Tag: learning



You have a choice when it comes to your attention. You give it to things you value, the things you find interesting or rewarding or helpful. And you withhold your attention from things that seem less valuable to you. We are constantly making decisions about our attention, where to focus it, and how to spend it.



And your students are no different. They also make choices about where to focus their attention. And that’s why it’s so important to provide a classroom experience that students will find meaningful (this is important to me) and rewarding (I can be successful here).



What if we treated students like volunteers? What if we acted as if they had no obligation to learn the things we must teach? What if we made it our mission to cause them to want to learn more?



Wouldn’t it be great if students saw learning as something they get to do instead of something they have to do?



What if we decided it was up to us to create a force that pulls them in? After all, students make decisions with their attention just like the rest of us. Let’s make learning so great it becomes irresistible. 



How strong is your lesson’s gravitational pull? Be a force field of energy. Bring so much passion, enthusiasm, and creativity to your lesson that students think, “There is no way this teacher is gonna settle for less than my best!”



Bring that type of energy. Are your students pulled into your lesson? How is the energy in your classroom? How is your culture of learning?



When I visit classrooms, every single one feels a little different. But when things are working right there is a kind of energy that makes learning go. It’s focused energy. It’s energy that’s driving learning forward.



It’s kids really connecting to learning. There’s a kind of positive tension, a push forward that comes with growth. 



And none of this is necessarily about specific teaching methods. There are lots of different methods that can work. But where is the attention flowing? Are you pulling them in? The teacher may be sage on the stage, or guide by the side. Lots of methods can work.



But the method doesn’t matter most. Whatever the method, the room is focused. It might be noisy or quiet but there is intentionality. It might be teacher-centered or student-centered, but ultimately it’s learning-centered.



So be intentional about how energy is flowing in your space. And don’t settle for mediocrity. Aim for excellence. Is attention flowing toward learning? Does the energy pull them toward success?



Here are 15 ways to get attention focused and get energy flowing toward learning. I’ve divided them into three different categories.



Connect. Students will focus energy on learning when the relationship with the teacher is stronger. 

1. Greet students.

2. Call them by name.

3. Smile.

4. Make eye contact.

5. Learn something new about each student.



Communicate. Effective classroom communication helps focus energy in desirable ways. 

6. Clarify expectations.

7. Start with why. Explain context and relevance.

8. Tell stories to illustrate concepts. Stories capture attention.

9. Increase student voice and choice.

10. Redirect unfocused energy. Call out energy drifters.



Inspire. When learning is meaningful and authentic, students will give more. Don’t play the game of school. Do stuff that matters and makes a difference.

11. Connect learning to student interests.

12. Challenge students to design, think, and problem-solve.

13. Make surprises routine. Mix it up.

14. Be the Chief Energy Officer. Lead the fun.

15. Incorporate curiosity and creativity consistently.



What else would you add to this list? How would you take these ideas deeper? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More 15 Ways to Increase Focused Energy in Your Classroom



You have a choice when it comes to your attention. You give it to things you value, the things you find interesting or rewarding or helpful. And you withhold your attention from things that seem less valuable to you. We are constantly making decisions about our attention, where to focus it, and how to spend it.



And your students are no different. They also make choices about where to focus their attention. And that’s why it’s so important to provide a classroom experience that students will find meaningful (this is important to me) and rewarding (I can be successful here).



What if we treated students like volunteers? What if we acted as if they had no obligation to learn the things we must teach? What if we made it our mission to cause them to want to learn more?



Wouldn’t it be great if students saw learning as something they get to do instead of something they have to do?



What if we decided it was up to us to create a force that pulls them in? After all, students make decisions with their attention just like the rest of us. Let’s make learning so great it becomes irresistible. 



How strong is your lesson’s gravitational pull? Be a force field of energy. Bring so much passion, enthusiasm, and creativity to your lesson that students think, “There is no way this teacher is gonna settle for less than my best!”



Bring that type of energy. Are your students pulled into your lesson? How is the energy in your classroom? How is your culture of learning?



When I visit classrooms, every single one feels a little different. But when things are working right there is a kind of energy that makes learning go. It’s focused energy. It’s energy that’s driving learning forward.



It’s kids really connecting to learning. There’s a kind of positive tension, a push forward that comes with growth. 



And none of this is necessarily about specific teaching methods. There are lots of different methods that can work. But where is the attention flowing? Are you pulling them in? The teacher may be sage on the stage, or guide by the side. Lots of methods can work.



But the method doesn’t matter most. Whatever the method, the room is focused. It might be noisy or quiet but there is intentionality. It might be teacher-centered or student-centered, but ultimately it’s learning-centered.



So be intentional about how energy is flowing in your space. And don’t settle for mediocrity. Aim for excellence. Is attention flowing toward learning? Does the energy pull them toward success?



Here are 15 ways to get attention focused and get energy flowing toward learning. I’ve divided them into three different categories.



Connect. Students will focus energy on learning when the relationship with the teacher is stronger. 

1. Greet students.

2. Call them by name.

3. Smile.

4. Make eye contact.

5. Learn something new about each student.



Communicate. Effective classroom communication helps focus energy in desirable ways. 

6. Clarify expectations.

7. Start with why. Explain context and relevance.

8. Tell stories to illustrate concepts. Stories capture attention.

9. Increase student voice and choice.

10. Redirect unfocused energy. Call out energy drifters.



Inspire. When learning is meaningful and authentic, students will give more. Don’t play the game of school. Do stuff that matters and makes a difference.

11. Connect learning to student interests.

12. Challenge students to design, think, and problem-solve.

13. Make surprises routine. Mix it up.

14. Be the Chief Energy Officer. Lead the fun.

15. Incorporate curiosity and creativity consistently.



What else would you add to this list? How would you take these ideas deeper? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More 15 Ways to Increase Focused Energy in Your Classroom




Passion and proficiency. Both are important. But what’s your priority? What comes first? Some teachers know their content, have great strategies, and work hard every day. And yet they aren’t getting the results they hope for.



In Future Driven, I wrote about the importance of rekindling passion in an accountability era where proficiency has been prioritized to the detriment of everything else.

“More than proficiency, we need passion. We need people who are passionate about life, solving problems, helping others, and doing amazing work. Passionate people aren’t just concerned what’s in it for them. They don’t want someone to take care of them, to create a job for them, or make it easy for them. They want to make a difference in the world. They want their life to count.

Proficiency is about cheap labor, following the rules, being an interchangeable part. It’s following the map, taking orders, playing it safe. In school, it’s being ready for the next grade level or for college. These aren’t bad things. But it’s not what allows us to use all of our gifts.” 

If we are going to crush apathy in our schools and create learning that’s irresistible, it won’t happen by doubling down our efforts to reach proficiency. We have to start by developing environments where students can rekindle what it means to be a passionate learner.



After all, they came to us this way, right? When kids entered school for the first time, they were filled with curiosity, creativity, and hope. They came to us with these qualities so shouldn’t they leave us with them also?



So what can you do to create that passionate learning culture in your classroom?



1. Model passionate learning yourself. Be curious yourself. Learn rights alongside your students. Your energy, enthusiasm, and excitement towards learning will make a huge difference for your students.



2. Focus more on developing interesting questions, engaging in deeper and better thinking, and making meaning with your students. Some things are more valuable than getting right answers. Intellectual curiosity is exciting if it isn’t crushed by fear of getting the wrong answer. Let’s start with questions.



3. Connect learning to making a difference. Give students ways to learn that will impact their family, their community, a global society. Help students make a difference now. We aren’t just preparing leaders for the future. Kids need opportunities to lead and make a difference now.



4. Connect learning to creativity. Passionate learning involves creating something new, not just regurgitating established information. Creativity allow us to connect who we are to what we are learning. We are creative beings. We need opportunities to create.



5. Connect learning to emotion. Developing our cognitive abilities needs to go hand in hand with developing our emotional abilities. Let’s work on developing conditions where learning connects to the heart and not just to the mind. I’m not sure where it originated but I love this quote, “Information without emotion is rarely retained.”

Hugh Macleod (@hughcards) shared this bit on his Twitter feed. It captures so much truth in such a simple visual. The world is rapidly changing. The type of work and the value of different kinds of work is also rapidly changing.



Proficiency won’t help you compete with robots or zombies. They know their stuff. They have the market cornered on proficiency. But they can’t go deeper. They’re soulless. If you want to be great, you have to be an artist. Not necessarily an artist who paints, or sculpts, or writes poetry. But you have to offer more from your humanity than a zombie is willing to give or a robot is able to give.


So here’s the challenge. If your students are mostly doing robot work or zombie work in school, how are they going to be ready to do art work in a world that demands it? 


As our world becomes increasingly automated and technological, our students are going to gain the greatest advantage not just by their proficiency, but by their ability to leverage emotional labor to produce great work. 




Is proficiency still important? Absolutely. But if we keep pursuing proficiency to the exclusion of what’s most important, we are doing our children a terrible disservice. 


What are your thoughts on passion vs. proficiency? If we generated more passionate learning, would proficiency take care of itself? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More What’s Your Priority? Passion or Proficiency




Passion and proficiency. Both are important. But what’s your priority? What comes first? Some teachers know their content, have great strategies, and work hard every day. And yet they aren’t getting the results they hope for.



In Future Driven, I wrote about the importance of rekindling passion in an accountability era where proficiency has been prioritized to the detriment of everything else.

“More than proficiency, we need passion. We need people who are passionate about life, solving problems, helping others, and doing amazing work. Passionate people aren’t just concerned what’s in it for them. They don’t want someone to take care of them, to create a job for them, or make it easy for them. They want to make a difference in the world. They want their life to count.

Proficiency is about cheap labor, following the rules, being an interchangeable part. It’s following the map, taking orders, playing it safe. In school, it’s being ready for the next grade level or for college. These aren’t bad things. But it’s not what allows us to use all of our gifts.” 

If we are going to crush apathy in our schools and create learning that’s irresistible, it won’t happen by doubling down our efforts to reach proficiency. We have to start by developing environments where students can rekindle what it means to be a passionate learner.



After all, they came to us this way, right? When kids entered school for the first time, they were filled with curiosity, creativity, and hope. They came to us with these qualities so shouldn’t they leave us with them also?



So what can you do to create that passionate learning culture in your classroom?



1. Model passionate learning yourself. Be curious yourself. Learn rights alongside your students. Your energy, enthusiasm, and excitement towards learning will make a huge difference for your students.



2. Focus more on developing interesting questions, engaging in deeper and better thinking, and making meaning with your students. Some things are more valuable than getting right answers. Intellectual curiosity is exciting if it isn’t crushed by fear of getting the wrong answer. Let’s start with questions.



3. Connect learning to making a difference. Give students ways to learn that will impact their family, their community, a global society. Help students make a difference now. We aren’t just preparing leaders for the future. Kids need opportunities to lead and make a difference now.



4. Connect learning to creativity. Passionate learning involves creating something new, not just regurgitating established information. Creativity allow us to connect who we are to what we are learning. We are creative beings. We need opportunities to create.



5. Connect learning to emotion. Developing our cognitive abilities needs to go hand in hand with developing our emotional abilities. Let’s work on developing conditions where learning connects to the heart and not just to the mind. I’m not sure where it originated but I love this quote, “Information without emotion is rarely retained.”

Hugh Macleod (@hughcards) shared this bit on his Twitter feed. It captures so much truth in such a simple visual. The world is rapidly changing. The type of work and the value of different kinds of work is also rapidly changing.



Proficiency won’t help you compete with robots or zombies. They know their stuff. They have the market cornered on proficiency. But they can’t go deeper. They’re soulless. If you want to be great, you have to be an artist. Not necessarily an artist who paints, or sculpts, or writes poetry. But you have to offer more from your humanity than a zombie is willing to give or a robot is able to give.


So here’s the challenge. If your students are mostly doing robot work or zombie work in school, how are they going to be ready to do art work in a world that demands it? 


As our world becomes increasingly automated and technological, our students are going to gain the greatest advantage not just by their proficiency, but by their ability to leverage emotional labor to produce great work. 




Is proficiency still important? Absolutely. But if we keep pursuing proficiency to the exclusion of what’s most important, we are doing our children a terrible disservice. 


What are your thoughts on passion vs. proficiency? If we generated more passionate learning, would proficiency take care of itself? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More What’s Your Priority? Passion or Proficiency



We have a basic speech class that we require just about every student in our school to take. It’s not a graduation requirement, but our counselors include this semester class for all sophomores unless there is some compelling reason they just can’t fit it into their schedule.



We expect all students to take it because we know how important it is to develop good oral communication skills. The class includes public speaking components, but it also provides practice with interpersonal skills and interviewing. It’s essential stuff for life.



You’ve probably heard it stated that people fear public speaking more than death, in surveys at least. So inevitably, there are students who don’t want to take this course. And from time to time, I will here from parents who don’t want their child to take the course.



Jerry Seinfeld found the humor in just how much most people dread public speaking:

“According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.”

I get it. Public speaking can produce anxiety, dread, discomfort, apprehension, and more.



As a result, I always listen carefully to parent concerns and try to show empathy and understanding. It can be scary to stand in front of your peers and speak.



But I’m not easily persuaded to change our expectations about students taking this class. It’s an excellent opportunity for students to grow and develop all sorts of valuable skills.



So, my dialogue with parents asks them to consider what’s best for their child:



“I understand this class makes lots of students uncomfortable. But that can be a good thing because growth requires stepping out of comfort zones. We don’t grow stronger by doing what’s easy. When we face something hard and push through it, that makes us stronger. So I’m always asking myself as a parent, do I want my kids to be comfortable or do I want them to grow? And the answer, of course, is I want them to grow. Isn’t that what all parents want for their kids?”



And of course, parents do want their kids to grow, but for some reason, we’ve developed a desire in our culture to protect our kids from anything that is uncomfortable or difficult. It’s very common to see parents protecting their kids from anything that produces discomfort.



But we can’t have it both ways.



Growth demands stretching the limits and trying something new. Growth demands risk of failure. It requires some discomfort. So we need to invite kids to embrace the discomfort. And we need to invite parents to encourage discomfort and not rescue kids from the struggle.



So I will continue to share with everyone in our school my belief that we have to get uncomfortable if we want to be all we can be. We have to push past our fear and go for it.



Do you have tips for helping parents understand that it’s not a bad thing for their child to be uncomfortable? That productive struggle is a good thing? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter

Read More Do You Want Your Child to Grow or Do You Want Him to Be Comfortable?



We have a basic speech class that we require just about every student in our school to take. It’s not a graduation requirement, but our counselors include this semester class for all sophomores unless there is some compelling reason they just can’t fit it into their schedule.



We expect all students to take it because we know how important it is to develop good oral communication skills. The class includes public speaking components, but it also provides practice with interpersonal skills and interviewing. It’s essential stuff for life.



You’ve probably heard it stated that people fear public speaking more than death, in surveys at least. So inevitably, there are students who don’t want to take this course. And from time to time, I will here from parents who don’t want their child to take the course.



Jerry Seinfeld found the humor in just how much most people dread public speaking:

“According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.”

I get it. Public speaking can produce anxiety, dread, discomfort, apprehension, and more.



As a result, I always listen carefully to parent concerns and try to show empathy and understanding. It can be scary to stand in front of your peers and speak.



But I’m not easily persuaded to change our expectations about students taking this class. It’s an excellent opportunity for students to grow and develop all sorts of valuable skills.



So, my dialogue with parents asks them to consider what’s best for their child:



“I understand this class makes lots of students uncomfortable. But that can be a good thing because growth requires stepping out of comfort zones. We don’t grow stronger by doing what’s easy. When we face something hard and push through it, that makes us stronger. So I’m always asking myself as a parent, do I want my kids to be comfortable or do I want them to grow? And the answer, of course, is I want them to grow. Isn’t that what all parents want for their kids?”



And of course, parents do want their kids to grow, but for some reason, we’ve developed a desire in our culture to protect our kids from anything that is uncomfortable or difficult. It’s very common to see parents protecting their kids from anything that produces discomfort.



But we can’t have it both ways.



Growth demands stretching the limits and trying something new. Growth demands risk of failure. It requires some discomfort. So we need to invite kids to embrace the discomfort. And we need to invite parents to encourage discomfort and not rescue kids from the struggle.



So I will continue to share with everyone in our school my belief that we have to get uncomfortable if we want to be all we can be. We have to push past our fear and go for it.



Do you have tips for helping parents understand that it’s not a bad thing for their child to be uncomfortable? That productive struggle is a good thing? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter

Read More Do You Want Your Child to Grow or Do You Want Him to Be Comfortable?

Twitter EDU :: Your (FREE) One-Stop-All-You-Need-To-Know-Guide to Twitter I have been working on this book for over a year and a half, and it’s finally done! Get your free copy here. Here is a brief description of the book: Your One-Stop-All-You-Need-To-Know-Guide to Twitter. “The hardest part of Twitter is that it does not have a friendly […]

Read More Twitter EDU – The Twitter Guide



A couple of years ago, I wrote a post Eight Things Successful Educators Never Say. In the post, I explained how words reveal so much about our attitude and mindset. 



Our words reflect our thoughts. And our thoughts often become our actions. And then our actions determine our destiny. The words we use tell so much about who we are and what we value. 



Words matter.



In that earlier post, I was thinking about things that I could never imagine hearing from a highly effective educator.



I’d like to add one more phrase to that list. 



“I already do that.”



Over the years, I’ve heard this phrase quite a bit, but rarely if ever have I heard it coming from the most successful educators. Let me unpack the context where I’ve heard the phrase used.



After a teacher/administrator shares an idea they tried that worked in their classroom/school, a colleague replies, “I already do that.”



After a day of professional development that involves learning about a practice or method, an educator boasts, “I already do that.”



When an administrator or instructional coach suggests a change that might be helpful for a classroom, a teacher responds, “I already do that.”



Often the phrase is followed by an explanation of ways the educator is already doing that practice. And it could be that the educator has done something similar, or maybe even something almost exactly the same. Maybe it’s true.



But regardless of whether the educator already does that or not, these words seem very dismissive to me. It seems to imply that I already know what you’re talking about, and there is nothing more I can learn from you on this topic.



Like many seasoned educators, over the years I’ve had hundreds if not thousands of conversations about teaching and learning, and I’ve participated in untold hours of formal and informal professional development.



And even when it was not my choice to attend the workshop or session, I tried to have the attitude that I might learn something from this. 



There were times that I didn’t fully engage, but I always tried to take away something. Sometimes I even learned what not to do. We’ve all been to bad PD sessions or uninspired training. But there can be learning nonetheless.



At other times, I heard ideas being expressed that were very familiar. Some of the themes in education remain the same. It’s been said there is nothing new under the sun. And at some level I think this holds true. Even our most innovative practices are built on fundamentals that might be familiar.



But even when I encounter ideas that are not new to me, I try to remind myself not to be dismissive or think, I already know that or I already do that. Hearing good information again and again is not a bad thing. It reinforces knowledge and ideas that are important.



And it can help us to feel validated and confirmed in the good work we are doing.



Sometimes I will share information on Twitter or even in my blog that may seem obvious. For instance, I occasionally share that “kids learn more from teachers who smile” or “every child in every school should hear an encouraging word every day.” Sure, these are simple truths, but they are also important reminders.



Recently, I had someone on Twitter push back, “Why are you talking down to teachers? Surely you don’t intend this for experienced teachers. Do you even know what teachers do?”



Sigh.



Certainly my intent is never to talk down to anyone, especially teachers. I have the greatest respect for teachers. I may be a principal, but I identify as a teacher too. I’m not teaching lessons day in and day out, but I always want to lift up teachers and make the teaching profession stronger.



Even if an idea may seem obvious, sometimes it’s still helpful to put words around it and help bring it to the surface again, to make it fresh, to shine a light on it, to celebrate it. 



Some people may encounter even a simple idea and be validated, encouraged, or inspired. Others may encounter the same idea and think, “I already do that.”



I think those are two very different kinds of people. Which kind of person are you?



Do you hear this phrase often? How should we respond when someone says, “I already do that?” Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More The Problem With "I Already Do That"



A couple of years ago, I wrote a post Eight Things Successful Educators Never Say. In the post, I explained how words reveal so much about our attitude and mindset. 



Our words reflect our thoughts. And our thoughts often become our actions. And then our actions determine our destiny. The words we use tell so much about who we are and what we value. 



Words matter.



In that earlier post, I was thinking about things that I could never imagine hearing from a highly effective educator.



I’d like to add one more phrase to that list. 



“I already do that.”



Over the years, I’ve heard this phrase quite a bit, but rarely if ever have I heard it coming from the most successful educators. Let me unpack the context where I’ve heard the phrase used.



After a teacher/administrator shares an idea they tried that worked in their classroom/school, a colleague replies, “I already do that.”



After a day of professional development that involves learning about a practice or method, an educator boasts, “I already do that.”



When an administrator or instructional coach suggests a change that might be helpful for a classroom, a teacher responds, “I already do that.”



Often the phrase is followed by an explanation of ways the educator is already doing that practice. And it could be that the educator has done something similar, or maybe even something almost exactly the same. Maybe it’s true.



But regardless of whether the educator already does that or not, these words seem very dismissive to me. It seems to imply that I already know what you’re talking about, and there is nothing more I can learn from you on this topic.



Like many seasoned educators, over the years I’ve had hundreds if not thousands of conversations about teaching and learning, and I’ve participated in untold hours of formal and informal professional development.



And even when it was not my choice to attend the workshop or session, I tried to have the attitude that I might learn something from this. 



There were times that I didn’t fully engage, but I always tried to take away something. Sometimes I even learned what not to do. We’ve all been to bad PD sessions or uninspired training. But there can be learning nonetheless.



At other times, I heard ideas being expressed that were very familiar. Some of the themes in education remain the same. It’s been said there is nothing new under the sun. And at some level I think this holds true. Even our most innovative practices are built on fundamentals that might be familiar.



But even when I encounter ideas that are not new to me, I try to remind myself not to be dismissive or think, I already know that or I already do that. Hearing good information again and again is not a bad thing. It reinforces knowledge and ideas that are important.



And it can help us to feel validated and confirmed in the good work we are doing.



Sometimes I will share information on Twitter or even in my blog that may seem obvious. For instance, I occasionally share that “kids learn more from teachers who smile” or “every child in every school should hear an encouraging word every day.” Sure, these are simple truths, but they are also important reminders.



Recently, I had someone on Twitter push back, “Why are you talking down to teachers? Surely you don’t intend this for experienced teachers. Do you even know what teachers do?”



Sigh.



Certainly my intent is never to talk down to anyone, especially teachers. I have the greatest respect for teachers. I may be a principal, but I identify as a teacher too. I’m not teaching lessons day in and day out, but I always want to lift up teachers and make the teaching profession stronger.



Even if an idea may seem obvious, sometimes it’s still helpful to put words around it and help bring it to the surface again, to make it fresh, to shine a light on it, to celebrate it. 



Some people may encounter even a simple idea and be validated, encouraged, or inspired. Others may encounter the same idea and think, “I already do that.”



I think those are two very different kinds of people. Which kind of person are you?



Do you hear this phrase often? How should we respond when someone says, “I already do that?” Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More The Problem With "I Already Do That"





I bet you are a fantastic problem solver. Most educators have developed this ability because problems come at you all day long. And you make hundreds of decisions from dawn till dusk.



Our time is a precious resource that can be extremely scarce because of all the demands we face. If we’re not careful, the tyranny of the urgent will consume us and may crowd out time for what’s most important.



Can we agree that the things that are most urgent are often not the most important? Reflect on your day. There were things you felt had to be done. But at what cost?



When you spend all your time dealing with urgent matters, not considering what things would have the highest leverage for success, you are simply spinning your wheels. Lots of activity not going anywhere.



Benjamin Franklin dedicated 5 hours of his week to learning. His personal growth and learning was a priority. Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, and Oprah Winfrey also share this personal commitment to learn at least one hour a day and probably more.



You will never reach your growth potential if you are captive to the urgent.



We did a strengths finder with our staff about a year ago. It was a survey instrument that gave us feedback on our strength areas. We shared these out in a meeting and enjoyed reflecting on how our differences make us collectively strong.



But we all got a chuckle when I asked for teachers to raise their hands if love of learning (one of the characteristics) made their top five strengths. Surprisingly, in this sizable group of educators, only 2-3 teachers had it in their top five.



Of course, I think our teachers love learning. But I also wonder how much of a priority we are giving to our own growth and learning. I challenge you to spend at least 5 hours a week learning and see how it impacts your effectiveness.



For me, my learning each week involves reading, blogging, connecting with other educators on Twitter, and thinking and reflecting. 



Make time to support your own growth and learning and watch how it influences the learning and growth of your students.



The most successful people in the world are extremely busy and they are still finding time to read and learn consistently. Don’t let the urgent things rule over you. Take back what’s important and invest in your own growth.



How are you growing and making time for the 5-hour rule? What are you reading? Leave a comment below or share your thoughts on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More Don’t Let What’s Urgent Keep You From What’s Important





I bet you are a fantastic problem solver. Most educators have developed this ability because problems come at you all day long. And you make hundreds of decisions from dawn till dusk.



Our time is a precious resource that can be extremely scarce because of all the demands we face. If we’re not careful, the tyranny of the urgent will consume us and may crowd out time for what’s most important.



Can we agree that the things that are most urgent are often not the most important? Reflect on your day. There were things you felt had to be done. But at what cost?



When you spend all your time dealing with urgent matters, not considering what things would have the highest leverage for success, you are simply spinning your wheels. Lots of activity not going anywhere.



Benjamin Franklin dedicated 5 hours of his week to learning. His personal growth and learning was a priority. Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, and Oprah Winfrey also share this personal commitment to learn at least one hour a day and probably more.



You will never reach your growth potential if you are captive to the urgent.



We did a strengths finder with our staff about a year ago. It was a survey instrument that gave us feedback on our strength areas. We shared these out in a meeting and enjoyed reflecting on how our differences make us collectively strong.



But we all got a chuckle when I asked for teachers to raise their hands if love of learning (one of the characteristics) made their top five strengths. Surprisingly, in this sizable group of educators, only 2-3 teachers had it in their top five.



Of course, I think our teachers love learning. But I also wonder how much of a priority we are giving to our own growth and learning. I challenge you to spend at least 5 hours a week learning and see how it impacts your effectiveness.



For me, my learning each week involves reading, blogging, connecting with other educators on Twitter, and thinking and reflecting. 



Make time to support your own growth and learning and watch how it influences the learning and growth of your students.



The most successful people in the world are extremely busy and they are still finding time to read and learn consistently. Don’t let the urgent things rule over you. Take back what’s important and invest in your own growth.



How are you growing and making time for the 5-hour rule? What are you reading? Leave a comment below or share your thoughts on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More Don’t Let What’s Urgent Keep You From What’s Important





Some things we communicate intentionally. And sometimes when we fail to communicate intentionally, we send a message that we didn’t mean to send.




Here are 11 things you might unintentionally be communicating to your students.



1. When you don’t wait for all students to get quiet and give you their attention before you start talking, you might be communicating that it’s not really important that they listen to you.



2. If you complain about the school, other teachers, or the way things are, your students will probably think it’s okay to be negative about the school, other teachers, and probably your classroom too.



3. When you pass a student in the hall or they enter your room and you don’t say hello or call them by name, they may think you don’t really care about them.



4. If you give a grade for every assignment or activity and talk about how “this or that is going to be on the test,” your students may think your class is more about grades than learning.



5. If the questions you ask have just one correct answer, there’s a good chance your students will think your class is all about right answers, not about being better thinkers.



6. If you only recognize the ‘A’ students or celebrate the kids who have high test scores, that may communicate that only the ‘smart’ kids matter and that growth is not valued.

7. If you make mistakes in front of your students and then act defensive or embarrassed, you might be sending the message that only perfection is accepted and risk taking is not appreciated.



8. When you break a school policy or act like the rules are no big deal, you might send the message you don’t really value a culture of respect and shared responsibility.



9. If you aren’t intentional about making your classroom innovative and future driven, you may be sending the message to students that what their parents learned in school will be good enough for them too.



10. When you come in dragging, lack energy, or just don’t give your best, you might be communicating to students that it’s okay to try hard only when you feel like it.



11. If you don’t give students choices in their learning or opportunities to pursue their passions, they may view learning as more about compliance than actually being about…well…learning.



We have to be very careful about what we are communicating. Kids are always watching. They want to see alignment between our words and actions. They are looking to see what we really think, what we really believe, and how much we really care about them.



What is being communicated in your school unintentionally? I think that’s a good question to consider. I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or share on Twitter or Facebook.

Read More 11 Things You Might Unintentionally Be Communicating to Your Students





Some things we communicate intentionally. And sometimes when we fail to communicate intentionally, we send a message that we didn’t mean to send.




Here are 11 things you might unintentionally be communicating to your students.



1. When you don’t wait for all students to get quiet and give you their attention before you start talking, you might be communicating that it’s not really important that they listen to you.



2. If you complain about the school, other teachers, or the way things are, your students will probably think it’s okay to be negative about the school, other teachers, and probably your classroom too.



3. When you pass a student in the hall or they enter your room and you don’t say hello or call them by name, they may think you don’t really care about them.



4. If you give a grade for every assignment or activity and talk about how “this or that is going to be on the test,” your students may think your class is more about grades than learning.



5. If the questions you ask have just one correct answer, there’s a good chance your students will think your class is all about right answers, not about being better thinkers.



6. If you only recognize the ‘A’ students or celebrate the kids who have high test scores, that may communicate that only the ‘smart’ kids matter and that growth is not valued.

7. If you make mistakes in front of your students and then act defensive or embarrassed, you might be sending the message that only perfection is accepted and risk taking is not appreciated.



8. When you break a school policy or act like the rules are no big deal, you might send the message you don’t really value a culture of respect and shared responsibility.



9. If you aren’t intentional about making your classroom innovative and future driven, you may be sending the message to students that what their parents learned in school will be good enough for them too.



10. When you come in dragging, lack energy, or just don’t give your best, you might be communicating to students that it’s okay to try hard only when you feel like it.



11. If you don’t give students choices in their learning or opportunities to pursue their passions, they may view learning as more about compliance than actually being about…well…learning.



We have to be very careful about what we are communicating. Kids are always watching. They want to see alignment between our words and actions. They are looking to see what we really think, what we really believe, and how much we really care about them.



What is being communicated in your school unintentionally? I think that’s a good question to consider. I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or share on Twitter or Facebook.

Read More 11 Things You Might Unintentionally Be Communicating to Your Students

Alec Couros shared this on Facebook: Every “new” revolution or trend in education is inevitably accompanied by the critics who wisely note “We tried this back in the x0’s. If you want change to happen and to stick, engage your historians to better understand why things failed the first time around. I then shared his post on […]

Read More Been there, done that? Actually, no.



The current generation of students is dealing with more stress and anxiety than ever before. I’m sure there are many reasons for this, but regardless of the causes we must work to help address the reality.



Here are the stats as reported in an article from Time:

A study of national trends in depression among adolescents and young adults published in the journal Pediatrics on November 14, 2016 found that the prevalence of teens who reported an MDE in the previous 12 months jumped from 8.7% in 2005 to 11.5% in 2014. That’s a 37 percent increase. (An MDE is defined as a period of at least two weeks of low mood that is present in most situations. Symptoms include low self-esteem, loss of interest in normally enjoyable activities, and problems with sleep, energy and concentration.)

We hear the stories every day of kids fighting depression, feeling overwhelmed, struggling with problems with friends, parents, or both. There seem to be more kids than ever who are no longer living with parents at all.



And here’s the thing, if you are depressed or filled with anxiety, how are you going to focus your energy on learning? You probably won’t unless you shift your thinking. Or unless something in your environment helps you shift your thinking.



One of our teachers commented, “I want my class to be an oasis for students. For the time they are in my class, I want it to be so good they forget the problems on the outside.”



So how do you do that? How can you help kids shift energy from a focus on problems to a focus on learning? 



Here’s what won’t work.



“Class, yesterday we worked on such and such and today we will do such and such. So let’s get started.”



Ready, set, go.



It’s an abrupt attempt to start learning. That won’t work because a bunch of kids in class are still thinking about how bad they feel, what was said to them that’s hurtful, or how they are going to deal with that personal problem. They are distracted. They aren’t emotionally in a good place to learn.



I believe every learner would benefit from more ‘right-brain’ directed starters in class. Lead with something that helps them access positive emotions, creativity, empathy, and connection.



It might take a few minutes to plan and execute these strategies, but it will be well worth it. In the end, there will be more learning by  helping students get the right focus. Start class by shifting the energy. Get kids in the right mindset first.



So here are 9 possibilities to make this happen. Find ways to open your class with one or more of these. And, look for ways to have these things show up throughout your class, too. It will help to inspire learning. 



1. Humor – Tell a joke, make fun of yourself, or do something zany and off the wall.



2. Music – Play upbeat music as students are coming into class. It’s amazing how the right music can put us in a different mood. 



3. Relaxed Breathing – Slow, deep breathing and quiet relaxation can help students to calm body and mind.



4. Imagination – Have kids write or share with each other on topics that require imagination. What if you could time travel? What time would you visit? Why?



5. Drama – Create some fun drama in the class. Have a debate about something ridiculous. Launch an investigation. Make it absurd. Be over the top.



6. Play – Toss a ball around the class. Have a quick game. Nothing too competitive. Just bring some whimsy and playfulness to class. 



7. Movement – Stand up and stretch. Give a high five to someone. Or go for a quick walk outside of class.



8. Sharing Gratitude – Ask students to share something they’re thankful for. Help them be grateful for the little things.



9. Stories – Share stories real and imagined. Find out what’s going on in their lives. I always had some winning stories that I told just about every year. Kids were on the edge of their seats.



These techniques are not intended to treat anxiety or depression, but they can temporarily relieve the symptoms. Of course, students who have depressive disorders need professional help. But for the time they are in your classroom, maybe you can help them focus on learning by using these strategies.



What do you think? Do you have other ideas for shifting the energy in your classroom? I listed several general categories. I would love to hear your specific ideas. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter

Read More 9 Ways to Shift the Energy in the Classroom



The current generation of students is dealing with more stress and anxiety than ever before. I’m sure there are many reasons for this, but regardless of the causes we must work to help address the reality.



Here are the stats as reported in an article from Time:

A study of national trends in depression among adolescents and young adults published in the journal Pediatrics on November 14, 2016 found that the prevalence of teens who reported an MDE in the previous 12 months jumped from 8.7% in 2005 to 11.5% in 2014. That’s a 37 percent increase. (An MDE is defined as a period of at least two weeks of low mood that is present in most situations. Symptoms include low self-esteem, loss of interest in normally enjoyable activities, and problems with sleep, energy and concentration.)

We hear the stories every day of kids fighting depression, feeling overwhelmed, struggling with problems with friends, parents, or both. There seem to be more kids than ever who are no longer living with parents at all.



And here’s the thing, if you are depressed or filled with anxiety, how are you going to focus your energy on learning? You probably won’t unless you shift your thinking. Or unless something in your environment helps you shift your thinking.



One of our teachers commented, “I want my class to be an oasis for students. For the time they are in my class, I want it to be so good they forget the problems on the outside.”



So how do you do that? How can you help kids shift energy from a focus on problems to a focus on learning? 



Here’s what won’t work.



“Class, yesterday we worked on such and such and today we will do such and such. So let’s get started.”



Ready, set, go.



It’s an abrupt attempt to start learning. That won’t work because a bunch of kids in class are still thinking about how bad they feel, what was said to them that’s hurtful, or how they are going to deal with that personal problem. They are distracted. They aren’t emotionally in a good place to learn.



I believe every learner would benefit from more ‘right-brain’ directed starters in class. Lead with something that helps them access positive emotions, creativity, empathy, and connection.



It might take a few minutes to plan and execute these strategies, but it will be well worth it. In the end, there will be more learning by  helping students get the right focus. Start class by shifting the energy. Get kids in the right mindset first.



So here are 9 possibilities to make this happen. Find ways to open your class with one or more of these. And, look for ways to have these things show up throughout your class, too. It will help to inspire learning. 



1. Humor – Tell a joke, make fun of yourself, or do something zany and off the wall.



2. Music – Play upbeat music as students are coming into class. It’s amazing how the right music can put us in a different mood. 



3. Relaxed Breathing – Slow, deep breathing and quiet relaxation can help students to calm body and mind.



4. Imagination – Have kids write or share with each other on topics that require imagination. What if you could time travel? What time would you visit? Why?



5. Drama – Create some fun drama in the class. Have a debate about something ridiculous. Launch an investigation. Make it absurd. Be over the top.



6. Play – Toss a ball around the class. Have a quick game. Nothing too competitive. Just bring some whimsy and playfulness to class. 



7. Movement – Stand up and stretch. Give a high five to someone. Or go for a quick walk outside of class.



8. Sharing Gratitude – Ask students to share something they’re thankful for. Help them be grateful for the little things.



9. Stories – Share stories real and imagined. Find out what’s going on in their lives. I always had some winning stories that I told just about every year. Kids were on the edge of their seats.



These techniques are not intended to treat anxiety or depression, but they can temporarily relieve the symptoms. Of course, students who have depressive disorders need professional help. But for the time they are in your classroom, maybe you can help them focus on learning by using these strategies.



What do you think? Do you have other ideas for shifting the energy in your classroom? I listed several general categories. I would love to hear your specific ideas. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter

Read More 9 Ways to Shift the Energy in the Classroom





A positive school is built on positive moments. It doesn’t just happen by accident. Every interaction counts. It takes a concerted effort on the part of everyone to create an environment that is awesome. So what are some things everyone should know to be more positive in their own mindset and help contribute to that positive environment we all want? 



Here are ten thoughts to consider:



1. Your positive attitude, more than your talent or expertise, will determine your impact.



Positive people inspire and influence others. If you want to help others be great, you have to demonstrate a positive attitude. Your ability to be joyful, hopeful, and resilient will inspire others like nothing else.

2. Positive attitude is not believing everything is okay; it’s believing everything is going to be okay.



Positive people find the silver lining in the most difficult of circumstances. They learn from difficulties. They don’t pretend everything is okay. That’s not positive thinking. That’s denial. Positive people just believe that things can get better. They expect things to get better. And they believe they might just learn something from the difficulty along the way.



3. Positive attitude is not feeling happy all the time.



Even people who are positive feel negative emotions like sadness, disappointment, and regret. But these feelings do not overwhelm them, partly because they are able to also feel positive emotions simultaneously. For example, perhaps at the same moment they grieve for a loss, they are also thankful for the blessing they had for a time. Even when things are at their worst, positive people view negative feelings as temporary and expect their emotional well-being to improve.



4. When you bring positive energy to a space, negativity leaves.



Negative energy can create a toxic culture and spread throughout your school. It’s so important to create and nurture a positive environment to keep the negativity out. Scientists have found that people’s brain patterns actually start to align as they spend time together. Attitudes are literally contagious it seems. 

5. It takes at least 4 positive experiences to overcome a negative one.



I’m not sure this number is actually correct. But I do know we need to relish the positive moments and use them to overcome the setbacks and difficulties we face. It you do 20 things right today but make one mistake, you will be tempted to ignore all of those positives and focus only on your mistake. It takes deliberate celebration of the positives to help overcome the negatives. Relish those positive moments.



6. Sharing gratitude grows your positive reserves.



When you focus on the positive experiences in your day and share those with others, it makes you stronger and helps others too. We often start our meetings just by sharing the good things that are happening. What are three things you’re thankful for in the last 24 hours? Who are you thankful for? If you want more energy and enthusiasm, focus on showing appreciation. Lift up others, and you’ll be lifted up too.



7. Positive people are problem solvers. 



They don’t make excuses. They find solutions. When you are negative, you see only problems. In fact, negative people seem to find a problem for every solution. But positive people can open their minds more possibilities. They can see possible solutions that others might miss.



8. Positive people are playful.



“Sometimes you have to laugh to keep from crying.” I remember these words from my childhood. My mom would say it after making fun of some unfortunate circumstance. It was a way of coping, and I’m thankful we had permission to see the humor in little misfortunes. Positive people don’t take themselves too seriously, and they are eager to have fun while getting the job done.



9. Resilience is built on positive thinking.



Positive thoughts give you power over your circumstances. Don’t let negative thinking give your circumstances power over you. Reality does not shape you. The lens through which you view reality is what actually shapes you. Make that a positive lens. Some of the happiest people in the world have very little of what this world has to offer. But they view the world through a positive lens and make the most of whatever they have.



10. Positive people are happier, more creative, more productive, and have more energy.



We often think hard work leads to success. We just need to work harder, try harder, be more committed, sacrifice more and then we’ll be happy. But that’s never enough. Turns out, it’s better to start with being happy and then let that drive your productivity, creativity, and success. This amazing TED Talk makes the case much better than I can.




What is your best tip for keeping a positive attitude? Share it with us all so we can learn from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More 10 Thoughts On Positive Attitude to Share With Your Team





A positive school is built on positive moments. It doesn’t just happen by accident. Every interaction counts. It takes a concerted effort on the part of everyone to create an environment that is awesome. So what are some things everyone should know to be more positive in their own mindset and help contribute to that positive environment we all want? 



Here are ten thoughts to consider:



1. Your positive attitude, more than your talent or expertise, will determine your impact.



Positive people inspire and influence others. If you want to help others be great, you have to demonstrate a positive attitude. Your ability to be joyful, hopeful, and resilient will inspire others like nothing else.

2. Positive attitude is not believing everything is okay; it’s believing everything is going to be okay.



Positive people find the silver lining in the most difficult of circumstances. They learn from difficulties. They don’t pretend everything is okay. That’s not positive thinking. That’s denial. Positive people just believe that things can get better. They expect things to get better. And they believe they might just learn something from the difficulty along the way.



3. Positive attitude is not feeling happy all the time.



Even people who are positive feel negative emotions like sadness, disappointment, and regret. But these feelings do not overwhelm them, partly because they are able to also feel positive emotions simultaneously. For example, perhaps at the same moment they grieve for a loss, they are also thankful for the blessing they had for a time. Even when things are at their worst, positive people view negative feelings as temporary and expect their emotional well-being to improve.



4. When you bring positive energy to a space, negativity leaves.



Negative energy can create a toxic culture and spread throughout your school. It’s so important to create and nurture a positive environment to keep the negativity out. Scientists have found that people’s brain patterns actually start to align as they spend time together. Attitudes are literally contagious it seems. 

5. It takes at least 4 positive experiences to overcome a negative one.



I’m not sure this number is actually correct. But I do know we need to relish the positive moments and use them to overcome the setbacks and difficulties we face. It you do 20 things right today but make one mistake, you will be tempted to ignore all of those positives and focus only on your mistake. It takes deliberate celebration of the positives to help overcome the negatives. Relish those positive moments.



6. Sharing gratitude grows your positive reserves.



When you focus on the positive experiences in your day and share those with others, it makes you stronger and helps others too. We often start our meetings just by sharing the good things that are happening. What are three things you’re thankful for in the last 24 hours? Who are you thankful for? If you want more energy and enthusiasm, focus on showing appreciation. Lift up others, and you’ll be lifted up too.



7. Positive people are problem solvers. 



They don’t make excuses. They find solutions. When you are negative, you see only problems. In fact, negative people seem to find a problem for every solution. But positive people can open their minds more possibilities. They can see possible solutions that others might miss.



8. Positive people are playful.



“Sometimes you have to laugh to keep from crying.” I remember these words from my childhood. My mom would say it after making fun of some unfortunate circumstance. It was a way of coping, and I’m thankful we had permission to see the humor in little misfortunes. Positive people don’t take themselves too seriously, and they are eager to have fun while getting the job done.



9. Resilience is built on positive thinking.



Positive thoughts give you power over your circumstances. Don’t let negative thinking give your circumstances power over you. Reality does not shape you. The lens through which you view reality is what actually shapes you. Make that a positive lens. Some of the happiest people in the world have very little of what this world has to offer. But they view the world through a positive lens and make the most of whatever they have.



10. Positive people are happier, more creative, more productive, and have more energy.



We often think hard work leads to success. We just need to work harder, try harder, be more committed, sacrifice more and then we’ll be happy. But that’s never enough. Turns out, it’s better to start with being happy and then let that drive your productivity, creativity, and success. This amazing TED Talk makes the case much better than I can.




What is your best tip for keeping a positive attitude? Share it with us all so we can learn from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More 10 Thoughts On Positive Attitude to Share With Your Team

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. ~Aristotle  I think that we sometimes lose sight of what is important. We focus on individual acts, or in schools, individual assignments, and on praising final products and presentations. We often lose sight of the continual work, the tireless editing […]

Read More Excellence is a Habit