Sunday, October 20, 2019

Genuine Leadership #4: Gratitude

Bad bosses thrive in chaos because it is more difficult to hold them accountable for performance failures in a chaotic culture...Bad bosses create toxic and hostile environments without regard for how it negatively impacts others. They do it because they are insecure. They do it because they are afraid. They do it because they can. Source: How Bad Bossess Compel Good Employees to Leave
One way to become a genuine leader is to identify all the ways you are a bad leader. I've always wondered, wouldn't it be easier to focus on the few things you could do to be a "good" leader? Over time, I've realized that a bad leader can do many of the things a good leader does, but it all goes wrong. It's like watching someone do the right thing with a bad intent. The whole experience comes across as...oily. Even when the good or right thing happens, you are left wanting to reject it.

That's the insidiousness of a bad boss. You are left wanting to reject something which would have been good in almost any other situation.

To be a genuine leader, you must find another way forward. That approach may include gratitude for all that happens. Everyone teaches us something. When we adopt an attitude of gratitude, being grateful can see us through even the worst boss. We learn, not only the ways they are sick and toxic, but if we allow ourselves, to see them as human beings worthy of something more than anger. That is a gift for ourselves that we can find no matter the harsh space we are placed in.

"Develop an 'attitude of gratitude.' Say thank you to everyone you meet for everything they do for you." - Brian Tracy

Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

Monday, October 14, 2019

The Courage to Lead

Image Source

One of the tough aspects of reading research is challenging your own past assumptions. I'd like to think that all the ideas I held to be true remain so today. But research reveals our misconceptions and misunderstandings of the facts. Like others, I am frightened that ideas I've long held dear must be set aside. That certain ways of using technology are not as valuable as once thought. The truth, though, can also redeem us. It can remind us that what we held to was not what the truth, but our fallible facsimile of it.

Check out this excerpt from Cathy Lassiter's Everyday Courage for School Leaders:

Intellectual courage is relevant to school leaders because, inevitably, we will come to see value in some ideas not previously thought to be valid or important. We need the courage to recognize the limitations of our own thinking in such circumstances (Lombardo, 2011). 
New research evidence and advancements in the science of learning are reported regularly at conferences and in research journals. This contemporary research is sometimes contradictory to present-day practices and beliefs about what works in schools and classrooms. 
School leaders must be open to new findings, ideas, conclusions, and recommendations that have the potential to revolutionize their thinking. 
In the end, we must all be willing to say: "I used to think... Now I think. . . because of. . ."

Think of Galileo's courage to argue that the Earth revolves around the Sun based on scientific evidence, or Columbus' theory of sailing west to get to the east on a spherical world, or modern environmental scientists arguing that climate change and global warming are the result of man's toxic gas emissions and destruction of rain forests. 
This kind of courage likens to John Hattie's revolutionary research in Visible Learning (2009). Many old assumptions about what works best in education have been disproven, thus challenging educators, policy makers, and researchers to rethink positions on certain instructional practices, and thereby enlightening all to other instructional practices that new research shows works best for students. 
Hattie calls on educators to "know thy impact." For leaders, this means changing from a focus on teaching to a focus on learning. It means having the intellectual courage to look critically at the impact our actions and practices have on student learning and adjusting our actions accordingly to improve our impact on student learning....
What instructional practices have you adopted, what practices that you still hold that must be rethought as a result of contemporary research?

Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Genuine Leadership #3: Ride for the Brand

If you're not proud of where you work, go work somewhere else. You don't get the benefit of the brand when it's hot without accepting the blame of the brand when it's wrong.
Source: Seth Godin, "All I do is work here"

"I don't agree with this, but my boss said it, and he expects me to pass it on," said my Assistant Superintendent, a suave Hispanic gentleman who managed a technology department with no background in technology at all. We were at a district meeting and he was selling an unpopular decision at the top levels. He had all sorts of artificial filters that got in the way of his authenticity. But then, that wasn't so surprising after I learned more about him.

He'd been sent, as he often told us, to the department as a career-ender, with no expectation of success. It was a convenient way to put him out to pasture, an area superintendent the Super didn't like anymore. It pleased me that, in the end, he turned the tables on the Super, outlasting him and then becoming his own Super in another district and state.

Check out this Reddit on "What is your 'I only work here' Story?"

Being a leader is tough. Seth Godin's quote at the top of this blog entry reminds us that when who we are is out of alignment with where we work and what we do, there are consequences.

Ride for the Brand

Growing up reading Louis L'amour westerns, one of the expectations for cowpokes was to "ride for the brand." It meant you did what needed to be done, that you exhibited loyalty to the organization. You said what needed to be said, did what needed to be done to make it better. If, at the end, you didn't agree with the way the outfit was run, then you collected your pay and hit the trail.

Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Leadership That Works

Over the years, I've had the opportunity to work with many different supervisors. The best found a way to inspire those around them. I was fortunate to have three principals. Of them, the one who brought people together to improve the school, who delegated his authority and used his influence made the biggest difference. John Hattie mentions that transformational leadership may be over-rated.

Photo Credit - I took these same photos but had the wrong angle and too far away.
Glad others took pics. You can find my compilation online. 

Moments that Define

One of the defining moments of DG's tenure as principal at Perales Elementary School in Edgewood ISD included when he pulled me out of class. He invited me to his office to get my ideas on tech integration. His interest fueled my desire to learn about technology integration. I worked hard to implement much of what I read in magazines like The Computing Teacher, Learning and Leading with Technology, and built experiences with others that have informed my entire career.

DG never pretended to be a data-driven principal, although student achievement was important. He would empower teachers and a site-based committee, then turn them loose to make changes that worked. Not to mention, we had a great vice-principal, MM, who worked hard on this as well.

Unfortunately, our superintendent at the time decided to push her agenda, Successmaker drill-n-kill tutorial software. In the end, he retired and I left to continue my journey as an edtech advocate and educator.

Was DG a transformational leader? Yes, I believe so. But Hattie's slide above shows the overall effect size of transformational vs instructional leaders. Let's take a closer look at these two slides.

Difference Between The Two

Consider the qualities below for each below....

In case that slide is a bit blurry for you, here are the qualities of each:

Transformational Leadership

    • Inspirational motivation
    • Individualized support
    • Sets direction, vision, group goals, high-performance expectations
    • Instructional support
    • Buffering staff from external demands
    • Fair and equitable staffing
    • Easily accessible
    • High degree of autonomy for the school

Instructional Leadership

    • Classroom observations
    • Interpreting test scores with teachers
    • Focusing on instructional issues
    • Ensuring a coordinated instructional programme
    • Highly visible
    • Communicating high academic standards
    • Ensuring class atmospheres are conducive to learning
So, I guess the challenge is finding a way to be more of an instructional leader.
At a very large high school, the biggest power that the principal will have is the choice of narrative in the school - what are we going to talk about? This is where principals earn their keep, focusing on what really matters. 
If you go to a smaller school, the principal might have a more direct say in what happens, but whichever way, it always comes back to that choice of narrative. -John Hattie

Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Reflections on Blogging: CyberSecurity and Blending Tech into Instruction Tips

I'm so excited about some upcoming blog posts over at the TCEA TechNotes blog. Yes, there are tons of great tips and ideas being shared, including research-based ones.

As you can see, these articles reflect some of my interests.


Since October is Cybersecurity month, I wrote two blog entries focused on cybersecurity. The first blog entry (published yesterday), Are Schools Easy Targets for Cyber Threats? The Latest Report Says "Yes," shares the result of a report that just came out from Absolute software. I like how I summarized some of the key ideas in the report, and blended in the Google Maps' interactive Ransomware map.

The second article on Cybersecurity is Five Cybersecurity Tips for Newbies. Some of you may recognize this since I wrote a blog entry similar to it a few years ago, but this one has been revamped to reflect new information and tools/strategies.

Hattie Universe

I like to think of strategies that work, blog entries relevant to that as being the "Hattie Universe." 

Over the past month or two, I've been creating an amazing amount of Wakelets. Here are the wakelet blog entries I've published here at Around the Corner, but you'll definitely want to see how I've tried to think "out of the box" in the use of Wakelet. Some articles I've published at TCEA TechNotes include:
What I'm looking for in my next blog entry, Wakelet-Empowered Classroom Discussions, is that it is the second one to try to blend Wakelet into effective strategies that work a la Hattie. The first was The Modality Effect, although I'm not often sure I've gotten it right. What do you think?

A tough blog entry I had the chance to write--in collaboration with Buncee folks--was how Buncee can support effective instructional strategies. For me, this was a tough one to start and get going with because I had to think hard about how instruction and technology fit together.

For fun, I titled it, Buncee-based Learning. In that blog entry, I love how writing this blog entry forced me to come up with tips on how to blend technology into instruction. A sneak peek at some of the tips from that blog entry include:

Some tips for leveraging technology to impact teaching and learning:
  • Encourage teachers to model and do think-alouds for students before turning them loose on any technology.
  • Use student creations as the source for insight about student thinking made visible in technology-created work.
  • Create a learning strategy system in your classroom that grounds students before they embrace a technology. 
There's a lot more to consider in that blog entry and I'm proud of them because they capture my own growth at understanding in a different way how to blend tech into instruction. 

Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Complaint: A Stay at the Crowne Plaza near Houston Reliant (Update)

Swimmign Pool photo

Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to learn from Corwin constellation of notables. What an amazing experience. I hate to mention the names of these folks in this blog post, so I won't. This is a complaint about the IHG hotel, Crowne Plaza.

Crowne Plaza
Address: 8686 Kirby Dr, Houston, TX 77054
Phone: (713) 748-3221

The venue for the conference was the Crowne Plaza, which from the get-go had some problems. In fact, it was so bad that it reminded me of a stay at Baymont Inn in Port Arthur where we paid $60 per night. The cost of staying at Crowne Plaza was $160 for weekend and $120 for the week days. Two of us stayed at the hotel from Saturday night through Tuesday.

The pictures on the website look beautiful. They don't quite capture the interior, low-lit dark spaces and smelly, dirty, stained carpet.

So, you can see, quite a bit more money was spent but the quality of the stay was equivalent to a cheap Baymont Inn. In fact, it was WORSE. It was more like the Super 8 I stayed at where I had to chase a cockroach around my room. Let share why.

Update: Thanks to IHG Services Twitter account, IHG offer an apology for the poor service at Crowne Plaza. They sent me the following note: "Thanks for the details, Miguel. Joel here, a colleague of Rein. I read your blog and I'm very sorry that your stay was not exemplary. We want nothing but amazing experiences for our guests, but this surely wasn't the case on your stay as you had to deal with unsatisfactory service, below average rooms and disturbing noise levels from the housekeeping staff and other guests from the pool.
Our team would like to assure you that your thoughts about this matter are heard."
I'm grateful to IHG for their response. Now, they just need to tear down the Crowne Plaza. 


Since I don't want to be unnecessarily harsh, let's stick to the facts. Here are the facts.

Check-In - Positive

On arriving on Saturday afternoon after a four hour drive, my colleague and I went into the Crowne Plaza to check in. We stood in a short line, and Angela chatted with us about our stay. She worked hard to ensure tax exempt forms were filed appropriately. We had the wrong forms, apparently, and she printed out the correct ones to ensure check-in went smoothly. She issued our hotel keys for our two rooms.

Lobby - Negative

When I arrive at a Hampton Inn or Holiday Inn Express, I have hope of finding cold water in the lobby. Instead, there were only sodas at cost. In the mornings and evenings, I looked for coffee. There was none to be found. Everything, you had to pay for. It was quite a disappointment and let-down. The customary experience for every hotel I've been in is free coffee, cold water, which you can imagine is essential in hot Texas weather. 

Aside from Angela, the lady who checked us in, the actual manager (a bearded man) was snooty. Every manager I tried to speak to make aware of complaints articulated below listened coldly, in spite of the fact I approached them politely. I finally had enough on Sunday evening and complained loudly (out of character for me) to the front desk. I had to wait in line to do this. I asked if I could give my complaint to the man in the back office, but the restaurant manager lied and said there was no one back there. I could clearly see the person and noticed when he got up and left.

My final impression of front desk staff? They didn't give a darn about the customers. We were just money-making machines for them.

Rooms - Negative

Room #1: When we arrived at my colleague's room, the room appeared quite nice. Unfortunately, the door frame displayed a gap between door and frame. The deadbolt privacy lock was broken. We returned to the front desk and a different room was provided. The provided room was a spacious suite, albeit for handicapped folks. As you might imagine, this resulted in a different experience not congruent with my colleague's expectations. Also, the room lacked sufficient handtowels and facetowels.

Room #2: When I finally settled in my room, after about 30 minutes of trekking around from my colleague's room to the car back to my room to pick up luggage then back to her new room, I was exhausted. Some of my complaints about this room:

  • Tiny restroom. You couldn't sit on the toilet without pushing the shower curtain and positioning the door properly.
  • Cockroaches. I encountered a total of two cockroaches, one crawling around on the extra double bed and another on the counter where the television was placed. Cockroach hunting might become a thing at Crowne Plaza!
  • Silverfish. A grown silverfish found its way onto the bed. I killed it, but since this was my third creepy crawly, it makes you wonder.
  • Musty smell. The entire hotel has a musty smell, more evident in the hallways and rooms. I was in the 5500 wing and the odor was all-pervasive. After complaining about it, walking the hallways was like walking through a fog of aerosol that had been sprayed to deodorize the spaces.
  • Housekeeping. I typically choose to forego housekeeping. I don't like strangers going through my stuff, but while taking a nap on Sunday afternoon after events, I was awakened by loud talking. The housekeepers were having a convention in the room on the side of the bed (where I was sleeping). Since they were speaking in Spanish, I could understand the conversation. As I prepared to go back to sleep, a man's voice was YELLING at the housekeepers, telling them to get back to work. Also in Spanish. I was quite irritated at their antics and I was angry on behalf of the housekeepers who had to put up with such a yelling supervisor.
  • Swimming Pool. Since my room was in the 5500 wing, it was near the pool. On Saturday night, at approximately 11:03pm, a rambunctious group of people (perhaps drunk) was yelling. The women, with men encouraging them, were yelling about anal, vaginal sex, etc. It was loud enough that it woke me up. I expected someone to say something but this carried on until 11:20pm. I was able to go to sleep in spite of the noise. 

Meeting Rooms

As I mentioned, we were here for a conference event. I made sure to share information with the organizers so they could avoid it. "I would never bring my family to stay here," was one of the remarks made. Indeed. I wish I had spent the money for this stay at a local Holiday Inn Express or Hampton Inn.

Some of the specific complaints about meeting rooms:
  • Broken chairs in the large meeting room
  • Musty odor and smelly rooms
Hallways and doors connecting hallways had broken locks, and the doors did not open fully...maybe 75% of the way with some effort, creaking all along.


Based on my experiences, I strongly recommend that you do NOT stay at Crowne Plaza or book any events at this location. These are MY opinions based on what I observed and experienced.

Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

Wrestling with What Works Best with Tech: A Few Podcasts

Again and again, it's easy to see how research-based strategies can have a powerful impact in the classroom. But one of the challenges is, "What happens when you try to blend technology into them?" One of my concerns is that the effectiveness of a strategy goes down as you change it. This turns the instructional strategies into never-changing approaches and that's not really realistic. How do you strike a balance between effective strategies that work and blending in experimental technologies that add value, rather than take away?

A part of my search is really to find out how others are thinking this through. I've shared a few blog entries here, and will be adding more in the future. However, listening to other people struggle with this is great.

Podcast #1: Grantwood AEA Digital Learning

Podcast #2: Pedagogy Non Grata

Podcast #3: Daniel Jackson at TeacherPD

For those of you are looking for something less favorable regarding Hattie's work, I include the following for your consideration.

Podcasts #4 & #5: Ollie Lovell with Adrian Simpson and John Hattie

Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

Genuine Leadership #4: Gratitude