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The #InnovatorsMindset book study on Instagram just wrapped up, and it was a great learning experience for myself and hopefully, the participants that took their own time (most on a break) to connect, create and model their learning openly.

From their creations, I want to share a few thoughts that I have on “innovation in education.” As I have stressed, innovation in education does not equal technology, but it is a mindset in how we create new and better opportunities for learning.  This will mean that we will always have to look at education through fresh eyes and push our learning and growth as individuals to grow as a system.

Through the reflection of others, here are three of my most immediate thoughts from this process.

1. Why is “success” in education usually defined by others FOR our students, without their input? 

Zach Miller created this image through the #InnovatorsMindset book study:

What one person deems as successful for themselves, could be deemed a failure by someone else, and vice-versa.  This isn’t about getting rid of measures within our schools; it is about not limiting measures of “success” to what the adults see as successful, and having a students’ ownership on their journey and destination.

2. When educators criticize “the system,” we have to realize that we are also a part of the system. How do we create better experiences for our students within the constraints that we work?

This image is from Nanci Greene:

This doesn’t mean that there are outside agencies that don’t have an impact on education in a negative way, but it is focusing on what we can do within education and not wait for someone else to create solutions moving forward.  The best educators do not wait for others to make things happen in their context; they are creating opportunities in their classrooms on a daily basis.

3. We should never hold our students (or colleagues) back based on what we don’t know.

This image was created by @KylaSchooling:

What this DOESN’T mean is that teachers should have to learn everything and have no content knowledge. What it does mean is that we do not know everything, and the learners in our classrooms know things we don’t. What can we learn from them, and how do we create an environment where learning is not limited to the knowledge of the teacher but the wisdom of the community, locally and globally.

I encourage people to take a look at the “#innovatorsmindset hashtag on Instagram as there are a ton of great little videos, reflections, and media created by participants that may help you in your learning, but also can help you create learning opportunities for others.

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From “How To Win Friends and Influence People“:

Do you know someone you would like to change and regulate and improve? Good! That is fine. I am all in favor of it, but why not begin on yourself? From a purely selfish standpoint, that is a lot more profitable than trying to improve others—yes, and a lot less dangerous. “Don’t complain about the snow on your neighbor’s roof,” said Confucius, “when your own doorstep is unclean.”

Think of these two statements:

  1. You should do ___________ because it will make you a better teacher.
  2. I have done ____________, and here it is how it has made me a better teacher.

The first statement, obviously with the best intentions, can almost feel like an attack. People may move forward, but sometimes at the cost of a relationship, or worse, they may not move forward at all, and you lose credibility with them.

The second statement shows that you have gone a certain way and will give examples of how it has improved your situation.

Show your journey and how it led you to something better off than you started, and people are more likely to join.  Tell people what journey they should go on without any regard of what path they are already on, you will lose people along the way.

Model the way.

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Recently, I tweeted out an older post titled, “10 Easy Ways to Create an Awesome #ClassroomCulture This Year”, where I share some simple ideas on quick ways we can connect with students. Here is a list from the original post.

In response to the post, educator Lauren Seal suggested I create a post on doing the same thing for “School Culture,” so I thought I would share some simple ideas that can help improve the culture of your school.  Although culture is not an easy thing to build, there are little things that we can do to make the experience so much better for our students, parent community, and teachers.  Here are some suggestions that I have done in my experience in schools, or have seen through my travels.  Please feel free to make some recommendations in the comments as well.

  1. Be at the doors to welcome your community each morning. What some people see as an expenditure, I have learned that welcoming people in the morning was a significant investment of time that came back to me exponentially. Whether it is administrators welcoming students in the morning at the front doors or teachers starting each day by being outside of their classroom to greet students in the morning, it is a great way to not only start the day for both educator and student. It also gives you the opportunity to check the mood of students as they enter your building or room.  I did this every year as an administrator and it was something that helped build relationships with staff, students, and the community.  It is worth the few minutes as it starts everything off on such a positive note.
  2. Make sure your current community is represented in the halls and on the walls. As a basketball referee, I was able to travel to schools all over my community, and I noticed several schools that had foregone the “graduation pics” of the past and replaced them with current students that were currently in the building on a rotating basis.  I would watch students excited to see that they were represented and it gave them more ownership of the school.  In my practice, as principal, I replaced the old school “principal portraits” with action shots of current students. I never noticed one student ever care who the principal was in 1972, but I did see them get excited to see themselves or their friends on the wall.  To do it on a continuous basis seems like a lot of work though, hence the next suggestion.

  3. Give some ownership over the decoration of the school. Many teachers spend an ample amount of time decorating their classroom only to call it “our classroom” when the students arrive. Instead of coming in early, have students help with the decoration to give them ownership and to be honest, save you some time.

    As well, one school that I used to see in my travels had a group of students within their media arts class in charge of several display spaces within the school. They had posted samples of student work, images, and media from different types of extracurricular activities, and had an excellent representation of students throughout the community. They also did it as part of their classroom experience and took fantastic pride in their work because they knew their choices would be seen by more than their teacher.  More schools are talking about “empowering students” which means giving up ownership. It might not look as good as it once did, but it is less work for teachers in many cases and gives more pride in the school.

  4. Give as much ownership over assemblies to students as possible. Assemblies are often a big part of the school experience, but who is doing the planning and organization? Years ago, we moved toward students deciding themes and planning the activities, realizing that although it wasn’t as organized as it once was, there was more interest from the community as the students were involved in not only performing or leading on the day, but through the process. I have seen this happen in so many schools and it is incredible the pride students in the whole process and what it does to enhance the school culture.

  5. Replace as many “nos” and “don’ts” as possible. Look around your school.  How many signs say “don’t” or “no”? I was recently in an elementary school, and there was a no-smoking sign.  Were kids between 5-12 years of age having issues of lighting up in the middle of class? I doubt it.

    In a culture of “yes,” preemptively telling students “don’t” is sometimes the equivalent of giving heck to the entire class for the actions of the few. The majority that does nothing feels guilty, while the few might not care.

    Dr. Martin Brokenleg gave this excellent example of how a simple change in messaging can say the same thing but in a much more positive manner.  He suggested moving from, “For the safety of our students, please check in upon arrival.” This can insinuate students are not safe and not give the best feeling throughout the day. His suggestion for the change was to move to, “Upon arrival, please come to say hi at the office as we love to welcome all visitors to our school.”  A subtle shift that can make a big difference.

    This is not about creating a space of anarchy or not having rules, but the tone and the delivery are important in creating the culture.

  6. Don’t do stuff because you always did stuff. Not all tradition is bad, but not all tradition is good.  Doing things because you have done them in the past doesn’t mean it is suitable for the current culture.  Always ask why are we doing this and how does it serve our current students?  This will ensure that thought is put into everything you do and is not repeated solely for the reason that it has always been done.
  7. Find time to connect with students outside of the classroom and outside of your class. Early in my career, I remember complaining about supervision. The way I saw it was that it was me “policing” kids and dealing with things they had done during recess. It was a kind of pain. One of my principals noticed that I hated it and he reminded me that this was an amazing opportunity to connect with students that I hadn’t taught that current year.  For whatever reason, that resonated with me, and I spent more time connecting and learning with students, playing sports, playing guitar, and making connections. I noticed that not only was I enjoying myself more, but the “issues” at recess also went down significantly. We all need our downtime, and you don’t have to spend every extra minute with students, but when you do, take advantage.

    Connecting in the staffroom and being positive is also a great way to get to your know your colleagues on a different level as well. Just ensure that the staffroom doesn’t turn into a space to talk negatively about students, community, or colleagues. The staffroom should be a fountain, not a drain.

  8. Make community feels valued as people first, learners second. I have spent a lot of time in schools, and I have noticed walls dedicated to academics, athletics, and fine arts, and “top achievers” in things that are offered at a school. Many students might not fit into any of these categories, and the experience of school can be daunting.  Just remember that some of your brilliant and most talented students in your school are terrible at academics. Finding and unleashing their talent and genius should be part of every day for our students. Help students identify themselves as so much more than grades and awards. This leads to the next suggestion.

    A simple thing to do is when you pass students or staff in the hallways is to always acknowledge them with a simple “hi” or “hello.” It takes a moment but could be the best part of a student’s day.

  9. Start an Identity Day. One of the best experiences I had as an educator was when my Vice-Principal started an “Identity Day” for our school. Short version; each community member (staff included) would have an opportunity to showcase something in which they were passionate.  It was not only a great day for our community, but it helped our school to identify the passions and talents of our people.  If you want more information on this day, here are some links that will help.

  10. Remember your staff needs love as well. Most of my list is about our students, but remember that your staff needs to feel valued as well. Not only to be valued but to also feel valued. There is a difference.  My good friend, Jimmy Casas, would call the parents of his staff over the holidays to how much he appreciated them. This was a reminder to me that we are all somebody’s kid, and that a staff member that feels valued is more likely to do the same for students. Also, don’t forget that your administrators need to feel praised and appreciated as well. If you see your boss doing something great, don’t lose an opportunity to let them know.

    Educators do so much for students that we forget to take care of ourselves and each other. Your colleagues often need the same love and respect that your students do.

Although this won’t fix a lousy culture, these little ideas can make a huge difference.  If you have any “quick wins” that you do in your school, please do not hesitate to share them in the comments below.

The culture of your school is made up of people, and if people know they are valued and appreciated, the culture will reflect that.

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At the beginning of July, I started to lead a book study on Instagram on “The Innovator’s Mindset.”   Here was my initial plan for the endeavor.

  1. Read a chapter a day for two weeks straight until the book was completed.
  2. Make up the rest as I went along.
  3. See what other people create through the process.

Honestly, I started this process because I wanted to see if Instagram would be beneficial as a platform for learning through a visual means, and I wasn’t familiar with the process. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. My bio reads, “An educator but you are going to find mostly babies and puppies here,” because that is what it mostly was (and might be in the future).

My first post to introduce the process on Instagram was using Apple Clips

I hoped that just using this tool would help educators think about video and accessibility for themselves and learners in the classroom because of the automatic captioning.

Since then, I have tried the new Instagram TV feature, daily posts encouraging comments, some minute-long reflections, and an Instagram Live Q&A.

But what has been absolutely the best part of the process is seeing what other people create. If you check out the #InnovatorsMindset hashtag on Instagram, you can see lots of great reflections, and some done in unique ways.

Two posts that I saw today were inspiring. This one by Beth Ludwig is a compilation of her week of learning:

I loved what Beth shared because when I challenged people to create some type of reflection from the week, she created something that I would not have envisioned myself.  Leaving it open encouraged more creativity and opportunity for the learner to find their way, instead of merely following my directions.

Greg Moffitt did this great video reflection that encouraged his students to continue with their “homework” over the summer but also modeled himself explicitly as a learner to them as well.

To watch other educators join me in this process has been inspiring as they are more focused on what learning can look like for themselves to better understand from their student’s point of view.  It is has been pretty impressive to watch, and I have learned a ton.

So what I have learned from the process?

1. It is okay not to know and try something different because that is the process of learning.   

I will never get to “knowing” until I commit to the learning portion. Ultimately, the “knowing” process is not static either as what I know today, could change even in slight ways tomorrow, but if I am always willing to learn, I will be fine.

When I think about Instagram in this process for me, I am trying to move from a basic understanding to a more transformative use of the platform.  For me to do that, I have to start small and work my way up. But you don’t get to the “deep learning” without dipping your toe into the surface level first.  It reminds me of this part of my book.

2. Learning together with a supportive group of educators makes it so much easier to take risks and try something new. 

Many of the participants have stated their reluctance and fear of participating and THEN participated.  People have commented, encouraged, and shared different ideas and thoughts, and even through challenging one another, have been amazingly supportive.

When you feel you are in a community that both pushes you while having your back, it is much easier to grow than in a space where you are worried you will be attacked if you don’t do it the way someone expects.  I have learned a lot more from the group than they have learned from me because the learning is not only open but supportive of one another.

It has also been neat to see my book through the eyes of others and their own context. At the beginning of the book, I stressed that I could not give a formula for innovation, or else, it wouldn’t be very innovative, but wanted to help people find their way within their unique contexts.  You can’t carbon copy ideas for your school or classroom because each group of learners we serve are uniquely different. What you can do though is iterate and invent opportunities that are beneficial to yourself and your students through the lens of being a learner first, and an educator second. I hope that what this process has provided for others as it has done for me to this point.

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I have been spending a lot of time thinking about arguing and how we challenge one another.  Challenging ideas is essential, especially in the context of education, but how we challenge others is as important as what we are challenging in the first place if we want to push thinking.

Here are three things to think about when pushing the thinking of someone else:

  1. Assume positive intent in the other person. 

    No one shows up to work wanting to do a lousy job. This doesn’t mean they won’t say or do things that don’t bother you, but when we assume positive intent, it places our focus on the idea, not the person.Here’s the thing though…their intent might not be positive, but if you keep your focus on that, people will see from the outside who is challenging for the right reasons.  This leads me to point two.

  2. Remember that the way you deliver your message is almost as meaningful as the message itself. 

    I remember watching a debate and seeing a person start off by immediately making an assumption about the other person, attacking their character, and THEN trying to persuade them of their point.  Not only were they assuring the person they were debating with would not change their mind, but it also lost a lot of people in the conversation as well.There are some brilliant people out there who lose their message in the messaging.  Being respectful is not always about the person you are talking to, but modeling it for the people who are watching.  Focus on the ideas, not the person. Otherwise, the ideas might be lost in the delivery to the people who need to hear it the most.

  3. Find where you agree and build from there. 

    You believe in “Idea A,” and they believe in “Idea C.” But do you both agree on “Idea B,” and if you do, could finding that commonality bring them closer to “Idea A”? Or vice-versa?I read somewhere once (paraphrased) that an “argument” has a winner and a loser, but a discussion is about finding the best ideas.  If you are looking to “win” an argument, you may have already lost.

Often, I write these posts as no more than reminders for myself.  These tips are something that I have found useful in conversations both online and offline and especially when we know others are watching.  Many people say nothing at the moment while observing these conversations, but it doesn’t mean they aren’t being convinced of something at the same time. How we challenge is often just as important as what we challenge

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I saw the title for this post, “How to Win Every Argument” and first thought, “This article could be great for the work that I do, often trying to convince people to do something different than they are already doing!”  Then I jumped in, and it was NOTHING like I thought, but so much better.

From the article:

Next time you state your position, formulate an argument for what you claim and honestly ask yourself whether your argument is any good. Next time you talk with someone who takes a stand, ask them to give you a reason for their view. Spell out their argument fully and charitably. Assess its strength impartially. Raise objections and listen carefully to their replies. This method will require effort, but practice will make you better at it.

These tools can help you win every argument—not in the unhelpful sense of beating your opponents but in the better sense of learning about the issues that divide people, learning why they disagree with us and learning to talk and work together with them. If we readjust our view of arguments—from a verbal fight or tennis game to a reasoned exchange through which we all gain mutual respect and understanding—then we change the very nature of what it means to “win” an argument.

This article was a reminder for me, as it should be for all educators, is that when we see arguments as a “win-lose” proposition, this makes little sense when,

a. We are all on the same team.
b. We all serve the learners in front of us.

I have noticed “camps” over the past few years. You have the “kids should create” camp and the “kids should consume” camp, the “researchers” versus the “innovators,” the “traditionalists” versus the “new.”  What we all need to realize is the answer is rarely in the extremes but most often found in the middle.  By focusing more on how we can we truly win every argument as the author describes, we are less likely to implement “my idea” or “your idea” but the “best ideas” which should always be our focus, no matter where they originate.

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I am very proud to announce the third book from the IMPress publishing team, Kara Knollmeyer’s new book, “Unleash Talent: Bringing Out the Best in Yourself and the Learners You Serve.”

In education, we spend too much time trying to “fix people” instead of bringing out their best not only for themselves, and for our organizations. Kara’s book gives inspiration and practical strategies on how to bring out the strengths in the people you serve, no matter if they are colleagues, bosses, and most importantly, our students.

It was a blessing to write the foreword for the book and I share it with you below.

Kara’s book is now available on Amazon and is practical and refreshing read.

I was done with teaching. Feeling frustrated and that I wasn’t making a difference in the work I was doing, I decided it was time to move on and try to find another profession. Although I loved working with students and enjoyed many aspects of education, teaching had fizzled far from passion into a “job.” I was ready to quit.

To be honest, if I’d had the opportunity to work somewhere else that year, I would not have stayed in education, nor would I be writing this foreword in a book related to education.

With no other options for money, and due to a number of serendipitous events all seeming to occur at the same time, I was offered a one-year position in a school in a new school district. I remember feeling relaxed and comfortable during my interview for that position. The principal interviewing me didn’t barrage me with questions but instead gave me a list of twenty topics we could focus on, and I got to pick. It felt less like an interview and more like a conversation with respected colleagues. We laughed, I cried (seriously), and we talked about things in education that I was extremely passionate about. Things I had forgotten I was passionate about.

I received the job offer a week later, and although I was excited, I still wasn’t convinced teaching was for me; in fact, when I had the opportunity to interview for a job outside education after I had accepted the teaching position, I called my new principal and told her I had an interview for another job. Wanting to be honest, I told her I wanted to explore the job, even though I was under contract with the school. Looking back, it seems like a crazy move, telling my boss before day one of my employment that I was going to explore another option. I will never forget what she said to me on that phone call: “George, we know we would be blessed to have you, but we also do not want you to second guess taking this position. Take the interview, and if you get it, make a decision that is best for you. If you want to still work for us, we would be very lucky and excited to have you.”

I thanked her, hung up the phone, and never took the interview. I knew, at that moment, she was someone I wanted to work for—and I am so grateful I did.

Throughout that first year, I felt trusted, valued, important, and treated as an expert in the areas that I was given to oversee. There is a difference between being valued and feeling valued, and I definitely felt valued. I noticed that, instead of rushing home at the end of the day, I would stay after and work on different elements of the school, connect with other staff members, and push myself to learn and get better.

I learned then that, while it is important to believe in yourself, it is much easier to do that when someone believes in you first. So even as I focused on developing my talents and strengths, I started treating my colleagues and students the way my principal treated me. I began to be intentional about noticing and encouraging people’s strengths as opposed to focusing on their weaknesses. I’m not alone in this. When teachers feel trusted, valued, and important, the way they treat their student changes too.

This quote is tweeted out at conferences all the time, and it drives me absolutely crazy:

“Every child needs at least one adult who is irrationally crazy about him or her.” —Urie Bronfenbrenner

I want to think about some of the math involved here:

  • How many years does a child spend in school?

  • How many adults do they interact with?

Based on whatever numbers you come up with for the above, do you really think that “one” (or even five) is enough?

Me neither.

Too often though, when you talk to students about the teachers who have made a significant impact on them, they do not list ten or fifteen, but sometimes only one or two. Even worse, sometimes zero. Obviously, all educators want to make a positive impact on their students, but then we do things sometimes without thinking about the long-term implications for our students. “Response to Intervention” (RTI) meetings are often focused too much on fixing what is wrong with a student instead of on the child’s strengths and on what gets him or her excited to come to school every single day.

I’m not saying we should ignore our weaknesses, only that we should start with our strengths. If meetings were periodically held about you and what was wrong with you and how you could be “fixed,” how excited would you be to come to work every single day?

Students are no different, and making sure they feel valued is a much better way for them to grow.

I’m sure some people disagree with this statement. They offer objections like, “Well, the ‘real world’ doesn’t always value people.”

That’s true. But my aspirations are not to solely prepare students for the real world. I want to empower them to create a better world.

It is no longer okay for our students to be only able to list one or two teachers that inspired them, as it is no longer okay for educators to be able to list only one or two inspirations in their own career trajectory. This is why I am so excited about Kara Knollmeyer’s book. Kara is someone who lives from her passions and wants you to be able to unleash your own. And in so doing, you can inspire and empower others to live from their strengths and passions.

This book is for all educators, school staff, and parents. Kara believes that we first need to support the adults in our school buildings with the goal of helping them tap into their talents so those talents can be used to support students. If you know your staff well and know what their passions are, you can match teachers with students who have similar passions, and the connection can help create strong relationships.

My own passion for bringing out the best in those you serve is mirrored through every word of this book. One of my favorite quotes in the upcoming pages from Kara is the following:

“Great leaders do not care about showcasing their talent to the entire school. The best leaders use talents to help their staff and students realize how great they are.”

The legacy of an educator is not in what they do, but what the learners they serve do because of their inspiration, dedication, and passion. As you read this book, you will find practical strategies to bring out the best in yourself as well as others.

I am passionate about what has been written in these pages because I was blessed to have a leader who did all of the things Kara talks about, and she not only changed my career but made my life better as well. I am grateful because in a very short time, I went from not wanting to be involved in education to not wanting to do anything else. One person made that difference. You can be that one person.

When we all focus on unleashing talent together, imagine where our schools, students, and educators can go both as individuals and organizations.

I hope you enjoy Kara’s inspiration throughout these pages, and I look forward to hearing the stories of students’ and teachers’ lives being changed because of the work you have done. Thank you for taking the time to read this, but more importantly, thank you for being the “one” who makes a difference for others. There are people, like me, who will always be grateful.

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The notion of “embracing failure” has become one that has become very popular in education over the last few years.  To me, the semantics matter.  “Embracing” is not the right term and does say something to the public outside of education.  Learning and growing from failure is something very different.  We can hate failure AND be open to learning from it. Both things can be true.

Resiliency is crucial, and failure is only finite if we don’t learn from it.

Still, I have come to appreciate the importance of putting our learners into situations that do not guarantee success as they learn to not only deal with adversity but grow from it.  I recently tweeted the article, that focuses on the importance of failure and adversity for a child’s growth, from a parents’ perspective (Read the whole thing here.):

We’ve all heard a lot in the past few years about the importance of failure. Take risks, fail fast, learn from the experience, and bring the knowledge you’ve gained to the next thing you try. We all know this is good advice–except when it comes to our children. Most parents should get better at encouraging their children to risk failure, and helping them benefit from it when it happens.

There are lots of great suggestions in the article and great reminders for caregivers and educators alike, but failure is not the only teacher.  Learning from success is also essential for us to grow.

As a young basketball player, I remember my high school coach really pushing us more after a win than after a loss.  I was always confused, and honestly bothered, by why he would be so critical after a win, but I understand fully now.  He wanted us to grow from the experience and not lose sight of what we did right in the past so that we could keep building success for the future.

With that all being said, here are three thoughts that can help you learn from success, as well as failure.

  1. What worked in the past and why?

    Focusing on failure can often mean focusing on our weaknesses.  Too much focus on “what went wrong” can leave us feeling defeated and that we can’t move forward.  I am not saying that we shouldn’t look at our weaknesses, but focusing on our strengths and how we got to the point of success is something that we can apply to other areas.

    For example, if you excel in your professional life, but your health and wellness are a struggle, what are the things you are doing in your work that could lead to success in your well-being?  You can’t necessarily carbon copy ideas, but there are lessons to be learned that can apply to other areas of your life.

    Success can be a great teacher in the areas where weaknesses need to be developed.

  2. Succes in the past does not guarantee success in the future. 

    I love this quote from William Pollard:

    One of my favorite shows in the world is “Pardon the Interruption” where two people talk about sports but in a curmudgeonly (is that a word) way.  Often when one team goes up in a playoff series, one of the commentators reminds the other that “the other team has coaches as well.”  This is a little reminder that people and organizations are continually making adjustments.

    As I have said many times, in a world that is constantly moving forward, standing still is falling behind.

    Contentment can lead to stagnation. Be ready always to adjust and readjust.

  3. Success might be something you experience as an individual, but it doesn’t mean you were the sole factor in the process. Give back.

    No matter how successful any organization or individual is, no one has ever done it solely on their own. Whether it was a supportive caregiver providing opportunities that we take for granted, a mentor giving advice, or someone recommending you for a job or position, there is always more to the success of an individual than usually meets the eye.

    Knowing that it is important to try your best to give back to others. Not only will this lift others up, but I know that I have learned a ton from the people that I have informally mentored through the process as well, and have grown from the experience.

    This doesn’t mean give up all of your time to everyone ever, but just a subtle reminder that success is rarely, if ever, an individual accomplishment.

Resiliency is not a lesson solely taught through failure. As we focus more on learning from failure, let’s not forget that a lot can be gleaned from success, especially if we want to recreate that pattern in the future as well.

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There was an interesting conversation between two participants in a workshop that I was facilitating that I have been thinking about a lot over the last 24 hours.  One participant asked the following question (paraphrased):

“What do you do if you have someone in your organization that has great leadership skills, but they are leading people away from your vision of what you are trying to achieve?”

Before I answered, I wondered aloud if any other participants had any thoughts, and one person shared the following:

“How do you know your vision is the right one?”

It was a powerful moment as it was a reminder that people will not sincerely, with heart and mind, follow a vision in which they do not believe.

This doesn’t mean that you or they are right or wrong, but it means that there is a disconnect.

How do you get on a shared path toward one vision? Here are three suggestions that may help.

  1. Be flexible.

    Don’t ask for feedback and thoughts from people without the willingness to change your path and trajectory.

    Enough said.

  2. Answer less, question more.

    Innately when we disagree with others, we often try to convince them of our position instead of trying to understand theirs.  I wrote about this idea earlier in 2018:

    “But too often in our efforts to help others move forward in their practice, we create our ‘elevator pitch’ and try to do everything to convince others of why change is crucial. We spend our time trying to convince others of our thinking, but I know that if someone has their mind positioned in a certain way, there is little I can do to persuade them to think differently.

    So instead of you trying to convince them why change is necessary, why not give them a chance to assure you that standing still is crucial? “

    If you want to find a shared path, ask people to clarify their position and their beliefs.  Find parts of where you agree and build on them together, instead of looking for places of disagreement.  This exhibits that you are way closer to a shared vision than maybe either party thought at the beginning of the conversation.

  3. Point fingers at yourself before anyone else.

    It is easy to think of how others are not moving forward instead of thinking, “What am I doing that is holding people back?”

    One of the things that I always remind people that I work with is that there is something that you do today that you swore you would never do.  Identify that, think about what it took you to get over the hump, and then empathize with people knowing that may be at different parts of their destination.

    Don’t look down at someone for not being at a specific point but appreciate them for moving forward.  You were there once as well, and there is probably something you are struggling with in your journey as well.

Leadership is messy, and with an ever-evolving world, our vision has to be something that we can tailor and modify to adjust to not only to where we want to go but with whom we share the journey.

It is not about “your vision” or “their vision,” but about finding the “right vision” and being on that path together. It should not matter where the idea comes from, but where the vision takes you.

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I am asked this question in my sessions often:

“What is the next big technology in education?”

My answer?

“I don’t know.  You probably don’t either.”

There is more to the answer, but I will get back to that in a second.

But here is the thing. I didn’t predict iPads, Chromebooks, the Internet, social media, or a multitude of other things that came our way in education.  The majority of people didn’t, and if they did, it is because they already saw them in other fields.

There will always be new things in education, but so many people are trying to predict “the future of schools” and are often connecting it to some type of technology.  Maybe flying cars will be in our future? I have no idea.

So let’s go back to my answer (paraphrased) and fill in the rest:

“I don’t know. You probably don’t either. What I do know, is that no matter what comes our way, I will be able to figure it out and leverage it in a way that is beneficial to my learning and the learning of those I serve.”

This is why I have focused so much on mindset, not just “stuff.”  It also reminds me of how both “growth” and “innovator’s” mindset are both so crucial.  Not only do I believe I can learn (growth), I have the ability to leverage (innovator) my learning.

Instead of focusing on “what’s next?,” we need to focus on what we will do with whatever’s next, no matter what it is. Better yet, we need to focus on creating what’s next, not waiting for it to happen to us.

To sum up, my friend AJ Juliani puts in beautifully.

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