All In

Over the past few weeks I have been learning about culture, climate, engagement, teamwork, and leadership in a variety of texts, articles, podcasts, and blog posts. As I continued to read, listen, and reflect, I kept asking myself what separates the great teams and organizations from the rest.

There have been many books written by authors who have a lot more experience and research than me and are quite a bit more articulate on this topic; however, within this post, I am going to explain what I believe separates the best from everyone else.

Plain and simple, the best schools, districts, teams, companies, and organizations have created and operate within an "all in" culture. In places like this, everyone from the teachers, custodians, secretaries, administrators, food service workers, bus drivers, paraprofessionals, school counselors, instructional coaches, and anyone who serves the school feels valued and clearly understands that what they say and do matters every minute of …

Watch and Learn

Earlier in the week I spent some time walking through classrooms checking out the excellent instructional practices taking place within our school. I made my way to a third grade classroom where the teacher was leading a mini-lesson with her students in Writer's Workshop. They were focused on ways to improve their opinion pieces or persuasive essays, as they have been called in the past. Specifically, the students were told when they make a claim or state an opinion within their writing, they must be able to defend it with factual evidence. Typically, when I pop into classrooms, I spend about five minutes watching and visiting with students to get a feel of the learning taking place. However, I was drawn in and could not wait to hear what the student discussion was going to sound like and how this would impact their writing, so I hung around for an extended period of time.

The students broke into groups and were instructed to share their opinions with each other before starting th…

They Need Us More than Ever

The embedded podcast above features a conversation that I had with Greg Deutmeyer and Jenny Hillebrand; it takes a deeper look at the content within this post. I hope you enjoy it.

I am going to say what's been on my mind for the past 4 months.  After listening to the debates, watching the political events leading up to the election, and the first week in office, I am deeply worried about what the future holds for us.  More importantly, I am worried about the behavior being modeled to my seven and four year-old boys by the so-called leaders at the highest level.

As educators, we work extremely hard to develop a variety of academic skills whether we are providing direct instruction, project based learning, or facilitating a discussion about a current event. The academic content that we teach kids is extremely important and should never be underestimated; however, what matters most to me are the critical life skills that will serve our students for many years to come.

Thomas Hoerr o…

Day 9 (21 Days of Gratitude)

I have been off the grid for three days with the Thanksgiving holiday, but that is no excuse.  I will be back to blogging my gratitude each evening.

In my writing and discussions in the past, I have talked about my educational heroes, and how they have shaped my educational beliefs.  These people are incredibly important to me, but they do not even come close to my true hero.  Many of you who have known me for a number of years have heard me talk about the influence that he has had on me; the guy is tremendous.  Simply stated, my dad is the hardest working and most knowledgeable person I have ever seen.

He has fixed my vehicles, catcher’s mitts, kitchen sinks, garage doors, and heaters more than I would like to admit.  A couple of years ago, I was having issues with my garage door, and to no surprise, I had to call him to save the day.  Afterwards, we spent about an hour talking in my driveway about the challenges of leadership.  My father worked at John Deere for more than 35 years,…

Day 8 (21 Days of Gratitude)

A little more than three years ago, I was asked to serve on a grant writing committee that would put together what I was told would be something pretty special.  I am going to be completely honest when I say that I was a little skeptical about this entire process.  I have been told more times than I can count that a new committee, action team, or curricular implementation is destined to be the next big thing.  I accepted the offer to participate in this research gathering and grant writing group that would embark upon something truly historic in the state of Iowa.  Our school district decided to take the leap and apply for the first year of the Teacher Leadership and Compensation grant that would provide the opportunity to create a number of teacher leadership positions within our district that never existed in the past.

We were fortunate to receive this grant in the first year that it was offered within the state which allowed us to create nine instructional coaching positions withi…

Day 7 (21 Days of Gratitude)

We have lived in our home for exactly five years and I couldn't be more grateful to be where we are. Our home and community provide a comfortable place for our children and an environment that is safe, fun, and full of energy.  I am so incredibly grateful to be living in a community and school district that see the value in education.  We are surrounded by fantastic schools full of adults who are passionate, technically skilled, and ready to make differences in the lives of kids.  I have never seen a community so supportive and willing to help those in need at the drop of a hat. We are living in a special place and for that, I am extremely grateful.

Day 6 (21 Days of Gratitude)

I have spent the better part of my educational career coaching student athletes in various sports. These opportunities were so enjoyable and memories that I will cherish for the rest of my life.  As football and baseball season approach each year, I am often asked by people within our community what I miss most about coaching.  My response is the same every single time.  Yes, I miss the competition, game planning, and bonding with fellow coaches.  However, what I miss the most is the relationships with kids.  It was truly amazing to hear their stories, see their passion, and watch them achieve at levels that they never thought were possible.  Athletic fields are some of the best classrooms that we have within our school system, as kids are able to learn about perseverance, resilience, grit, teamwork, integrity, responsibility, and many other critical life skills. I will never forget the great times that I had coaching; it is something for which I will be forever grateful.