliable, we say that out loud, but we use it anyway to make educational decisions for students. My own kids were put into certain english and math classes in middle school, which determined their trajectory in those areas for the rest of middle and high school, based a large part on how they did on standardized tests. If we want different results from what we are doing now, we need to match what we say with what we do.

einstein.jpg

What we need the most, is more students like Ms. Mullen who are willing to put themselves out there and help us adults understand what they need. I loved how she not only provided the issue with what was happening, but gave suggestions on how adults could ask different questions that would help high schoolers feel more comfortable in these conversations. Moreover, we (adults) need to give these kids the respect they deserve by listening to their voice.

leadership · Mandy Froehlich · PLN · professional development · reflections · relationships · Uncategorized

New Beginnings: Five Reminders For Leaders

I don’t typically make New Year’s Resolutions because I feel reflection and change should be fluid, not fixed to a certain date or time, but going into a new school is a time for new beginnings. Within this time of busyness and change, it’s imperative to take time to mindfully focus on certain things that keep us leading the way we would want to be lead.

Remember your teacher’s heart.

You were once a teacher, focusing on all the changes and new initiatives and new classrooms and new kids…returning to school at the beginning of a school year is overwhelming and exciting all at the same time. Don’t forget what it was like to reconnect with colleagues that you haven’t seen over the summer, and anticipate viewing your class lists for the first time. It’s easy to get bogged down by budgets  and making tough decisions that not everyone understands, but when it comes down to it, the people you support and the kids are why you’re there. It’s why you became a teacher in the first place. Don’t forget that.

There is always a place for fun.

dance

Like Ren McCormack says in Footloose, “A time to laugh… and a time to weep. A time to mourn… and there is a time to dance… See, this is our time to dance. It is our way of celebrating life. It’s the way it was in the beginning. It’s the way it’s always been. It’s the way it should be now.” There is a time for professional development, training, and planning, but there also needs to be a time for fun. Never underestimate the power of laughter to connect people. So many deep connections can be made by getting to know people on a personal level, and the best way to do that is to give them time to interact in a non-threatening way where they can relax and enjoy themselves. Build bonds. Like each other.

Your PLN is your best asset. Cultivate it.

My PLN, which includes the teachers in my district, are the people that support, challenge and give me the best ideas. As I’ve said a hundred times, I am only as good as the people I surround myself with. Every single day I am amazed with the people that I have had the good fortune to connect with, and I am a better person and leader because of it. I need to be aware, however, that it’s important for me to give back to my PLN as well. I try to do this by being available if they need support, working on projects together, even if we are states away, tweeting ideas I find, and frankly, keeping this blog. If I’m not giving back what I’m getting, I’m not being a very good PLN member.

Model what you want to see.

All. The. Time.

We ask teachers to do this with their students. Model the behavior you want to see. If you want the students reading, you should read as well. If you want them journaling, you should keep a journal, too. Yet, sometimes we don’t put enough focus on leaders modeling what they want to see from teachers. If you want teachers tweeting, you better be on Twitter. If you want teachers integrating tech into their lessons, you better be integrating tech into their PD. Think they should be learning a new tool once a week? Then ask yourself what tool you’ve learned more about this week. There is nothing that will ruin a relationship faster than the “do as I say not as I do” mentality. If you’re afraid of a teacher asking you to show them an example of yours that you’ve asked them to do because you haven’t actually done it, that’s a problem. So, listen like you want to be listened to. Support others the way you want to be supported. Treat others they way you’d like to be treated.

Decide on the climate & culture you want to create.

I really do believe that we have the power, every one of us, from teachers and students to administrators, to create or change the climate and culture. There really are some simple truths when it comes to this. There must be trust amongst all people. They need to feel valued and that what they do actually means something. People desire positivity but are more likely to gravitate toward the negative, so what can we do about that? The amazing part of being a reflective professional is that we have the power every day to decide what kind of climate and culture we want to create in our offices, buildings and district. If we make the changes in ourselves, people will follow suit.

It’s so easy to get lost in both the craziness of the beginning of the year and then the subsequent tedium of day to day, that it’s especially important to be mindful of our objectives and goals, and purposeful in the way that we plan, implement, and interact with others so we are supporting people in the best way we can. Many of us have had the opportunity to work with leaders that we do not want to emulate. Lets decide on the leaders we want to be, and then actually be those people every day.

leadership · Mandy Froehlich · reflections · relationships

A Different Kind of Lens

Lately, I’ve had some friends and colleagues who have been going through both personal and professional struggles. For many of them, you’d never know it on the outside, but my whole life, I’ve been one of those people that have some kind of special “aura”. People tell me things that they “haven’t told many people”. In the past, I’d laugh about it when inevitably, after coming out of Walmart, I would be able to recite critical life details about the person in line behind me at the checkout. I’ve realized, however, that our histories can determine the people we become, our interactions with other people shape who we are, and how people around us react to our stories and struggles shape us as well. I am so incredibly gifted to have this…quality…because the true empathy I have for the people around me from those stories helps me cultivate the deep, meaningful relationships that I try so hard to build. As a leader, it also helps me understand what makes people tick, or what they might be sensitive to that would send them into a spiral.

Especially in education, we often keep ourselves in check because we know that any toll that our problems are taking will show up ten fold in the classroom, and we want to be good models for our students. From the outside, everyone might seem ok. It reminds me of social media and how we put our best foot forward, and then compare our lives to the carefully chosen, filtered photos and information that other people put out about theirs. Then we sit back and secretly wonder what’s wrong with us, why we aren’t getting offered the opportunities or have as much money or such a perfect world as the rest.

I have internal struggles that I wage every day. Fallout from poor choices, feelings of inadequacy, perpetually working toward being a better person and questioning if I even have the ability to do so. I know that other people do this as well, yet I look at them and see greatness or potential or kindness that they can’t see themselves. Because of this, I adopted this rule years ago: tell people the awesome things you know about them, even when it seems unnecessary. Allow them to see themselves through your lens, and take a moment to appreciate what they bring.

This seems silly, right? Like, duh. But the true power in this rules lies in the person’s face when you give them a specific compliment that they understand is meant for them. We think we do this when we say to someone, “You’re doing a great job”, but that’s too vague. Sometimes, I think we are so afraid of seeming like we are blowing smoke we choose to say nothing, or we don’t want people to get so comfortable thinking that they’re doing something amazing that they cease growing. But, the reality is that we simply don’t do enough building each other up. There is nothing wrong with making someone feel appreciated.

A few years ago, I was feeling uncertain in my role as a Technology Integrator. For anyone who has been an instructional coach, you know the identity crisis that comes along with not being a teacher, but not being admin, and what you’re supposed to do in-between. I felt like I couldn’t be the only one experiencing that, so I sent a few of my team members a short email telling them something that I felt they brought to the team, and how they made me happy every time I saw them. For one, it was their professionalism and willingness to always help me, for another, it was how they made me laugh when they knew I was having a bad day, and yet for the third it was the fact that he always had my back when I wanted to try something risky and new. At the end of the year, one of my colleagues told me he kept that email and would reread it when he was having an off moment. For me, it confirmed the importance ensuring the people around me knew how much I appreciated having them in my personal or professional life.

As I reread this post, I thought to myself, “Did I make this enough of education? It is an edu blog, after all.” But then, I realized that anytime the discussion involves relationships, you are essentially talking about the foundation of education. We work in a people driven profession. Our focus, at any level, is the people we support whether they are 5 or 50 years old. Our focus is not data, not test scores, not technology even. Relationships are the foundation to any climate/culture shift, classroom management discussion, or moving people forward. It’s so important in cultivating these relationships that we verbalize our appreciation. And, as I tell my own friends when they’re feeling insecure, “You wouldn’t feel that way if you could see you through my eyes.”


leadership and relationships

leadership · Mandy Froehlich · reflections · relationships

Who are you when nobody’s looking?

This is something that I have said to my own children so many times. The lecture typically went something like this:

“It’s great when kids are polite and sweet when they’re in front of adults or other people, but what really counts is what you think and what you do when nobody else is watching. Will you still make those same good choices? Would you be the same person that you show everyone else?”

I was trying really hard to get my kids to recognize that their true self must be the one that they portray all the time. Knowing several kids of the Eddie Haskell character, this became even more important as they got older. We wanted them to make responsible decisions, be polite and kind even when there wasn’t an adult around to monitor their behavior because we wanted those qualities to actually be a part of them. Not just an act they put on for people.

I have always wanted to be a WYSIWYG type person. I don’t want to portray myself as someone I’m not. Therefore, if I want people around me to see me as a friendly, kind, compassionate, helpful person, I want to be that way in “real” life. I don’t want to be someone in front of certain people, like people I don’t know, for example, and then be completely different to my friends. I recently told a friend of mine that I want people to believe I have valid opinions and a strong knowledge base, but much more importantly, I really want people to say, “Oh, you need help? Talk to Mandy. I don’t know if she’ll know the answer, but she will definitely assist you in the best way she knows how”. My goal is to be the person who would help, not just give the impression that I will.

I had this similar conversation with my friend, Tara Martin. She often talks about the REAL…the side of people that is truly them. I think that there is a spectrum of how close people actually reside to their real. I’ve had friends and known people who are one person to their friends and another to the public. While I understand the need to do this to a point, I can’t even imagine how much work that would be. Conjuring an act for people just because your real person isn’t something you want to show would be exhausting. Even more so if you need to keep it up on a regular basis. It also begs the question: What is so terrible about your real self that not everyone can see it?

As leaders and educators, when creating personal or professional relationships with people, I feel like the closer you live to your real side in all aspects initiates a trust factor that you don’t get if your personality suddenly changes depending on who you’re around. When people know that what they see is what they will always get, they will rarely be surprised by decisions or reactions. Because I try so hard to be myself all the time, I find it unsettling and unnerving when I am working with someone when I don’t know what side of them I’m about to get. I feel like I can be a better leader, friend, and person when I stay as close to my real as possible.

tara martin

 

Mandy Froehlich · PLN · reflections · relationships · Social Media

The ISTE Effect

There is a certain feeling, a certain effect, that going to ISTE has on the majority of the attendees. Sometimes you can see it in their glazed expressions or hear it in the animated conversations as they walk by. The hordes of people come, and then the hordes of people go, and they leave with more commonalities than just their new box of tech tools and vendor swag. Sometimes, going to ISTE reminds me of the weeks just after having a baby…you’re happy but exhausted, you want to remember everything everyone has told you, and your focus is making connections with another human being. It’s difficult to explain the ISTE effect to someone who hasn’t been there, but there are a few overarching reactions you can see wherever you go.

Exhaustion

No matter what role you have at ISTE (attendee, presenter, vendor…) you leave in a haze of complete and utter exhaustion. I was sitting, chatting with my friend Cassie Reynolds who was a first timer, and the look of “I need a nap” was written all over her face. I could tell that it was approaching the time that she needed to leave, but getting up was going to be difficult. The struggle was real. While I think that the level of exhaustion is exponentially higher for first timers, I found myself with a fog around my brain by Wednesday afternoon that I couldn’t shake regardless of the extra expresso shots I was adding into my Starbucks. The amazing Barry Haines asked me to sit and chat about some ideas he had, and I was trying. So. Hard. Had he actually picked my brain, he would have found nothing there. I stared at him with a completely blank expression. I wanted to so badly to say something intelligent, inspiring, and truly helpful, but the more I tried to think, the louder the backfire and clunking noises in my brain became. I did the only thing I could muster at the time and tried for a coherent sentence. I’m pretty sure the sentence had words. Whether they were coherent, well, not sure I reached that goal either. I counted the fact that I don’t think I was drooling as a win.

Learning, even learning about something we are passionate about and challenges us, works our brains into a frenzy. Couple that with the 20K steps Fitbits around ISTE were counting, and you may find that you are the most tired you’ve ever been. But, it’s a satisfied, elated tired. The best kind of tired. When you feel like yea, I just rocked being here and I can’t wait until I can be tired like this again.

The Inspired Glow

This is typically accompanied with a look of awe or a huge teeth baring smile.

It would be difficult not to be inspired at least once during ISTE. Whether it’s in a session or just in speaking with another attendee, there are multiple opportunities to find inspiration. While I wasn’t able to see her keynote because of another previously planned engagement, I heard cries of wonder and excitement regarding Jennie Magiera‘s keynote with words like “life changing”, “empowering”, “inspiring”, and “amazing” (which doesn’t surprise me because Jennie herself is phenomenal). Evan Abramson told me that after attending ISTE this year, he has be reminded why he entered education in the first place. That’s powerful stuff. While ISTE is a technology conference, there are so many awesome opportunities to have conversations regarding good teaching and learning, how to empower and engage students, and how we can be the people our students expect us to be and we want to be for them. Basically, I think it’s because when you’re at ISTE, everyone around you is awesome. Everyone. Not just the presenters or the keynoters, but there is a chance for a professional life changing conversation around every corner.

Power of Connection

And I don’t mean the wifi, because if that were the case, we might have had an issue.

The connections I’ve made through the Twittersphere and going to conferences is something that I have a difficult time putting into words to people who have not had the same experiences. I didn’t make it to many sessions, but my ISTE was complete by the side conversations and connections I was able to have at the Blogger’s Cafe, at the playgrounds, in the hallways, with the vendors (see upcoming post “Vendors are People, Too”) or at dinner. I have worked tirelessly building my #PLN because I truly believe in my soul that I am only as good as the people I surround myself with. My PLN, however, is more than a professional learning network. I do learn from these people, that’s true, but more often than not, they have become my extended family that just so happens to also work in the same industry. My new friend Amanda Glover (who makes me giggle every time I see her Instagram handle of redheaded_tech_child) posted a tweet with #PLF – Professional Learning Family (it did NOT mean Porcupine Leather Futon like Sarah Thomas tried to tell us it did), but after letting that soak in for a minute, I think that it is the perfect way to describe the strong connections that are there for the taking at a conference like ISTE. For me, ISTE is not about the sessions. It is about the connections I make to the people that I adore while I’m there. And I don’t mean in a fangirl way, although poor Jennifer Gonzalez could probably argue that as I knocked over my chair and accidentally pushed someone out of the way to hug her when Rodney Turner introduced us. I mean it in a you-make-me-not-only-a-better-educator-but-also-a-better-person kind of way. I love my #eduweird friends, and ISTE is one of the places that I am able to rekindle those connections and make new ones.

I’ve had discussions regarding the cost of attending conferences and if they are worth it. I actually do understand analyzing the cost when money and resources are tight. For me, however, the personal AND professional benefits that I gain from ISTE are worth the price. I come home exhausted but rejuvenated and ready to take on education. Be a difference-maker. Diverge from the norm. And I really don’t think you can ask much more than that.

sometimes-our-light-goes-out-but-is-blown-into-flame-by-another-human-being-eac-403x403-nk1u16

#ISTE17

 

 

 

 

Guest Blogger · Mandy Froehlich · professional development · reflections · relationships

The Heart of Connections: Creating relationships outside the classroom

Being on vacation but still desiring to keep up with my blog, I asked my good friend and colleague, Renee Reszel, to provide a guest post. She is the fantastic Library Media Specialist in our district. I worked with Renee when I was a Technology Integrationist and she was a 5th grade teacher, and her greatest strength is making connections with students and providing her class with a family/home like atmosphere. Special thanks to Renee for writing this post!

The Heart of Connections: Creating relationships outside the classroom

Sitting at lunch the last day of school and my mind is still on teacher mode. My mind is always going in different directions on how we can get teachers to “love” or at least “like” professional development. So, at lunch I decided to throw a random idea out to my Mandy. I began by telling her that I went to watch some of our track high school students after school a few times. It was great to see so many of our students engaging in conversations, cheering other athletes on, and competing against other students from our conference. As I watch many events take place, I was greeted by many of them. They even thanked me for coming. Being a new teacher in the district, this made me feel happy that they even noticed I was there and took the opportunity to talk to me.

On the way home I began to think that maybe, just maybe, we should encourage other teachers to attend events of their students whether it is a choir concert, sports event, FBLA competition, or whatever it may be. I feel the big idea right now is to create relationships with your students – what a great way to do it. See them in another area they really excel in. This could also help teachers to understand their students more…why homework may not be getting done, who they are friends with, and more. A professional development that everyone could enjoy and learn from.

As I kept thinking about this idea, I remembered when I taught in El Paso, Texas. I taught at a school that was 99% Hispanic and right on the border of the United States and Mexico. Our students really wanted to learn and get a good education for their future goals. During this teaching experience, relationship building was very, very important. One way we decided to do this was by helping our own families. During our annual food drive during the holiday season, we would choose 20 of our most needy families and deliver bags of food and a turkey to them. The teachers of our school would donate the turkeys. This experience really opened up my eyes to the children I was teaching day after day. Being invited into their homes was something I wish everyone would experience as teachers.. I realized that the students needed family time after school…They needed time to help/babysit their younger brothers and sisters…They had to cook dinner…They had to help Grandma and Grandpa and mom and dad…They had to clean the house… and soooooo much more. This is when I decided to say “getting to know your students outside the classroom is VERY important. I also said:: No more homework. I decided that school was their job and they didn’t need to take it home with them. If they chose to continue learning at home, that was their choice. And let me tell you, there were many that chose to do it on their own. They would share it with me the next day at school. (By the way, we were a Blue Ribbon School and our state test scores we always in the high 90% range.)

I could keep going on about creating relationships with your students like have a Morning Meeting time to get to know them and what they do after school/on weekends; who they hang around with; where their favorite place to eat is; what extracurricular activities they are involved in; and so much more. Another way to do this due to time is greeting them at the door each morning and having a quick “Good Morning” and a special handshake. This quick activity can really tell you a lot of how your day is going to go 🙂

But with this all being said, I feel we need to get to know our students outside of the classroom to produce better learners each day. Get to know them and give them a chance to get to know you regardless if it is a required PD or not.

Renee Reszel

types-of-relationships-between-teachers-and-students-9-638