Connected Principals Posts

Invisibilia is a fascinating podcast about the invisible forces that affect us without us being aware. In a January 29, 2015 episode, the reporters narrating the episode were talking about a phenomenon known as “entanglement.” They began by describing a physics experiment where scientists have been able to isolate particle atoms in separate locations, change […]

Read More PMP:069 Entanglement & Why Messaging Matters





Walt Disney was fired by his newspaper editor because “he lacked imagination and had no good ideas.” 



Reportedly, Albert Einstein was told as a child, “You will never amount to anything!”



Beethoven’s music was not initially accepted by critics and one music teacher said, “as a composer, he is hopeless.”



You’ve heard stories like these of famous failures. We see the incredible achievements of their lives, but we often forget the struggles they most definitely faced. We all face struggles. Most every person can relate to withstanding a biting critique or unfair assessment. 



And when we hear these voices expressing doubts about us, our abilities, and even our intentions, it can cause us to doubt ourselves, our worth, and our purpose in this world.



But often the voice that is most damaging to our future is the voice within us. It’s our own shadow. We are often our own worst critics. Our internal voice says play it safe, don’t take any chances, just stay comfortable.



Our shadow makes us hesitate. It generates fear in us that is paralyzing. We retreat to the familiar, the routine, the mundane.



But don’t let your shadow steal your dream!



If you have a dream, don’t put it off. If you feel a push to do something, make it happen. As Henry David Thoreau urged, “advance confidently in the direction of your dreams.” Don’t wait.



The shadow’s push-back against your dreams will not relent unless you push-through and just go for it. Make something happen.



Over a year ago, I took the first step toward a dream I have of writing a book for educators. I wanted to write a book that would make a difference for classrooms and schools. I started. But then my own voice of discouragement slowed my progress. I was too busy (so I thought). My ideas were lacking (so I thought). I hesitated.



But I am determined to push through. I am determined to see this dream realized. Before I return to school in August, my new book will be published. My hope is that it will challenge and inspire educators to crush the status-quo so we can better prepare students for an unpredictable world. 




Cheesy photo to keep me focused!



I want to use my effort, enthusiasm, and experiences to strengthen our profession. I want to see stronger schools. I want to see more excitement for learning than ever before. I want to see students and teachers engaged and empowered by their school experience. That is my dream.



And I want the same for you. I want to see your talents and passions used to reach for your dreams. There will never be a perfect time. Your shadow always wants you to hesitate. Don’t listen to your internal critic. Do something today to move in the direction of your dreams.



A body in motion tends to stay in motion. And a body at rest tends to stay at rest. If you are going to fulfill your purpose in life, you have to step forward in faith. You have to take risks. You can’t play it safe. You have to take that first step now. 



As I make progress on finishing the book, I’ll share some updates here on my blog. I’ll give you a preview of the book and detailed plans for release. And I’ll also ask for your help in sharing the news in your circles. 



Press on toward your dreams! 



Question: What are you going to do this summer to move in the direction of your dreams? I want to hear from you. Share your story of overcoming your shadow. Let’s unleash our purpose and potential together. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More Do Something Today to Move in the Direction of Your Dreams





Walt Disney was fired by his newspaper editor because “he lacked imagination and had no good ideas.” 



Reportedly, Albert Einstein was told as a child, “You will never amount to anything!”



Beethoven’s music was not initially accepted by critics and one music teacher said, “as a composer, he is hopeless.”



You’ve heard stories like these of famous failures. We see the incredible achievements of their lives, but we often forget the struggles they most definitely faced. We all face struggles. Most every person can relate to withstanding a biting critique or unfair assessment. 



And when we hear these voices expressing doubts about us, our abilities, and even our intentions, it can cause us to doubt ourselves, our worth, and our purpose in this world.



But often the voice that is most damaging to our future is the voice within us. It’s our own shadow. We are often our own worst critics. Our internal voice says play it safe, don’t take any chances, just stay comfortable.



Our shadow makes us hesitate. It generates fear in us that is paralyzing. We retreat to the familiar, the routine, the mundane.



But don’t let your shadow steal your dream!



If you have a dream, don’t put it off. If you feel a push to do something, make it happen. As Henry David Thoreau urged, “advance confidently in the direction of your dreams.” Don’t wait.



The shadow’s push-back against your dreams will not relent unless you push-through and just go for it. Make something happen.



Over a year ago, I took the first step toward a dream I have of writing a book for educators. I wanted to write a book that would make a difference for classrooms and schools. I started. But then my own voice of discouragement slowed my progress. I was too busy (so I thought). My ideas were lacking (so I thought). I hesitated.



But I am determined to push through. I am determined to see this dream realized. Before I return to school in August, my new book will be published. My hope is that it will challenge and inspire educators to crush the status-quo so we can better prepare students for an unpredictable world. 




Cheesy photo to keep me focused!



I want to use my effort, enthusiasm, and experiences to strengthen our profession. I want to see stronger schools. I want to see more excitement for learning than ever before. I want to see students and teachers engaged and empowered by their school experience. That is my dream.



And I want the same for you. I want to see your talents and passions used to reach for your dreams. There will never be a perfect time. Your shadow always wants you to hesitate. Don’t listen to your internal critic. Do something today to move in the direction of your dreams.



A body in motion tends to stay in motion. And a body at rest tends to stay at rest. If you are going to fulfill your purpose in life, you have to step forward in faith. You have to take risks. You can’t play it safe. You have to take that first step now. 



As I make progress on finishing the book, I’ll share some updates here on my blog. I’ll give you a preview of the book and detailed plans for release. And I’ll also ask for your help in sharing the news in your circles. 



Press on toward your dreams! 



Question: What are you going to do this summer to move in the direction of your dreams? I want to hear from you. Share your story of overcoming your shadow. Let’s unleash our purpose and potential together. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More Do Something Today to Move in the Direction of Your Dreams

Times are different now. Devices are prevalent among our kids. They transcend cultural, socio-economic, and grade level boundaries. Despite how traditional or conservative homes may be, devices are abound and our kids are…

Read More Social Media: Parents, Kids, & Schools

I try to always find a line of pushing participants in my sessions in their learning, without pushing them off a ledge.  I want them to feel challenged, not defeated.…

Read More Recognize, Rectify, Move Forward

I try to always find a line of pushing participants in my sessions in their learning, without pushing them off a ledge.  I want them to feel challenged, not defeated.  It is a tough line and sometimes I do well, and sometimes I struggle. At a recent conference, I was challenging a participant and both … [Read more…]

Read More Recognize, Rectify, Move Forward

Attending so many conferences, there is a common theme that you will hear from most. How do we get our students better at school? They might not say that straight…

Read More What Lies Within Us?

Attending so many conferences, there is a common theme that you will hear from most. How do we get our students better at school? They might not say that straight out, but it is the underlying narrative. What I do not hear enough is, “How do we start to find the brilliance and talents in … [Read more…]

Read More What Lies Within Us?

Attending so many conferences, there is a common theme that you will hear from most. How do we get our students better at school? They might not say that straight out, but it is the underlying narrative. What I do not hear enough is, “How do we start to find the brilliance and talents in … [Read more…]

Read More What Lies Within Us?



We’ve been talking about Bloom’s Taxonomy and critical thinking for as long as I’ve been an educator. And yet we still have work to do to get kids cognitively engaged in classrooms. We can’t seem to shake the traditional methods that turn education into a delivery system, rather than a powerful engine of discovery and inquiry.


So much of the conventional wisdom is wrong. For instance, many teachers believe we should teach the basics and then if we have time, include opportunities for critical thinking. Our assessments are often organized that way. Most of the items will be recall/knowledge level questions with one or two performance events or critical thinking tasks at the end. It seems like critical thinking is always an after thought.


In my first year of teaching, I remember one of my mentors gave me this advice, “Make them (the students) think.” And that’s exactly what we need to do. We need to design learning that involves students in making meaning, not just accepting information. If we want students to get deeper understanding and enjoy learning, that is what we must do.


Here are some of the differences in approaching education as a delivery system vs. a discovery system.


Delivery


1. Students are expected to accept information (textbook, lecture, study packet, notes, etc).


2. Learning is impersonal and disconnected. 


3. Understanding is limited to what was taught.


4. The teacher is doing much of the thinking and explaining.


5. Learning is measured by right and wrong answers.


6. The teacher mostly decides the direction of learning.


7. Teaches step-by-step problem solving (at best).


8. Relies on compliance, following instructions, rules.


9. Passive, receiving, accepting, memorizing type of learning.




Discovery


1. Students are making meaning of information (thinking critically and creatively).


2. It connects to the learner’s interest, aptitude, experience, and even their personality.


3. Understanding often results in new ideas.


4. The student is forced to assume more cognitive load. 


5. Learning is measured by the quality of your thinking (and ultimately quality thinking will result in right answers).


6. The students’ questions help determine the direction of the learning.


7. Teaches students to activate their reasoning skills to solve problems.


8. Relies on curiosity, interests, and exploration.


9. Active, reasoning, questioning, connecting, synthesizing type of learning.


There are numerous advantages to discovery learning. Students will remember more of the facts and fundamentals of the discipline when they learn this way. They will have more context to connect ideas and make learning stick. They will also develop skills as independent learners, something that will serve them well their whole life.


And it doesn’t have to be complicated. Although I’m a big fan of project-based learning, we can make students think in simple ways without an extended project. Sometimes the simplest teacher moves are the most effective. Try this: Wait longer after you ask a question before you accept a student answer. Then, wait longer after the student responds to the question before you say anything. Instead of saying the answer is right or wrong, ask, “And why do you think that?” 


This summer I challenge you to think about how a lesson could be better next year. How could you improve your lesson design so that learning becomes more discovery and less delivery?


Question: What tips would you share for making students think? How do you achieve cognitive engagement? Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter. Your suggestions are like gold!

Read More Deeper Learning Is By Discovery, Not Delivery



We’ve been talking about Bloom’s Taxonomy and critical thinking for as long as I’ve been an educator. And yet we still have work to do to get kids cognitively engaged in classrooms. We can’t seem to shake the traditional methods that turn education into a delivery system, rather than a powerful engine of discovery and inquiry.


So much of the conventional wisdom is wrong. For instance, many teachers believe we should teach the basics and then if we have time, include opportunities for critical thinking. Our assessments are often organized that way. Most of the items will be recall/knowledge level questions with one or two performance events or critical thinking tasks at the end. It seems like critical thinking is always an after thought.


In my first year of teaching, I remember one of my mentors gave me this advice, “Make them (the students) think.” And that’s exactly what we need to do. We need to design learning that involves students in making meaning, not just accepting information. If we want students to get deeper understanding and enjoy learning, that is what we must do.


Here are some of the differences in approaching education as a delivery system vs. a discovery system.


Delivery


1. Students are expected to accept information (textbook, lecture, study packet, notes, etc).


2. Learning is impersonal and disconnected. 


3. Understanding is limited to what was taught.


4. The teacher is doing much of the thinking and explaining.


5. Learning is measured by right and wrong answers.


6. The teacher mostly decides the direction of learning.


7. Teaches step-by-step problem solving (at best).


8. Relies on compliance, following instructions, rules.


9. Passive, receiving, accepting, memorizing type of learning.




Discovery


1. Students are making meaning of information (thinking critically and creatively).


2. It connects to the learner’s interest, aptitude, experience, and even their personality.


3. Understanding often results in new ideas.


4. The student is forced to assume more cognitive load. 


5. Learning is measured by the quality of your thinking (and ultimately quality thinking will result in right answers).


6. The students’ questions help determine the direction of the learning.


7. Teaches students to activate their reasoning skills to solve problems.


8. Relies on curiosity, interests, and exploration.


9. Active, reasoning, questioning, connecting, synthesizing type of learning.


There are numerous advantages to discovery learning. Students will remember more of the facts and fundamentals of the discipline when they learn this way. They will have more context to connect ideas and make learning stick. They will also develop skills as independent learners, something that will serve them well their whole life.


And it doesn’t have to be complicated. Although I’m a big fan of project-based learning, we can make students think in simple ways without an extended project. Sometimes the simplest teacher moves are the most effective. Try this: Wait longer after you ask a question before you accept a student answer. Then, wait longer after the student responds to the question before you say anything. Instead of saying the answer is right or wrong, ask, “And why do you think that?” 


This summer I challenge you to think about how a lesson could be better next year. How could you improve your lesson design so that learning becomes more discovery and less delivery?


Question: What tips would you share for making students think? How do you achieve cognitive engagement? Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter. Your suggestions are like gold!

Read More Deeper Learning Is By Discovery, Not Delivery

Leadership is not an easy endeavor. When you think you are doing well, things can easily go sideways, or even backward. Because leadership is ultimately about how we deal with other people, we shouldn’t be surprised that the process is complicated. Yet when you think of the best leaders, they have so many of the same … [Read more…]

Read More 10 Crucial Characteristics of Great Leaders

One summer when our oldest daughter, Emily, was beginning to run track, she signed up to run her first 5k with her younger sister during the July 4th holiday. Unfortunately, our younger daughter ended up unable to run it with her. When I drove Emily to the race downtown to run her race alone, I […]

Read More PMP:068 Choose To Run The Race Anyway



An important part of being an excellent teacher is attempting to create conditions that cause all kids to want to learn more. If we can consistently develop each student’s desire to know, they will eventually become unstoppable learners. We can never assume the motivation and engagement of students is a fixed characteristic. We should never assume some students are just naturally curious and others are not. Instead, we should always be striving to unleash the natural curiosity and wonder in every learner.



One reason some students withhold effort and engagement is a feeling that they will not be successful as a learner. When students don’t believe in their own ability to learn, they tend to avoid learning. School has a way of sorting students into smart/not-smart, learners/non-learners, capable/not-capable. At least, that’s how a number of students feel. 



Unfortunately, for too many students, school has felt like a place where they are constantly reminded of what they aren’t good at. And that needs to change if we hope to create learning environments where all students become curious, enthusiastic, and engaged learners.



What if every educator in your school committed to make learning a strengths-based endeavor? What kind of place would your school be? Talk with your team about the belief statements I shared below. How can these translate into a different approach to learning for your school?    



1. Every student has unique gifts and talents as a learner.



2. Students who are confident learners will learn more. They will want to learn more.



3. Each student needs to feel like he/she can be successful.



4. Educators should recognize different aptitudes and adjust accordingly. One-size-fits-all doesn’t work.



5. Learning is build on strengths and not deficits. Are you reminding students more of their assets or their liabilities?



6. We should focus on what a child can do, instead of what he/she cannot do.








7. Teachers should design learning experiences that allow students to use strengths to make meaning. Allow students to enter the problem in a way that is familiar and go from there.



8. It’s impossible to develop an effective learning experience if we treat a classroom full of students like they all have the same strengths.



9. Success breeds success. So if students have success with a task in their strength area, they are more likely to take on a task that isn’t in their strength area.



10. We all give and withhold effort depending on our own feelings of talent, skill and efficacy.



11. Seek to understand how students learn best, and help students understand how they learn best.



When we help students find their strengths and use them for learning, we show them they are valued for who they are. Their confidence soars. And with increased confidence, students will want to learn more.



Questions: How are you building on students’ strengths as learners? What needs to change to make school more personalized to account for different learning strengths? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More Are You Strengths-Based Or Deficit-Driven?



An important part of being an excellent teacher is attempting to create conditions that cause all kids to want to learn more. If we can consistently develop each student’s desire to know, they will eventually become unstoppable learners. We can never assume the motivation and engagement of students is a fixed characteristic. We should never assume some students are just naturally curious and others are not. Instead, we should always be striving to unleash the natural curiosity and wonder in every learner.



One reason some students withhold effort and engagement is a feeling that they will not be successful as a learner. When students don’t believe in their own ability to learn, they tend to avoid learning. School has a way of sorting students into smart/not-smart, learners/non-learners, capable/not-capable. At least, that’s how a number of students feel. 



Unfortunately, for too many students, school has felt like a place where they are constantly reminded of what they aren’t good at. And that needs to change if we hope to create learning environments where all students become curious, enthusiastic, and engaged learners.



What if every educator in your school committed to make learning a strengths-based endeavor? What kind of place would your school be? Talk with your team about the belief statements I shared below. How can these translate into a different approach to learning for your school?    



1. Every student has unique gifts and talents as a learner.



2. Students who are confident learners will learn more. They will want to learn more.



3. Each student needs to feel like he/she can be successful.



4. Educators should recognize different aptitudes and adjust accordingly. One-size-fits-all doesn’t work.



5. Learning is build on strengths and not deficits. Are you reminding students more of their assets or their liabilities?



6. We should focus on what a child can do, instead of what he/she cannot do.








7. Teachers should design learning experiences that allow students to use strengths to make meaning. Allow students to enter the problem in a way that is familiar and go from there.



8. It’s impossible to develop an effective learning experience if we treat a classroom full of students like they all have the same strengths.



9. Success breeds success. So if students have success with a task in their strength area, they are more likely to take on a task that isn’t in their strength area.



10. We all give and withhold effort depending on our own feelings of talent, skill and efficacy.



11. Seek to understand how students learn best, and help students understand how they learn best.



When we help students find their strengths and use them for learning, we show them they are valued for who they are. Their confidence soars. And with increased confidence, students will want to learn more.



Questions: How are you building on students’ strengths as learners? What needs to change to make school more personalized to account for different learning strengths? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More Are You Strengths-Based Or Deficit-Driven?

In Thomas Friedman’s book, “Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations“, he states the following: Indeed, there is a mismatch between the change in the pace of change and our ability to develop the learning systems, training systems, management systems, social safety nets, and government regulations that … [Read more…]

Read More Adapt to, embrace, and create meaningful change.