The Ultimate Gift

Every year, before winter break, I make it a habit to give my teachers a small gift to express my deep appreciation for what they do every day. Maybe it is movie passes or a gift card to their favorite restaurant along with a hand written card. If I could do more, I would. As leaders, I think we all would. But what if we could do more? What if there was something? Something that requires much intentional thought, much time, and much energy. I’m talking about “The Ultimate Gift.”

What if we became more than an instructional leader, more than an evaluator, and instead, became more of a leader of learning? In other words, what if we were to instill a passion for learning within every teacher? I do admit, it does sound difficult for an external force to persuade someone to develop a love of learning. I too believe the desire has to come from within. However, I believe with deliberate and purposeful planning, the ultimate gift can become a reality.

Make It A Priority
Look for and even create opportunities to spark a curiosity for learning. Give a teacher a book or article in which you have highlighted specific chapters or excerpts that you feel this teacher will find interesting and intriguing. Something that they probably would have never read on their own. Seek out information that contradicts their worldview. Attempt to make them think differently. Follow up by engaging in a conversation and allow them to do ninety percent of the talking.

Cause Intellectual Discomfort
Encourage your teacher to do something they have never done before. For instance, sign them up for twitter and tell them how excited you are to think, learn, and grow together on tonight’s chat beginning at 6:00 CT. Forced learning in this way can be fun and challenging. Follow up by acknowledging their willingness to participate and to put themselves out there. Once they establish a PLN, they will be spending more time with people who are always thinking and who invest much of their time in learning.

Invoke Change In Behavior
Learning is useless if it isn’t applied. Reading a recipe book is not the same as picking up a utensil and cooking. Albert Einstein once said, “Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking.” Simply studying the wisdom of others isn’t enough, you must put it into practice. Follow up by asking the teacher how they can apply what they have read or what they have learned.

Sharing Is Learning
It’s been proven that you learn what you teach. Make time for teachers to think through ideas, to mentor someone or even discuss ideas with a colleague. Talk to them about the importance of self-reflection and the many benefits of starting a blog. Follow up by talking with them about their new ideas and assist them in solidifying what they have learned. Be sure to comment on their blog and tweet it out to the world.

The energy generated when teachers take ownership of their learning can create a school culture that sparkles with collegiality, collaboration, sharing and a passion for learning. To instill such a gift will require much intentional planning along with personal follow up, but developing thinkers, problem solvers, and curious minds is ultimately worth it!


  1. Christine Harris said:

    mmm … yes that does take intentional thought, and I know that for me those gifts would be great to give. I hope I am not being too cynical but I wonder as Principal how some of my staff might perceive those gifts, no matter how well meaning. I guess that is the challenge to grow our learning culture so that all teachers are happy to be participants in learning. ..I appreciate your positive and passionate outlook 🙂

    December 20, 2011
  2. sblankenship said:

    Thank you Christine for your comment. Being cynical and somewhat skeptical can easily be transformed into curiosity. Now that you are somewhat curious, I encourage you to intentionally and wholeheartedly put one or some of these steps into action. It can and will work even with the most reluctant educators. As you stated, the challenge is to create this culture of learning throughout your building. It is important to be genuine and show a personal interest in each teacher. Be more concerned about making your teachers feel good about themselves than you are making them feel good about you. Once you build this trust, the stars are the limit. The next step is to transition this passion for learning into the minds and hearts of every student.

    When it comes to complacent and stagnant educators, I often think of this quote:

    “I don’t think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday.” – Abraham Lincoln

    Thanks for taking the time to comment and for bringing up a great question. It is much work, but the outcome is ultimately worth it!

    December 20, 2011
  3. sblankenship said:

    Bo, thank you for the post and for the mention. This was the first time I have ever heard the word, pracademics. A Pracademic is someone who is both an academic and an active practitioner in their subject area. I enjoyed your opening paragraph and the way you so eloquently articulated the actions of a true pracademic. Well done!

    December 20, 2011

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