Category Archives: Uncategorized

Clarifying Your Values

Every semester,  I start my leadership course with a discussion of values and their importance to leadership.  I think it is important for our student leaders to clarify why they are part of our student government and more importantly how they should act everyday.  I found a great article on the Under30 CEO site – that describes in detail the process of defining your core values. I asked my students to do this an individuals but we also did it as a group. I was really impressed with what my students leaders came up with for the values that guide our organization. Here is what they came up with:

1. Integrity: leading by example and being accountable for your actions. Practicing what you preach when no one is watching.

2. Building Community: working in the best interest of the group to make everyone feel welcome/accepted at our school.

3. Teamwork: is working well together through effective communication, cooperation, commitment, and respect.

I know that if all our student leaders buy in to these core values we will have a great year. I think this is a great exercise for leaders and organizations to do early on.

On a side note, shout out to my Mom who encouraged me to get this post done. Thank for following my blog Mom.


Flipping my Leadership Classroom in 2014?

After taking a few weeks off to celebrate Christmas with my family and attend a close friends wedding in Mexico I am feeling energized and really excited about 2014.  Over the past two weeks I spent a lot of time thinking about how I can continue to grow the Milla Times blog and also improve as a teacher.

I think one way I can accomplish both of these goals is to experiment with the idea of a “flipped classroom”.  This is a teaching strategy that inverts traditional teaching methods. Lectures and content are delivered online and homework or activities are brought into the classroom.  Some things I really like about this teaching method is that it allows students to watch lessons at their own pace and communicate with their teacher and peers via online extensions. I also really like the idea of using class time for activities, discussions, and homework. I think this model fits really well with the leadership program I am currently running. At various times in the semester different groups of students are planning and running school events, as a result they are always working at different places in the curriculum. The flipped classroom would allow them to work through the content at their own pace.  I also know that the best learning in a leadership class happens during activities and discussions. For these reasons, I think a flipped classroom is a perfect model for a leadership class.

How am I going to make this happen. My goal is to record all my lessons/lectures during the upcoming semester then add articles and other videos to these to create online tutorials. Then next September I will be ready to experiment with the flipped classroom and incorporate these videos into my blog.

Celebrating the Achievements of Others

This week in  my leadership course we have focused on the leadership practice of celebrating/rewarding the accomplishments of others. This practice is often viewed as “soft” or “emotional” but it is essential to organizations. Leaders who can effectively praise and recognize others will build relationships, sustain commitment, and improve results in their organization. In class we discussed these 5 steps that great leaders can use when celebrating others.

1. Expect the Best – strong leaders set high expectations and consistently demonstrate their belief in others and themselves.

2. Pay Attention – Great Leaders listen to and watch the people they work with and notice what they are doing well.

3. Tell the Story – Great Leaders share the stories of people who have achieved success, done something well,  or accomplished great things in your organization.

4. Personalize the Recognition – Great Leaders deliver thoughtful recognition that is unique and meaningful to the individual.

5. Celebrate Together – Great leaders bring people together to say thanks and also to reinforce organizational values and goals.

Challenge Based Learning in a High School Leadership Curriculum

Challenge Based Learning (CBL) is a relatively new framework for teaching that I think works really well in a high school leadership classroom.  This framework closely resembles real world workplaces as students work in  groups and use technology to solve complex problems or projects. Below is a visual of the CBL Framework that I used as a guide in setting up the practical leadership component of my courses.

Step 1: Big Ideas to Essential Questions: In this first step I ask my students to think of the major issues that affect our school. Some examples might be bullying or lack of school spirit.  Students have a deep understanding of their school and usually have no problem identifying the big ideas. Next you need to formulate the essential question for each idea. The essential question should be answerable through research. An example might be what causes bullying in a high school?

Step 2: Coming up with a challenge is the most important part of the CBL. This is a call to action that needs to be real and meaningful. An example might be to reduce bullying in our high school.

Step 3:  Working on the Challenge. This step involves three areas Guiding questions, research, and resources. Guiding questions should focus their research and ensure that they are gaining the knowledge required to develop an innovative and effective solution. Guiding activities are simulations, activities, surveys or interviews that will provide more information. Lastly, the resources might include technology or people available in the school.

Step 4: Solution Implementation. Students will implement their solution in the school. Often these take the form of assemblies, awareness weeks, fundraising campaigns, etc.

Step 5: Assessment and Reflection. I evaluate the students on the success of their event, how well they worked as a team, whether their solution contributed to their challenge and also lessons learned. They are required to reflect and debrief with the class on the process as well

The role of the teacher in CBL changes depending on what stage your students are at, However, I have found that I am mostly acting as a facilitator. In a recent post I discussed  qualities of effective facilitators, I feel these are really important in CBL leadership process.

Lessons in Leadership from Nelson Mandela

One of the greatest leaders of our era, Nelson Mandela, passed away yesterday.  All of my students are too young to remember the impact he had in South Africa and throughout the world. So today, I felt it was important to spend some time with my leadership students reflecting on his life and accomplishments as a leader. As I was reading about him and his leadership journey a couple of key things stood out for me. First, I think he showed us the power of finding the positives in every situation. I read that during his 27 years in prison he used it as an opportunity to study his jailers so that when he got out he would better understand his adversaries. He also used it as an opportunity to educate himself, he focused on reading whatever he could. Being able to focus on the positives allowed him to survive and even thrive during a tough time. I encouraged my students to choose this perspective and focus on the great people and opportunities that are present in their life. Second, I think he showed us how important it is to have a vision for the future and the amazing things you can accomplish when you commit to your vision everyday. Mandela’s vision of equality guided his daily actions as a leader and led his country to freedom and democracy. One of the reasons why I assigned the #SJAM30Daygrind is because I think this is an important life skill that every kid needs. The ability to develop a vision and more importantly the ability to follow through on a plan to achieve it everyday. Mandela showed the greatness one can achieve when you are able to do this. I hope that my students were able to draw some inspiration from this great leader.

Framework for Innovation

As with  most organizations today, I place a big emphasis on innovation in our student leadership program. To us Innovation is the process of taking new and creative ideas and turning them into something of value. As a student government we are constantly searching for new and better ways to do things. The challenge is finding a way to successfully implement these new events and ideas in our school. When we do this well we create something of value for our students.

Over the years I have developed a framework that I think allows our organization to stay current and innovative. We use this as a guide at the beginning of the planning process for any major event, project, or product launch.

1. First, we identify every product, service, and event we currently offer and answer Why and to Who do we offer them? Then we ask ourselves are we neglecting or forgetting anyone?

2. Next, we conduct an environmental scan of other organizations who offer similar products, events, etc. We gather as much information and learn as much as we can about what they are doing. Then we ask ourselves:  What do we like? What don’t we like? How can we do this differently? How can we do this better?  How can we alter this to better fit our organization?

3. Lastly, we take all the previous information and start brainstorming ideas. Then we begin working our way through our project planning steps so we can implement the idea it in our school.

By creating a culture of innovation and risk taking in our student leadership program we are better able to engage our audience and continually get better at what we do.

Teacher or Coach?

The other day I was sitting in a PD session discussing the differences between teachers and  facilitators or coaches.  What we determined is that facilitators/coaches are always working to help their pupils develop ownership of their own learning. I realized then that in my job as a high school leadership teacher I rarely teach, yet I am always coaching. As a leadership coach my goal is to get my students to take control of their own leadership development. Here are some strategies I use everyday while coaching my leadership students:

  • provide resources and knowledge
  • ask questions and challenge current thinking
  • identify roles
  • clarify expectations
  • identify strengths and weaknesses
  • provide real life opportunities to demonstrate skills/learning
  • encourage reflection and discussion
  • Build Individual Relationships

For me, the shift away from being teacher who delivers content, sets deadlines, and evaluates to a facilitator who builds relationships, encourages reflection, and provides opportunities has been the best move of my teaching career.