Category Archives: Administrators

How I Transformed My Teaching Style—a Superintendent Looks Back

Bregy2I knew I wanted to be a teacher in fourth grade. Years later I realized my childhood ambition by becoming a math teacher. However, the reality didn’t match the dream.

Frankly, I was a horrible teacher—the kind that literally held the geometry book in my hand and read lessons straight from the book. I struggled to make the content come alive. I could see that my passion for mathematics and pretty much every other subject fell flat.

I felt let down and exhausted. Was this how teaching was supposed to be? Was my dream a mere fantasy? Could I still find fulfillment in teaching? I wrestled with these questions and doubted whether I should continue in the profession. I wanted to be an excellent teacher, but I didn’t have the skills.

Around the same time, a colleague told me about Quantum Learning. She had recently attended a five-day program, and she said it had already transformed her practice. I wasn’t sure if it would work as well for me, but I decided to try it anyway.

Bregy3I don’t remember who led the program, but I do know that it marked a turning point in my career as an educator. Unlike my university classes, which were taught in the same dry manner in which I delivered my geometry lessons, Quantum Learning modeled excellent teaching from the moment I walked in.

I returned home determined to apply what I had learned to my own classroom. I felt a little intimidated—the teacher across the hallway had a Quantum Learning background, and I could hear her classroom buzzing with curiosity. But I pressed forward and told my students that things were going to shift in our classroom.

The first thing I changed was the level of input my students had. I became less of an instructor and more of a facilitator. When students realized that they had a voice in our classroom, they began to take ownership for their learning and pay more attention.

I also got to know my students better and started considering their social and emotional development as well as their academic abilities. Students came alive in this environment—and so did I. I felt a renewed energy every day as I walked into class. My dream had become a reality.

Today, I’m a superintendent in the Chicagoland area. The last four years I served District 300 in the far northwest suburbs of Chicago, and Quantum Learning played a key role in my professional and student development plan.

Bregy1When I became superintendent in District 300, one of the biggest challenges was the number of initiatives. The great thing about Quantum Learning is that it pulls so many things together, including the Common Core standards. It gives kids the opportunity to apply what they’re learning, and ultimately it turns responsibility for learning over to the students.

I recently moved to the North Shore of Chicago to serve North Shore School District 112, and I’m looking forward to introducing Quantum Learning to my new staff. It’s unlike any other professional development program out there—it makes a real difference in the lives of teachers and students alike.

How to Build a Brand of Educational Excellence—The Ultimate Guide

ELA TeacherWhat is your brand? You have one. We all do—brand is how our community perceives who we are and the work our organization does.

Administrators often let their brand develop haphazardly. But the most respected brands—the ones that communicate educational excellence—are intentional.

Defining Your Brand

Your brand is your core message. It states the non-negotiables to which you are unwaveringly committed. For some districts it’s achievement. For others it’s college readiness. The more clearly defined your values, the more pervasive and credible your brand will be.

A hallmark of a strong brand is common language—a consistent message embodied and expressed by each person in your organization. Consider crafting a memorable phrase that pays. At the Oceanside Unified School District, for example, former Superintendent Larry Perondi’s phrase was “Kids First.”

Shaping Culture to Match Brand

Your brand is only as good as your organizational culture. Your brand is what you value above all else, and culture is the expression of that brand.

To ensure your culture reflects your brand, follow this simple axiom: Experiences shape our expectations—expectations shape our expressions.

Expressions

Principal SignBegin by evaluating the things people say and do in your schools, at the district office, and throughout the community. These are your expressions.

Let’s say your organization values excellence—good qualities in high degree. You would expect to see excellence embodied at every level. You would see teachers attending professional development, parents engaged at meetings, students thinking at higher levels, and realtors praising the quality of education in the community.

In this example, the expressions reflect the organization’s non-negotiable values. They reflect a brand of excellence.

Expectations

Next, discern what the expressions say about expectations. Our expectations shape our expressions, which are the synthesis of our perceptions, perspectives, mindsets, and beliefs.

In a district defined by excellence, for example, you would notice that decisions are made and problems solved through a mindset of excellence that permeates classrooms, staff rooms, and board rooms.

Expectations are not willed into being. Our expectations are shaped by our experiences.

Experiences

Every activity, every interaction immerses people in what you value. At Quantum Learning, we teach that “everything speaks.”

When a district’s meetings respect opinions, encourage solution-finding, stay on topic, and are well organized, attendees experience excellence. When classrooms buzz with curiosity, teachers acknowledge effort, and everyone feels safe and supported, kids are enveloped in an experience of learning worth revisiting.

If what you see and hear in the community and throughout your district is incongruent with what your organization stands for, you’ve got work to do.

Educational Excellence Starts with You

Teachers of the YearOur first inclination is to address expressions directly. But in the model we’ve presented, you build your brand by changing the interactions people have with and within the district.

This is accomplished from the inside out. Brands are built from the organization’s culture out to the community and from you out to the organization. You are your brand.

Everything you say and do can add credibility to your brand. For example, Larry Perondi nurtured his brand through Quantum Learning’s 8 Keys of Excellence, which help him repeat his values consistently and often.

When you’re intentional with your brand, the positive effects will last for years to come.

Images from Ben Russell, Deval Patrick, and Tim