Author: David Geurin



How do you define student achievement? Is student achievement defined by how students perform on some type of standardized assessment? When politicians, policymakers, and lots of educators too, talk about raising student achievement, it usually means raising test scores.



The problem is that test scores are a very narrow way to define student success and student achievement. That definition favors a certain type of student, magnifying a certain type of skill set, while diminishing a whole range of other factors that can lead to success academically and in life.


So why is it the current definition of student achievement is always tied to how students perform on one test that happens in one moment once a year? I want to see more emphasis on student agency. I want to find ways for students to connect to what they are learning, to apply what they are learning, to do things with their learning that are making a difference. To me, when students exercise agency and demonstrate growth, that is achievement.


When we are driven by preparing kids for a test, we may neglect preparing them for life. I’m not saying we can’t prepare kids for the test and for life, but too often I think that’s exactly what’s happening. The test is driving everything in some schools. 


But does the learning stick? Will students remember the things they must know for the test? I really like how Will Richardson put words around this idea. He says we need to aim for learning that results in permanence. We should seek learning that has lasting value. When students have agency and ownership in learning, it’s much more likely to have long term impact. When it connects to their passions and their goals, they’re much more invested emotionally and intellectually.


Another question I would raise is this, does the learning shift perspective? Simply learning content and using it to answer test questions doesn’t necessarily change who you are or how you see the world. And I think education should always result in more empathy and understanding. It doesn’t just change what you know but helps you better understand who you are and how you can make a bigger difference.



If we want more permanence and perspective in education, we have to be willing to invest in agency. We must empower students and teachers to do things that are bigger than just mastering content standards. We have encourage creativity and connection and allow for learning that taps into strengths and passions.



So let’s aim to get a better balance between achievement and agency. Achievement won’t solve the world’s problems unless our students learn they are powerful problem solvers. They must know first and foremost the significant agency they have to make a difference.



What are you thoughts? How are you specifically equipping students with greater agency and empowerment in your classroom and school? Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More Balancing Achievement and Agency



Kindness is more than being nice. It’s great to do nice things for people, and that’s certainly part of being kind. But true kindness goes deeper. It tests our character because it isn’t always easy. Most everyone is kind to others when they feel like it, or when other people are nice to them.



But here are 7 questions that take it deeper. These might be good to discuss with your students or even with your colleagues. I know I need to consistently reflect on these to keep growing and developing my own kindness qualities.




1. Are you happy for others when they succeed?



True kindness doesn’t envy the success of others. It’s being happy for others and celebrating with them and for them. 


2. How do you treat people who can do nothing for you in return?


Some people are kind to gain status or favor or tangible rewards. But true kindness shows up strongest with selfless motives, expecting nothing in return.


3. How do you treat others in times of crisis?


When things are spiraling out of control, that tests how committed we are to kindness. Do you still treat people respectfully and with dignity even when it’s a crisis?


4. Are you able to maintain respectful dialogue with someone who strongly disagrees with you?



Disagreement doesn’t have to result in disrespect. We should be able to share different perspectives without feeling diminished or making others feel diminished.


5. When you make a mistake or act poorly, do you take full ownership? Do you apologize immediately and sincerely?



Kindness doesn’t make excuses. If you make a mistake, admit it and do what you can to make it right.


6. Do you have positive beliefs about others? Do you look for the best in them? Do you believe the best about their intentions?



A person who is kind believes the best about others. It’s being the type of person who can see the strengths in others, even when they’re hard to see.


7. Are you able to forgive others for their mistakes? Are you able to forgive even if they don’t apologize or admit their mistake?



Holding a grudge is definitely not a kindness quality. But sometimes it’s hard if the other person doesn’t apologize. But true kindness is tested by the hard stuff.



What are other ways you can think of to show kindness? Leave a comment or respond on Facebook or Twitter. It would be great to hear from you!



        

 

Read More 7 Questions to Reflect on Kindness





Earlier this month, Dave Burgess shared a great tweet of a slide from Amy Fast’s presentation at What Great Educators Do Differently in Houston.

“The most important work we do in schools is the emotional labor.” – @fastcrayon at #WGEDD #tlap pic.twitter.com/Doh0cGhXJh

— Dave Burgess (@burgessdave) April 2, 2019

It’s true. It’s so important to do the emotional work, your emotional work to connect and care and empathize, because it influences the emotions of everyone around you. It influences others. 

How important are emotions? Emotions are “energy in motion.” Our emotions are always moving us toward something or away from something. We don’t always have to choose to follow those emotions, but they are powerful. Just understand that when a student or colleague is stuck in a performance rut, there is nearly always an emotional component to that.



Most people want to succeed and do well, right? They didn’t wake up in the morning wanting to fail. But sometimes they lose their way. At some point, their thoughts, beliefs, or feelings start getting in the way. Their words and actions are impacted. They allow the obstacles to weigh them down or stall their progress.

We need to create positive emotions in our classrooms and in our schools toward each other, toward learning, and toward making a difference. We need to support each other and believe in each other and never give up on each other. A positive learning environment is a positive emotional environment.



How often are there moments in your school that bring great joy, hope, and purpose? Those moments help create a heightened state of emotion. A peak state of emotion leads to a greater sense of motivation.



Think about it…

When you are laughing, smiling, encouraging, connecting, complimenting, progressing, and succeeding, you will have more energy, enthusiasm, effort, excitement, enjoyment, engagement and more. 



And conversely…

When you are frowning, criticizing, isolating, blaming, or complaining, you’ll reap what you sow with that too. You’ll have less energy. You’ll be more tired. You’ll be less likely to take a risk or do something great.



If you want to increase learning and performance, create an environment that provides for positive emotional support and growth. Create a positive environment. Create an uplifting environment, a fun environment. Bring your best energy.

Be intentional to create opportunities for students and colleagues to have more positive emotions. When the emotional environment improves, everyone has a better chance to change and grow and experience more powerful learning and connection.



What are ways you create an positive emotional environment in your classroom or school?



How do you set the tone each day for connection and care?



What behaviors need to be addressed that are damaging the emotional environment?



I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter. Thanks for all you do to bring your positive vibes each and every day!

Read More The Importance of Emotions in Learning



Earlier this week, I was speaking at What Great Educators Do Differently in Houston. It was a fantastic event with a great lineup of inspiring education leaders.



My topic was Great Educators are Risk-Takers and Difference-Makers! When I have the opportunity to work with school districts or speak at conferences, I want to remind educators that we’re educating kids for the world they’ll live in and not the world we grew up in.



It’s an central message in my book, Future Driven



The world is changing faster than ever and schools need to be changing too. I always ask, “Is your school a time capsule (static) or a time machine (dynamic)?” We can’t afford to teach to a test or simply prepare kids for the next grade level, or even college or career. We’re preparing them for life and anything they might face.



We can’t continue to prize student achievement while ignoring the critical importance of student agency. Kids need more opportunities to make decisions and take initiative. We need to develop future leaders and passionate learners, not just proficient test takers.



And the only way that will happen is by allowing teachers to have the needed professional autonomy to be risk-takers and difference-makers. Educators must have the freedom to take initiative and make decisions. They need the flexibility to use their strengths and bring their passions into their classrooms.



But I also want to challenge educators. What are you doing with the autonomy you have? Are you pushing limits? Are you challenging the status quo? Are you creating extraordinary learning opportunities that prepare students for a complex, unpredictable world? If we’re going to crush student apathy, we have to start with addressing teacher apathy. We have to show up strong!



Here are 5 Future Driven questions to think about with your team…



1. What will students need to thrive in a complex, unpredictable world? (addressing rapid change)



2. How can our school better meet the unique needs of today’s kids? (kids are dealing with new issues/pressures)



3. How can we create a place where kids who resist school are empowered to love learning? (compliance vs. empowered learning)



4. Do teachers have the autonomy they need to create deeper learning? (teacher agency)



5. Do students have opportunities to pursue and explore their own questions? (inquiry)



6. Are students expected to create and innovate in your classroom? (critical thinking, problem-solving)



7. How are students helping others through what they’re learning? (empathy, service)



What other future driven questions do you think are relevant for educators to discuss? It’s amazing how questions can help us make the best decisions. I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter

Read More 7 Future Driven Questions to Discuss With Your Team



The answer to the question seems obvious, don’t you think? Of course, educators should be lifelong learners. 



But I recently heard an education leader give a presentation where he made a claim that expecting educators to be lifelong learners, at least in the sense of attending PD or reading on their own time, was unrealistic. 



Basically, he suggested that nobody has time for that. There are too many demands on teachers as it is. I found it interesting that in spite of his claim, he also shared he is currently writing a book for educators.



He suggested the best way for professional educators to learn was through experience and by reflecting on experience with others. And I agree, that is one way to learn.



He added that when he interviewed for open positions and candidates shared about being lifelong learners, that he didn’t believe it for a minute. The universities are simply coaching their pre-service teachers on keywords they need to use in interviews.



My thinking is quite different on this issue. A big problem I see in schools is that too few are making time for their own professional reading and growth. Most people become satisfied with a certain level of effectiveness in their life, work, relationships, etc. and then hit cruise control. They don’t continue to push the limits of their own possibilities.



But that’s not the way strive for your potential, and it’s not the way to become the most effective, fulfilled educator you can be.



So here are some of my thoughts about continuous learning for educators…



1. The quickest way to improve a school is for the people inside the school to work on improving themselves. When you individually learn more as an educator, your students win, and your whole school wins too. You make your school stronger by your growth.



2. People who don’t make time for reading and growing will never break through their current capacity. They may get a little better, but they won’t experience new levels of capacity. They won’t have breakthroughs



Why? Because they are limited to their own perspective. As John Maxwell said, “Some of my best thinking is done by others.” I learn so much from what some of the leading thinkers are writing and sharing.



3. I suggest the 5-hour-rule as a great way to learn and grow. Spend at least 5 hours per week reading to build your capacity. Many of the world’s busiest and most successful people are consistent readers. 



4. The most common excuse for not reading is not having enough time. But we make time for what’s important. We all have the same number of hours in the day. And I’m wondering if most of the same people complaining about not having enough time are finding plenty of time for Netflix, YouTube, and Facebook?



5. Seth Godin suggests the more professional your field, the more important it is to stay current. If we seek to raise the standing of education as a top profession, we need to strive to learn like other top professions.



6. You wouldn’t want a surgeon operating on you who hasn’t read the latest journals about the procedures he’s performing. You want the best techniques. And your students deserve the best techniques too.



7. One of the best ways to carve our time for reading is to make it part of your morning routine. When you start the day focused on your own growth, you’ll be better able to help your students with their growth.



Are you making time for your reading and growth? How do you find the time? Do you believe educators should be lifelong learners? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More Should All Educators Be Lifelong Learners?

This post is sponsored in partnership with Metaverse.
I’ve been experimenting recently with the Metaverse app, and I think it’s a fantastic learning tool for teachers and students. Metaverse allows users to create augmented reality experiences without having to write any of their own code. The possibilities are literally endless for the types of creative projects you can develop.


So how does it work? The Metaverse Studio provides a drag and drop interface to build your experience. You simply select different components to add to your “storyboard” and then you link them together.

There are all sorts of components to work with. You can even embed your own videos or select videos from YouTube. 





After you create an experience in the studio, it can be shared in a variety of ways. You can use a link or QR code, send them through email, or even embed them in your website or Learning Management System.

To interact with the experience, the user will need the Metaverse App (Android/iOS). Once you’ve downloaded the app, you can tap the link or scan the code to get started. It’s really fun and easy.

Teachers and students are creating all sorts of amazing things with Metaverse. You could make a breakout game, create a trivia/review game, develop a scavenger hunt, interactive story, and much more.



One school even used Metaverse to create a tour of their school for incoming freshmen. And students were the ones who developed the experience for their peers.

Just recently, Metaverse added a new feature to allow teachers to see all of the projects their students are working on, in one place. It’s called Collections. 





While collections is a paid feature (Metaverse is otherwise FREE), this addition makes Metaverse even more powerful as a student creation station. 




So here’s what I love about Metaverse…

1. It develops creative thinking.

Students need more opportunities to use creativity in the classroom. Metaverse provides a platform with endless options for creativity. Students can demonstrate their learning in new and interesting ways. They can make their own game, scavenger hunt, or story to show what they’re learning.

2. It develops reasoning skills.

Metaverse has a “storyboard” format that requires lots of if/then logical thinking. To create an experience, students will be using basic thinking skills used in coding, only without the coding. Everything is drag and drop. My cognitive reasoning skills were getting a good workout as I experimented with the tool.

3. It motivates learners.

Metaverse is a fun way to learn. I showed it to my own kids and they were immediately interested in how it worked and all of the different components that could be linked together. It definitely has a coolness factor that many other education apps lack. Students could work on their project individually or in teams.

4. It helps learners apply what they know.

It’s been often said, “No one cares what you know, they only care what you can do with what you know.” Metaverse is a great way to have students do something with what they know. There will no doubt be deeper learning when students create something that demonstrates their learning.

5. It’s a great alternative to traditional paper/pencil assessment.

Metaverse projects are a great way to assess learning. The teacher could develop a rubric for the essential learning outcomes and how those will be assessed in the Metaverse experience. As students work on the projects, the teacher could provide ongoing feedback. And students could provide feedback to each other too.

Overall, Metaverse is a great way to shift instruction from learning as a delivery system to learning that is a discovery system. The opportunities for engagement and creativity using this tool are unlimited.



Question: Have you tried Metaverse yet with your students? If not, you should give it a try. Right now you can try out Collections for free for one month using the following code: ARforEDU. Let me know what you think. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More 5 Reasons Metaverse is the Perfect Way to Bring AR to Your Classroom



Shouldn’t teaching be a creative profession? In my mind, most every profession should have opportunities for creativity. I think humans are made to be creative. And if we don’t have the chance to use those abilities, we are mostly going through the motions. We’re merely “doing” or “implementing” without much opportunity to use our unique gifts or strengths.



I’m referring to creativity here in the broadest sense. It’s not just artistic creativity, although that’s an important kind for sure. I’m talking about the ability to have ideas, initiate plans, and solve complex problems. Much creativity is needed for these types of activities.



So are you competent and creative? Having both. That’s probably the best scenario. Being competent is knowing your stuff. It’s being well-trained. It’s having knowledge and expertise and maybe experience too.



But being creative is the ability to use what’s available in novel and interesting ways. It’s the ability to meet the demands of your current situation and add tremendous value because of your unique gifts and abilities. Being an expert is great, but it has its limitations. How are you leveraging your expertise to create the greatest impact? That’s where creativity comes in.



I think we’ve valued competence to the extent in education that it’s placed limits on what we’re able to accomplish. When we simply double-down on past practices and past outcomes, we’re not thinking in interesting ways. We push for more of the same and pile on greater accountability and less freedom for good measure. 



The world is changing and the skills needed to be successful are changing too. When we fail to adapt our practices to current and future contexts students will face, we are failing to help them adapt. We must adapt if we want students to also have the ability to adapt and meet challenges. We need creative schools. We need adaptable schools.



Recently, LinkedIn published a list of the top in-demand soft and hard skills of 2019. Creativity was at the top of the list for soft skills. That’s right, creativity was number one. It’s clear the global economy continues to shift from an industrial world to a world of innovation. Ideas are increasingly important. Creativity is increasingly important.



So back to the original question, are you competent and creative? Does your school encourage you to be both? Or, does it limit your ability to be creative? Do you feel boxed in? 



Every organization has some limits. But limits don’t have to result in the end of creativity. It’s sad when schools create structures and expectations that crush creativity. But it’s equally sad when educators fail to use their creativity as best they can in the current situation, whatever it is. 



Even if you feel limited in your ability to use your creativity, use it to the fullest extent you can. You can still be creative. You may wish you had more freedom and flexibility in your work, but you can still create within your current situation.



Seek out others who are interested in finding ways to be creative too. You’ll be a happier, more successful, and stronger overall as an educator if you’re using your creative abilities as best you can.



How are you taking your creativity to new levels? When you’re creative in your work, do you see better results and enjoy greater fulfillment? Leave a comment below. Or, share on Twitter or Facebook. I look forward to hearing from you.

Read More Are You Competent and Creative?



How do you respond when students don’t exhibit the behaviors you would like to see? Do you tell students they need to change? Do you lecture them about responsibility or respect? Do you complain to your colleagues about kids these days? Do you punish or reward?



How effective are those options? Telling doesn’t work. Lectures create distance. Complaining doesn’t empower anyone. And rewards and punishments mostly work only to get compliance and not to build better better behavioral skills.



But what would be an effective response to harmful behaviors? 



What can educators do to better address non-learning behaviors? 



Teaching behavior is better than just punishing behavior.



Teach the students the new behaviors you want to see.



If they aren’t organized, teach them how to be organized.



If they aren’t respectful, teach them about respect and how to show it.



If they aren’t responsible, teach them new skills to show responsibility.



If they are distracted, teach them how to focus.



Break down any behavior into specific skills and teach your students the steps to successfully exhibit the behaviors.



How to Teach Behavior



1. Know your own expectations for your students. Have a vision for exactly what you expect. Know exactly what you want to see.



2. Communicate your expectations clearly. Be very specific. Over communicate. Explain why the behavior is important. Use stories and examples to make it clear.



3. Build relationships. Students will always learn behavior lessons better from someone that’s trusted and connected.



4. Discuss unwanted behaviors with your students. Don’t tell. Ask questions. Listen. Understand.



5. Give students feedback on how they’re doing. Correct them. Direct them. But most of all, encourage them.



6. Facilitate reflection with your students. Ask them to think about their own behavior and how they are learning and growing. Track progress.



7. Offer a fresh start each day. Don’t bring up previous mistakes except as a teaching opportunity but never to shame or gain the upper hand. Be patient.



8. Always protect the dignity of each child. Don’t lose your cool and say something harmful. Don’t use shame or guilt to motivate. 



How would you treat him/her if his/her grandmother were watching?



9. Review. It’s always good to circle back around to important lessons about expectations and how things are going.



What if I don’t have time to teach behavior?



Better question: What if you DON’T take the time to teach behavior? If you don’t teach the behaviors you want to see, you’ll spend much more time correcting issues that might have been prevented. Make sure your expectations are clear.



When you are intentional about teaching the behaviors you want to see, you are being proactive instead of reactive. You don’t just wait until there is a problem. Try to see things from the student’s perspective and anticipate what reminders they might need.



What do you do to be proactive about teaching behaviors in your classroom? Share your strategies by leaving a comment below or responding on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More The Importance of Teaching the Behaviors You Want to See



How do you respond when students don’t exhibit the behaviors you would like to see? Do you tell students they need to change? Do you lecture them about responsibility or respect? Do you complain to your colleagues about kids these days? Do you punish or reward?



How effective are those options? Telling doesn’t work. Lectures create distance. Complaining doesn’t empower anyone. And rewards and punishments mostly work only to get compliance and not to build better better behavioral skills.



But what would be an effective response to harmful behaviors? 



What can educators do to better address non-learning behaviors? 



Teaching behavior is better than just punishing behavior.



Teach the students the new behaviors you want to see.



If they aren’t organized, teach them how to be organized.



If they aren’t respectful, teach them about respect and how to show it.



If they aren’t responsible, teach them new skills to show responsibility.



If they are distracted, teach them how to focus.



Break down any behavior into specific skills and teach your students the steps to successfully exhibit the behaviors.



How to Teach Behavior



1. Know your own expectations for your students. Have a vision for exactly what you expect. Know exactly what you want to see.



2. Communicate your expectations clearly. Be very specific. Over communicate. Explain why the behavior is important. Use stories and examples to make it clear.



3. Build relationships. Students will always learn behavior lessons better from someone that’s trusted and connected.



4. Discuss unwanted behaviors with your students. Don’t tell. Ask questions. Listen. Understand.



5. Give students feedback on how they’re doing. Correct them. Direct them. But most of all, encourage them.



6. Facilitate reflection with your students. Ask them to think about their own behavior and how they are learning and growing. Track progress.



7. Offer a fresh start each day. Don’t bring up previous mistakes except as a teaching opportunity but never to shame or gain the upper hand. Be patient.



8. Always protect the dignity of each child. Don’t lose your cool and say something harmful. Don’t use shame or guilt to motivate. 



How would you treat him/her if his/her grandmother were watching?



9. Review. It’s always good to circle back around to important lessons about expectations and how things are going.



What if I don’t have time to teach behavior?



Better question: What if you DON’T take the time to teach behavior? If you don’t teach the behaviors you want to see, you’ll spend much more time correcting issues that might have been prevented. Make sure your expectations are clear.



When you are intentional about teaching the behaviors you want to see, you are being proactive instead of reactive. You don’t just wait until there is a problem. Try to see things from the student’s perspective and anticipate what reminders they might need.



What do you do to be proactive about teaching behaviors in your classroom? Share your strategies by leaving a comment below or responding on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More The Importance of Teaching the Behaviors You Want to See

Is it more professional to teach in a traditional manner, the way you remember your teachers teaching you? 



Or, is it more professional to teach in innovative ways that might be more relevant to today’s world with today’s students? 



Is being professional dressing a certain way, fulfilling your obligations consistently, or having a certain type of professional demeanor?



Maybe some of those things matter for professionalism. But what matters most?



What exactly does it mean to be professional?



It seems to me that being a professional is doing things in the best possible way to meet professional goals. If the ultimate goal is the best possible learning for students, then being professional isn’t about doing it like it’s always been done, or doing it the way you prefer, or doing it by some personal code that might communicate professionalism for the sake of professionalism.



What’s most relevant for being a professional educator is taking actions and designing learning in a way that works best for the learners you are currently teaching, this group of kids, the ones you are working with right now.



Being a professional is understanding the needs of the students. It’s seeing things from the perspective of the learner, and then seeking to meet their needs to create the strongest learning environment possible. It’s being curious about how your students are experiencing learning. And it’s having enough empathy to understand and adjust.



What’s your professional identity?



It’s only natural to teach in the way that’s most comfortable for you. I think most people have a teaching identity that says, “I’m the type of person who teaches such and such way.” I’ve even heard teachers make comments like, “That just doesn’t work for me.” 



They have a certain idea of their teaching identity. And then they build a story for why their students need the type of teacher they value, the type of teacher that fits their identity.



I’m the strict teacher. These kids need discipline.



I’m the lecturing teacher. These kids need to learn to take notes for college.



I’m the cool teacher. These kids need me to be their friend.



I’m the old school teacher. These kids need to value the things my generation valued.



I’m the dominion teacher. These kids need to fall into line and comply with authority.



But what if your teaching identity isn’t really what your students need? Are you willing to reinvent yourself to do what’s best for today’s learners? All of them?



Being professional means doing beneficial things that aren’t necessarily your natural inclination.



To me, that’s being a professional. It’s creating a classroom environment that will engage and ensure maximum learning even if that’s not what’s most comfortable for me. I’m going to step out of my comfort zone to make this better for my students.



The most professional educators (teachers, administrators, and other roles too) I know are the ones who are willing to do just about anything to make learning better for students. They are willing to adjust their practices to meet the needs of the students. 



In fact, they are actively seeking ways to adjust their practices to meet the legitimate learning needs of their students.



Well, I’m not here to entertain. I’m not doing a dog and pony show.



Is making learning come alive a dog and pony show? Is cultivating curiosity being an entertainer? 



The kids need to learn grit. They need to learn to do the work, even if they think it’s boring. They need to learn perseverance.



Grit and perseverance are connected to things we find meaningful, relevant, and purposeful. Do students find your class meaningful, relevant, and purposeful?



I bet you apply effort to things you find meaningful. In fact, every action you’re motivated to take is because you attach some meaning to it. You might even hate doing it. But you attach some meaning to it. Or you wouldn’t do it.



What about your students? What are you doing to make learning more meaningful for your students? If they aren’t motivated, it’s because they don’t see the meaning in what you’re asking them to do. At least they don’t see enough meaning in it, yet, because when they do, they will engage.



What adjustments are you making?



A professional educator is seeking to make learning irresistible. 



A professional educator is seeking to meet the legitimate learning needs of the students.



A professional educator is willing to set aside personal preferences for peak practices.



A professional educator is enthusiastic, excited, and energetic about learners and learning.



A professional educator isn’t satisfied with going through the motions or arriving at good enough. There is a desire for continuous improvement that starts with the person in the mirror. What are the actions, attitudes, and approaches I need to take to succeed with these students?



What do you think about this riff on professionalism? Does it resonate with you? Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter. I look forward to reading your comments.

Read More What’s More Professional?



I continue to enjoy learning from you all and appreciate your connection with my blog throughout 2018. I’m inspired by the incredible community of educators who are so deeply committed to preparing students for the future.



That’s really the message of my book, Future Driven. Today’s schools can’t afford to be time capsules, preparing students for a world that no longer exists. They must be time machines, preparing students for the future, preparing them to be adaptable, continuous learners.



Our world is changing faster than ever, and schools can’t afford to stay the same.



This past year I continued to share thoughts here at the blog along those lines. Like you, I’m seeking ways to leverage my learning to help provide better learning for students. 



Here are a few of the ideas that seemed to resonate the strongest with readers. The top 10 for 2018…



1. 5 Tips for Building Great Relationships with Students

5 Tips for Building Great Relationships with Students

Relationships are essential to learning. Kids connect more to learning when they feel more connection to their teacher. A great classroom environment begins by building great relationships. So how do you build great relationships with your students? Here are 5 tips I promise will make your relationships stronger.



2. Why Do Some Educators Burn Out While Others Seem to Grow More Passionate

Why Do Some Educators Burn Out While Others Seem to Grow More Passionate?

I’m really interested in know where passion comes from. And that’s because I can’t think of a single passionate educator who doesn’t make a greater impact for kids. And on the other hand, I can’t think of a single educator who seems burned out who can still be their very best for kids.

3. 5 Questions Every Kid Is Trying to Answer

5 Questions Every Kid Is Trying to Answer

When we think about creating a stronger school culture, we know how important it is to focus on relationships. But why are relationships such an important part of an outstanding learning environment? It seems clear when you think about it. Everyone needs to feel connected. Everyone needs to feel like he or she matters.

4. What’s Your Priority? Passion or Proficiency

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.

5. 20 Ways to Be Future Driven in Your Classroom

20 Ways to Be Future Driven in Your Classroom

Reflection is so important for continued learning and growth. I developed the list below as a tool for educators to reflect on practices that help prepare students for a rapidly changing, complex world. Some of these practices are new. Some are not. Some of them involve technology. Some do not.

Top 10 Continued…

Read More Top 10 Most Popular Future Driven Posts from 2018



Your lessons matter. Your strategies matter. Your relationships matter. Lots of other things matter too. Some of these things are in your control and some of them are not.



But in every decision you make, in every action you take, there is a common thread. What is your mental approach? Do you have a growth mindset? Are you an empowered educator? Do you believe in your ability to make a difference? Do you have a strong sense of self-efficacy? 



A person’s mental approach to any situation has an incredible impact on outcomes. The choices we make determine our future. It is our choices more than any other factor that determine who we are and who we will become. I believe that’s true for students, and I believe that’s true for us as educators as well. 



1. Extraordinary results require you to expect big results.



Extraordinary results don’t happen by accident. Just look at what successful people do, and you’ll see what it takes. First, you have to believe great things can happen. Some people are hesitant to set the bar very high, because they might fall short. Others think about how much work it’s going to take to get there, and wonder if it’s going to be worth it? 



But if you’re not willing to aim for extraordinary results, are you settling for less than what you’re capable of doing? And if you’re settling for less, are you giving your students an experience that is less than they deserve? You deserve to be your best too. Crave that which is not easily within your grasp. Dream big.



2. It’s not lack of time, it’s lack of direction.



We all have exactly the same number of hours in each day. We have the same number of days in each week. I’ve rarely heard anyone complain about lack of time who also wasn’t wasting some amount of time every day and every week. The key is how we are using the time we have. Are you making the most of your time? Are you giving time to the things that will make the biggest impact? Do you know with clarity what’s most important in your day? 



Choose to pour your energy into the things that will transform your effectiveness. You have to take risks. You’ll miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. What actions are your multipliers? They make everything better. They pay dividends into the future. Pour your energy into things that give the most returns. Find your true north and set your direction accordingly.



3. Be willing to let of go of something good for something great.



Most people reach a certain level of effectiveness, and then they just maintain the status quo. They get into a routine without continuing to stretch and push forward. Too often we are polishing the past, trying to improve on practices that are simply outdated or no longer effective. We’re aiming to make things just a little better instead of opening our minds to new possibilities. 



Don’t settle for good enough. Don’t settle for teaching as you were taught. Our world is changing faster than ever before. So our schools should reflect those changes. We can’t allow schools to become time capsules, when they could be time machines. We need to adapt and create learning that’s relevant to the world our students will live in. 



4. See problems as they are, but not worse than they are.



I believe in the power of positive thinking. But positive thinking, in my mind, is not believing everything is okay. It’s not pretending everything is great. But it is believing things can get better. It’s focusing on solutions, not problems. We need to see problems for what they are, but not act like they are impossible to overcome. 



Some people focus their energy on blaming and complaining. They throw their hands up and quit. Their solution is for everything outside of them to change. But a different approach is to be focused on pursuing excellence. No obstacle is too big to stop trying. They believe that with hard work, determination, and the desire to continually learn and grow, there is no limit to what might be possible. 



5. One of the best ways to increase student effort and engagement is to increase your own energy and enthusiasm.



What type of energy are you bringing to your classroom or school? I notice some of our students dragging into school with very little energy. What’s it going to take to shift that energy and get them going? Many of our students have developed habits that prevent them from getting the most out of their learning. Those habits won’t change unless we as educators are intentional. We need to change. 



We need to bring so much determination and passion to what we do that students know, “This person is not going to accept less than my best.” Lots of things can stand in the way of learning in a school, let’s make sure it’s not the attitude or enthusiasm of the adults who work there. 



What other ideas do you have for establishing a solid mental approach as an educator? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More 5 Thoughts to Improve Your Mental Approach as an Educator



Here’s a reflective question to ask yourself when you’re making decisions about your priorities:



What would happen if you weren’t successful on this one thing?



What would be the ramifications? What would be the price to pay? What would be the cost if this thing did not happen? What would happen if success in this area isn’t made a priority? What would we stand to lose? How would it impact the student, the community, or the world? 



Some things are absolutely essential and some things are nice to see happen and some things really aren’t that important at all. Life’s all about priorities. But how often do we just go with the priorities of what’s been done in the past? 



How often do we accept the priorities of others without even considering if they are best for kids? How often do we push back against the priorities of the status quo because we know we can do better?



There isn’t enough time, energy, or resources to make everything a priority. We have to make good choices about what’s most important and how to apply our energy and effort. We have to establish the priorities that make the biggest difference.



Here are a few examples of my thinking as I work through this thought experiment…



1. What would happen if I didn’t develop the strongest relationships possible with my students?



I would risk losing the learner entirely. They might just check out and not follow my lead on anything. There’s greater chance of behavior problems, attitude problems, parent problems, and more. If the relationship is toxic, nothing I do will be good enough, interesting enough, or important enough. It’s impossible to have extraordinary learning experiences with mediocre relationships.



2. What would happen if students dreaded coming to our school or my classroom every day?



If students hate school, we know they’re going to be disengaged, distracted, and probably agitated. None of those are good conditions for learning. We can wish they would change and magically love school. Or we can change the school and find ways to reduce the friction. What if we made it harder for kids to hate school? What if we created a place where kids who hate (traditional) school love to learn?



3. What would happen if students didn’t get chances to lead and make decisions in this school?



If they don’t have chances to lead and make decisions now, they won’t be ready to lead and make decisions later. They won’t have opportunities to practice and they won’t be primed for leadership and decision making beyond school. Kids need practice leading and making decisions about their learning. They need agency just as much, if not more, than they need achievement. If I simply learn, I will probably forget. But if I have a strong enough learning identity, there is nothing I can’t learn eventually.



4. What would happen if students didn’t master every standard in this school?



They might not score as well as others on standardized tests. They might have some gaps in their learning. They might have to learn some things down the road if they’re faced with situations where they aren’t fully prepared. But is that really the worst thing? Is standards mastery the key to future success? I don’t think it is.



5. What would happen if students didn’t learn soft skills or develop good character in this school?



I’ll answer this question with another question. Would you prefer to have a neighbor that is a caring person or one who has outstanding academic skills? Of course, having both would be great. If you needed help with some complex math problems, they’d be able to help you and care enough about you to be willing to help you. But if you had to make a choice? I’m picking soft skills and character every time.



So what other questions might you ask to test your priorities and your school’s priorities? If we didn’t do this thing, what would happen? Pour your energy into the things that you know count the most. We get most of our results out of a small portion of our effort. We accomplish 80% of our results with just 20% of our effort. The rest of our effort is lost compared to that 20%. If we can learn to apply effort more efficiently, our overall capacity would greatly increase.



Let me know what you think about this thought experiment. Is what you’re doing today moving your students closer to what you want for them tomorrow? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook.

Read More What Would Happen If You Weren’t Successful On This Thing?



It’s inevitable. Sooner or later there will be conflict. People will have differences. Disagreements will erupt. Mistakes will be made. Stuff happens.



But we can sharpen our skills to be ready when unhealthy conflict begins to rise. And we can use our tools to keep dialogue open and productive. Disagreements don’t have to turn destructive. 



A difference of opinion doesn’t haven’t to escalate into a damaged relationship. The phrases I share below have worked well for me, for the most part. Tone of voice and body language are critically important too.



It doesn’t matter if the conflict is with a student, a colleague, or a parent, it’s so important to listen carefully and let the other person know you are listening carefully. 



Listen carefully and practice empathy. Try to fully understand where the other person is coming from.



Here are 11 phrases that might be helpful…

1. “Let’s work together to solve this.”



All of the problem-solving to address an issue shouldn’t come from one side or the other. It’s not me vs. you. It’s us vs. the problem.



2. “I may be wrong. I frequently am. Let’s look at the facts.”



Our natural tendency is to become defensive when someone challenges us. Take a tentative stance at the start. That shows you’re open to listening.



3. “If I’m wrong I want to correct it and make it right. I may be in error.”



If you start to defend your position right away you set yourself in opposition to the other side. When we set ourselves in opposition to another, it’s their instinct to cling to their ideas and defend them whether there is truly any merit to them or not.



4. “Let me see if I got that.”



Or “Let me see if I understand you correctly?” Listen actively. Acknowledge what the other person is saying. Instead of defending or explaining, start by paraphrasing. Repeat what they’ve said to ensure that you’re getting the right meaning. Ask clarifying questions. It makes the other person feel heard. It shows you are listening.



5. “What’s your biggest concern?”



Sometimes when people get upset they vent about all sorts of things that may be related and may not be related. This question helps focus on what the real issue is.



6. “How are you feeling about that?”



Again this question is acknowledging that there are strong feelings as a result of the situation. It’s good to validate the feelings someone is having. It doesn’t mean you agree with what needs to happen, but you are trying to understand how they feel. 



7. “What would you like to see happen? What would make you happy?”



Sometimes when I ask this question after I’ve listened carefully for a time, the person will say they don’t really want anything to happen. They just wanted to express their frustration. And sometimes there are specific requests. This question get possible next steps out on the table. 



8. “Is it possible that we could…?”



Or “What if…” Help introduce new possibilities to the situation. In emotionally charged situations, people often get locked into seeing things from only one perspective. We’re looking for a creative solution that is win/win.



9. “I’m willing to discuss this as long as needed until we’re both satisfied how it’s resolved.”



I love to say this when I can tell things are really heated. It immediately says to the other person that I’m not going to be your opponent in this discussion. I’m not going to allow this to be an argument. It almost always diffuses the situation.



10. “Let me think about this some more. Let’s try again later.”



Sometimes, even when I’ve tried to maintain dialogue and approach the problem with as much diplomacy as possible, we still can’t seem to either deescalate or find acceptable solutions. Then it’s time to say let’s both think about it some more and try again later.



11. “Do you feel like the situation’s been handled fairly?”



It’s very rewarding when a conversation that could be angry and awful ends up being successful. It actually builds a stronger relationship. Conflict can make us stronger. Sometimes I will even ask if the other person feels it’s been handled fairly. If they can’t say yes, then maybe we need to talk some more.



Don’t allow yourself to become an opponent in the conversation. If people sense that you are defensive, they will set themselves in opposition to you. They will cling to their ideas and defend them no matter what. Even if there isn’t merit to the concern, they will fight for their point of view. They won’t care about what’s right. They’ll only care about being right. They’ll defend the most ridiculous claims and blunders simply because they view you as an opponent.



And conversely, if you truly listen and avoid becoming an opponent, people are far more likely to admit errors of their own. If they are handled gently and respectfully, they will be more open to listening to your perspective too. But make sure they’ve had plenty of opportunities to be heard before you expect them to hear your point of view.



Do you have other ideas for disarming conflict? What’s been your experience with handling conflict successfully? I’d like to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook.

Read More 11 Helpful Phrases for Disarming Conflict



Last Christmas, we decided to add a new Boston Terrier puppy to our family. His name is Rudy. There have been many times over the past months that Rudy has tested our patience. And he’s tested the patience of our older Boston Terrier, Max, too.



He’s chewed up the house. He’s been slow to house train. He’s been quick to disobey. He’s a little too affectionate. He’s in your face affectionate. It’s cute and annoying at the same time.



But a few months ago we noticed something was wrong with Rudy. He was having problems with one of his back legs. It would happen occasionally, and he would limp around on three legs for a while, and then he was back to his old self.



But the problem became even more frequent. A trip to the vet revealed Rudy’s leg problem was Patellar Luxation, a knee cap that was dislocating. The leg would not get better on its own and needed to be addressed surgically.



So Rudy was scheduled for his operation.



After Rudy had his surgery, the vet said we needed to keep him from using the repaired knee. “No using that leg,” he said. 



Just how are you supposed to keep a dog from using a leg? Hey Rudy, no using that leg, okay? 



But turns out that wasn’t a problem. Rudy didn’t want to use the leg. I guess it was pretty sore, and he quit using it entirely after the surgery. 



Even weeks later, after several visits to the vet, Rudy was still not using the repaired leg. The vet suggested several ideas for getting him to start using the leg again, including swim therapy in our bath tub. Seriously.



But Rudy still refused to use his fourth leg. He was a three-legged dog, it seemed, forever.



However, it was clear from our trips to the veterinarian, Rudy’s leg had healed properly. He was simply choosing not to use the leg. He had created a limitation in his canine brain that he was a three-legged dog. He had created a new identity that kept him from reaching his full capacity.



Would Rudy ever walk on four legs again?



And then, in a matter of a couple of weeks, Rudy started testing the fourth leg a little more. He pushed out of his comfort zone and into his growth zone. The video clips below were shot on the same day in the span of about an hour. You’ll see his three legged routine and then what’s possible when he pushes past the limits. Rudy was very capable it seems.






When Rudy got past his limits, he was running around like any puppy should. He was back to annoying all of us again, in his regular way. He was starting to utilize his fourth leg to its full capacity.



But here’s the thing, how many of us are choosing, perhaps unintentionally, to be three-legged dogs? Could it be that most of us are only using a fraction of our true capacity? What might be possible if we would only test our limits and continue to learn and grow?



I think most people are only operating at a small percentage of full capacity. And I think most schools are only operating at a small percentage of full capacity. We’re probably capable of so much more. Our schools are probably capable of so much more.



Sure, we’re trying to make progress, but we’re walking on three legs. We’re trying to make things better, but we need to make ourselves better. Change you first.



What we really need is to cut loose and run on all four legs. And we need to create conditions where other people are able to reach their capacity, too. 



So how can you reach your capacity? You have to get started on a path of growth. Break through your limits with the following…



1. The BELIEF that you need to get better.



If you think you’re doing just fine on three legs, you’ll never find your true capacity. You’ll just keep limping along. You need a vision of what’s possible. Moreover, you also need the belief that things CAN get better. Don’t allow your past performance to limit your future possibilities.



2. The DESIRE to want to get better.



Growth is the more difficult choice. It’s easier just to be satisfied, either intentionally or unintentionally, with how things are. We have to crush apathy and reject mediocrity. We have to desire excellence. You have to commit. You have to really want it.



3. The WILLINGNESS to take action to get better.



You have to test your limits. You have to see what that fourth leg is capable of doing. Sometimes it feels really risky to step out in faith. It might hurt. But you must take action. Destiny is about decisions. It might be hard, but it’s worth it. 



4. The WISDOM to learn how to get better.



There is a certain wisdom and humility needed to recognize that we’re not currently all we could be. We’re probably capable of more, if we’re honest about it. We must therefore seek out opportunities to learn from others. We must apply the things we learn. We have to pursue growth intentionally. 



5. The DISCIPLINE to follow through and be GREAT.



Living a no limits life requires discipline. A new direction requires discipline. Full capacity requires discipline. You have to eliminate the choices that aren’t leading you toward your capacity. You have to be relentless to achieve the results.



What are some ways you want to test your limits? What are some ways you need to test your limits? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter

Read More Are You Reaching Your Full Capacity?



Curiosity might be good for you, and good for your students too, in ways you haven’t considered. One of our core values in our school is “start with questions.” We want our students to be more curious tomorrow than they are today. We want to design learning that develops curiosity. We believe in the benefits of curiosity. In fact, curiosity has been shown to contribute to academic success as much as hard work or intelligence. 



But curiosity has many benefits beyond academic success. When we are curious in a whole variety of situations, we can better come to terms with who we are, how we fit into the world, and how we can make an impact on the world around us.



So here are 7 ways curiosity can be beneficial beyond academic success…



1.  Curiosity About Feelings



We are seeing unprecedented levels of anxiety and depression among young people. But mindfulness principles are effective in addressing thoughts and feelings by leveraging curiosity, instead of angst or avoidance. Be curious about feelings in a nonjudgmental way. Recognize that feelings come and go and are neither inherently good or bad. Approach feelings with a sense of wonder, “I’m curious about why I’m feeling this way.” Be curious, not furious.



2. Curiosity About Relationships



Relationships grow stronger when we show empathy. And it’s necessary to be curious to develop empathy. You have to be curious about what the other person is experiencing. You have to put yourself in their shoes. When we are curious about others, it also makes them feel valued, listened to, and understood. Curiosity says, “I want to know more about you. You matter. You’re interesting to me.”



3. Curiosity About Perspectives



Our perspective shapes our mindset. We can view failure as something negative, or we can view it as an opportunity to learn and grow. Everything that happens to me can be useful to me and for my benefit. But that requires me to be curious to consider how I might reframe in a positive way things that on the surface seem to be hardships or difficulties.



4. Curiosity About Habits



After reading The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, I became far more curious about my habits and the habits that are common in our school. We want to create an extraordinary greeting for our students, every morning and each class period of the day. We want to make that a habit. I also want to examine my personal habits with curiosity, “Is this habit taking me where I want to go? Is this habit consistent with the path I want to be on?” Let’s be curious about the habits we have in the classroom and how they impact learning.

5. Curiosity About Risk Taking



What would you do if you had no fear? What do you fear? And why do you fear these things? What is holding you back? We need to be curious about these questions and why we aren’t willing to embrace positive risk taking. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. We cannot know what we are truly capable of accomplishing if we aren’t willing to push outside our comfort zone and take risks.



6. Curiosity About How Things Work



Have you ever wondered how electricity works? Or magnets? Or gravity? Science can explain these phenomenon, at least to an extent. But they also maintain a mysterious quality. They make me curious. But as a leader, I’m also curious about what makes our school culture work the way it does. I’m curious about how student’s motivation works. And I’m curious about how to facilitate positive change. There are so many examples of being curious about how things work. And sometimes, this curiosity leads to innovations and breakthroughs that make life better for everyone.



7. Curiosity About the Future



I’m curious about the future. I’m curious about what life will be like for my own kids and for my students. And, I’m curious about what educators need to be doing today to prepare students for their futures. When we are curious about the future, it helps us be more diligent in our decisions today. The choices we make today will shape the future. But we have to be curious and consider how today’s decisions might lead to future challenges or opportunities. Acting today with little thought for tomorrow is unlikely to end well. A long term perspective is needed to prepare for an uncertain future. Be curious about the future.



Can you think of any other unexpected benefits of curiosity? Is you school consistently making efforts to bring out curiosity in students? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook.

Read More 7 Unexpected Benefits of Curiosity



Curiosity might be good for you, and good for your students too, in ways you haven’t considered. One of our core values in our school is “start with questions.” We want our students to be more curious tomorrow than they are today. We want to design learning that develops curiosity. We believe in the benefits of curiosity. In fact, curiosity has been shown to contribute to academic success as much as hard work or intelligence. 



But curiosity has many benefits beyond academic success. When we are curious in a whole variety of situations, we can better come to terms with who we are, how we fit into the world, and how we can make an impact on the world around us.



So here are 7 ways curiosity can be beneficial beyond academic success…



1.  Curiosity About Feelings



We are seeing unprecedented levels of anxiety and depression among young people. But mindfulness principles are effective in addressing thoughts and feelings by leveraging curiosity, instead of angst or avoidance. Be curious about feelings in a nonjudgmental way. Recognize that feelings come and go and are neither inherently good or bad. Approach feelings with a sense of wonder, “I’m curious about why I’m feeling this way.” Be curious, not furious.



2. Curiosity About Relationships



Relationships grow stronger when we show empathy. And it’s necessary to be curious to develop empathy. You have to be curious about what the other person is experiencing. You have to put yourself in their shoes. When we are curious about others, it also makes them feel valued, listened to, and understood. Curiosity says, “I want to know more about you. You matter. You’re interesting to me.”



3. Curiosity About Perspectives



Our perspective shapes our mindset. We can view failure as something negative, or we can view it as an opportunity to learn and grow. Everything that happens to me can be useful to me and for my benefit. But that requires me to be curious to consider how I might reframe in a positive way things that on the surface seem to be hardships or difficulties.



4. Curiosity About Habits



After reading The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, I became far more curious about my habits and the habits that are common in our school. We want to create an extraordinary greeting for our students, every morning and each class period of the day. We want to make that a habit. I also want to examine my personal habits with curiosity, “Is this habit taking me where I want to go? Is this habit consistent with the path I want to be on?” Let’s be curious about the habits we have in the classroom and how they impact learning.

5. Curiosity About Risk Taking



What would you do if you had no fear? What do you fear? And why do you fear these things? What is holding you back? We need to be curious about these questions and why we aren’t willing to embrace positive risk taking. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. We cannot know what we are truly capable of accomplishing if we aren’t willing to push outside our comfort zone and take risks.



6. Curiosity About How Things Work



Have you ever wondered how electricity works? Or magnets? Or gravity? Science can explain these phenomenon, at least to an extent. But they also maintain a mysterious quality. They make me curious. But as a leader, I’m also curious about what makes our school culture work the way it does. I’m curious about how student’s motivation works. And I’m curious about how to facilitate positive change. There are so many examples of being curious about how things work. And sometimes, this curiosity leads to innovations and breakthroughs that make life better for everyone.



7. Curiosity About the Future



I’m curious about the future. I’m curious about what life will be like for my own kids and for my students. And, I’m curious about what educators need to be doing today to prepare students for their futures. When we are curious about the future, it helps us be more diligent in our decisions today. The choices we make today will shape the future. But we have to be curious and consider how today’s decisions might lead to future challenges or opportunities. Acting today with little thought for tomorrow is unlikely to end well. A long term perspective is needed to prepare for an uncertain future. Be curious about the future.



Can you think of any other unexpected benefits of curiosity? Is you school consistently making efforts to bring out curiosity in students? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook.

Read More 7 Unexpected Benefits of Curiosity



Curiosity might be good for you, and good for your students too, in ways you haven’t considered. One of our core values in our school is “start with questions.” We want our students to be more curious tomorrow than they are today. We want to design learning that develops curiosity. We believe in the benefits of curiosity. In fact, curiosity has been shown to contribute to academic success as much as hard work or intelligence. 



But curiosity has many benefits beyond academic success. When we are curious in a whole variety of situations, we can better come to terms with who we are, how we fit into the world, and how we can make an impact on the world around us.



So here are 7 ways curiosity can be beneficial beyond academic success…



1.  Curiosity About Feelings



We are seeing unprecedented levels of anxiety and depression among young people. But mindfulness principles are effective in addressing thoughts and feelings by leveraging curiosity, instead of angst or avoidance. Be curious about feelings in a nonjudgmental way. Recognize that feelings come and go and are neither inherently good or bad. Approach feelings with a sense of wonder, “I’m curious about why I’m feeling this way.” Be curious, not furious.



2. Curiosity About Relationships



Relationships grow stronger when we show empathy. And it’s necessary to be curious to develop empathy. You have to be curious about what the other person is experiencing. You have to put yourself in their shoes. When we are curious about others, it also makes them feel valued, listened to, and understood. Curiosity says, “I want to know more about you. You matter. You’re interesting to me.”



3. Curiosity About Perspectives



Our perspective shapes our mindset. We can view failure as something negative, or we can view it as an opportunity to learn and grow. Everything that happens to me can be useful to me and for my benefit. But that requires me to be curious to consider how I might reframe in a positive way things that on the surface seem to be hardships or difficulties.



4. Curiosity About Habits



After reading The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, I became far more curious about my habits and the habits that are common in our school. We want to create an extraordinary greeting for our students, every morning and each class period of the day. We want to make that a habit. I also want to examine my personal habits with curiosity, “Is this habit taking me where I want to go? Is this habit consistent with the path I want to be on?” Let’s be curious about the habits we have in the classroom and how they impact learning.

5. Curiosity About Risk Taking



What would you do if you had no fear? What do you fear? And why do you fear these things? What is holding you back? We need to be curious about these questions and why we aren’t willing to embrace positive risk taking. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. We cannot know what we are truly capable of accomplishing if we aren’t willing to push outside our comfort zone and take risks.



6. Curiosity About How Things Work



Have you ever wondered how electricity works? Or magnets? Or gravity? Science can explain these phenomenon, at least to an extent. But they also maintain a mysterious quality. They make me curious. But as a leader, I’m also curious about what makes our school culture work the way it does. I’m curious about how student’s motivation works. And I’m curious about how to facilitate positive change. There are so many examples of being curious about how things work. And sometimes, this curiosity leads to innovations and breakthroughs that make life better for everyone.



7. Curiosity About the Future



I’m curious about the future. I’m curious about what life will be like for my own kids and for my students. And, I’m curious about what educators need to be doing today to prepare students for their futures. When we are curious about the future, it helps us be more diligent in our decisions today. The choices we make today will shape the future. But we have to be curious and consider how today’s decisions might lead to future challenges or opportunities. Acting today with little thought for tomorrow is unlikely to end well. A long term perspective is needed to prepare for an uncertain future. Be curious about the future.



Can you think of any other unexpected benefits of curiosity? Is you school consistently making efforts to bring out curiosity in students? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook.

Read More 7 Unexpected Benefits of Curiosity



Curiosity might be good for you, and good for your students too, in ways you haven’t considered. One of our core values in our school is “start with questions.” We want our students to be more curious tomorrow than they are today. We want to design learning that develops curiosity. We believe in the benefits of curiosity. In fact, curiosity has been shown to contribute to academic success as much as hard work or intelligence. 



But curiosity has many benefits beyond academic success. When we are curious in a whole variety of situations, we can better come to terms with who we are, how we fit into the world, and how we can make an impact on the world around us.



So here are 7 ways curiosity can be beneficial beyond academic success…



1.  Curiosity About Feelings



We are seeing unprecedented levels of anxiety and depression among young people. But mindfulness principles are effective in addressing thoughts and feelings by leveraging curiosity, instead of angst or avoidance. Be curious about feelings in a nonjudgmental way. Recognize that feelings come and go and are neither inherently good or bad. Approach feelings with a sense of wonder, “I’m curious about why I’m feeling this way.” Be curious, not furious.



2. Curiosity About Relationships



Relationships grow stronger when we show empathy. And it’s necessary to be curious to develop empathy. You have to be curious about what the other person is experiencing. You have to put yourself in their shoes. When we are curious about others, it also makes them feel valued, listened to, and understood. Curiosity says, “I want to know more about you. You matter. You’re interesting to me.”



3. Curiosity About Perspectives



Our perspective shapes our mindset. We can view failure as something negative, or we can view it as an opportunity to learn and grow. Everything that happens to me can be useful to me and for my benefit. But that requires me to be curious to consider how I might reframe in a positive way things that on the surface seem to be hardships or difficulties.



4. Curiosity About Habits



After reading The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, I became far more curious about my habits and the habits that are common in our school. We want to create an extraordinary greeting for our students, every morning and each class period of the day. We want to make that a habit. I also want to examine my personal habits with curiosity, “Is this habit taking me where I want to go? Is this habit consistent with the path I want to be on?” Let’s be curious about the habits we have in the classroom and how they impact learning.

5. Curiosity About Risk Taking



What would you do if you had no fear? What do you fear? And why do you fear these things? What is holding you back? We need to be curious about these questions and why we aren’t willing to embrace positive risk taking. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. We cannot know what we are truly capable of accomplishing if we aren’t willing to push outside our comfort zone and take risks.



6. Curiosity About How Things Work



Have you ever wondered how electricity works? Or magnets? Or gravity? Science can explain these phenomenon, at least to an extent. But they also maintain a mysterious quality. They make me curious. But as a leader, I’m also curious about what makes our school culture work the way it does. I’m curious about how student’s motivation works. And I’m curious about how to facilitate positive change. There are so many examples of being curious about how things work. And sometimes, this curiosity leads to innovations and breakthroughs that make life better for everyone.



7. Curiosity About the Future



I’m curious about the future. I’m curious about what life will be like for my own kids and for my students. And, I’m curious about what educators need to be doing today to prepare students for their futures. When we are curious about the future, it helps us be more diligent in our decisions today. The choices we make today will shape the future. But we have to be curious and consider how today’s decisions might lead to future challenges or opportunities. Acting today with little thought for tomorrow is unlikely to end well. A long term perspective is needed to prepare for an uncertain future. Be curious about the future.



Can you think of any other unexpected benefits of curiosity? Is you school consistently making efforts to bring out curiosity in students? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook.

Read More 7 Unexpected Benefits of Curiosity



Reflection is important for growth. But we have to be intentional about it. Our reflection is meaningless unless we do something with it. It has to change us. Or, it has to help us change directions. Effective people are reflective people.



Many years ago I read Dale Carnegie’s incredible book, How to Win Friends and Influence People. Just this last week, I decided to start reading it again. Carnegie tells the story of a bank president who for many years made it a practice to reflect at the end of each week on every appointment he had in the previous week. He would ask himself the following questions:



“What mistakes did I make that time?”



“What did I do that was right–and in what way could I have improved my performance?”



“What lessons can I learn from that experience?”



The banker attributed his great success in large part to his system:

I often found that this weekly review made me very unhappy. I was frequently astonished at my own blunders. Of course, as the years passed, these blunders became less frequent. Sometimes I was inclined to pat myself on the back a little after one of these sessions. This system of self-analysis, self-education, that continued year after year, did more for me than any other one thing I have ever attempted.

It helped me improve my ability to make decisions–and it aided me enormously in all my contacts with people. I cannot recommend it too highly. 

I also try to make it a point to consistently reflect on how things are going in my work. However, I don’t have a process as systematic as what’s described by the banker. Maybe that’s something I should consider.



This week as I’m reflecting, I thought of a few more questions to consider…



1. How is the reluctant learner experiencing our school (or your classroom if you’re a teacher)?



We may think about how our students are doing overall, but I think we need to be especially attentive to how the reluctant learner is doing. If we create an experience that engages some of our most challenging students, that same experience will also probably benefit our other students too. We’re aiming to create a place where even kids who “hate school” love to learn.



2. Am I measuring with a yardstick of my own years?



When I get frustrated with some of the behaviors I see in students, I need to be reminded that they are often acting exactly like 15-year-olds are inclined to act. That doesn’t mean that I don’t try to influence them to rise up, but I can’t get frustrated when they don’t think, or act, like me. That sounds ridiculous doesn’t it? But I think we all tend to get frustrated if people don’t act just like we think they should.



3. Do I have a healthy level of dissatisfaction with my own performance?



At the end of the day, it’s important to be content with doing my best but to also be dissatisfied with how things are. I don’t want to become complacent. And I don’t want to beat myself up when I make a mistake. So be content, but never be satisfied. 



4. Are there ways I’m falling into binary thinking?



Binary thinking creates false dichotomies. It’s either/or. Effective leadership almost always requires a more nuanced position. We can have fun AND have high expectations. We can use technology AND develop social skills and teamwork. We can encourage student agency/inquiry AND improve achievement. It’s not all or nothing.



5. What specific strategies am I using to motivate students (and teachers)?



I’m thinking about the ways I influence student and teacher motivation. Am I doing it by connecting and building relationships? Am I doing it by clearing barriers and showing support? Am I motivating students by creating a positive environment? Just what are the specific strategies I’m using to motivate? Food for thought.



So how are you developing a reflection routine? Would you benefit from having intentional reflection each week? Let me know what you think. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More 5 Questions for Deeper Reflection