Connected Principals Posts





In 1993, famed college basketball coach Jim Valvano gave an inspiring and hopeful message at the ESPY awards. Valvano was fighting terminal cancer that would soon cut short his remarkable life. I occasionally watch the speech over again. It reminds me of what’s most important.



During his passionate speech, Valvano helped put everything in perspective:

“If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day. And if you do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special.”

I invite you to take a few seconds to listen to Jimmy V speak these words in the video below.

So how can this apply to what we do as educators? Well, I think a great day at school includes the same things. We should laugh, we should certainly think, and we should also cry. 



I’m guessing that crying is harder for most of us to think about. We tend to think of some emotions as good or bad. We tend to hide those emotions that are sad or might be considered weak.



But emotions are an important way for us to connect. It’s how we better understand ourselves and others. Emotions help us to reach the heart and not just the mind.



We know that stories are powerful for learning. I think that’s because of how stories connect to emotions. You can talk about ideas all day, and I might be interested and even learn something. But if you connect those ideas with a story, and you touch my emotions, I may never forget what I’ve learned.



I remember one day years ago I was teaching freshmen English. It was one of those days when for whatever reason, I had a class period that was ahead of the others, and I needed to fill some time.



I decided to read a short story, The Scarlet Ibis, to the class. It was the first time I’d ever read the story myself, so I didn’t know exactly what to expect.



But as I read, I was drawn into the story in a powerful way. No doubt the class could sense my quivering voice, my efforts to fight back tears, and my unsettled body language. As they saw how the story was connecting with my heart, they too were drawn in. You could’ve heard a pin drop.



The story is about two brothers. The younger brother is born with health problems, and he was never able to keep up with his athletic older brother. At times, the older brother is cruel and ashamed of his handicapped sibling. At one point, he even thinks of smothering the little brother with a pillow.



But he also demonstrates his love for him. He nicknames the younger brother Doodle and decides to teach him the things he will need to be ready for school, how to run, swim, climb trees, and fight. You know, the important stuff.



But the Saturday before school starts, the older brother pushes Doodle to physical exhaustion while rowing a boat. And then a storm blows in suddenly. The older brother runs ahead angry with Doodle for not keeping up so they can get out of the rain.



But when the older brother’s anger calms, he notices Doodle is missing. He goes looking for him and finds him curled up under a bush with his head on his knees. He is bleeding from his mouth. He is dead.



It’s a tragic ending.



I remember talking with the class about how the two boys reminded me of my own sons. Both of my boys are perfectly healthy. But there was something about the way the brothers interacted that reminded me of my own sons.



I also remember talking to them about empathy and cruelty. How most of us have it in us to be cruel. How we can fail to understand what someone else is going through. How selfish we can be.



I know without a doubt, even many years later, during that class period, there was laughter, there was thinking, and there were definitely tears. I think every student in the class felt something special that day.



So what does a perfect day in the classroom look like? 100% mastery of the objective for the day?



For me, I think a great day is when students are learning the objective, and the learning is also connecting with the heart. I’m not sure who said it, but I believe it’s true, “Information without emotion is rarely retained.” The lessons that stay with us the longest connect to our emotions.



Are you teaching with heart? Let me know what you think. Leave a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook

Read More Information Without Emotion Is Rarely Retained





In 1993, famed college basketball coach Jim Valvano gave an inspiring and hopeful message at the ESPY awards. Valvano was fighting terminal cancer that would soon cut short his remarkable life. I occasionally watch the speech over again. It reminds me of what’s most important.



During his passionate speech, Valvano helped put everything in perspective:

“If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day. And if you do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special.”

I invite you to take a few seconds to listen to Jimmy V speak these words in the video below.

So how can this apply to what we do as educators? Well, I think a great day at school includes the same things. We should laugh, we should certainly think, and we should also cry. 



I’m guessing that crying is harder for most of us to think about. We tend to think of some emotions as good or bad. We tend to hide those emotions that are sad or might be considered weak.



But emotions are an important way for us to connect. It’s how we better understand ourselves and others. Emotions help us to reach the heart and not just the mind.



We know that stories are powerful for learning. I think that’s because of how stories connect to emotions. You can talk about ideas all day, and I might be interested and even learn something. But if you connect those ideas with a story, and you touch my emotions, I may never forget what I’ve learned.



I remember one day years ago I was teaching freshmen English. It was one of those days when for whatever reason, I had a class period that was ahead of the others, and I needed to fill some time.



I decided to read a short story, The Scarlet Ibis, to the class. It was the first time I’d ever read the story myself, so I didn’t know exactly what to expect.



But as I read, I was drawn into the story in a powerful way. No doubt the class could sense my quivering voice, my efforts to fight back tears, and my unsettled body language. As they saw how the story was connecting with my heart, they too were drawn in. You could’ve heard a pin drop.



The story is about two brothers. The younger brother is born with health problems, and he was never able to keep up with his athletic older brother. At times, the older brother is cruel and ashamed of his handicapped sibling. At one point, he even thinks of smothering the little brother with a pillow.



But he also demonstrates his love for him. He nicknames the younger brother Doodle and decides to teach him the things he will need to be ready for school, how to run, swim, climb trees, and fight. You know, the important stuff.



But the Saturday before school starts, the older brother pushes Doodle to physical exhaustion while rowing a boat. And then a storm blows in suddenly. The older brother runs ahead angry with Doodle for not keeping up so they can get out of the rain.



But when the older brother’s anger calms, he notices Doodle is missing. He goes looking for him and finds him curled up under a bush with his head on his knees. He is bleeding from his mouth. He is dead.



It’s a tragic ending.



I remember talking with the class about how the two boys reminded me of my own sons. Both of my boys are perfectly healthy. But there was something about the way the brothers interacted that reminded me of my own sons.



I also remember talking to them about empathy and cruelty. How most of us have it in us to be cruel. How we can fail to understand what someone else is going through. How selfish we can be.



I know without a doubt, even many years later, during that class period, there was laughter, there was thinking, and there were definitely tears. I think every student in the class felt something special that day.



So what does a perfect day in the classroom look like? 100% mastery of the objective for the day?



For me, I think a great day is when students are learning the objective, and the learning is also connecting with the heart. I’m not sure who said it, but I believe it’s true, “Information without emotion is rarely retained.” The lessons that stay with us the longest connect to our emotions.



Are you teaching with heart? Let me know what you think. Leave a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook

Read More Information Without Emotion Is Rarely Retained



A teacher at one of our elementary schools shared this recently. She was talking about how she encourages her students to persist in the face of difficulties.



Instead of saying something that makes a wrong answer seem like a curse or worse, she encourages the process. She says to students with curiosity and wonder, “Oh, that’s my favorite mistake!”



Students are then able to view problem-solving as something that is not just about getting a right answer. It’s about having thinking that perseveres. It’s about staying with the problem longer.



Thomas Edison failed over and again in trying to invent the incandescent light bulb. He documented 1,000 failed attempts before he was successful. When a reported asked him how it felt to fail 1,000 times, he replied, “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.” 



Our district has adopted new math curriculum, and it’s challenging. But kids are rising to the occasion. And a big reason it’s successful is the focus on the process and the greatness of teachers to promote perseverance and model growth-mindset thinking.



Here are five questions to ask your students to help them reflect on their own mindset. The questions might need some unpacking for younger students. But I think all kids can think about these ideas.



1. When I start to feel like quitting, what will I do in that moment to persevere?



This might be the most powerful question on the list. When people decide exactly how they will respond to a difficulty in advance, they are far more likely to push through in the face of the challenge.



2. What are my thoughts telling me about how successful I might be at learning this skill? If these thoughts are limiting to me, how might I think differently?



Lots of kids are thinking thoughts that are self-limiting. “I’m not good at math” for instance. It’s helpful to think of phrases that are filled with belief and resourcefulness to replace the negative thinking. Teachers can help students find the words for this.



3. What am I saying or doing to myself that is holding me back?



There are many things that can undermine a growth mindset. Excuses, justifications, worries, perfectionist thinking, thought patterns, past failures, etc. It’s important to recognize what unhelpful beliefs students need to overcome.



4. What would I want my teacher to say to me when he/she sees me taking a risk, trying hard, or pushing through mistakes to pursue this goal?



This question is helping to shift the perspective to expecting success. When I try hard, good things happen. My teacher will say this to me, and that feels good.



5. Imagine how you will feel when you accomplish something that is really challenging. Describe that feeling. 



Again, this one is beginning with the end in mind. Getting a picture of success is so important. Humans are the only creatures on the planet with imagination. We can experience the whole range of emotions through our minds. Visualization is extremely valuable. It teaches the brain to expect success.



When gymnast Mary Lou Retton won her first gold medal, a reporter asked her, “How does it feel to win gold?” 



She replied, “Just like it’s always felt.”



“But this is your first gold medal?” said the puzzled reporter.



“Yes, I know. But I’ve experienced this moment thousands of times in my mind,” she explained.



The power of belief cannot be understated.



What do you think about these questions? Do you have suggestions for other questions that might be helpful for students? Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More 5 Reflective Questions to Encourage a Growth Mindset



A teacher at one of our elementary schools shared this recently. She was talking about how she encourages her students to persist in the face of difficulties.



Instead of saying something that makes a wrong answer seem like a curse or worse, she encourages the process. She says to students with curiosity and wonder, “Oh, that’s my favorite mistake!”



Students are then able to view problem-solving as something that is not just about getting a right answer. It’s about having thinking that perseveres. It’s about staying with the problem longer.



Thomas Edison failed over and again in trying to invent the incandescent light bulb. He documented 1,000 failed attempts before he was successful. When a reported asked him how it felt to fail 1,000 times, he replied, “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.” 



Our district has adopted new math curriculum, and it’s challenging. But kids are rising to the occasion. And a big reason it’s successful is the focus on the process and the greatness of teachers to promote perseverance and model growth-mindset thinking.



Here are five questions to ask your students to help them reflect on their own mindset. The questions might need some unpacking for younger students. But I think all kids can think about these ideas.



1. When I start to feel like quitting, what will I do in that moment to persevere?



This might be the most powerful question on the list. When people decide exactly how they will respond to a difficulty in advance, they are far more likely to push through in the face of the challenge.



2. What are my thoughts telling me about how successful I might be at learning this skill? If these thoughts are limiting to me, how might I think differently?



Lots of kids are thinking thoughts that are self-limiting. “I’m not good at math” for instance. It’s helpful to think of phrases that are filled with belief and resourcefulness to replace the negative thinking. Teachers can help students find the words for this.



3. What am I saying or doing to myself that is holding me back?



There are many things that can undermine a growth mindset. Excuses, justifications, worries, perfectionist thinking, thought patterns, past failures, etc. It’s important to recognize what unhelpful beliefs students need to overcome.



4. What would I want my teacher to say to me when he/she sees me taking a risk, trying hard, or pushing through mistakes to pursue this goal?



This question is helping to shift the perspective to expecting success. When I try hard, good things happen. My teacher will say this to me, and that feels good.



5. Imagine how you will feel when you accomplish something that is really challenging. Describe that feeling. 



Again, this one is beginning with the end in mind. Getting a picture of success is so important. Humans are the only creatures on the planet with imagination. We can experience the whole range of emotions through our minds. Visualization is extremely valuable. It teaches the brain to expect success.



When gymnast Mary Lou Retton won her first gold medal, a reporter asked her, “How does it feel to win gold?” 



She replied, “Just like it’s always felt.”



“But this is your first gold medal?” said the puzzled reporter.



“Yes, I know. But I’ve experienced this moment thousands of times in my mind,” she explained.



The power of belief cannot be understated.



What do you think about these questions? Do you have suggestions for other questions that might be helpful for students? Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More 5 Reflective Questions to Encourage a Growth Mindset

I saw the title of this article, “Are Parent-Teacher Conferences Becoming Obsolete?“, and was surprised the direction.  I was expecting the article to talk about moving away from the “traditional…

Read More So Much More Than Letters and Numbers

I saw the title of this article, “Are Parent-Teacher Conferences Becoming Obsolete?“, and was surprised the direction.  I was expecting the article to talk about moving away from the “traditional parent conference” (sitting around for 10-20 minutes talking about a child’s experience in school) to something more student-led.  Instead, it shared how a parent portal … [Read more…]

Read More So Much More Than Letters and Numbers

Have you ever walked away from an interaction frustrated because the results you were hoping to see never materialized?  Have you ever walked away disappointed in an individual because you felt they did not follow through or did not complete […]

Read More 11 Ways To Address Your Own Frustrations





I’m currently reading The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life and Business by Charles Duhigg. I couldn’t put it down. These ideas are immediately relevant in trying to help myself and others (teachers and students) build capacity to do more and be more.



One profound takeaway for me is how small changes can lead to bigger changes and superior results. Habits are powerful, even ones that may not seem directly related to a particular outcome. 



Alcoa



When Paul O’Neil was named CEO of metals producer Alcoa, the company had been underperforming for years. Many questioned his selection for the top position, but after he spoke to shareholders the first time, he was especially under the microscope. You see, he didn’t talk about raising profits. He spoke of creating the safest company possible.



He created an intense focus on worker safety, something he felt everyone in the company could get behind. The company had problems with quality and efficiency, but he didn’t focus on on that. He made worker safety the driving concern.



But as his safety measures were implemented, quality and efficiency improved across the board, and soon Alcoa was turning profits that were extraordinary. Even though the company’s energy wasn’t focused squarely on profit-driving levers, those levers were subsequently effected by the focus on safety.



Impact of Exercise



Researchers have found over the decades that people who introduce consistent exercise routines into their lifestyle, also seem to improve other patterns in their life, often unknowingly.



They also improve their eating habits, smoke less, show more patience with others, and even use their credit cards less. It’s almost like the consistent, positive change spills over into other parts of life. As exercise improved, so did other aspects of life, and it even happened unknowingly for participants. They weren’t aware of the improvements they were making.



These types of habits, that tend to have the spill over effect, are referred to as keystone habits. They are the key to improving in a whole variety of ways.



Weight Loss



The conventional advice for weight loss was to join a gym, exercise more, follow restrictive low-calorie diets, and take the stairs instead of the elevator. Of course, those actions are helpful if you stick with them but most weight loss patients would not. They would follow them for a few weeks but slip back into old patters.



But when researchers asked 1600 obesity patients to make one simple change and keep a journal of what they ate for an entire day at least one day a week, the results were extraordinary. The people who kept the journal lost twice as much weight as those that did not and other behaviors changed, like exercise and diet, even though the researchers didn’t make any suggestions to the patients about exercise or diet. They simply asked them to log what they were eating. It seems the journal was a keystone habit.



Other Keystone Habits



Families who eat together on average have children who make better grades, have more emotional stability, and demonstrate more confidence. 



Making your bed every morning has been shown to correlate to increased productivity, sticking to a budget, and better overall sense of well-being.



These keystone habits establish small wins in a person’s (or organization’s) life that can translate to bigger wins.

“Small wins are a steady application of a small advantage,” one Cornell professor wrote in 1984. “Once a small win has been accomplished, forces are set in motion that favor another small win.” Small wins fuel transformative changes by leveraging tiny advantages into patterns that convince people that bigger achievements are within reach.

Implications for Educators



Are we taking advantage of small wins? Are we leveraging keystone habits in schools? 



Often when thinking about improving student achievement, we simply double down on math or reading. We implement more interventions. We increase the rigor, give more homework, or take away electives in favor of core instruction. And maybe we do increase performance just a little.



But at what cost? Is it worth it if we are sacrificing the joy of learning?



And, are we overlooking other levers that might yield better results and produce stronger learners?



What if we looked at other factors that might produce small wins and set some goals around these areas? I was part of a conversation with some local school leaders who were discussing goals for the year. 



One of the schools was focusing on getting more kids involved in school activities. Involvement in sports, clubs, fine arts, etc. has shown correlation to student achievement in studies. If we can get a small win in this area, it’s good for kids regardless, and perhaps it will spill over to classroom learning.



What if you worked on having extraordinary greetings and made that an important habit in your school?



What if everyone made it a point to call students by name, make eye contact, and smile more? 



What if you focused on proximity in the classroom? Moving from the front of the room, sitting by students, being with students instead of in front of them.



I’m going to continue to reflect on how we can leverage the power of small wins in our school. What do you think about your classroom or school? 



Have you seen examples of the power of small wins? What do you see as possible keystone habits educators could develop in students? 



Leave a comment or respond on Facebook or Twitter. I’m curious what’s on your mind.



Read More The Power of Keystone Habits





I’m currently reading The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life and Business by Charles Duhigg. I couldn’t put it down. These ideas are immediately relevant in trying to help myself and others (teachers and students) build capacity to do more and be more.



One profound takeaway for me is how small changes can lead to bigger changes and superior results. Habits are powerful, even ones that may not seem directly related to a particular outcome. 



Alcoa



When Paul O’Neil was named CEO of metals producer Alcoa, the company had been underperforming for years. Many questioned his selection for the top position, but after he spoke to shareholders the first time, he was especially under the microscope. You see, he didn’t talk about raising profits. He spoke of creating the safest company possible.



He created an intense focus on worker safety, something he felt everyone in the company could get behind. The company had problems with quality and efficiency, but he didn’t focus on on that. He made worker safety the driving concern.



But as his safety measures were implemented, quality and efficiency improved across the board, and soon Alcoa was turning profits that were extraordinary. Even though the company’s energy wasn’t focused squarely on profit-driving levers, those levers were subsequently effected by the focus on safety.



Impact of Exercise



Researchers have found over the decades that people who introduce consistent exercise routines into their lifestyle, also seem to improve other patterns in their life, often unknowingly.



They also improve their eating habits, smoke less, show more patience with others, and even use their credit cards less. It’s almost like the consistent, positive change spills over into other parts of life. As exercise improved, so did other aspects of life, and it even happened unknowingly for participants. They weren’t aware of the improvements they were making.



These types of habits, that tend to have the spill over effect, are referred to as keystone habits. They are the key to improving in a whole variety of ways.



Weight Loss



The conventional advice for weight loss was to join a gym, exercise more, follow restrictive low-calorie diets, and take the stairs instead of the elevator. Of course, those actions are helpful if you stick with them but most weight loss patients would not. They would follow them for a few weeks but slip back into old patters.



But when researchers asked 1600 obesity patients to make one simple change and keep a journal of what they ate for an entire day at least one day a week, the results were extraordinary. The people who kept the journal lost twice as much weight as those that did not and other behaviors changed, like exercise and diet, even though the researchers didn’t make any suggestions to the patients about exercise or diet. They simply asked them to log what they were eating. It seems the journal was a keystone habit.



Other Keystone Habits



Families who eat together on average have children who make better grades, have more emotional stability, and demonstrate more confidence. 



Making your bed every morning has been shown to correlate to increased productivity, sticking to a budget, and better overall sense of well-being.



These keystone habits establish small wins in a person’s (or organization’s) life that can translate to bigger wins.

“Small wins are a steady application of a small advantage,” one Cornell professor wrote in 1984. “Once a small win has been accomplished, forces are set in motion that favor another small win.” Small wins fuel transformative changes by leveraging tiny advantages into patterns that convince people that bigger achievements are within reach.

Implications for Educators



Are we taking advantage of small wins? Are we leveraging keystone habits in schools? 



Often when thinking about improving student achievement, we simply double down on math or reading. We implement more interventions. We increase the rigor, give more homework, or take away electives in favor of core instruction. And maybe we do increase performance just a little.



But at what cost? Is it worth it if we are sacrificing the joy of learning?



And, are we overlooking other levers that might yield better results and produce stronger learners?



What if we looked at other factors that might produce small wins and set some goals around these areas? I was part of a conversation with some local school leaders who were discussing goals for the year. 



One of the schools was focusing on getting more kids involved in school activities. Involvement in sports, clubs, fine arts, etc. has shown correlation to student achievement in studies. If we can get a small win in this area, it’s good for kids regardless, and perhaps it will spill over to classroom learning.



What if you worked on having extraordinary greetings and made that an important habit in your school?



What if everyone made it a point to call students by name, make eye contact, and smile more? 



What if you focused on proximity in the classroom? Moving from the front of the room, sitting by students, being with students instead of in front of them.



I’m going to continue to reflect on how we can leverage the power of small wins in our school. What do you think about your classroom or school? 



Have you seen examples of the power of small wins? What do you see as possible keystone habits educators could develop in students? 



Leave a comment or respond on Facebook or Twitter. I’m curious what’s on your mind.



Read More The Power of Keystone Habits

One of my favorite ways to enjoy a long drive is by listening to podcasts or audio-books. And I especially find biographies a helpful way to learn lessons about life and leadership. Two audiobooks that I’ve enjoyed in my drives may sound like they have nothing in common: Seabiscuit: An American Legend by Lauren Hillenbrand […]

Read More PMP:091 Reflecting on Lessons in Leadership

I tweeted this recently: I struggle with the “school is broken” narrative as much as I struggle with focusing on what is wrong with a student, not what their strengths…

Read More Nobody Wants to Be “Fixed”

I tweeted this recently: I struggle with the “school is broken” narrative as much as I struggle with focusing on what is wrong with a student, not what their strengths are. — George Couros (@gcouros) November 9, 2017 In the past couple of years, I have tried to stay away from this narrative when working … [Read more…]

Read More Nobody Wants to Be “Fixed”



Tis the season of gratitude and thanksgiving, and the video below had me thinking about what it means to be grateful.



Have you ever heard the saying, “You started at third base but you thought you hit a home run?” The idea is that sure you are successful, you hit a home run, but it was due to the advantages you had as much as it was due to the way you hit the ball. After all, you started at third base.



The video below illustrates the idea of social and economic advantage and how these advantages can impact chances for future success. It’s undeniable that certain starting points in life can create greater opportunities for success.



I think this video could be a great launching point for discussions with students. There is plenty to think about and even to critique. It’s powerful, but there are plenty of opportunities for critical thinking.






So who should be grateful in this video? Some might say the kids with the most advantages. They have more to start with than the others after all. It’s statistically true that people with those advantages tend to be more successful on average than those who do not.



But here’s the thing about gratitude, it should not be dependent only on having more or even having enough. Gratitude is a state of mind that is available to all of us all of the time. 



After all, if you aren’t grateful for what you have now, what makes you think you would be grateful if you had more? Unless you make a choice to be grateful in all things, how will it ever be enough?



It’s very difficult to adopt this mindset in our consumer driven culture. Even in the video, the end goal is a $100 bill. We are constantly reminded of what we don’t have. But life is not about racing past someone else to win. It’s not about having the most money or toys.



Life has far more to offer than economic success. Some of the poorest people in the world live the most meaningful, happiest lives. They are finding joy in life in spite of having very little material wealth. Every day presents its blessings or burdens. We choose our focus.



Everyone has challenges in life and everyone has opportunities. Sure, some have more challenges and some have less, but everyone has the opportunity to choose two things: thoughts and actions. 



Will you choose to focus on your blessings or your burdens? Will you choose actions that lead to blessings or ones that lead to burdens?



Stephen Covey wrote, “I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.”



Ultimately, I believe this is true. We can rise above circumstances, eventually. It may not happen as fast as we’d like. There are many stories of people who have risen above, people who are overcomers. There are people who have overcome terrible hardships and horrific circumstances, even abuse and neglect. If it is true for some, why can’t it be true for all?



For all the problems we have in this country, there are still incredible opportunities, even if the deck is stacked against some more than others. Are there inequities? Absolutely. Should we be satisfied with a system that works against some? Absolutely not. But there are also tremendous opportunities for those who choose to rise above.



We need to help all students learn to be grateful even in the midst of challenges. Why? The research is clear (Harvard Health)

Gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.

Gratitude is an empowering state of mind. It helps us realize that we have blessings in our life. It also helps us offer blessings into the lives of others. 



There may be difficulties and disparities in our world. There always have been injustices and as long a human being are running this planet, that will probably continue to be true.



I would summarize my response to the video I shared with two questions:



1. Who will you lift up?

2. What will you rise above?



Who will you lift up? You have gifts to give. You can be hope and help to someone else. You can lift up someone who might need a helping hand.



What will you rise above? There will be challenges. There will be obstacles. But you have everything you need to be great. Just keep moving in the direction of your dreams.



What’s on your mind? I’d like to hear from you. Leave a comment below or share on Facebook or Twitter



Read More A Lesson On Gratitude



Tis the season of gratitude and thanksgiving, and the video below had me thinking about what it means to be grateful.



Have you ever heard the saying, “You started at third base but you thought you hit a home run?” The idea is that sure you are successful, you hit a home run, but it was due to the advantages you had as much as it was due to the way you hit the ball. After all, you started at third base.



The video below illustrates the idea of social and economic advantage and how these advantages can impact chances for future success. It’s undeniable that certain starting points in life can create greater opportunities for success.



I think this video could be a great launching point for discussions with students. There is plenty to think about and even to critique. It’s powerful, but there are plenty of opportunities for critical thinking.






So who should be grateful in this video? Some might say the kids with the most advantages. They have more to start with than the others after all. It’s statistically true that people with those advantages tend to be more successful on average than those who do not.



But here’s the thing about gratitude, it should not be dependent only on having more or even having enough. Gratitude is a state of mind that is available to all of us all of the time. 



After all, if you aren’t grateful for what you have now, what makes you think you would be grateful if you had more? Unless you make a choice to be grateful in all things, how will it ever be enough?



It’s very difficult to adopt this mindset in our consumer driven culture. Even in the video, the end goal is a $100 bill. We are constantly reminded of what we don’t have. But life is not about racing past someone else to win. It’s not about having the most money or toys.



Life has far more to offer than economic success. Some of the poorest people in the world live the most meaningful, happiest lives. They are finding joy in life in spite of having very little material wealth. Every day presents its blessings or burdens. We choose our focus.



Everyone has challenges in life and everyone has opportunities. Sure, some have more challenges and some have less, but everyone has the opportunity to choose two things: thoughts and actions. 



Will you choose to focus on your blessings or your burdens? Will you choose actions that lead to blessings or ones that lead to burdens?



Stephen Covey wrote, “I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.”



Ultimately, I believe this is true. We can rise above circumstances, eventually. It may not happen as fast as we’d like. There are many stories of people who have risen above, people who are overcomers. There are people who have overcome terrible hardships and horrific circumstances, even abuse and neglect. If it is true for some, why can’t it be true for all?



For all the problems we have in this country, there are still incredible opportunities, even if the deck is stacked against some more than others. Are there inequities? Absolutely. Should we be satisfied with a system that works against some? Absolutely not. But there are also tremendous opportunities for those who choose to rise above.



We need to help all students learn to be grateful even in the midst of challenges. Why? The research is clear (Harvard Health)

Gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.

Gratitude is an empowering state of mind. It helps us realize that we have blessings in our life. It also helps us offer blessings into the lives of others. 



There may be difficulties and disparities in our world. There always have been injustices and as long a human being are running this planet, that will probably continue to be true.



I would summarize my response to the video I shared with two questions:



1. Who will you lift up?

2. What will you rise above?



Who will you lift up? You have gifts to give. You can be hope and help to someone else. You can lift up someone who might need a helping hand.



What will you rise above? There will be challenges. There will be obstacles. But you have everything you need to be great. Just keep moving in the direction of your dreams.



What’s on your mind? I’d like to hear from you. Leave a comment below or share on Facebook or Twitter



Read More A Lesson On Gratitude

In “The Innovator’s Mindset,” I use the following for the definition of “innovation”: For the purpose of this book, I’m defining innovation as a way of thinking that creates something new and better. Innovation can come from either “invention” (something totally new) or “iteration” (a change of something that already exists), but if it does … [Read more…]

Read More Are you more focused on the “new”, or the “better?”

So I got home this past Friday evening feeling a little more tired than usual. I wasn’t physically sick or anything, it was just that my mental energy was dragging…

Read More An Autumn Re-Set





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