The Source

Iowa ASCD...THE SOURCE for Instructional Leadership

Volume 20 Number 20 - December 4, 2020

In this issue:

  • ASCD Midwest Affiliates Offer FREE Virtual Conference on Equity - Register Now
  • Need Your Help for future events!
  • Once Upon a Time . . .
  • What If Your Future Is Mapped by Your Words
  • Track Your Time
  • Florida ASCD Offers Virtual Conference with Dr. Doug Fisher
  • Resources: Building Relationships and Increasing Engagement in Remote Learning
  • Mark Your Calendars - Vote for your choice!

ASCD Midwest Affiliates Offer FREE Virtual Conference on Equity - Register Now!

Iowa ASCD joins with other ASCD affiliates in the Midwest to offer a FREE conference on January 19 with asynchronous opportunities until February 2. Register now and also receive a year's free membership in Iowa ASCD. You can register at

The keynote will be live at 9:00 A.M. on January 19 and will also be provided on-demand until February 2.

The three breakout sessions and the final speaker are taped and will be provided January 19 through February 2. These are perfect for schools and districts focused on equity and would be great for your PLC conversations.

One presentation features Iowa's own Dr. Katy Swalwell of Iowa State University. What she is most curious and passionate about is what helps people develop a critical consciousness necessary for a healthy, "thick" democracy. What do people need to know and be able to do in order to help build a more just and equitable world? What about young people growing up in affluent, majority White communities? In what ways can learning anti-oppressive histories help this process? And what kinds of resources help teachers do this well?

Swalwell's work has appeared in practitioner publications like Educational Leadership, Rethinking Schools, and Teaching Tolerance as well as peer-reviewed journals like Curriculum Inquiry, Democratic Education, Education Policy, Theory & Research in Social Education, Journal of Social Studies Research, and several edited volumes. She is one of the co-founders of The Critical Social Educator, an open-access journal dedicated to publishing work from practitioners and scholars alike, and the Critical Resources for Elementary Social Studies Teachers Facebook group with 1000+ members. She is the author of several books, including the award-winning Educating Activist Allies: Social Justice Pedagogy with the Urban and Suburban Elite (Routledge in 2013) and the "Amazing Iowa" series of children's books, traveling exhibits, and supplemental curriculum for teachers.

Join today. We all have lots to learn about equity! You must register to participate!

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We Need YOUR Help with Event Planning! Iowa ASCD

We need your Help. Discussion is underway regarding Iowa ASCD event scheduling.

We are planning on offering two critically important topics.

"Rebounding from Chaos: A Trauma Responsive Approach" led by Danielle Theis.

"Every Child-Every Day-Whatever it Takes" led by Jimmy Casas.

The challenges for scheduling are your availability with limited substitute resources and timing understanding “zoom/online” fatigue.

Please respond to 6 questions to help us determine the best options for your attendance.

Event Planning Survey by Iowa ASCD Link

Once Upon a Time . . .

Once upon a time, a teacher thought she knew how to handle it all. And then came COVID-19. Everything once known seemed to change. Educational experience taught her to turn toward professional development for a solution. Sadly, there wasn’t a professional library full of books about how to lead and teach during a pandemic.

While the sky seemed to be falling all around her, she noticed a friend and small business owner who was managing the unknown with grace and purpose. When she asked her friend about her elixir-of-leadership, her friend said that she and her staff practice “staying out of the box.” “Go read Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box by the Arbinger Institute,” she insisted.

It turns out, the teacher didn’t need a manual about how to teach during a pandemic; she just needed a guide for her new reality on identifying and responding to other people's truths without face-to-face contact.

Surprise! That teacher leader was me. Now I want to share how to ride the COVID-19 wave in the hopes that it might help others to ride other waves as teacher-leaders so that we foster humanity and equitable actions in spite of our current reality. My new book gives some direction.

Walk it or Run it Out

Finding time for self-care is hard enough, but during a pandemic it is almost impossible. This book makes for an excellent listen, so tie up those tennis shoes, put on a coat and headlamp, and get lost in the story as the learning from this book is delivered in parable form.

Identify Boxes

The first part of the book takes readers through a journey of a leader who, from his perspective, is doing a good job. As the story continues, the layers peel away revealing a series of metaphorical boxes causing the protagonist to misperceive reality. As the reader, it is simple to judge the protagonist only to then have those judgments show the level and extent of the reader’s own boxes.

Breaking Free

The second part of the book follows the protagonist through the process of attempting to break free by identifying moments of self-betrayal, only to find that humanity is complex, and nothing is as simple as it seems. As a reader, parallels start to form between past and present relationships where the reader can self-identify instances of laying blame at the feet of others by inflating personal virtues and magnifying other’s faults. Hope starts to build as the protagonist and the reader collaboratively re-evaluate the influence of self-perception due to self-deception. The path forward reveals itself.

Staying Free

The third part puts the protagonist and the reader at the edge of their seats trying to find the solution to staying out of the box. It also brings the work into full perspective with the impact the learning can have by naturally fostering equity within daily personal interactions. Additionally, it puts forward the impact this thought process could have on a system if purposely directed, as my friend experiences in her business.

So, who is ready to self-identify their own self-deceptions and break free of their own metaphorical boxes?


Johanna Russell recently released a new self-paced ISEA Academy License Renewal course, Solving People Problems, which uses Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box by the Arbinger Institute as the anchor text. For more information on taking this action-based course go to

A special thanks to Dr. Randy Peters and Dr. Doug Stillwell whose Educational Leadership course work leads Johanna to have the conversation that provoked the transformative learning.

Johanna Russell is a guest columnist and is an ISEA Academy Course Instructor, a Building Instructional Master Mentor for Ankeny Schools, and an Educational Leadership Student at Drake University.

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What If Your Future Is Mapped by Your Words

The "Leadership Freak" shares the following to empower leaders 300 words at a time.

The words that come out of your mouth explain 4 things.

  1. Who you believe you are.
  2. Who you believe others are.
  3. What matters.
  4. Where you are going.

But where do your words come from?

Origin sets direction.

The place your words come from maps the journey ahead.

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Speaking out of:

#1. Speaking out of status:

Words reveal the perceived status of the speaker and those listening.

High status people speak about the big picture. Low status people speak out of self-concern.

“The higher anybody is in status, the less they use ‘I’ words. The lower someone is in status, the higher they use ‘I’ words… A high-status person tends to be looking out at the world. The low status person tends to be looking more inwardly.” James Pennebaker

What future is created when you speak out high status?

#2. Speaking out of gratitude:

The language of gratitude is humble and inclusive.


  1. Notices others. Gratitude may begin with an inward look. How do You feel? But gratitude always turns outward.
  2. Acknowledges benefit. Gratitude humbles because it acknowledges that you benefit from the contribution of others.
  3. Elevates others. Grateful people recognize personal need when they appreciate how others make their life richer, fuller, and more successful.

The trajectory of gratitude is up and out. The trajectory of ingratitude is down and in.

What future is created when you speak out of gratitude?

#3. Speaking out of weakness:

Weakness focuses on itself and what can’t be done.

Weakness focuses on problems, struggles, disappointment, and dread.

Weakness ruminates. Ruminating spirals downward and inward.

Self-reflection is about learning and growth. Weakness gets stuck in self-obsession.

If you have a loud inner critic maybe you should get out of your head.

“… high ruminators seem to be less focused on their performance,” Tanovic

What future is created when you speak out of weakness?

What future is created when you speak out of fear, love, power, confidence, dream, imagination, strength, or anger?

Bonus material:

Your Use of Pronouns Reveals Your Personality (HBR)

He Counts Your Words, (Even Those Pronouns) (NYT)

Track Your Time

Dr. Jared Smith, superintendent of South Tama Community Schools, offers this blog:

“The first step toward executive effectiveness is to record actual time-use.” - Peter Drucker

Previously we’ve talked about designating time to complete important work and matching one's mental state to the task.

While these are great first steps for hacking productivity, the concept of time tracking takes time management to the next level.

Time tracking is creating moment-to-moment awareness of actions by keeping track of time spent on projects throughout the day. When leaders record minutes and hours spent on specific tasks, alignment (or misalignment) between goals and actions becomes visible.

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When school leaders audit their time, they are often surprised by the results. For example, leaders may contend much of their time is spent on instructional leadership tasks such as being in classrooms and engaging with teachers. However, an analysis of time may indicate minimal amounts of their day is invested in these activities.

Wondering how to track your daily actions? Here are three common methods:

  1. Journal - Some leaders carry around a small notebook or journal to keep track daily outputs

  2. Stopwatch - Wrist watches and smartphones both provide user-friendly options for tracking time

  3. Apps - Smartphones and computers offer several choices for collecting detailed productivity information

Whereas time tracking is commonly used to analyze professional hours, this approach can be beneficial for examining time allocation in all aspects of life.

I find value in tracking my pursuits outside of work. By comparing my "productive" hours (reading, writing, working out) against my "unproductive" hours (social media, watching TV), I have become increasingly motivated to commit more time to meaningful tasks and less time on tasks that produce no tangible product.

Regardless if used to measure professional or personal pursuits, leaders who explore time tracking will immediately develop a clearer picture if daily behaviors align with intended outcomes.


Looking for a great book discussing the concept of tracking time? Consider reading Deep Work by Cal Newport.

Florida ASCD Offers Virtual Conference with Dr. Doug Fisher

Florida ASCD proudly presents Dr. Doug Fisher on Friday, January 22, and Saturday, January 23, 2021. Morning Sessions are 9 am -12 pm EST; Afternoon Sessions are 1 pm - 4 pm EST. See the flyer for more information and descriptions. All sessions will be hosted through Zoom.

Participants will be registered with the email provided below and a unique sign-in and password will be emailed to the participant.

Session 1: Teacher Clarity: The Pathway to Better Learning
Session 2: Integrating Social-Emotional Learning Into Everyday Instruction
Session 3: Balanced Literacy
Session 4: Distance Learning Up Close: Teaching for Engagement and Impact in Any Setting

If you have questions, please email Dr. Lou Whitaker at

Download a Printable Flyer Here

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Building Relationships and Increasing Engagement in Remote Learning

6 Exercises to Get to Know Your Students Better—and Increase Their Engagement

Nora Fleming Edutopia November 12. 2020

Celebrating your middle and high school students' unique identities can bolster connections and improve performance in school. Recognizing it is hard to get to know students through a webcam. This article provides suggested activities in the following six categories: Reflecting on Experiences, Exploring Identity & Perceptions, Important Learning Details, Understanding Interests, Documenting Your Life, and Having Fun.

How to Build Relationships with Students in Remote Learning Environments

Lauren Barack December 2, 2020

Dive Brief:

  • Activities typically used in the fall can be tapped throughout the year by middle and high school teachers to strengthen connections with students, writes Edutopia. These projects can also help students focus better on their work and strengthen their execution.
  • Teachers can ask students to create personal blogs, podcasts, photo albums, movies or essays that show something about their personal interests. Students could also discuss people or events that have influenced their lives or their dreams for their future, or complete a project allowing them to explore their identities.
  • Finally, educators can develop activities that help students feel more of a connection to their classmates. For example, teachers can incorporate personal things about students into the class by asking them to name their favorite songs and playing one a day. Plus, they can mention three things from the school week that caught their eye and, by naming the students involved, help each one feel seen.

Dive Insight:

Article continues here

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Iowa ASCD Fall Academy - POSTPONED! New Dates to be determined!

Rebounding from Chaos: A Trauma Responsive Approach

Danielle Theis will be back!

Save the date! Postponed Watch for details about this virtual conference!

Respond to the Survey -What is your preference?

Midwest Affiliate Virtual Conference - January 19, 2021 - FREE - Equity

Iowa ASCD Spring Academy - April 19 & 20, 2021
Every Child - Every Day - Whatever it Takes
with Jimmy Casas and Iowa Educators

Conference will be virtual. Please choose the format by responding to this survey!