Revitalizing Staff Morale Using the SNAIL Method-Part Four

This post is the fourth in a five-part series.

In my first three posts I shared the five components of the SNAIL Method of revitalizing staff morale.  For this post I will offer my thoughts on the third component.

Stand up and take pride in our profession

Never pass up the opportunity to show appreciation

Acknowledge when things aren’t working and develop a new plan

Ignite a spirit of collaboration not competition

Let go of old hurts or jealousies

three snails

image from

Competition has its place, especially in sports.  However, it often has far reaching negative consequences that were most likely never intended. I found some quotes that I am using to spark conversation on this topic.

“A creative man is motivated by the desire to achieve, not by the desire to beat others.”-Ayn Rand

Pinterest, while one of my favorite sites, is the culprit of many competitions in a school.  Teachers compete to have the best bulletin board, door, or classroom decoration.  Forgetting mind you, that none of these are as important as who and what we teach.  I’ve seen teachers get upset when they realize that both found the same idea and wanted to be the only one to use it.  Why?  If it’s what is in the best interest of your students, wouldn’t you want to share that so that more students could benefit?

“It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.”-Harry S. Truman

This one is hard.  Everyone wants to be recognized for their work, but what if recognition becomes ego and competition?  What if more focus is placed on whose idea it was or who did the most work, rather than on how it affects students?  Praise accomplishments, but not to the point that the individual is placed on a pedestal and how their accomplishments affect students is forgotten.

“Life is not a competition, life is about helping and inspiring others so we can each reach our potential.”-Kim Chase

“I’m not interested in competing with anyone.  I hope we all make it.”-Erica Cook

Competition has a place in the world, but is a school the right place for it?  Sure, good healthy competition in theory would help you improve.  What if, however, it breeds resentment and mistrust?  Our focus should be on competing with ourselves and becoming the best teacher we can be.  We should also be focused on working together to make each other a better teacher. In doing so our students and school benefit.

“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”-Henry Ford

It’s important for administrators to think about which teachers work well together, complement each other, and genuinely wish to be together.  Genuinely wanting to be together on a team helps breed trust and the ability to be risk takers when trying new strategies.  Teachers are more apt to grow when given a safe place to do so.  This in turn creates teams who become more focused on working together for student and professional success.  When all this is in place you get a staff who would never dream of teaching anywhere else.  Stability in staff creates the opportunity for innovation.

When schools focus on collaboration for student success and professional growth, morale can only increase.  Teachers who enjoy their job, and the people they work with, are more focused on creating positive learning experiences for students.


Do You Lurk or Comment When Reading a Blog?

I admit it.  I tend to be a lurker when reading blogs.There are so many great ones out there that I follow, but will admit, I rarely comment.   I often will retweet a link to a great blog, but again, rarely leave a comment. Back when I started blogging I commented regularly. I was participating in a Twitter challenge for new bloggers to write ten posts during the summer and we all supported each other by commenting on one another’s posts regularly.  Then, school started up and I didn’t read or comment as often.

A fellow teacher at my school is also blogging and is at a crossroads as to what type of blog she wants to write.  She is wondering if it is worth the effort if only, as she phrased it, her mom and dad are the only ones reading it.  What if when you check your stats you find out only a few people a month are reading it?  Then, you have a decision to make.  Why are you blogging in the first place?  Is it to genuinely share with others?  Is it a cathartic experience for yourself? Are you blogging to communicate with your students and their families? Or, do you just enjoy writing?  I even had a teacher in my building tell me they didn’t know that’s the kind of blog I was writing.  Wasn’t sure how to take that one.  Whatever your reason for blogging, just be comfortable with your choice.

For me, I just like to write and it is cathartic.  At first I did worry that no one was reading my blog and commenting.  But then  had to remember why I began in the first place.  I wasn’t out to say my teaching methods were the best or to sell you a product.  I just wanted to have a medium to share my thoughts, model for my students a Genius Hour project, and if possible inspire a few others along the way.  I wanted to try something new.  I wanted to write.

So, stop worrying about your stats and if you’re going to be the latest and greatest blog in the educational world.  It’s not about the number of followers you have.  It’s about your purpose and your message.  But, hey, we all need a little encouragement and feedback on what we do.  So…I have a challenge for you.

I will be posting on Twitter my challenge and see if anyone joins in on it.  It is #blogrespond and the goal is to reply to five blog posts before you return to school.  For me, I report back in fifteen days.  Therefore, I only need to read and respond every three days.  I hope to do more, but I want an attainable goal to begin.  Part two of the challenge is to respond to a post ten times during the school year.  Again, attainable goal since it gets so busy during the school year.

I’ve learned so much from the blogs I follow and the amazing educators I follow on Twitter that I want to give back by letting them know how much I value them.  If you aren’t currently reading any education blogs and don’t know where to begin, check out  the blogs I follow (I’ll be adding more).  Another tip is to look at the people you currently follow on Twitter and see if they have a blog.  So, are you ready to stop lurking and start commenting?  Share the #blogrespond challenge on Twitter and link back to the blog you read.  This way others will benefit from what you found interesting and valuable.

Now get out there.  Start reading.  Start commenting.  Start supporting.  You have the potential to make a blogger’s day.

Creating a Classroom Recording Studio

“Technology helps turn ordinary learning into extraordinary fun. And the whole time children are working with these technology tools, they are collaborating and helping each other problem-solve”.–Paul Solarz (@PaulSolarz), from the book Learn Like a Pirate

Well, I did it.  I finally posted a project to Donors Choose.  I don’t know what took me so long.  It wasn’t as hard, or as time consuming as I thought it would be.  Here’s a little bit more about my project.

Technology is a fact of life.  We use it in so many ways to make our lives easier, to learn, and to share our creativity and voice with the world.  Well, that’s hard to do when you have limited access to technology in your classroom.  Although  I will be sharing a new set of computers with my grade level this year, we have no access to tablets other than my personal one.  After years of constant use by myself, my family, and my students, it is beginning to show some wear and tear.  We desperately need an iPad mini devoted to student use.

What do I plan to do with just the one iPad mini?  Simple, everything.  Our first objective is to use it with the @TouchCastEdu app and their Studio In a Box.  The Studio In a Box has a green screen, lapel mic, two mini-tripods, and three mobile device mounts.  I’ve already pre-ordered it and am told it will be ready this fall.  TouchCast allows students to create professional looking videos with or without using the green screen function.  They even have an app that allows my students to use my phone (hoping to get an iPod Touch in the future) as a remote.  This allows my students even greater control of their productions.  Hopefully, I should be able to download TouchCast on the computers I share so that once my students have recorded they can complete the editing on the computer when the iPad is unavailable.  Once we get this part of the studio ready, my students will be able to create videos that demonstrate their learning, create tutorials for younger students, and create a classroom video newsletter to share with parents and the community.

However, video is just one part of the studio I am trying to create.  I have two microphones already and hope to have students create podcasts and maybe their own channel.  I’ve been reading about and listening to podcasts as to how to produce them.  Again, creating one more way for them to share their learning, as well as their creativity, with an authentic audience.

Now, since this will be in my classroom, I’m a little limited as to size.  However, I’ve dedicated a section of our classroom that combines our writing center and recording studio.  This area will house all things pre and post production.  The goal is to train a few students on how to run everything (although, I’m sure many will already know what to do), and they will in turn train others.  I want this to be something they take ownership and responsibility of running. In the past, my students have always been respectful of not only technology, but of others making any type of recording, so I believe when asked, they can work quietly when someone has booked time in the recording studio.  Once it’s up and running I’ll post pictures, and with permission, student projects.

So if you are interested, an able to support us, click here to go to Donors Choose and make a donation.  If you are able to make a donation by July 30th, they will match each contribution of up to $100.  I’ve made the first contribution and hope you will be able to support us.  Either way, check back and see how our recording studio evolves.

Revitalizing Staff Morale Using the SNAIL Method-Part Three

This post is the third in a five-part series.

In my first two posts I shared the five components of the SNAIL Method of revitalizing staff morale.  For this post I will offer my thoughts on the third component.

Stand up and take pride in our profession

Never pass up the opportunity to show appreciation

Acknowledge when things aren’t working and develop a new plan

Ignite a spirit of collaboration not competition

Let go of old hurts or jealousies

snail on post

photo from

Acknowledge when things aren’t working and develop a new plan

Sometimes there’s an elephant in the room.  The elephant is that for one reason or another a program, initiative, or strategy is not working.  However, time and money has been spent so the failed program or plan is continued.  Nothing brings down morale like knowing something is not working and still having to continue on with it.  So, what do you do about it?  Complain.  Whine. Sabotage.

No, when something is not working you really have to examine the reasons why and then take action.  Is it that simply there hasn’t been enough time to determine whether it has worked or not?  Often, unlike what we preach to our students, we bail when we don’t get the promised results or what we expected the outcome to be immediately.  We have to be patient, yet critical.  Are we doing everything necessary for the program, initiative, or strategy to be successful?  “To fidelity” are often words that cause teachers in my district to cringe.  I’m not saying follow everything to the letter (I’m one of those cringers) but if you don’t, you need to own it and be ready to justify.

Sometimes though, you’ve done everything you can and it’s just either not working or it’s not best for your students.  Rather than complain, whine, or sabotage, really think about what could be done differently.  Analyze what parts aren’t working and then develop a new plan.  Work with your grade level team, building teachers in other grade levels, or even your PLN.  Find a way to tweak what you’re doing or develop a new one.  They key is to not just accept it’s not working and then do nothing about it.  Many times I’ve gone to my administrators with a problem and possible solutions.  They get tired of problems too, and are more often than not very receptive to feedback when you come in with possible solutions.  No one likes a mess dumped at their feet.  Help them out, work together on it.  Often a complete overhaul is not needed, just minor adjustments and the support in which to do it.

So next time you or a colleague is sitting there complaining that something isn’t working, just think how bad it is if the whole building is feeling that way, yet everyone would rather wait for someone else to do something about it.  We don’t have to accept a program, initiative, or strategy that isn’t working.  We must advocate for our students, speak up, and be willing to put ourselves out there.  We have more control over things than most would believe.  We just need not be silent when it’s not working.  Be respectful, but work for change when it is necessary.  Never accept less than what you, your colleagues, and students deserve.