Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Crushing It As a Leader

Crushing It as a Leader
Sandy Cameli, EdD • Educational Specialist • Hawaii Dept. of Education

Recently, colleagues and I shared resources, networking opportunities and impactful takeaways gained from attending a national conference. I proudly announced that I was inspired by - and now have a professional crush on - Simon Sinek (@simonsinek). The proclamation was met by raised eyebrows, snickers and humorous comments. Somewhat red-in-the-face, I tried to further clarify my statement by saying, “No, this isn’t that same puppy-dog infatuation we all experienced in middle school, rather I’m drawn to his intellect, motivation and ability to create visual messages - don’t you just want to crawl inside his head and hang out there for awhile?” After what seemed like an uncomfortably-long, cricket-worthy pause, a rushed reconfiguration of discussion to the next topic emerged, and I let it go … or at least for the time being.  

On the drive home I pondered - Why would the term “professional crush” elicit such a response? Isn’t it possible to admire a role model’s intelligence without tying emotions to a heart-beating, palm-sweaty obsession? It certainly did not imply a demotion of an individual’s credibility, or lack of respect for the professional, but rather a heightened awareness of finding someone who gets equally excited about new learnings, amazing opportunities and passion projects! So how then do we capitalize on the synergy, savviness and social-connectivity of inspirational role models, while also encouraging others to enjoy the “high” often accompanied by interacting with these like-minded rockstars?

By unpacking the topic I was able to identify qualities, traits and characteristics of professional crushes who have mesmerized, inspired or left me wanting more from their thinking, actions and energy. And, in an attempt to reintroduce the concept of a Professional CRUSH to my peers - through a more palatable format - the following descriptors were identified:

C = challenges self, stakeholders or the status quo to exceed potential
R = recognizes the importance of seeking alternative paths to problem solving
U = understands the “power of we” by advocating for multiple perspectives
S = shares untested ideas and unknown possibilities to promote risk-taking
H = humbly, yet earnestly, puts the “goal before the role” as a leader

Effective leaders can leverage strengths from any Professional CRUSH by asking these questions: When was the last time I challenged my thinking about a system, structure, ritual or routine, in order to enhance the work we’re doing? What lens should I use to recognize alternatives to problem solving? How do I engage and invite peers to better understand multiple perspectives? Who can I share design thinking models with in order to encourage risk-taking by others? Do I exhibit enough humility and transparency in my daily practice to inspire colleagues to lead too?

After identifying these elements, I next reflected upon how a leader’s message could resonate so strongly for me (or any lifelong learner for that matter), that a professional crush could be formed. Was it the message, the delivery, the environment or the content? Sure, all of those factors played a role in my reaction, but the bottom-line was I felt a connection to another individual - whom I had never met - yet, I knew I could instantly befriend and spend hours aligning our work (should the planets align!) Here was someone who shared my values, beliefs, goals and aspirations; a fellow-earthling who laughed at similar humor, possessed an insatiable appetite for learning, and who made the rest of us mortals feel as if we too could fly!

So, while giggles may persist and eye-rolls become the norm when the term “professional crush” is raised, I believe it’s important to pursue opportunities and seek out those individuals who elevate our interest and generate enthusiasm for the amazing work we do in the field of Education. And, if this manifests itself into my heart skipping a beat, mild dizziness occurring, or endless prattle about an inspirational speaker with stars in my eyes - I’m willing to suffer the side effects!

Shout-out to a #ProfessionalCrush

My list continually grows! Share yours too!
@BreneBrownDr. Nikki Woodson
            @ = Twitter Handles

(Transparency Disclaimer: This is not to say I still wouldn’t stalk seek out Mr. Sinek at a conference, and pull a total “fan-girl” if he agreed to take a photo, or sign my copy of Start with Why - my justification: It’s all in the name of proactive leadership!)

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Conscious Leading

Conscious Leading
Sandy Cameli, EdD • Hawaii Department of Education

After a recent 3-day intensive summer institute of professional learning with teacher leaders, a participant summed up the sessions by stating, “This is exactly the type of experience I didn’t know I needed!”  And, with that closing comment the group - all seasoned educators with multiple degrees and accomplishments - endorsed the sentiment with a round of applause and enthusiastic head-nodding. This participant’s “aha” sounded profound, and yet it was quite common for any learner exposed to new knowledge or experiences. How do we know what we need, or don’t need, until we’ve been introduced to new learning or opportunities? And, more importantly as leaders, how do we support peers and colleagues who are at various stages of competence when it comes to educating, informing or enlightening the students, staff and stakeholders in our schools?

In the 1970s, business trainer Noel Burch created a model of learner development entitled “Four Stages of Learning Any New Skill”, which became the linear 4-step model for better understanding Conscious Competence. In subsequent years, and inspired by Maslow’s Hierarchy (1943), researchers, social-scientists, educators and professional trainers have helped redefine frameworks for conscious competence to reflect a more cyclical or spiraled model of learning - one which theorizes acquisition of new information or skills is ongoing and contributes to future understanding as an individual is exposed to multiple experiences.

In its most basic structure, the Conscious Competence framework consists of four stages: Unconscious Incompetence, Conscious Incompetence, Conscious Competence and Unconscious Competence.  Stage 1: Unconscious Incompetence is when we don’t know what we don’t know. As learners we have not been exposed to certain knowledge, experiences or opportunities in order to understand a concept or action. We simply have no frame of reference. Stage 2: Conscious Incompetence provides awareness to a situation or activity, but ability and/or skill are still lacking. We understand and desire to be competent, but do not possess the wherewithal to attain this level. Resources and supports are necessary to move forward. Stage 3: Conscious Competence provides a learner with a level of satisfaction, as s/he can complete a task independently. Here we have achieved a level of proficiency with the new learning, experience or opportunity and are generally successful in fulfilling outcomes. And, although some tasks may still require following directions, the individual is capable of completing these tasks successfully. Stage 4: Unconscious Competence demonstrates a second-nature ability to completing an action without breaking down each step or thinking about how to achieve success. At this stage, a learner is able to teach others while also expanding his/her own breadth of understanding or knowledge.

Recently, I used my own Conscious Competence model as an example. Growing up in an Italian family I was exposed to delicious foods constantly, but as a toddler I did not understand where my favorite pasta came from, all that mattered was that I enjoyed it! (Unconscious Incompetence).  As our family gathered at my grandmother’s house for special occasions I became acutely aware that this mouth-watering cuisine did not come from a can, box or restaurant, but rather was handmade by our matriarch on a regular basis. I did not know how she did it, but I was curious and wanted to learn (Conscious Incompetence).  One summer when I was in high school, my grandmother bought me and each cousin our own pasta machine, and as a way of preserving her traditions she taught us all how to make handmade pasta. Under her guidance and oral recipe, we learned how to make angel hair and fettuccine noodles. And, while I was not completely independent of all support, I had learned necessary steps for turning flour into pasta over the course of a summer (Conscious Competence).  Preparing special meals and continuing family traditions was second-nature and part of my grandmother’s DNA when it came to cooking, and although she would have gone through all previous stages to live in Unconscious Competence mode, it was impossible to tell, as her actions were seamless. Unfortunately, I have not reached that level of mastery when it comes to cooking, but am appreciative to all those chefs who have!

As leaders we often find ourselves frustrated with others, and perhaps laying blame when peers’ actions or attitudes do not align with our own. Conflicts and dissention between colleagues can result in impatience or lack of understanding when we are not aware of the various learning stages individuals move through. Effective leaders understand that perspective will always dictate outcomes based on the knowledge, skills and experiences brought to the table by participants.  

Take the example of a baby eating pasta and subsequently throwing it on the floor. The child has no concept of how the noodles were made or by whom, thus it would be futile for a parent to admonish the toddler for not appreciating the hand-made meal when her level of understanding is still at the unconscious incompetence level. Likewise, when a team of educators attends a conference and then returns to their school enthusiastic to employ new ideas and innovative practices, it would be unfair for the conference attendees to criticize or pass judgement on peers who did not attend and are hesitant to embrace new concepts and resources they are unfamiliar with, or have no exposure to.

The Conscious Competence framework is not an assessment tool, but a perception tool leaders can use to evaluate their own level of delivery, guidance and support offered to others. When leaders understand - and remember - how individuals internalize and process information, then resources & supports can be provided to grow others’ understanding, as well as build teams of collaborative colleagues.

Friday, April 20, 2018

TLA Celebrates Na Kumu Alaka'i Cohort 2017-2018

2017-2018 TLA Cohort

On Thursday, April 19th - Na Kumu Alaka'i ~ Teacher Leader Academy (TLA) inducted 40 amazing educators into the HIDOE ranks of teacher leadership. The day was full of action research projects, oral presentations and a gallery walk of testimonies to share impact made at the school, complex and district levels. Guests included HIDOE Deputy Superintendent, Phyllis Unebasami, Assistant Superintendent Cynthia Covell, Complex Area Superintendents from across the State, Principals and Vice Principals supporting their teachers, HIDOE state-level specialists, University and College representatives, and notable community stakeholders who continually support teacher leadership across the State of Hawai'i.

As a way of growing leaders, reflective practices are continually built into our program - below is an excerpt from Marianne Belmoro's culminating reflection about her TLA experience:

It is with bittersweet emotions we bid farewell to this tremendous group of teacher leaders, and wish them well on their future opportunities and journey as educators in this remarkable field of education.
A hui hou kākou!
Sandy Cameli
TLA Program Specialist

Congratulations to the following Teacher Leaders for their dedication to Hawaii's public schools and students:

Kaleo Aki, Hilo Intermediate

Victoria Andrus, Honolulu District Office

GeriAnn Aoki-Davidson, Kahakai Elementary

Marianne Belmoro, Fern Elementary

Justin Brown, Kealakehe High

Kathy Burch, Waimalu Elementary

Kainoa Calip, Mt. View Elementary

Bill Chen, Kahakai Elementary

Alisha DeGuair, Kahakai Elementary

JoAnn Eckert, Kaimuki-McKinley-Radford Complex Area

Jeffrey Fernandez, Pearl City-Waipahu Complex Area

Keali'i Freitas, Kealakehe High

Dyani Fujita, Keonepoko Elementary

Moani Garcia, West Hawaii Complex Area

Lisa Grinder, Lanakila Elementary

Joseph Gross, Konawaena Elementary

Ian Haskins, Princess Nahienaena Elementary

Keala Ili, Mt. View Elementary

Kimberly Ka'ai, Kaunakakai Elementary

Dean Kai, James Campbell High 

Tiffany Kanahele, Kailua High 

Mandy Kaya, Kahului Elementary

Leialoha Kelekolio, Kanoelani Elementary

Cameron Kubota, Waianae High

Brandon Lee, Kauluwela Elementary

Cassandra Macatiag, Kealakehe High

Nikki Morishige, Waiahole Elementary

Stephanie Murayama, James Campbell High

Alison Nakamatsu, Solomon Elementary

Megan Oberg, Keonepoko Elementary

Tzaddi Pearce, Solomon Elementary

LeeAnn Ragasa, Hilo Union Elementary

Deborah Rowe, Waimea Canyon Middle 

John Santiago, James Campbell High

Dr. Michelle Suzuki, EdD, Campbell-Kapolei Complex Area

Kamaile Taba, Ke Kula Ni'ihau O Kekaha, PCS

Lori Takahashi, Waipahu Intermediate

Jenna Valbuena, Kae'wai Elementary

Joyce Yang, Kapolei High

David Yung, Maunawili Elementary

Photos, Tweets and Posts from April 19, 2018 ~ TLA Celebration




Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Accountability Partners

Working with an Accountability Partner is as Easy as 3-2-1
Sandy Cameli, EdD • Hawaii Dept. of Education • Honolulu, Hawaii

It’s that time of year again when goals are set, resolutions are made, and fresh starts begin with the hope of identifying more good habits than bad ones for the eternal optimists. Why then do old habits (usually non-productive ones) creep back into our routines when we least expect it? How can most people ride the high of a Happy New Year, yet feel the doldrums of defeat by early Spring? And, how can proactive and productive leaders continue to feed their souls through personal and professional accomplishments without succumbing to failure during the February Flop?

In various circles, individuals rely on built-in support systems to meet their goals. Athletes find training partners to condition; students utilize study groups to share and acquire knowledge; and, community organizations unite around service projects. It is the accountability or a common purpose with others that tends to yield successful outcomes. How then can this “accountability” mindset be applied to an individual seeking that same feeling of accomplishment when the world seems to speed by on a daily basis?

For the last 18 months, I have built weekly conversations into my routine with an Accountability Partner. I was thrilled to find a colleague who also was seeking a way to enhance her individual growth, but like me wasn’t quite sure where to begin. Between hectic work and family responsibilities, little or no opportunities for formal meetings seemed to exist. However, we needed to find a way to support one another, while also balancing our insanely busy lives. We started by deciding to commit to a set time limit, and frequency. After multiple proposals, we settled upon a 20-minute phone call on Friday mornings before either of us left for work. And, barring extreme circumstances (ie: travel, sick child, vacation), we made a commitment to listen, share and support each other for personal and professional growth.

The next step was to decide how to spend the 20 minutes. If the purpose of our calls was to keep each of us accountable, then we needed a structure or protocol to guide the conversation. Based on a writing reflection tool, we adopted the 3-2-1 Reflective Protocol to focus our calls. The tool requires each of us to prepare for the Friday morning sessions by reviewing the preceding week, and identifying “3” achievements, accomplishments or validations. The 3 items shared set a positive tone for the conversation and encourage the listener to probe by asking inquiring questions. After one of us shares, the other follows suit by highlighting three positives outcomes as well. Examples have included: finishing a book started last month, trying a new plant-based recipe with the family, invitation to present at upcoming conference, set up Twitter account….etc.

Alternating turns, we move onto the “2s” which represent wonderings or musings each of us are toying with throughout the week. Sometimes the queries are action-oriented and invite the listener to share her perspective or suggestion, while other ponderings are lofty with a just-putting-it-out-there sentiment attached.  Examples have included: What does the philosophy “Freedom vs Fences” mean? Why am I procrastinating over something easy or interesting to do? How will I maximize downtime - while caring for sick family member - and still meet other responsibilities? At what point does someone outgrow their current position/role, and how would one know when to move on? … etc.

Finally, we each share “1” actionable item we intend to complete in the upcoming week. This really is where the accountability focus comes into play. By verbalizing a goal to another set of ears, I feel compelled to complete such a task in order to share my achievement during our next conversation. And, although there is never judgement from either partner if a goal is not attained, it helps to prioritize tasks throughout the week or reshuffle responsibilities that may get in the way of reaching a target. Additionally, if I aim to achieve something, yet find it continues to be unfinished or incomplete, my Accountability Partner is a great sounding board to help identify barriers or obstacles I may not have been previously aware of. Examples have included: organizing taxes in mid-January, draft/submit proposal to upcoming conference, register for a charity run/walk, refresh emergency kit for car or hurricane season, restarting an exercise routine (again!)….etc. Theoretically, a “1” can become a “3” the following week depending upon the duration of the goal.

So what has the Accountability Partner process done for me? I find the 20 (sometimes 30 minute) calls have become a seamless part of my weekly routine, and provide an optimistic mindset as I head into Fridays, and the weekends. The quick touch-base conversations have helped to validate short and long-term accomplishments, pushed my thinking about various topics, and kept me on-track with reasonable goals for the future.

The 3-2-1 model may not meet the needs of all leaders or professionals, nor do Friday mornings align to everyone’s schedule, however, the example shared has been an effective structure for keeping at least two of us on track as we continue to balance personal and professional lives (since 2016!) And, as another calendar year closes with a new 365 days on the horizon, it’s important to find those strategies and structures which support goals, while also fueling our minds, bodies and souls.