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Recently I was recommended the book How Remarkable Women Lead: A Breakthrough Model for Work and Life by Barsh, Cranston and Lewis. In the midst of lots of negativity in education, I constantly feel the need to “reframe” and counteract with positive thoughts and plans. I refuse to, and mentally and physically cannot, go down that negative-thinking and defeatist path. Barsh, Cranston and Lewis provide examples of leaders who, by engaging and speaking up, demonstrate that individuals CAN make a difference in any milieu.

Engaging is where it all comes together – when you cross an invisible line from being a person to whom things happen to becoming a person that makes things happen. It literally means breaking the bounds that circumscribe your career and your life. Making the commitment to do so is one of the best things you will ever do for yourself. It takes courage. It takes a willingness to fight for what you want, even though you may, be fighting your own resistance and fear. It releases unbelievable energy.
(Barsh, Cranston & Lewis, 2009)

Think about a wish or a goal you have for your class, department or school. How can you make it happen?


Engage with yourself and start taking steps to make things happen. Talk to colleagues and talk to your supervisors. Rally support and begin working towards your goal. You have the power within your system to begin the path toward improving the education of students in your school. This means you accept direct professional responsibility and are not waiting to be told what to do. You take the lead and make things happen and as a result all students will benefit. 

Speak Up

With engagement comes speaking up. Have you ever sat in school improvement meetings silently listening to others but not wanting to speak your mind? Why is that? There are many reasons why people don’t speak up. Some reasons include fear, shyness, resentment, insecurity, and politics. Speaking up professionally and respectfully is crucial if you want your voice to be heard. Cranston, Barsh and Lewis put it best “…you have to speak up to be counted” (2009). Try this. Next time you are in a meeting and you have a thought about the topic being discussed, state it out loud.

When I first became an instructional coach, my principal gave me the classic Dr. Seuss book Horton Hears a Who! She understands the need to listen. She wanted to emphasize to me the simple message that all voices need to be heard for change to be successful and meaningful. Maybe you don’t have a problem speaking up! If that is the case, maybe it is time for you to bring out the voices in others around you. If colleagues are sitting silently – ask them what they think even if it is awkward. Sometimes this will take the group in a completely different and perhaps better direction.

In order to release positive energy into your school – engage, speak–up and listen.

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Last month, Al’s article on RtI for ELLs was published on Reading Rockets. Take a look.

Finally, Al and Susan will be presenting at the North Cook Intermediate Service Center in Des Plaines, Illinois on Friday, May 6 from 12-3pm.  The title of the presentation is An Introduction to Implementing the Common Core as a Vehicle to Drive 21st Century Curriculum.  If you are in the area, please sign up for the workshop.  We will be going through the process of creating units of study around the Common Core State Standards.