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Like many of you, I’ve had so much on my mind lately. I have several blog posts upcoming that will express more of what I’m feeling. But I wanted to share this quick bit with you.
If we only read and share things that c…
Share this article
Like many of you, I’ve had so much on my mind lately. I have several blog posts upcoming that will express more of what I’m feeling. But I wanted to share this quick bit with you.
If we only read and share things that c…
Share this article
The best advantage is the ability to combine your human abilities with the best tools available.
In the world of chess, the best players in the world can no longer beat the best machines in the world.
However, a combination …
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No one does their best work out of compliance or out of obligation.
No one does their best work expecting a reward.
We do our best work when we see it as a privilege, a contribution, and an enjoyable experienc…
I recently finished reading Peak: Secrets From the New Science of Expertise by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool.
One of the things in the book that was interesting to me was related to the impact of experience on performance. In 2005, Harvard Medic…
Growth requires change. And it also requires doing some things that aren’t comfortable. We all have thought-patterns and beliefs that contribute to our progress or lack of progress. That’s why it’s so important to challenge any beliefs that might be …
In my previous post, I wrote how failure is not the enemy of improvement. Failure is actually a healthy part of learning and growth. The enemy of excellence is apathy or mediocrity. It’s being content, either intentionally or unintentionally, with ho…
Students who are in trouble almost always have a good reason for why they did what they did. Sometimes a student will admit fault and take full ownership, but that’s not usually the case, especially for students who habitually shift responsibility. U…
Earlier this month, we hosted a CharacterStrong training in our school. Our presenter was Houston Kraft, CharacterStrong co-founder. He was amazing with the teachers, staff, and even a few students who attended.
As Houston shared with the group, one other idea really jumped out at me from the day. I was reminded just how powerful our lens can be. Our paradigm or perspective can have a powerful impact on the people we interact with.
So consider this question Houston presented. Do you see your students as probabilities or as possibilities? Do you see their strengths and what’s possible for them? Or, do you only see the deficits, challenges, and shortcomings? Do you only see what’s probable for them based on how they show up today? Or what might be in their background?
However, if we want to add value, win hearts and minds, or be agents of change in our relationships, we have to see others for who they are becoming, not just for who they are right now. We have to see them as possibilities and not just probabilities. We have to see them as future world changers, as leaders, as influencers, as difference makers.
1. Notice their strengths and reinforce them every chance you get.
“Few things can help an individual more than to place responsibility on him, and to let him know that you trust him.” -Booker T. Washington
What are ways you can give a student responsibility and demonstrate your trust in him or her?
3. Listen to your students and respect their voice, background, and culture.
We need to be very careful about placing judgments on students because of our differences. Instead, we need to listen with caring and curious hearts. We need to recognize we’re not there to rescue, fix, or determine their future. We’re there to help, support, and influence them as they discover the story they want to create with their lives.
When my family recently visited the Rocky Mountain National Park, we enjoyed drives through snow-peaked mountains. But my 13-year old son, Jack, was most excited about hiking and climbing. One morning, we gathered the family by Shadow Mountain Lake, and began a hike along the lake that eventually led to a 3-mile ascent to a […]
I noticed an educator recently who had ‘change agent’ listed in her Twitter bio. I thought that was cool. I think every teacher, every educator for that matter, should be a change agent. We aren’t just teaching lessons, we’re cultivating potential. We’re helping students become world changers. We are helping them build capacity in a variety of ways. Academics is only one part of what we do.
This summer I’ve read a number of books on change. One that was especially helpful was Switch by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. I wanted to share a few of my notes and how I think it might apply to classrooms and schools.
Which of the following is most powerful?
Think, Analyze, Change or See, Feel, Change
Think, Analyze, Change is when we use data, evaluation, reasoning, and research to drive change.
See, Feel, Change is when we utilize stories, experiences, connections, and emotions to drive change.
For smaller adjustments and minor behavioral changes, Think, Analyze, Change seems to work fine. But for transforming change that requires much bigger shifts in thinking and behavior, emotion is critical.
Think about the biggest decisions and the biggest changes you’ve made in your life. I bet they were more driven by emotion than by analyzing. Where you went to college. Who you married. Deciding to have children. Buying a car or home. I’m sure you used your powers of reasoning in these situations also. But there were also very strong emotions at play.
Do most people get into too much debt because of a problem with analyzing or a problem managing emotions?
It’s not uncommon for emotions to overpower the reasoning that we apply to a given situation.
So if you want the people (students, colleagues, staff) you are leading to change, it’s probably more effective to help them ‘see’ and ‘feel’ why the change is important and not just present them with the reasons why they should change.
You can’t change them, but you can help create conditions where they can change themselves.
An example from Switch was a 1st grade teacher who told her students that by the end of the year, they were going to learn so much they would be as smart as 3rd graders. For 1st graders, it feels really good to be like a 3rd grader. It feels big and strong and important. So the teacher constantly revisited the idea that by the end of this class you’re going to be like 3rd graders.
Our emotions are often driven by our identity, and we tend to act in ways that are consistent with how we see ourselves, who we believe ourselves to be.
Change agents use See, Feel, Change to help others see themselves in new and powerful ways. They see them not just as they are now, but for who they are becoming.
Here are five ways to use See, Feel, Change as a teacher or principal or parent. You can use these in any role.
1. Give people experiences.
Powerful experiences can be transformational. I remember moments my thinking changed entirely at a conference. We’ve sent teachers to Ron Clark Academy, even though we’re a high school. And some of our teachers have credited that experience with a whole new trajectory in their teaching.
2. Give people affirmation.
Affirmation is not just giving a complement. Those are good too. But affirmation is seeing qualities in someone they may not see in themselves. My high school coach saw potential in me when I didn’t believe in myself. That made all the difference. The person who influences you the most isn’t the person you believe in. It’s the person who believes in you. All of our students are future world changers. See the good in them.
3. Give people responsibility.
If you want people to rise, give them responsibility. It’s amazing how the opportunity to take the lead can change a pattern. When you give responsibility, it shows faith and trust in someone. They don’t want to let you down. The new responsibility can disrupt the pattern of disempowerment they’ve experienced.
“Few things can help an individual more than to place responsibility on him, and to let him know that you trust him.” -Booker T. Washington.
4. Give people hope.
Some of our kids are hopeless because they don’t think it matters what they do. Nothing will change. So we need to constantly tell stories of courage, perseverance, and triumph to let them know what’s possible. We must give people something to believe in. Things can get better. We always have the power to decide. And our decisions will determine our destiny.
5. Give people connection.
And finally, give people connection. For people to change, they need to feel a sense of safety and belonging. They need to feel secure. They need to know they matter, that someone is listening, and that their presence here is making a difference.
What are you thoughts on being a change agent? Is that something that’s important to you? How are you driving change? Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter. I would love to hear from you.
Implementing a program or procedure can result in a certain level of success. But “implementing work” will never achieve the value of “transforming work.”
Implementing is taking someone else’s work and replicating it with fidelity. When we talk about best practices in education, that’s implementing.
Implementing is the scripted lesson, it’s following the established pattern, it’s the well-worn path, the formula, the hack, the tried and true. It’s doing it the way it’s been done before.
We can train people to be implementers.
But implementing doesn’t account for the unique gifts and abilities you have to offer. Sure, we should start with learning best practices. In fact, it’s necessary to learn best practices. The work and wisdom of the past informs what’s possible next. Tomorrow’s progress is built on the progress of the past.
Tomorrow’s progress is also build on your contributions. We should contribute to progress. As we develop our expertise, we should seek to make a larger contribution. We should be molding and shaping best practices.
That’s transforming work.
Transforming work requires curiosity, creativity, imagination, and empathy. It makes a contribution to the world that is unique and beneficial. It’s going beyond best practices to bring something new and better.
There are a million ways you can go from implementing to transforming. Rely on your strengths. Discover your passions. Grow your influence. You’ll be more fulfilled when you do.
Do the work you love. It’s hard to love implementing when you could be transforming.
Are you stuck in an implementing rut? Or are you using your full creativity and imagination in your work? Are you reaching hearts and minds with transforming work? Leave a message below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.
“How did you become a Chicago Cubs fan?”
I asked the question to a Cubs fan I was visiting with recently. And I wasn’t being sarcastic, since I’m a St. Louis Cardinals fan, and that would be on point for fan behavior between the two teams.
No, I was just curious because he wasn’t from a part of the country that isn’t typically considered Cubs fan territory. He explained that some members of his family were Cubs fans but what really hooked him on the Cubs was when he attended a game at Wrigley Field (Chicago) as a young boy.
That experience, he said, was something he never forgot and resulted in his lifelong love of the Cubs. It was as simple as that.
Experiences are powerful. They can change our entire perspective for good or bad. In this case, a positive experience resulted in a deep attachment to a baseball team.
I’m wondering about how students experience school. Are we creating experiences that result in a lifelong attachment to learning? Are we creating powerful learning experiences that develop curiosity and cultivate interests?
While much of my own school experience was somewhat routine and mostly forgettable, there were some amazing experiences that really led me to want to learn more.
Most of those memorable experiences were projects or trips to visit interesting places. I remember visiting a cave, a Civil War battlefield, and even a museum with a real mummy, all part of opportunities through school.
I also remember creating a news broadcast and interviewing people from our community, as part of a project for class. I also remember competing in a stock market game, and I remember performing a classroom play.
I don’t remember a single lecture from school. I take that back. I remember one very gifted social studies teacher who could tell stories from the Civil War that were so interesting I wanted to learn more on my own. He had us on the edge of our seats.
I don’t remember any worksheet tasks standing out. I don’t remember any tests in particular.
Here’s the thing. I’m not saying tests, or assignments, or routine work are all bad in school. I’m not saying they don’t have value. But if we want our students to be inspired learners, we better look for ways to connect learning to positive emotions. We better give students experiences that really capture their attention in ways that go far beyond the routine.
In a time where standards mastery seems to be at the top of all priorities, I wonder what types of experiences kids are having?
What type of experience are they having when remediation has been routine for them year after year in school?
What type of experience are they having when they don’t have the opportunity to pursue things they’re interested in?
What type of experience are they having when they don’t get to learn outside the classroom by taking field trips?
A couple of high school principals were discussing how they are making sure any field trips in their school tie directly to meeting standards. I guess that’s one way to look at it.
But for me, I want our students to have as many opportunities as possible to learn and interact with interesting people and places away from our school campus. I especially want that for our under-resourced students who might not ever have those opportunities otherwise.
There is a time for rolling up our sleeves and doing the routine work of learning and life. But if we’re not also creating peak moments along the way, we are missing the joy in the journey.
And we’re probably missing out on potential passions, and maybe even missing out on developing a passion for learning.
The routine work should flow from a deep sense of purpose. We need to know our why. That’s where lasting learning is nurtured.
As I wrote in my book, Future Driven,
Don’t just create lessons for your students. Create experiences. Students will forget a lesson, but an experience will have lasting value. We want to do more than cover content. We want to inspire learning.
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 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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.