Tag: community



Every teacher wants students to “show up well” to their classroom. It means students are mentally, physically, emotionally, and otherwise ready to learn. We know that doesn’t always happen, because life happens. Kids are dealing with real issues and problems and brokenness just like every other person on the planet. Some students have most of their needs met and rarely struggle to show up well. For others, it’s a constant battle.



No matter if the challenges are big or small, every student who walks through our doors has a unique story. It’s a story that may impact their ability to learn. And if we don’t seek to understand what’s going on in their lives, we are missing an important part of the profession. We aren’t just teaching curriculum. We are teaching kids first, and we have to understand their needs.




 



We also have to create environments that help students to show up well, even when all of their basic needs might not be met. A positive school culture can help overcome the challenges a student may face. A positive classroom culture can do the same. If we want to build stronger, more respectful learning communities, invest in the lives of students and never miss a chance to brighten their day. That’s helping them show up well!



Every student in your school needs to feel physically and emotionally safe. They need to feel a sense of belonging. They need to feel people care about them as individuals, that they matter, that they have dignity. Every student needs to feel respected and supported. When a school or classroom has a positive culture, it creates a secure feeling so students can be fully present and ready to learn, even when stuff outside of school might be really tough.



Here are some ideas everyone can use to help students in your school show up well:

1. Greet students, learn names, give high fives and fist bumps. Say hello to each person you meet in the hallway.

2. Get to know your students as people. Ask them about their hobbies, their weekend, or just about anything. Eat lunch with them.



3. Always protect each student’s dignity. Show great care and concern. Give respect even when it’s not returned.



4. Notice how your students are feeling. Make it safe for them to express their feelings to you without judgment. Ask them if they are okay? Check on them.



5. Smile. Joke around. Use humor to lighten another person’s load. Laughter makes life better and even more bearable.



6. Meet a need. Provide a snack or a jacket or a pencil. If you can’t meet the need, find someone who can.



7. Encourage and praise. Use your words to inspire and lift up. See the spark of genius in each student.



8. Have high expectations. You can do it. I believe in you. I’ve seen you overcome this before. You can do it again.



9. Listen with empathy and try to understand. Approach that hurtful comment, behavior, or action with curiosity to understand the child better.



We all want our students to show up well, and together we can create environments to help them do just that. But we also need to work at showing up well ourselves. Educators are human too, and life can be rough on us as well. Never neglect your own self-care. The teachers I’ve met throughout the years are some of the most selfless people I’ve ever known. But if you aren’t taking care of you, it will result in resentment, fatigue, and poor emotional health. Our students need us to show up well, too. So take the time to care for yourself and develop a strong support system for your own well-being.



How will you help your students show up well in your classroom and school? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More 9 Ways to Help Your Students Show Up Well



I had a conversation not too long ago with an educator who pushed back a little on the topic of student empowerment. The teacher asserted that he went to school to be trained as a professional, is an expert in his discipline, and knows the best methods and strategies for teaching the students in his classes. The line of thinking seemed to indicate that students are not equipped to take a more active role in directing their own learning.



In another conversation with a different educator, I suggested that students and teachers should partner in the learning process and that students’ voices should be heard. But there was some push back. The person shared that some teachers would not like the term partner with students. It seems too much like students and teachers are on the same level.  



Of course, I realize teachers assume a position of authority inherent in their role. And while teachers should seek to share power with students, they should also maintain a leadership role. When necessary, they can direct, guide, or even say no. But when teachers truly honor student voices and really listen, it’s often amazing to see the initiative, wisdom, and commitment students will display.



I guess you can see I’m a big believe in student empowerment. Actually, I’m a believer in student and teacher empowerment, and empowerment in general.



I believe empowerment is one of the essential purposes of pursuing education. The more you know, the better you are equipped to make good decisions, by your own choice. Empowerment is increasing the ability to act on one’s own behalf or on the behalf of the community to accomplish a goal or create an outcome. It is an essential part of our freedom and liberty in this country. In fact, it is wrong to keep capable people controlled or limited when they can do it on their own.



When students are empowered learners, we equip them to make positive choices, to take control of their circumstances, and to go forward with their learning and goals. It’s empowering!

9 Reasons Educators Should Empower Students



1. To develop more independent learners.



The best learning is not dependent learning. It is learning that is self-directed and intrinsically motivated. School should be a place where students are expected to take greater ownership of learning.



2. To create life long learners.



As I reflect on my school days, very little I experienced led me to be the life long learner I am today. That’s not to say I didn’t learn quite a bit in school, but I didn’t learn how to pursue learning for life. I learned that outside of school. I don’t think it has to be that way.



3. To help students learn to make good decisions.



Students need practice making decisions about their own learning. They need to learn about their own strengths and weakness and how their decisions affect self and others. When there are few choices in learning, students are being robbed of the opportunity to grow as a decision-maker.






4. To foster more relevance in learning.



When students are empowered, learning becomes more relevant. Instead of just doing something as I’m told, I am able to learn things that are of interest and value to me. Teachers can help provide the context to expand and challenge the interests of students but not to make all the decisions for them. I believe students would take a harder look at what is really valuable if they were given more opportunities to be empowered.



5. To help students find their passions.



I believe this is one of the most important parts of a well-rounded education. Students need to find things they are passionate about. Learning is lifeless for the most part unless there is passion. When students discover passions, they care will care more and do more. If I’m passionate about something, I will invest in that passion even when it’s hard. Students will be more likely to find passions when they are empowered as learners.



6. To learn resilience.



Resilience develops from suffering a failure but caring enough to press on in the face of difficulty. School that is mostly compliance-driven results in students who want to do just enough to get by, or they want to take shortcuts or work the system to get a certain result (a good grade or a diploma for instance). Learning that is empowered results in students who will strive to overcome obstacles and do more than is expected. Resilience is closely tied to sense of purpose, support from others, and a positive outlook.




Retrieved: https://quotefancy.com/quote/1582901/Dick-Costolo-When-you-are-doing-what-you-love-to-do-you-become-resilient



7. To develop empathy.



I believe empowered learners are more likely to understand and exhibit empathy. Empowered learners see how they can make a difference in the world. They see how their learning can impact others. How it can help a friend, or solve a problem, or challenge someone’s thinking. If we want to create students who are world-changers we have to give them opportunities to make a difference now. Students need to have opportunities, as part of their education, to recognize injustice and then do something about it.



8. To promote leadership.




When I talk with students about leadership, I can see that many view it as having and wielding power. I think much of this thinking comes from the experience they’ve had in school where most all of the power is consolidated with teachers and administration. When we empower learners, we share power with them to help them develop the skills to own power and also share it with others. It’s not about telling someone else what to do. It’s about working with others to accomplish a greater good. At its best, it starts with humility and service. Students need to see this modeled, and they need to have the opportunity to practice it as well.








9. To develop better global citizens. 



Young people want to make a difference in the world, but they are often immobilized by a system that tells them every move to make. Empowerment allows students to make a difference now. Empowerment asks students, “What problem will you solve? How can you make the world a better place?” But there is a choice. Students will learn to be better citizens when they have the chance to lead and speak up on causes that are important to them.

10. To practice creativity.



Creativity requires unconventional thinking and will not thrive in a compliance based culture. Empowerment promotes creative thinking. It’s not about finding right answers. It’s about looking at problems in novel ways.



11. To cultivate curiosity.



Curiosity is also supported through decisions that empower others. We aren’t likely to be curious about things that aren’t personally meaningful. But when we are empowered to pursue our own questions, to investigate, to explore ideas, then our curiosity becomes an incredible pathway to learning.






Question: What are your thoughts on student empowerment? Why does this seem scary for so many educators? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook.





Read More 11 Reasons Educators Should Empower Students



I had a conversation not too long ago with an educator who pushed back a little on the topic of student empowerment. The teacher asserted that he went to school to be trained as a professional, is an expert in his discipline, and knows the best methods and strategies for teaching the students in his classes. The line of thinking seemed to indicate that students are not equipped to take a more active role in directing their own learning.



In another conversation with a different educator, I suggested that students and teachers should partner in the learning process and that students’ voices should be heard. But there was some push back. The person shared that some teachers would not like the term partner with students. It seems too much like students and teachers are on the same level.  



Of course, I realize teachers assume a position of authority inherent in their role. And while teachers should seek to share power with students, they should also maintain a leadership role. When necessary, they can direct, guide, or even say no. But when teachers truly honor student voices and really listen, it’s often amazing to see the initiative, wisdom, and commitment students will display.



I guess you can see I’m a big believe in student empowerment. Actually, I’m a believer in student and teacher empowerment, and empowerment in general.



I believe empowerment is one of the essential purposes of pursuing education. The more you know, the better you are equipped to make good decisions, by your own choice. Empowerment is increasing the ability to act on one’s own behalf or on the behalf of the community to accomplish a goal or create an outcome. It is an essential part of our freedom and liberty in this country. In fact, it is wrong to keep capable people controlled or limited when they can do it on their own.



When students are empowered learners, we equip them to make positive choices, to take control of their circumstances, and to go forward with their learning and goals. It’s empowering!

9 Reasons Educators Should Empower Students



1. To develop more independent learners.



The best learning is not dependent learning. It is learning that is self-directed and intrinsically motivated. School should be a place where students are expected to take greater ownership of learning.



2. To create life long learners.



As I reflect on my school days, very little I experienced led me to be the life long learner I am today. That’s not to say I didn’t learn quite a bit in school, but I didn’t learn how to pursue learning for life. I learned that outside of school. I don’t think it has to be that way.



3. To help students learn to make good decisions.



Students need practice making decisions about their own learning. They need to learn about their own strengths and weakness and how their decisions affect self and others. When there are few choices in learning, students are being robbed of the opportunity to grow as a decision-maker.






4. To foster more relevance in learning.



When students are empowered, learning becomes more relevant. Instead of just doing something as I’m told, I am able to learn things that are of interest and value to me. Teachers can help provide the context to expand and challenge the interests of students but not to make all the decisions for them. I believe students would take a harder look at what is really valuable if they were given more opportunities to be empowered.



5. To help students find their passions.



I believe this is one of the most important parts of a well-rounded education. Students need to find things they are passionate about. Learning is lifeless for the most part unless there is passion. When students discover passions, they care will care more and do more. If I’m passionate about something, I will invest in that passion even when it’s hard. Students will be more likely to find passions when they are empowered as learners.



6. To learn resilience.



Resilience develops from suffering a failure but caring enough to press on in the face of difficulty. School that is mostly compliance-driven results in students who want to do just enough to get by, or they want to take shortcuts or work the system to get a certain result (a good grade or a diploma for instance). Learning that is empowered results in students who will strive to overcome obstacles and do more than is expected. Resilience is closely tied to sense of purpose, support from others, and a positive outlook.




Retrieved: https://quotefancy.com/quote/1582901/Dick-Costolo-When-you-are-doing-what-you-love-to-do-you-become-resilient



7. To develop empathy.



I believe empowered learners are more likely to understand and exhibit empathy. Empowered learners see how they can make a difference in the world. They see how their learning can impact others. How it can help a friend, or solve a problem, or challenge someone’s thinking. If we want to create students who are world-changers we have to give them opportunities to make a difference now. Students need to have opportunities, as part of their education, to recognize injustice and then do something about it.



8. To promote leadership.




When I talk with students about leadership, I can see that many view it as having and wielding power. I think much of this thinking comes from the experience they’ve had in school where most all of the power is consolidated with teachers and administration. When we empower learners, we share power with them to help them develop the skills to own power and also share it with others. It’s not about telling someone else what to do. It’s about working with others to accomplish a greater good. At its best, it starts with humility and service. Students need to see this modeled, and they need to have the opportunity to practice it as well.








9. To develop better global citizens. 



Young people want to make a difference in the world, but they are often immobilized by a system that tells them every move to make. Empowerment allows students to make a difference now. Empowerment asks students, “What problem will you solve? How can you make the world a better place?” But there is a choice. Students will learn to be better citizens when they have the chance to lead and speak up on causes that are important to them.

10. To practice creativity.



Creativity requires unconventional thinking and will not thrive in a compliance based culture. Empowerment promotes creative thinking. It’s not about finding right answers. It’s about looking at problems in novel ways.



11. To cultivate curiosity.



Curiosity is also supported through decisions that empower others. We aren’t likely to be curious about things that aren’t personally meaningful. But when we are empowered to pursue our own questions, to investigate, to explore ideas, then our curiosity becomes an incredible pathway to learning.






Question: What are your thoughts on student empowerment? Why does this seem scary for so many educators? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook.





Read More 11 Reasons Educators Should Empower Students

Retrieved: http://www.inspirationalhunter.com/maya-angelou-quotes/



Sometimes when I reflect back to my nine years teaching English and social studies, I feel a little sad for the experience I provided my students. The same goes for my coaching. I was named our high school’s head basketball coach at 25-years-old, just two years out of college. When I think back now to some of the things I did, or didn’t do, it makes me want to drop my head. 



Even at the time, I often struggled with my confidence that I was doing a good job, especially in the first few years. I think I felt a little on edge nearly all the time. I was often stressed, but I really didn’t talk much about it with anyone, not even with my wife, Lori. Sometime I even felt trapped. “Maybe I’m not cut out for this,” I thought, but I didn’t know what else I would do either.



Things really started to change for the better when I went back to get my Master’s degree. I didn’t really want to be a principal at that time. I figured you needed to have teaching figured out to do that. But I knew I needed to do something different. The graduate classes helped me see things from a different perspective, and the connections I made provided support for my growth.



Even though I improved during those teaching years, I sometimes wish I could start over and know what I know now. I would do so many things differently. My classroom would be a completely different place. My coaching would have a different focus. I think I would enjoy the journey a whole lot more.



In just the past couple of weeks, I’ve had different connections with several of my former students. We live about an hour away, so that doesn’t normally happen too often. 



A former player was visiting our church with her family. Her husband’s family lives in Bolivar. It was great to see her just for a few minutes.



Then I saw a former student at a restaurant where he was working. He’s a manager there. I honestly didn’t remember him. But we chatted for a few minutes. He shared a little about his family and said he really enjoyed my class. That meant a lot.



Another former student is now an English teacher in the same school where I taught. She returned to her home school after graduating. She was extremely bright and conscientious. I’m sure she must be an outstanding teacher. She messaged me through Facebook, because she came across one of my quotes that Edutopia had posted. I was happy she reached out to me.







And then last night, one of my favorite former players, who is now the head football coach at Southwest Baptist University, here in Bolivar, led his team to a thrilling comeback win. The Bearcats are now 3-0. I can’t even express how much I enjoy seeing him be successful. I messaged him to congratulate him. He still calls me coach when I see him, which is about the greatest thing ever.

SBU Football Takes Down Defending GLVC Champion Indianapolis 41-37 https://t.co/wa6WOw25tF

— SBU Athletics (@sbubearcats) September 18, 2016



I have to remind myself that during those early years, just like now, I was doing the best I could with the information I had at the time. And when I see my former students doing well, it makes me feel very proud. And not because I was a huge influence in their lives. Like I said before, I think I would be so much more if I could do it again. But I still feel that connection. I’m proud of them and thankful that I had the privilege of working with each and every student.



Yesterday, we held our Bolivar HS Alumni Hall of Fame induction luncheon. There were three honorees this year. As they told their stories about their school years, it was obvious the gratitude they had for their school and the teachers who worked with them. These individuals are incredibly successful in their careers and very active in their communities.




One of the inductees, in particular, shared how teacher after teacher had impacted his life. When he spoke of his high school football coach, he was choked up and had to pause. He remembered each one by name and described the specific impact they had on his life. Several of these former teachers were among the guests at the event. None of the lessons had much to do with academic content by the way. But he named the character traits each one modeled for him. And how he took those lessons into his life and has tried to convey them to his own daughters.



As I listened, I got a little choked up myself. I thought of the impact that teachers have on the lives of kids and the influence my teachers had on me. It’s the greatest profession in the world. I thought of how I wish every teacher could hear his words as he thanked his teachers with such sincerity. It was such a reminder about the value of relationships. 



It was also a reminder of the incredible impact you have on the lives of your students. Even if you feel you don’t measure up, or maybe this isn’t for you, always remember your legacy is not about doing everything perfectly. It’s not about having it all figured out. Just be the best version of you. Show up well each day and try your best. Keep growing and learning. Invest in the lives of your students. And never underestimate your influence.



Questions: How do you look back at your teaching legacy so far? Are you too hard on yourself? How can you do your best today to invest in students? Please leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.  



Read More Never Underestimate Your Influence

Retrieved: http://www.inspirationalhunter.com/maya-angelou-quotes/



Sometimes when I reflect back to my nine years teaching English and social studies, I feel a little sad for the experience I provided my students. The same goes for my coaching. I was named our high school’s head basketball coach at 25-years-old, just two years out of college. When I think back now to some of the things I did, or didn’t do, it makes me want to drop my head. 



Even at the time, I often struggled with my confidence that I was doing a good job, especially in the first few years. I think I felt a little on edge nearly all the time. I was often stressed, but I really didn’t talk much about it with anyone, not even with my wife, Lori. Sometime I even felt trapped. “Maybe I’m not cut out for this,” I thought, but I didn’t know what else I would do either.



Things really started to change for the better when I went back to get my Master’s degree. I didn’t really want to be a principal at that time. I figured you needed to have teaching figured out to do that. But I knew I needed to do something different. The graduate classes helped me see things from a different perspective, and the connections I made provided support for my growth.



Even though I improved during those teaching years, I sometimes wish I could start over and know what I know now. I would do so many things differently. My classroom would be a completely different place. My coaching would have a different focus. I think I would enjoy the journey a whole lot more.



In just the past couple of weeks, I’ve had different connections with several of my former students. We live about an hour away, so that doesn’t normally happen too often. 



A former player was visiting our church with her family. Her husband’s family lives in Bolivar. It was great to see her just for a few minutes.



Then I saw a former student at a restaurant where he was working. He’s a manager there. I honestly didn’t remember him. But we chatted for a few minutes. He shared a little about his family and said he really enjoyed my class. That meant a lot.



Another former student is now an English teacher in the same school where I taught. She returned to her home school after graduating. She was extremely bright and conscientious. I’m sure she must be an outstanding teacher. She messaged me through Facebook, because she came across one of my quotes that Edutopia had posted. I was happy she reached out to me.







And then last night, one of my favorite former players, who is now the head football coach at Southwest Baptist University, here in Bolivar, led his team to a thrilling comeback win. The Bearcats are now 3-0. I can’t even express how much I enjoy seeing him be successful. I messaged him to congratulate him. He still calls me coach when I see him, which is about the greatest thing ever.

SBU Football Takes Down Defending GLVC Champion Indianapolis 41-37 https://t.co/wa6WOw25tF

— SBU Athletics (@sbubearcats) September 18, 2016



I have to remind myself that during those early years, just like now, I was doing the best I could with the information I had at the time. And when I see my former students doing well, it makes me feel very proud. And not because I was a huge influence in their lives. Like I said before, I think I would be so much more if I could do it again. But I still feel that connection. I’m proud of them and thankful that I had the privilege of working with each and every student.



Yesterday, we held our Bolivar HS Alumni Hall of Fame induction luncheon. There were three honorees this year. As they told their stories about their school years, it was obvious the gratitude they had for their school and the teachers who worked with them. These individuals are incredibly successful in their careers and very active in their communities.




One of the inductees, in particular, shared how teacher after teacher had impacted his life. When he spoke of his high school football coach, he was choked up and had to pause. He remembered each one by name and described the specific impact they had on his life. Several of these former teachers were among the guests at the event. None of the lessons had much to do with academic content by the way. But he named the character traits each one modeled for him. And how he took those lessons into his life and has tried to convey them to his own daughters.



As I listened, I got a little choked up myself. I thought of the impact that teachers have on the lives of kids and the influence my teachers had on me. It’s the greatest profession in the world. I thought of how I wish every teacher could hear his words as he thanked his teachers with such sincerity. It was such a reminder about the value of relationships. 



It was also a reminder of the incredible impact you have on the lives of your students. Even if you feel you don’t measure up, or maybe this isn’t for you, always remember your legacy is not about doing everything perfectly. It’s not about having it all figured out. Just be the best version of you. Show up well each day and try your best. Keep growing and learning. Invest in the lives of your students. And never underestimate your influence.



Questions: How do you look back at your teaching legacy so far? Are you too hard on yourself? How can you do your best today to invest in students? Please leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.  



Read More Never Underestimate Your Influence



Recently, we had a faculty meeting to start our teachers thinking about their personal learning plans for this year. Personal learning plans are an important part of what we do to grow and learn as educators at Bolivar High School. I outlined what we do and why we do it in a previous blog post.



During our last meeting, I challenged our teachers to try to develop a learning plan that has the potential to be a game-changer for their own professional practice and for student learning. It’s easy to get in a pattern of just doing mostly the same things but trying to do them a little better. As a result, we may miss great opportunities to do something that would be completely different and possibly tranformational for student learning. It could be a game-changer.



I would certainly applaud those who seek to improve established practices, especially newer teachers. It’s much better than an approach that doesn’t seek growth at all. A worse scenario would be an educator who teaches exactly the same lessons year after year with little adaptation. Even the smallest incremental change is better than no effort to improve.



But for teachers who have developed their instructional foundation, it can be highly rewarding to take a risk that could be awesome or awful. You see I believe the things we often choose to pour our energies into are safe. We want to improve, but we aren’t comfortable enough with failure. If we are doing hard things, it can be highly rewarding, but it can also be terrifying.



During our staff meeting, I shared the video of Caine’s Arcade with our staff. I asked our teachers to consider how their own personal and professional learning is similar or perhaps different from Caine’s learning.






Each small group worked to develop a visual representation of how Caine’s Arcade might help us think about developing our own successful learning plans. These are a few of the characteristics often found in successful projects. 

1. Starts with Empathy – Empathy recognizes there is a problem to be solved. It involves seeing things from another person’s perspective and seeking to help make something better.

2. Rich Inquiry – Develop lots of questions to drive your learning forward. Seek out resources. Find the information you need to advance the project.

3. Deeper Learning – Apply the knowledge to create new understanding and original ideas. Invite complex thinking.

4. Meaningful Connections – Successful projects are usually personally meaningful, and they usually involve connections with others.

5. Autonomy – If you want commitment and engagement, not just compliance, autonomy is better. Our teachers are the ones who choose their project and are empowered to see it through.

6. Risk of Failure/Celebration of Success – Most meaningful projects have a chance of failure. The idea might not work. The more ideas we try, the more likely we are to find ones that are game-changers. We always need to reflect and celebrate what we’ve learned and what aspects are successful.



Our teachers shared some amazing insights from their reflection on the video. It was exciting to see the type of thinking happening around the room.


Here are some of the comments teachers shared on an exit survey:


It’s always exciting to have the opportunity to learn something new and different. I also love to experiment.
You telling us that if we try our plan and it fails, it’s OK.
I like that PLP is all about ownership and autonomy.
They will be something that has a positive impact on students and teachers.
Personal growth encouraged
The autonomy to make decisions of how I want to spend my time making a difference.
I feel good about the collaboration and the sharing that will take place. I feel like it’s a very open place to share good and new ideas
I want to continue to grow as a professional.
PLP’s hold me accountable for growth.
This next week we will have small group meetings (3-4) to share the ideas we have so far. It’s an opportunity for everyone to give and receive feedback. When we share our ideas, they almost always get better. Someone will have a suggestion or make a connection that will move our thinking forward. 


Caine’s Arcade was transformational. He didn’t necessarily have that in mind when he started, but he did have lots of big ideas. In the end, his little arcade started a movement that has impacted students, educators, and beyond. And some more pretty cool stuff happened for him too. Caine’s Arcade Part 2 details what happened after the initial video. It’s amazing.




Who knows what you might start at your school with an idea and the willingness to pursue it? Be willing to take a big chance and try something new for your students. Your dreams and passions make learning come alive for you and for your students.


Question: Some educators seem to think that new ideas are unnecessary. They say the fundamentals of learning and education are unchanging. Stay with the tried and true. What would you say to this type of thinking? Leave a comment below or share on Twitter or Facebook.

Read More Not Just Better, But Different



Recently, we had a faculty meeting to start our teachers thinking about their personal learning plans for this year. Personal learning plans are an important part of what we do to grow and learn as educators at Bolivar High School. I outlined what we do and why we do it in a previous blog post.



During our last meeting, I challenged our teachers to try to develop a learning plan that has the potential to be a game-changer for their own professional practice and for student learning. It’s easy to get in a pattern of just doing mostly the same things but trying to do them a little better. As a result, we may miss great opportunities to do something that would be completely different and possibly tranformational for student learning. It could be a game-changer.



I would certainly applaud those who seek to improve established practices, especially newer teachers. It’s much better than an approach that doesn’t seek growth at all. A worse scenario would be an educator who teaches exactly the same lessons year after year with little adaptation. Even the smallest incremental change is better than no effort to improve.



But for teachers who have developed their instructional foundation, it can be highly rewarding to take a risk that could be awesome or awful. You see I believe the things we often choose to pour our energies into are safe. We want to improve, but we aren’t comfortable enough with failure. If we are doing hard things, it can be highly rewarding, but it can also be terrifying.



During our staff meeting, I shared the video of Caine’s Arcade with our staff. I asked our teachers to consider how their own personal and professional learning is similar or perhaps different from Caine’s learning.






Each small group worked to develop a visual representation of how Caine’s Arcade might help us think about developing our own successful learning plans. These are a few of the characteristics often found in successful projects. 

1. Starts with Empathy – Empathy recognizes there is a problem to be solved. It involves seeing things from another person’s perspective and seeking to help make something better.

2. Rich Inquiry – Develop lots of questions to drive your learning forward. Seek out resources. Find the information you need to advance the project.

3. Deeper Learning – Apply the knowledge to create new understanding and original ideas. Invite complex thinking.

4. Meaningful Connections – Successful projects are usually personally meaningful, and they usually involve connections with others.

5. Autonomy – If you want commitment and engagement, not just compliance, autonomy is better. Our teachers are the ones who choose their project and are empowered to see it through.

6. Risk of Failure/Celebration of Success – Most meaningful projects have a chance of failure. The idea might not work. The more ideas we try, the more likely we are to find ones that are game-changers. We always need to reflect and celebrate what we’ve learned and what aspects are successful.



Our teachers shared some amazing insights from their reflection on the video. It was exciting to see the type of thinking happening around the room.


Here are some of the comments teachers shared on an exit survey:


It’s always exciting to have the opportunity to learn something new and different. I also love to experiment.
You telling us that if we try our plan and it fails, it’s OK.
I like that PLP is all about ownership and autonomy.
They will be something that has a positive impact on students and teachers.
Personal growth encouraged
The autonomy to make decisions of how I want to spend my time making a difference.
I feel good about the collaboration and the sharing that will take place. I feel like it’s a very open place to share good and new ideas
I want to continue to grow as a professional.
PLP’s hold me accountable for growth.
This next week we will have small group meetings (3-4) to share the ideas we have so far. It’s an opportunity for everyone to give and receive feedback. When we share our ideas, they almost always get better. Someone will have a suggestion or make a connection that will move our thinking forward. 


Caine’s Arcade was transformational. He didn’t necessarily have that in mind when he started, but he did have lots of big ideas. In the end, his little arcade started a movement that has impacted students, educators, and beyond. And some more pretty cool stuff happened for him too. Caine’s Arcade Part 2 details what happened after the initial video. It’s amazing.




Who knows what you might start at your school with an idea and the willingness to pursue it? Be willing to take a big chance and try something new for your students. Your dreams and passions make learning come alive for you and for your students.


Question: Some educators seem to think that new ideas are unnecessary. They say the fundamentals of learning and education are unchanging. Stay with the tried and true. What would you say to this type of thinking? Leave a comment below or share on Twitter or Facebook.

Read More Not Just Better, But Different



Recently, we had a faculty meeting to start our teachers thinking about their personal learning plans for this year. Personal learning plans are an important part of what we do to grow and learn as educators at Bolivar High School. I outlined what we do and why we do it in a previous blog post.



During our last meeting, I challenged our teachers to try to develop a learning plan that has the potential to be a game-changer for their own professional practice and for student learning. It’s easy to get in a pattern of just doing mostly the same things but trying to do them a little better. As a result, we may miss great opportunities to do something that would be completely different and possibly tranformational for student learning. It could be a game-changer.



I would certainly applaud those who seek to improve established practices, especially newer teachers. It’s much better than an approach that doesn’t seek growth at all. A worse scenario would be an educator who teaches exactly the same lessons year after year with little adaptation. Even the smallest incremental change is better than no effort to improve.



But for teachers who have developed their instructional foundation, it can be highly rewarding to take a risk that could be awesome or awful. You see I believe the things we often choose to pour our energies into are safe. We want to improve, but we aren’t comfortable enough with failure. If we are doing hard things, it can be highly rewarding, but it can also be terrifying.



During our staff meeting, I shared the video of Caine’s Arcade with our staff. I asked our teachers to consider how their own personal and professional learning is similar or perhaps different from Caine’s learning.






Each small group worked to develop a visual representation of how Caine’s Arcade might help us think about developing our own successful learning plans. These are a few of the characteristics often found in successful projects. 

1. Starts with Empathy – Empathy recognizes there is a problem to be solved. It involves seeing things from another person’s perspective and seeking to help make something better.

2. Rich Inquiry – Develop lots of questions to drive your learning forward. Seek out resources. Find the information you need to advance the project.

3. Deeper Learning – Apply the knowledge to create new understanding and original ideas. Invite complex thinking.

4. Meaningful Connections – Successful projects are usually personally meaningful, and they usually involve connections with others.

5. Autonomy – If you want commitment and engagement, not just compliance, autonomy is better. Our teachers are the ones who choose their project and are empowered to see it through.

6. Risk of Failure/Celebration of Success – Most meaningful projects have a chance of failure. The idea might not work. The more ideas we try, the more likely we are to find ones that are game-changers. We always need to reflect and celebrate what we’ve learned and what aspects are successful.



Our teachers shared some amazing insights from their reflection on the video. It was exciting to see the type of thinking happening around the room.


Here are some of the comments teachers shared on an exit survey:


It’s always exciting to have the opportunity to learn something new and different. I also love to experiment.
You telling us that if we try our plan and it fails, it’s OK.
I like that PLP is all about ownership and autonomy.
They will be something that has a positive impact on students and teachers.
Personal growth encouraged
The autonomy to make decisions of how I want to spend my time making a difference.
I feel good about the collaboration and the sharing that will take place. I feel like it’s a very open place to share good and new ideas
I want to continue to grow as a professional.
PLP’s hold me accountable for growth.
This next week we will have small group meetings (3-4) to share the ideas we have so far. It’s an opportunity for everyone to give and receive feedback. When we share our ideas, they almost always get better. Someone will have a suggestion or make a connection that will move our thinking forward. 


Caine’s Arcade was transformational. He didn’t necessarily have that in mind when he started, but he did have lots of big ideas. In the end, his little arcade started a movement that has impacted students, educators, and beyond. And some more pretty cool stuff happened for him too. Caine’s Arcade Part 2 details what happened after the initial video. It’s amazing.




Who knows what you might start at your school with an idea and the willingness to pursue it? Be willing to take a big chance and try something new for your students. Your dreams and passions make learning come alive for you and for your students.


Question: Some educators seem to think that new ideas are unnecessary. They say the fundamentals of learning and education are unchanging. Stay with the tried and true. What would you say to this type of thinking? Leave a comment below or share on Twitter or Facebook.

Read More Not Just Better, But Different





Recently I participated in an outstanding Twitter chat (#satchat) about advocating for students. It’s such an important topic. Almost every teacher is successful with the top tier students. The top students seem to learn almost in spite of the teachergood, bad, or indifferent. But to reach students who have significant struggles, at school or home or both, requires a teacher who is willing to be an advocate.


Educators have the opportunity to influence and support students who need a helping hand. We can lend them our strength for a time and help them find the strength within themselves to carry forward.


This excerpt from Katy Ridnouer’s book Everyday Engagement summarizes what it means to be an advocate as an educator:

An advocate is a person who supports or promotes the interests of another, and that is what a teacher is doing when he or she works to engage students and their parents as partners in a positive, learning-focused classroom community. An advocate is also one who promotes a cause, and I believe every teacher must be an advocate for student and parent engagement in learning, and for learning in general. They must promote it actively; they must embed these efforts into their classroom practice on an everyday basis. 

So based on these thoughts and reflection from the recent Twitter chat, I am suggesting 7 steps to be a better advocate for students.



1. Be Present



Every student needs to know you will be there for them and move closer to their messy situations and not push them away. Students need our unconditional love.



2. Ask



Get to know your students. Connect with them. Know them well enough to see when something’s not right. Make the person in front of you feel more important than the content you teach. Ask how things are going and how you can help.



3. Listen



Take the time to really listen. You don’t need all the answers. And you don’t need a degree in school counseling to hear what your students are saying.



4. Understand



Listen to understand. Try to see things from the student’s perspective. You can’t be an effective advocate if you don’t really try to feel what they’re feeling and see it like they are seeing it. 



5. Speak Up



Be the voice for the one who is overlooked, underserved, or mistreated. Don’t just look the other way. Say something.



6. Take Action



Words are powerful but actions speak louder. Do something to show your support. Reach out. Every action you take to help a child builds bridges to a better future.



7. Always Encourage



Some situations may feel hopeless. We can’t fix every problem. But we can always provide encouragement. We can say something positive. We can show how much we care. The kind words of a teacher can restore hope to a kid who is feeling lost and all alone.



When we become wise and caring advocates for students, we are developing young people who someday will be able to better advocate for themselves.



Question: How are you advocating for your students? I want to hear from you. Share your ideas by leaving a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook

Read More 7 Steps to Be a Better Advocate for Your Students





Recently I participated in an outstanding Twitter chat (#satchat) about advocating for students. It’s such an important topic. Almost every teacher is successful with the top tier students. The top students seem to learn almost in spite of the teachergood, bad, or indifferent. But to reach students who have significant struggles, at school or home or both, requires a teacher who is willing to be an advocate.


Educators have the opportunity to influence and support students who need a helping hand. We can lend them our strength for a time and help them find the strength within themselves to carry forward.


This excerpt from Katy Ridnouer’s book Everyday Engagement summarizes what it means to be an advocate as an educator:

An advocate is a person who supports or promotes the interests of another, and that is what a teacher is doing when he or she works to engage students and their parents as partners in a positive, learning-focused classroom community. An advocate is also one who promotes a cause, and I believe every teacher must be an advocate for student and parent engagement in learning, and for learning in general. They must promote it actively; they must embed these efforts into their classroom practice on an everyday basis. 

So based on these thoughts and reflection from the recent Twitter chat, I am suggesting 7 steps to be a better advocate for students.



1. Be Present



Every student needs to know you will be there for them and move closer to their messy situations and not push them away. Students need our unconditional love.



2. Ask



Get to know your students. Connect with them. Know them well enough to see when something’s not right. Make the person in front of you feel more important than the content you teach. Ask how things are going and how you can help.



3. Listen



Take the time to really listen. You don’t need all the answers. And you don’t need a degree in school counseling to hear what your students are saying.



4. Understand



Listen to understand. Try to see things from the student’s perspective. You can’t be an effective advocate if you don’t really try to feel what they’re feeling and see it like they are seeing it. 



5. Speak Up



Be the voice for the one who is overlooked, underserved, or mistreated. Don’t just look the other way. Say something.



6. Take Action



Words are powerful but actions speak louder. Do something to show your support. Reach out. Every action you take to help a child builds bridges to a better future.



7. Always Encourage



Some situations may feel hopeless. We can’t fix every problem. But we can always provide encouragement. We can say something positive. We can show how much we care. The kind words of a teacher can restore hope to a kid who is feeling lost and all alone.



When we become wise and caring advocates for students, we are developing young people who someday will be able to better advocate for themselves.



Question: How are you advocating for your students? I want to hear from you. Share your ideas by leaving a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook

Read More 7 Steps to Be a Better Advocate for Your Students



We’ve started a series of weekly discussions in our building about life in our increasingly digital world. I guess you could call it Digital Citizenship. I prefer to call it Digital Leadership. We have a half-hour academic support time built into our schedule four days a week. This past Thursday during that time we had our first lesson. We provided teachers with a couple of choices for activities that were pretty easy to implement. We showed a video of interview clips with our own students sharing some thoughts about how their digital life impacts their overall life. And then we discussed the upsides and downsides to technology, for us personally, for our relationships, and even for our nation. 



In my visits to classrooms, there were lively discussions during this time. These are relevant issues that kids really want to discuss. They want to hear different ideas, share their experience, and wrestle with how to successfully navigate this complex world. 



But there were also some challenges to making this happen. Our teachers and students are accustomed to having this academic support time for tutoring, making up missed work, and other important tasks. There were some legitimate concerns where the loss of the time was going to impact the academics of students. They really needed to retake that quiz or there was a study session for a test the next day. And so, I let the teachers decide. If you feel the academic need is pressing, then skip the Digital Leadership lesson this time.



Even my daughter, Maddie, was disappointed she wasn’t able to use that time for academics. She is playing tennis and has missed a ton of school for matches and tournaments. She’s working hard to get caught up and values Liberator Time to get stuff done. She was concerned about the loss of that time.



As I’ve thought about how this has all played out, my biggest question concerns our priorities. Are we really paying attention to our students’ needs? There is no question that preparing students academically is important. But if we aren’t preparing students for life in a world that is rapidly changing, will the academic knowledge really be that helpful?



Each year, I hear stories from heartbroken parents and see shattered lives because of decisions that were made online. I see the impact of all sorts of digital miscues, small and large. Besides the tragic circumstances that arise, there are also less obvious consequences of failure to navigate a digital world successfully. Who is helping kids figure this stuff out? 



One teacher commented that parents should be doing more to monitor and support their own children. I don’t disagree with this. I think parents can do more to be aware and help meet these challenges. That’s why we’ve hosted parent workshops and provided information in our newsletters to help parents in this area.



But what I don’t agree with is the idea that it’s completely the parents job to address these issues. Our school does not exist in a vacuum. We MUST address the relevant issues of our time and partner with parents to help students be successful. Our school motto is, “Learning for Life.” That points to the need for learning that really matters, that will help students be successful, not just on a test, but in living a healthy, balanced, fulfilling life.



In our school, every student must have a device for learning. They can use a school issued Chromebook or they can bring their own device. But using a device is not optional. I think this ups the ante for us in our level of responsibility on these issues. It’s important no matter what. But when our school is so digitally infused, we must work to educate our students about the challenges they will face. And we must educate them about the opportunities that digital can provide, too.



We are so focused on our curriculum and meeting standards I think we can forget to pay attention to our students and their needs. We aren’t thinking deeply about what is most useful to them now and in the future. We see them as just students. It’s all about academics. We are completely focused on making sure they are learning science, history, math, literature, etc. Are they college and career ready? Did they pass the state assessment? 



And the one overarching question, the elephant in the roomare you teaching content or are you teaching kids? Cause there’s a difference. The best teachers are always ready to teach the life-changing lesson. They understand that’s the stuff that really makes a lasting impact. Students will forget the foreign language they took in HS, they probably won’t ever use the quadratic formula in real life, and reading Victorian literature isn’t likely to spark a passion. 



I hope you get my point.



We can’t afford to not make time for Digital Citizenship, or just plain citizenship. 



Question: How is your school addressing the relevant issues of our time? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook.

Read More Do We Really Have Time for Digital Citizenship?



We’ve started a series of weekly discussions in our building about life in our increasingly digital world. I guess you could call it Digital Citizenship. I prefer to call it Digital Leadership. We have a half-hour academic support time built into our schedule four days a week. This past Thursday during that time we had our first lesson. We provided teachers with a couple of choices for activities that were pretty easy to implement. We showed a video of interview clips with our own students sharing some thoughts about how their digital life impacts their overall life. And then we discussed the upsides and downsides to technology, for us personally, for our relationships, and even for our nation. 



In my visits to classrooms, there were lively discussions during this time. These are relevant issues that kids really want to discuss. They want to hear different ideas, share their experience, and wrestle with how to successfully navigate this complex world. 



But there were also some challenges to making this happen. Our teachers and students are accustomed to having this academic support time for tutoring, making up missed work, and other important tasks. There were some legitimate concerns where the loss of the time was going to impact the academics of students. They really needed to retake that quiz or there was a study session for a test the next day. And so, I let the teachers decide. If you feel the academic need is pressing, then skip the Digital Leadership lesson this time.



Even my daughter, Maddie, was disappointed she wasn’t able to use that time for academics. She is playing tennis and has missed a ton of school for matches and tournaments. She’s working hard to get caught up and values Liberator Time to get stuff done. She was concerned about the loss of that time.



As I’ve thought about how this has all played out, my biggest question concerns our priorities. Are we really paying attention to our students’ needs? There is no question that preparing students academically is important. But if we aren’t preparing students for life in a world that is rapidly changing, will the academic knowledge really be that helpful?



Each year, I hear stories from heartbroken parents and see shattered lives because of decisions that were made online. I see the impact of all sorts of digital miscues, small and large. Besides the tragic circumstances that arise, there are also less obvious consequences of failure to navigate a digital world successfully. Who is helping kids figure this stuff out? 



One teacher commented that parents should be doing more to monitor and support their own children. I don’t disagree with this. I think parents can do more to be aware and help meet these challenges. That’s why we’ve hosted parent workshops and provided information in our newsletters to help parents in this area.



But what I don’t agree with is the idea that it’s completely the parents job to address these issues. Our school does not exist in a vacuum. We MUST address the relevant issues of our time and partner with parents to help students be successful. Our school motto is, “Learning for Life.” That points to the need for learning that really matters, that will help students be successful, not just on a test, but in living a healthy, balanced, fulfilling life.



In our school, every student must have a device for learning. They can use a school issued Chromebook or they can bring their own device. But using a device is not optional. I think this ups the ante for us in our level of responsibility on these issues. It’s important no matter what. But when our school is so digitally infused, we must work to educate our students about the challenges they will face. And we must educate them about the opportunities that digital can provide, too.



We are so focused on our curriculum and meeting standards I think we can forget to pay attention to our students and their needs. We aren’t thinking deeply about what is most useful to them now and in the future. We see them as just students. It’s all about academics. We are completely focused on making sure they are learning science, history, math, literature, etc. Are they college and career ready? Did they pass the state assessment? 



And the one overarching question, the elephant in the roomare you teaching content or are you teaching kids? Cause there’s a difference. The best teachers are always ready to teach the life-changing lesson. They understand that’s the stuff that really makes a lasting impact. Students will forget the foreign language they took in HS, they probably won’t ever use the quadratic formula in real life, and reading Victorian literature isn’t likely to spark a passion. 



I hope you get my point.



We can’t afford to not make time for Digital Citizenship, or just plain citizenship. 



Question: How is your school addressing the relevant issues of our time? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook.

Read More Do We Really Have Time for Digital Citizenship?

Last year two grade 11 students, Josh & Brandon, started creating an app using iBeacon technology to help our teachers take attendance. A year later, that app is not completed, it probably won’t be completed any time soon, and yet this is one of a number of very successful projects that happened last year. The plan […]

Read More Relevance Amplifies Learning



As the new school year is just around the corner, it’s a great chance to commit to making learning more effective and meaningful in your classroom or school. Here are five challenges to make it the best year ever. 



1. Greet Your Students at the Door



Everyone can make it a point to greet students at the door each day. But it’s also easy to get busy with other things and neglect the doorway greeting. It’s easy to get pulled away by paperwork or visiting with colleagues or other things. That’s why I decided to include this as a challenge. It’s a challenge for me too. I always try to greet students in the morning, either at one of our entries or by mingling in the hallways. But sometimes I let other things get in the way. I want to commit to make this a top priority all year long.



Greeting students is helpful for several reasons: 

  • It shows students you care and want to interact with them. 
  • It allows you to read students’ body language and see how they’re doing, if they’re ready to learn.
  • It earns buy-in from your students and motivates them to engage in your classroom. You might be surprised how much difference it makes when you make greeting students a top priority.






2. Teach Your Best Lesson on the First Day



I think it’s fair to say there is too much teacher talk overall in K-12 classrooms. Learning would be better served if students were more actively processing content and skills instead of so passive receiving. And that’s and every day concern. But is there any school day with more teacher talk than the first day of school? 



Teachers talk about the rules, the procedures, grades, the seating chart. We talk about the syllabus, about the class objectives, and more. I remember a teacher who even discussed at length the organization of the textbook. Really?



Why would we want the first day of school to be the most boring day of the school year? Shouldn’t we want students to actually be excited about returning to school for the second day? I think the first day should create enough excitement and intrigue that students are more excited about learning tomorrow than they are today.



I recently read that we tend to make first impressions of people we meet within the first 7 seconds and then spend the rest of the conversation trying to convince ourselves why our impressions are true. I’m betting that’s true in the classroom, too. Your students will make assumptions from the first day that may be hard to change later.



So I’m suggesting you try to teach your best lesson on the first day. Make it so great that students will be rushing to your class for day two. Don’t talk about all the boring rules and procedures on day one. You can communicate all that stuff a little at a time the first few weeks of school. Some of it you can address as teachable moments arise. I understand the importance of rules or procedures, but don’t start the year with that stuff.



Instead of the boring pitfalls of the first day, here are some alternatives. Challenge students with a problem. Have them work in groups to create something. Use a team builder to get students active. Here is an Epic List of Team Building Activities. Use Brain Teasers to get your students thinking immediately. Here’s another set of Brain Teasers that might be a little less challenging. You might even be able to use the brain teaser to illustrate something about your rules or procedures, if you are determined to squeeze some of that in on day one. 



Another possibility would be to jump right into your content. Have students read something interesting and even mind-blowing from your subject. Have a discussion about it. Get everyone talking and sharing as much as possible right from the start. Set the stage for high levels of engagement on the first day.



And another possibility, I would always do this when I was teaching high school English. I would tell my students on the first day that I was going to learn everyone’s name, today. I had six classes with nearly 30 students per class. So this was always a big risk. It’s tough to learn 180 names. And I always failed. But I would try. And I would learn most of the names on the first day. 



Think of the lessons that flowed from this. The kids were interacting with me. There was suspense. They couldn’t wait to see if I would remember their name on the next cycle through the class. It was a great chance to talk about taking risks and failing forward. We would laugh together at my mistakes. I also did this to emphasize the importance of relationships. I try to learn your names because I want to get to know you.



Whatever you do, make your first day memorable. Try to teach your very best lesson!








3. Make Questions More Important than Right Answers



I’m guessing many students have come to believe that success in school is closely tied to delivering right answers. And if you deliver enough right answers you get a good grade. But this type of learning doesn’t necessarily stick. Students will deliver right answers on the quiz or test that is right in front of them, but what about months down the road. Do they still retain much of that information? I’m guessing no.



But focusing more on questions can lead to deeper understanding. And when students have deeper understanding, the learning tends to stick. It helps with applying information, seeing the big picture, and transferring learning to new contexts. Questions are the foundation of all inquiry. Physicist and Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman said, “There is NO learning without having to pose a question.”



But not all questions are created equal. Many questions are asked in the classroom that do not generate deeper thinking. These questions are the ones that seek a single right answer with very little explanation of thought. But my challenge is to make a shift. Try to make your classroom more about questions than answers.







A couple of years ago, we asked our students to select schoolwide essential questions to guide inquiry across all subjects. Our students actually voted on the questions. We had one question each quarter of the school year. You could do the same thing in your classroom or school. Here’s a Giant List of Really Good Essential Questions.




4. Put Students in the Driver’s Seat



If our goal is to create independent, lifelong learners it’s important to create classrooms where students are taking greater ownership of their learning. We know that a student-centered classroom is more effective than a teacher-centered classroom. So how can you put your students in the driver’s seat this year? 



Our school went 1:1 last year with Chromebooks for every student. Many in our community probably thought this was about keeping up with technology. But the greatest benefit to every student having a device is student agency, the ability for each student to make some of the decisions about the direction of their learning. Access to a device and consequently access to the sum of human knowledge via the internet creates opportunities for empowerment.



But we can’t keep teaching the same way and expect empowerment to increase. Just giving a student a device will not lead to empowerment. We have to give up some of our control and help guide and facilitate learning instead of making every decision ourselves.



Here are some questions for you to consider about agency and empowerment in your classroom?

  • How often do students have input on how they will learn?
  • How often do students have input on what they will learn?
  • Are students given opportunities to lead conversations?
  • Are classroom goals developed by the teacher alone or in partnership with students?
  • Do students have some time to pursue their own goals?
  • How often do you ask students for feedback on their experience in your classroom?

In classrooms where student ownership has flourished, I’ve noticed that it’s usually because teachers really listen and spend a considerable amount of time understanding their students’ perspective, what’s important to them, what their experiences with learning have been in the past. There is a feeling that the students and the teacher are co-creating the classroom together, instead of the teacher delivering lessons.



5. Eliminate the Trash Can Finish



Where does most student work ultimately end up? Unfortunately, most of it is destined for the trash can. It will never be shared with anyone beyond the classroom. The teacher will review it and assess it, and finally it comes to rest in a landfill. Sometimes, the work will be shared with other students in the classroom. But why aren’t we seeking more authentic audiences for student work?



When students know their work will be shared with a real audience, it changes the mindset. Instead of just producing work that is good-enough to get the grade, they will want to produce work that represents their best efforts. The sense of audience is an opportunity to practice empathy and try to see the project through the end-users’ eyes. It’s what professionals do in their work all the time. Our students need to be practicing the skills that all people use when they are completing a project or developing a product that will no doubt be presented to a real audience.






And there are more ways than ever to share student work. With social media and other digital platforms, student work can be shared across the world. Students can create blogs, produce podcasts, or compile digital portfolios. Twitter is a great way to share out links or images of student work. The #Comments4Kids hashtag is one great way to connect with audiences and get feedback too. 



According to a Forbes magazine article, your online presence will soon replace the traditional resume. But most students haven’t done anything intentional to establish digital presence or personal brand. Your classroom could help change that. You can find ways to share student work so that their great ideas and best efforts can be accessed in the present and the future.



Besides digital sharing of work, there are other ways to make learning visible and include real audiences. Elementary schools are great at displaying student work throughout the school. Why don’t more secondary schools do this? One idea a teacher developed in our school invites professionals in our community to examine student projects. It’s kind of like Shark Tank, with students pitching their ideas to a panel of “sharks.” Schools can also have maker faires or other showcase events where student work is on display for parents and community.



Avoiding the trashcan finish can be as simple as a Tweet or as complex as a schoolwide fair. Everything students do can’t be shared out, but we need to start sharing more. It brings relevance to learning and allows kids to contribute ideas and products to the world right now. Students shouldn’t have to wait until they are out of school to make valuable contributions.



Question: Which of these challenges will you try this year? Let me know what you think. Leave a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook.

Read More 5 Challenges to Your Best School Year Ever



As the new school year is just around the corner, it’s a great chance to commit to making learning more effective and meaningful in your classroom or school. Here are five challenges to make it the best year ever. 



1. Greet Your Students at the Door



Everyone can make it a point to greet students at the door each day. But it’s also easy to get busy with other things and neglect the doorway greeting. It’s easy to get pulled away by paperwork or visiting with colleagues or other things. That’s why I decided to include this as a challenge. It’s a challenge for me too. I always try to greet students in the morning, either at one of our entries or by mingling in the hallways. But sometimes I let other things get in the way. I want to commit to make this a top priority all year long.



Greeting students is helpful for several reasons: 

  • It shows students you care and want to interact with them. 
  • It allows you to read students’ body language and see how they’re doing, if they’re ready to learn.
  • It earns buy-in from your students and motivates them to engage in your classroom. You might be surprised how much difference it makes when you make greeting students a top priority.






2. Teach Your Best Lesson on the First Day



I think it’s fair to say there is too much teacher talk overall in K-12 classrooms. Learning would be better served if students were more actively processing content and skills instead of so passive receiving. And that’s and every day concern. But is there any school day with more teacher talk than the first day of school? 



Teachers talk about the rules, the procedures, grades, the seating chart. We talk about the syllabus, about the class objectives, and more. I remember a teacher who even discussed at length the organization of the textbook. Really?



Why would we want the first day of school to be the most boring day of the school year? Shouldn’t we want students to actually be excited about returning to school for the second day? I think the first day should create enough excitement and intrigue that students are more excited about learning tomorrow than they are today.



I recently read that we tend to make first impressions of people we meet within the first 7 seconds and then spend the rest of the conversation trying to convince ourselves why our impressions are true. I’m betting that’s true in the classroom, too. Your students will make assumptions from the first day that may be hard to change later.



So I’m suggesting you try to teach your best lesson on the first day. Make it so great that students will be rushing to your class for day two. Don’t talk about all the boring rules and procedures on day one. You can communicate all that stuff a little at a time the first few weeks of school. Some of it you can address as teachable moments arise. I understand the importance of rules or procedures, but don’t start the year with that stuff.



Instead of the boring pitfalls of the first day, here are some alternatives. Challenge students with a problem. Have them work in groups to create something. Use a team builder to get students active. Here is an Epic List of Team Building Activities. Use Brain Teasers to get your students thinking immediately. Here’s another set of Brain Teasers that might be a little less challenging. You might even be able to use the brain teaser to illustrate something about your rules or procedures, if you are determined to squeeze some of that in on day one. 



Another possibility would be to jump right into your content. Have students read something interesting and even mind-blowing from your subject. Have a discussion about it. Get everyone talking and sharing as much as possible right from the start. Set the stage for high levels of engagement on the first day.



And another possibility, I would always do this when I was teaching high school English. I would tell my students on the first day that I was going to learn everyone’s name, today. I had six classes with nearly 30 students per class. So this was always a big risk. It’s tough to learn 180 names. And I always failed. But I would try. And I would learn most of the names on the first day. 



Think of the lessons that flowed from this. The kids were interacting with me. There was suspense. They couldn’t wait to see if I would remember their name on the next cycle through the class. It was a great chance to talk about taking risks and failing forward. We would laugh together at my mistakes. I also did this to emphasize the importance of relationships. I try to learn your names because I want to get to know you.



Whatever you do, make your first day memorable. Try to teach your very best lesson!








3. Make Questions More Important than Right Answers



I’m guessing many students have come to believe that success in school is closely tied to delivering right answers. And if you deliver enough right answers you get a good grade. But this type of learning doesn’t necessarily stick. Students will deliver right answers on the quiz or test that is right in front of them, but what about months down the road. Do they still retain much of that information? I’m guessing no.



But focusing more on questions can lead to deeper understanding. And when students have deeper understanding, the learning tends to stick. It helps with applying information, seeing the big picture, and transferring learning to new contexts. Questions are the foundation of all inquiry. Physicist and Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman said, “There is NO learning without having to pose a question.”



But not all questions are created equal. Many questions are asked in the classroom that do not generate deeper thinking. These questions are the ones that seek a single right answer with very little explanation of thought. But my challenge is to make a shift. Try to make your classroom more about questions than answers.







A couple of years ago, we asked our students to select schoolwide essential questions to guide inquiry across all subjects. Our students actually voted on the questions. We had one question each quarter of the school year. You could do the same thing in your classroom or school. Here’s a Giant List of Really Good Essential Questions.




4. Put Students in the Driver’s Seat



If our goal is to create independent, lifelong learners it’s important to create classrooms where students are taking greater ownership of their learning. We know that a student-centered classroom is more effective than a teacher-centered classroom. So how can you put your students in the driver’s seat this year? 



Our school went 1:1 last year with Chromebooks for every student. Many in our community probably thought this was about keeping up with technology. But the greatest benefit to every student having a device is student agency, the ability for each student to make some of the decisions about the direction of their learning. Access to a device and consequently access to the sum of human knowledge via the internet creates opportunities for empowerment.



But we can’t keep teaching the same way and expect empowerment to increase. Just giving a student a device will not lead to empowerment. We have to give up some of our control and help guide and facilitate learning instead of making every decision ourselves.



Here are some questions for you to consider about agency and empowerment in your classroom?

  • How often do students have input on how they will learn?
  • How often do students have input on what they will learn?
  • Are students given opportunities to lead conversations?
  • Are classroom goals developed by the teacher alone or in partnership with students?
  • Do students have some time to pursue their own goals?
  • How often do you ask students for feedback on their experience in your classroom?

In classrooms where student ownership has flourished, I’ve noticed that it’s usually because teachers really listen and spend a considerable amount of time understanding their students’ perspective, what’s important to them, what their experiences with learning have been in the past. There is a feeling that the students and the teacher are co-creating the classroom together, instead of the teacher delivering lessons.



5. Eliminate the Trash Can Finish



Where does most student work ultimately end up? Unfortunately, most of it is destined for the trash can. It will never be shared with anyone beyond the classroom. The teacher will review it and assess it, and finally it comes to rest in a landfill. Sometimes, the work will be shared with other students in the classroom. But why aren’t we seeking more authentic audiences for student work?



When students know their work will be shared with a real audience, it changes the mindset. Instead of just producing work that is good-enough to get the grade, they will want to produce work that represents their best efforts. The sense of audience is an opportunity to practice empathy and try to see the project through the end-users’ eyes. It’s what professionals do in their work all the time. Our students need to be practicing the skills that all people use when they are completing a project or developing a product that will no doubt be presented to a real audience.






And there are more ways than ever to share student work. With social media and other digital platforms, student work can be shared across the world. Students can create blogs, produce podcasts, or compile digital portfolios. Twitter is a great way to share out links or images of student work. The #Comments4Kids hashtag is one great way to connect with audiences and get feedback too. 



According to a Forbes magazine article, your online presence will soon replace the traditional resume. But most students haven’t done anything intentional to establish digital presence or personal brand. Your classroom could help change that. You can find ways to share student work so that their great ideas and best efforts can be accessed in the present and the future.



Besides digital sharing of work, there are other ways to make learning visible and include real audiences. Elementary schools are great at displaying student work throughout the school. Why don’t more secondary schools do this? One idea a teacher developed in our school invites professionals in our community to examine student projects. It’s kind of like Shark Tank, with students pitching their ideas to a panel of “sharks.” Schools can also have maker faires or other showcase events where student work is on display for parents and community.



Avoiding the trashcan finish can be as simple as a Tweet or as complex as a schoolwide fair. Everything students do can’t be shared out, but we need to start sharing more. It brings relevance to learning and allows kids to contribute ideas and products to the world right now. Students shouldn’t have to wait until they are out of school to make valuable contributions.



Question: Which of these challenges will you try this year? Let me know what you think. Leave a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook.

Read More 5 Challenges to Your Best School Year Ever



The days of summer will soon give way to the start of a new school year. For teachers, the end of summer can be met with mixed emotions. Even the most passionate educators can be reluctant to give up the freedom and flexibility of summer break. But it’s also a great time to get excited about the possibilities that lay ahead. It’s GO-TIME!!!



As you gear up for back-to-school, here are seven reasons to be enthusiastic about the new school year.





1. Making New Friends



One of the most exciting things about the start of a new school year is the chance to meet new people and welcome them into your school. It’s a privilege to get to know new staff members and students. And it’s a great opportunity to share with them all the things that make your school great. It’s also a great opportunity to find ways they can contribute to making your school even stronger.



Remember that being new can be terrifying. Offer your support. Be sure to send the message loud and clear to everyone new to your school, “We’re glad you’re here.”



2. Reconnecting with Old Friends



I also look forward to seeing everyone who is returning. Over the years, we build increasingly strong bonds with the people we work with. It’s great to hear about their exciting adventures of summer and begin to share in the daily life of school again. I can’t wait to see all the smiles and feel the energy as we come together again to help kids.



Keep in mind that returning to school can be especially difficult in certain seasons of life. I am always reminded that a word of encouragement or act of kindness can go a long way to making the new school year better for someone going through a difficult time.



3. Making a Difference 



For some students, summer hasn’t been that great. They’ve had struggles, turmoil, maybe even hunger. Returning to school won’t solve all their problems, but it will provide a chance for educators to make a difference. No matter what their summer was like, your students are counting on you now. They need to know how much you care. They need you to love them, listen to them, and to never give up on them.



Your work as a teacher makes a difference in the lives of young people. That’s a great reason to get excited about the start of the school year! 



4. Fulfilling Your Purpose



It’s great to enjoy the wonderful time away from school during summer break. Good teaching is demanding in so many ways. We need time to recharge. But there is something about doing what you are meant to do, even when it’s hard. The start of the school year is a great time to reflect on why you started in the first place. Why did you become a teacher? How will you make a positive impact this year?



When you have passion and purpose for your students and your teaching, you won’t have too much trouble being excited for the new school year.



5. New Beginnings



When I reflect on a previous school year, there are always things I wish had gone differently. I see areas I need to improve, and things I want to change. The start of the school year is a brand new thing. It’s a fresh start.



There’s something about the cyclical nature of school that lends itself to making adjustments based on last year to continue to make things better for learning. But the key is to reflect and set goals during the summer, so that you’re ready to adjust and adapt this year.  



6. New Opportunities to Grow



Positive people grow. Happy people grow. Healthy people grow. The new school year will not doubt present challenges that will help us grow if we choose to allow growth to happen. I believe growth is an essential part of being fulfilled in our lives. We can’t stay the same or even have stagnant growth and expect to have a healthy and happy life. And for certain, we won’t make much of an impact on others if we aren’t willing to grow.



I know some people dread the start of school because they feel that they are going to face challenges that are really difficult for them. Some struggle more with difficult students. Some struggle to keep up with paperwork or grading. Clearly, some struggle to get through the school day more than others. I think most of that is related to attitude.



If we welcome the challenges and view them as a way to grow, it changes everything. If we invite hard things into our lives, it makes us stronger. Rarely do I see an unhappy teacher who also regularly takes on new challenges. Usually, the most unhappy people in your school are the ones who are most protective of their time and their comfort.



So I think a GREAT reason to get excited about a new school year is that it’s a GREAT opportunity to grow. What would your school be like if every educator had a growth mindset?



7. Believe in Amazing Possibilities



I’m excited about the new school year because I believe this will be the best school year ever. I’m excited about the work our school is doing. I believe we are moving in a positive direction. I see a tipping point happening, where we will see learners empowered in ways we’ve envisioned. 



Your classroom has amazing possibilities too. Students will learn more about who they are. They will learn and grow and become more confident and independent learners. Commit yourself to the idea that great things are going to happen this year. Focus on the positive. Who knows what incredible things will happen this year in the life of your school?



Questions: What gets you excited about a new school year? What are you anticipating? I would love to hear from you. Leave me a message below or respond on Twitter or Facebook. Here we grow!

Read More 7 Reasons for Teachers to Be Enthusiastic About a New School Year



The days of summer will soon give way to the start of a new school year. For teachers, the end of summer can be met with mixed emotions. Even the most passionate educators can be reluctant to give up the freedom and flexibility of summer break. But it’s also a great time to get excited about the possibilities that lay ahead. It’s GO-TIME!!!



As you gear up for back-to-school, here are seven reasons to be enthusiastic about the new school year.





1. Making New Friends



One of the most exciting things about the start of a new school year is the chance to meet new people and welcome them into your school. It’s a privilege to get to know new staff members and students. And it’s a great opportunity to share with them all the things that make your school great. It’s also a great opportunity to find ways they can contribute to making your school even stronger.



Remember that being new can be terrifying. Offer your support. Be sure to send the message loud and clear to everyone new to your school, “We’re glad you’re here.”



2. Reconnecting with Old Friends



I also look forward to seeing everyone who is returning. Over the years, we build increasingly strong bonds with the people we work with. It’s great to hear about their exciting adventures of summer and begin to share in the daily life of school again. I can’t wait to see all the smiles and feel the energy as we come together again to help kids.



Keep in mind that returning to school can be especially difficult in certain seasons of life. I am always reminded that a word of encouragement or act of kindness can go a long way to making the new school year better for someone going through a difficult time.



3. Making a Difference 



For some students, summer hasn’t been that great. They’ve had struggles, turmoil, maybe even hunger. Returning to school won’t solve all their problems, but it will provide a chance for educators to make a difference. No matter what their summer was like, your students are counting on you now. They need to know how much you care. They need you to love them, listen to them, and to never give up on them.



Your work as a teacher makes a difference in the lives of young people. That’s a great reason to get excited about the start of the school year! 



4. Fulfilling Your Purpose



It’s great to enjoy the wonderful time away from school during summer break. Good teaching is demanding in so many ways. We need time to recharge. But there is something about doing what you are meant to do, even when it’s hard. The start of the school year is a great time to reflect on why you started in the first place. Why did you become a teacher? How will you make a positive impact this year?



When you have passion and purpose for your students and your teaching, you won’t have too much trouble being excited for the new school year.



5. New Beginnings



When I reflect on a previous school year, there are always things I wish had gone differently. I see areas I need to improve, and things I want to change. The start of the school year is a brand new thing. It’s a fresh start.



There’s something about the cyclical nature of school that lends itself to making adjustments based on last year to continue to make things better for learning. But the key is to reflect and set goals during the summer, so that you’re ready to adjust and adapt this year.  



6. New Opportunities to Grow



Positive people grow. Happy people grow. Healthy people grow. The new school year will not doubt present challenges that will help us grow if we choose to allow growth to happen. I believe growth is an essential part of being fulfilled in our lives. We can’t stay the same or even have stagnant growth and expect to have a healthy and happy life. And for certain, we won’t make much of an impact on others if we aren’t willing to grow.



I know some people dread the start of school because they feel that they are going to face challenges that are really difficult for them. Some struggle more with difficult students. Some struggle to keep up with paperwork or grading. Clearly, some struggle to get through the school day more than others. I think most of that is related to attitude.



If we welcome the challenges and view them as a way to grow, it changes everything. If we invite hard things into our lives, it makes us stronger. Rarely do I see an unhappy teacher who also regularly takes on new challenges. Usually, the most unhappy people in your school are the ones who are most protective of their time and their comfort.



So I think a GREAT reason to get excited about a new school year is that it’s a GREAT opportunity to grow. What would your school be like if every educator had a growth mindset?



7. Believe in Amazing Possibilities



I’m excited about the new school year because I believe this will be the best school year ever. I’m excited about the work our school is doing. I believe we are moving in a positive direction. I see a tipping point happening, where we will see learners empowered in ways we’ve envisioned. 



Your classroom has amazing possibilities too. Students will learn more about who they are. They will learn and grow and become more confident and independent learners. Commit yourself to the idea that great things are going to happen this year. Focus on the positive. Who knows what incredible things will happen this year in the life of your school?



Questions: What gets you excited about a new school year? What are you anticipating? I would love to hear from you. Leave me a message below or respond on Twitter or Facebook. Here we grow!

Read More 7 Reasons for Teachers to Be Enthusiastic About a New School Year



What are you preparing your students for? College or career? The next grade level? Standardized tests? Or something more? We can’t afford to be shortsighted in these challenging times. But is it even possible to predict what students will need to be successful in the future? The world is changing at such a rapid pace, the only constant seems to be rapid change and increased uncertainty. 



In fact, one report estimated that 7 million jobs will disappear globally within the next five years. The same article reported over 2 million newly created jobs will help offset that loss. These new opportunities will emerge in technology, professional services, and media. These extreme shifts are happening because of advancements in robotics, artificial intelligence, and biotechnology.



Of students entering primary schools today, 65% will someday work in jobs that don’t yet exist. That is staggering to contemplate. You can even use this handy calculator to find out the likelihood your job could be automated in coming years.


LinkedIn published a list of jobs advertised on its site that barely existed five years ago. 8 of the 10 jobs on the list belong to the digital world—Android developer, digital marketing specialist, cloud services specialist—to name a few. It’s easy to see examples of how technology is changing the workplace.


Beyond the implications for employment, changes in population, politics, culture, climate, diversity, etc. will also present significant challenges in other areas of life. Being ‘future-ready’ goes beyond just ‘college/career’ readiness, because life extends beyond our need to earn a living. 



Tragic events in just the last few months illustrate the magnitude of the problems we face in our contemporary world. Just last night there were the Dallas Police Shootings, preceded by the Philando Castille shooting in Minnesota and Alton Sterling shooting in Louisiana. This summer we’ve had Brexit, more ISIS bombings, the Orlando night club massacre, and more bad news about rising ocean levels and climate change.



While the future should be viewed with optimism, the current headlines are warnings of the need for change. To navigate the challenges of these disruptive times, we need the mindset of adaptable learners. It’s the ability to adjust to meet the needs of the future by learning, unlearning, and relearning. We must develop the ability to quickly learn the knowledge and skills needed to survive and ultimately thrive.





The list below includes 15 skills that will help your students adapt and be ready for the challenges of today and tomorrow.


1. Problem-Solving



It’s not enough to know information. You must know how to apply information to new contexts and use reasoning and critical thinking skills to find solutions.


2. Creativity 



The ability to develop new ideas is extremely valuable. People will create value by divergent thinking and seeing problems in completely new ways. Creativity is art, but it’s not just art. It extends to every area of life and thought.


3. Communication Skills



Both written and verbal communication skills are needed to express ideas and create content. 


4. Taking Risks



Adaptable learners are willing to take risks to try new things. They step out of their comfort zone to pursue learning and innovation. Fear of failure doesn’t hold them back.



5. Continuous Growth



It’s not enough to develop expertise in an area and then ride the wave the rest of your life. Constantly growing and learning and building on expertise is the wave of the future.


6. Recognizing Opportunities



Adaptable learners see new possibilities and seize them. They don’t wait on the sidelines hoping things will work out for them. Instead, they jump into the game when a great chance comes along.


7. Building Networks



Being connected is critical for adaptability. Learning is multiplied when you draw on the power of your network. Networks are a source of help, support, encouragement, and ideas.


8. Utilizing Teamwork

Teamwork involves shared ownership of goals, tasks, and outcomes. Together we are able to achieve more. A high-performing team is characterized by positive interdependence of team members. Or in other words, you have each other’s backs.



9. Leveraging Resources



An adaptable learner uses available resources to the maximum. As future resources become scarce, it will require wisdom for how and when to use resources to provide the greatest value to self and others. 


10. Managing Change



Change can be unsettling and even frightening. The learner who will thrive in the future won’t deny change or simply react to change. With the right mindset, it’s possible to shape and influence change while remaining flexible. 



11. Interpersonal Skills


Learners need skills to relate to others positively. Our success in life is tied closely to our social skills. Empathy, compassion, honesty, trustworthiness characterize the adaptable learner.



12. Embracing Diversity



Globalization continues to make our world smaller and more interconnected. Diversity will be more evident in every aspect of life. As a result, there will be even greater need to work effectively with others who have racial, cultural, religious, and political backgrounds different from our own. 



13. Life Mission/Purpose


When learners recognize a purpose for life beyond themselves and work to make the world a better place, everyone benefits. A future ready learner recognizes the need to give back.



14. Sharing Knowledge



Adaptable learners create value, not by storing up knowledge, but by sharing it with others. Being recognized as an expert comes from the influence of sharing what you know and the ideas that identify your brand.


15. Perseverance



Perseverance is perhaps the most important skill of all. The future will demand the ability to stay with problems longer, to be persistent, and to never give up.



Question: What skills would you add or remove from this list? How are you helping your students become adaptable learners? I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter

Read More 15 Essential Skills Your Students Must Develop Now To Meet The Challenges Of An Uncertain Future



What are you preparing your students for? College or career? The next grade level? Standardized tests? Or something more? We can’t afford to be shortsighted in these challenging times. But is it even possible to predict what students will need to be successful in the future? The world is changing at such a rapid pace, the only constant seems to be rapid change and increased uncertainty. 



In fact, one report estimated that 7 million jobs will disappear globally within the next five years. The same article reported over 2 million newly created jobs will help offset that loss. These new opportunities will emerge in technology, professional services, and media. These extreme shifts are happening because of advancements in robotics, artificial intelligence, and biotechnology.



Of students entering primary schools today, 65% will someday work in jobs that don’t yet exist. That is staggering to contemplate. You can even use this handy calculator to find out the likelihood your job could be automated in coming years.


LinkedIn published a list of jobs advertised on its site that barely existed five years ago. 8 of the 10 jobs on the list belong to the digital world—Android developer, digital marketing specialist, cloud services specialist—to name a few. It’s easy to see examples of how technology is changing the workplace.


Beyond the implications for employment, changes in population, politics, culture, climate, diversity, etc. will also present significant challenges in other areas of life. Being ‘future-ready’ goes beyond just ‘college/career’ readiness, because life extends beyond our need to earn a living. 



Tragic events in just the last few months illustrate the magnitude of the problems we face in our contemporary world. Just last night there were the Dallas Police Shootings, preceded by the Philando Castille shooting in Minnesota and Alton Sterling shooting in Louisiana. This summer we’ve had Brexit, more ISIS bombings, the Orlando night club massacre, and more bad news about rising ocean levels and climate change.



While the future should be viewed with optimism, the current headlines are warnings of the need for change. To navigate the challenges of these disruptive times, we need the mindset of adaptable learners. It’s the ability to adjust to meet the needs of the future by learning, unlearning, and relearning. We must develop the ability to quickly learn the knowledge and skills needed to survive and ultimately thrive.





The list below includes 15 skills that will help your students adapt and be ready for the challenges of today and tomorrow.


1. Problem-Solving



It’s not enough to know information. You must know how to apply information to new contexts and use reasoning and critical thinking skills to find solutions.


2. Creativity 



The ability to develop new ideas is extremely valuable. People will create value by divergent thinking and seeing problems in completely new ways. Creativity is art, but it’s not just art. It extends to every area of life and thought.


3. Communication Skills



Both written and verbal communication skills are needed to express ideas and create content. 


4. Taking Risks



Adaptable learners are willing to take risks to try new things. They step out of their comfort zone to pursue learning and innovation. Fear of failure doesn’t hold them back.



5. Continuous Growth



It’s not enough to develop expertise in an area and then ride the wave the rest of your life. Constantly growing and learning and building on expertise is the wave of the future.


6. Recognizing Opportunities



Adaptable learners see new possibilities and seize them. They don’t wait on the sidelines hoping things will work out for them. Instead, they jump into the game when a great chance comes along.


7. Building Networks



Being connected is critical for adaptability. Learning is multiplied when you draw on the power of your network. Networks are a source of help, support, encouragement, and ideas.


8. Utilizing Teamwork

Teamwork involves shared ownership of goals, tasks, and outcomes. Together we are able to achieve more. A high-performing team is characterized by positive interdependence of team members. Or in other words, you have each other’s backs.



9. Leveraging Resources



An adaptable learner uses available resources to the maximum. As future resources become scarce, it will require wisdom for how and when to use resources to provide the greatest value to self and others. 


10. Managing Change



Change can be unsettling and even frightening. The learner who will thrive in the future won’t deny change or simply react to change. With the right mindset, it’s possible to shape and influence change while remaining flexible. 



11. Interpersonal Skills


Learners need skills to relate to others positively. Our success in life is tied closely to our social skills. Empathy, compassion, honesty, trustworthiness characterize the adaptable learner.



12. Embracing Diversity



Globalization continues to make our world smaller and more interconnected. Diversity will be more evident in every aspect of life. As a result, there will be even greater need to work effectively with others who have racial, cultural, religious, and political backgrounds different from our own. 



13. Life Mission/Purpose


When learners recognize a purpose for life beyond themselves and work to make the world a better place, everyone benefits. A future ready learner recognizes the need to give back.



14. Sharing Knowledge



Adaptable learners create value, not by storing up knowledge, but by sharing it with others. Being recognized as an expert comes from the influence of sharing what you know and the ideas that identify your brand.


15. Perseverance



Perseverance is perhaps the most important skill of all. The future will demand the ability to stay with problems longer, to be persistent, and to never give up.



Question: What skills would you add or remove from this list? How are you helping your students become adaptable learners? I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter

Read More 15 Essential Skills Your Students Must Develop Now To Meet The Challenges Of An Uncertain Future



It’s been a couple of years now since I started blogging here. Starting a blog is not really the hard part. Continuing to blog is what’s tough. To be successful, you must constantly remind yourself why you started in the first place. And I think for many people, they don’t really have a clear vision of why they are blogging.



It seems to be the thing to do. It starts with Twitter. You feel the excitement and support of being connected to other educators. You really start to think about things in new ways. Ideas are flowing. Others in your network are sharing posts from their blogs. You get some encouragement, and you’re on your way.



But the newness wears off soon. It doesn’t seem like anyone notices what you write. You get discouraged or distracted and pretty soon your blog is a distant memory.



Years ago, I had more than one failed experience with blogging. They were failures in the sense that I didn’t continue to add new content, and I don’t think anyone ever read the content that was created. I had some vague notions of why I wanted to blog, but I didn’t have the commitment to continue.



Writing is hard work. And to create writing that is valuable to others is extra hard. I think many people view blogging like it’s a public journal. It’s a way to work through their thoughts. They write for personal reflection and self-expression, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.



However, your audience will demand more. If people are going to read what you write, it needs to be valuable to them. As educators, we face many of the same challenges. So you have valuable things to share from your knowledge and experience. When you are able to share something that is helpful to another teacher or principal, that is powerful. Together, we can solve more problems, offer much needed encouragement, and challenge one another’s thinking.



It’s also helpful when you make learning in your classroom or school more visible to your community. There are amazing things happening that deserve to be noticed. It’s not self-promotion, either. I know you don’t want to come across as bragging. But bragging on your students and promoting learning is part of what we do as educators. We need to sell learning.



So even though personal reflection and self-expression are valid reasons to blog, it’s important for the ideas we share to be received. Someone needs to see them. If you don’t see growth in your audience or at least consistent response from your audience, it’s tough to stay motivated.



Blogging is ultimately about the audience. It’s not about how big the audience is, but it is about how you bring value to the audience, whatever the size, through what you share. The sense of audience is one of the reasons blogging is so helpful for personal and professional growth. It forces you to really clarify your ideas and how they might be beneficial. You want your writing to be relevant and helpful to your readers. 



I realize this is vulnerable turf I’m treading. It’s really scary to publish something you really believe in and to have the response be underwhelming. It happens to me all the time. I can never predict how an idea will be received. It requires the willingness to take the risk and put yourself out there. I often read over a post later and find mistakes and wonder why I thought that was a good idea in the first place. Not everything you share will turn out the way you’d hoped.



The important thing is that you are sharing. You should be proud of that. It’s really a shame when outstanding educators don’t share what they do with others. I’ve known some amazing teachers who really didn’t share their work with anyone, even in their own school. They were completely focused on their students and their classroom and didn’t seek to have an impact beyond that circle.



But other teachers do amazing work in the classroom, and then have tremendous influence as leaders in the whole school, and even make an impact beyond their school. Blogging is one way to do that. You can share your journey with others in ways that make an impact on your profession. You can contribute to making education better for all of us.



You may feel like you have nothing to contribute. You are selling yourself way too short. Everyone…and I mean everyone…has knowledge and wisdom that is valuable to share. I am reminded of the Bill Nye quote, “Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t.” Your thoughts matter and can help your audience succeed! You have incredible experiences, talents, and perspectives to contribute!



Blogging is about better thinking. When I am working on a blog post, it really pushes my thinking. I have to consider if my ideas make sense, will they be helpful, are they worth sharing? I spend time thinking about the ideas I want to share in my blog. When I have an idea that I want to write about, I make some notes about it. I get inspiration for posts from reading books and blogs, from interacting on Twitter, and when I’m just going about my day. I never know when something will trigger a thought or idea.



There is a creative process in all of this that is valuable to me. It requires my sustained thought. I am always harping on my own kids about creating vs. consuming. I don’t want them to constantly be consuming YouTube, Netflix, Instagram, etc. and never creating anything. I have to walk the walk if I’m going to expect this from them. 



I guess in a way I’ve always viewed myself as a writer, but for years I was writing very little. As educators, we all know how important literacy is. If our subject matter is important enough to learn, it is worth writing about too. If our classrooms and schools really matter, aren’t they important enough to write about? We need to model this for our students. Find your identity as a writer. How many teachers and administrators are not writing anything, ever? I wrote a post earlier about how important it is for educators to be readers, but they should be writers too. In fact, I think we should be writing alongside our students as they write too. 



I cannot imagine giving up on blogging again. I’ve found it to be incredibly valuable. And I really look forward to the day when I can look back over a period of 5 or 10 years or longer and see how my thinking has changed over time. Because I should be able to trace my own growth in a way that I couldn’t before.



I recently heard Pernille Ripp speak at the Model Schools Conference in Orlando. It was a thrill for me to introduce myself after her presentation. Pernille is one of my favorite bloggers. She is truly authentic and transparent in sharing her work as a 7th grade English teacher. She doesn’t come across as a person who has it all figured out (even though she is brilliant), but she generously shares the work she is doing in her classroom. She has created tremendous value for her audience. I observed other educators greeting her with stories of her impact. It’s amazing what can happen when you decide to share.



If you are considering blogging, summer is a great time to start. You can write some posts and also plan for some later posts you might want to explore when you have a classroom full of kids again. Pernille is constantly sharing what her students have to say about learning. She uses her blog to give them voice. If you are thinking about blogging, I would urge you to visit her blog. I’m sure you’ll find it inspiring.



I would also like to hear from you. How can I help you on your blogging journey? What’s standing in your way? What passions can you share through your blog? Leave a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook.

Read More Why Blogging Isn’t What You Think It Is