Tag: courage

If you’ve been on the fence about using Twitter to support your professional learning, this list might help. If you exhibit the following signs, it’s probably a good idea to just forget about Twitter.



1. You don’t understand Twitter and aren’t willing to learn.


2. You don’t need any more personal or professional support. You have all the friends you’ll ever need.


3. You have perfected your craft. Every kid is learning every day. You have no room for improvement.


4. You’ve never had a good idea someone else might benefit from.


5. You’re not interested in your voice being part of a larger conversation about education.


6. You only collaborate with colleagues in your school because they have cornered the market on how to teach well.


7. You don’t have time to do something that could be a game-changer for you and your students.
8. You’re afraid you might change your mind about something. You hold onto your beliefs about kids and learning like a security blanket. You wouldn’t want that disturbed. What if your flawed assumptions were challenged and didn’t hold up under scrutiny? Ouch!


9. You can’t believe amazing professional learning could be free and convenient and totally self-directed!?! But it is.


10. You’re so passionate about education and kids, you are afraid you will get addicted and have to go to therapy (warning: this could happen).



If this list doesn’t describe you, you might be a great candidate to use Twitter to grow your PLN (personal learning network). Twitter may seem a little difficult at first, but it’s a great way to challenge your thinking, find new resources, connect with educators across the globe, and consider new ideas that can help your professional practice.



Best of all, it’s free and can be done at your convenience, any time of day all from the comfort of wherever you are. There are really no wrong ways to use Twitter for professional learning as long as you feel it’s supporting your goals. For me, it’s been the most powerful professional learning possible. It’s been a game-changer.






Question: Is Twitter your thing? Or are you still on the sidelines? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook…or Twitter. 🙂

Read More 10 Signs Twitter PD Might Not Be Your Thing





Sometimes it’s really tough to be confident in the classroom. 



Especially if you’re a brand new teacher? You’ve never done this before. You don’t have a history of successes to prove to yourself that you can be good at this.



Or what if you’re not a new teacher, but you have that class. You know the one. Every second feels like a struggle to maintain control. I remember having nightmares, literally, about one of my classes. It was 7th period during my second year teaching. Those students learned very little. Neither did I. I was just trying to survive. My confidence was shaken.



How can you be confident when a student, colleague, or even your principal makes a comment filled with doubt about your ability to teach? You feel completely inadequate and begin to question if you’re even meant to do this.



And when it comes to confidence, it might seem like the rich get richer and poor get poorer. Success builds upon success, right? A lack of confidence results in all sorts of classroom practices that aren’t helpful. You try to be the cool teacher. You fail to set boundaries. You lash out in anger. It even extends beyond the classroom. You’re short tempered with your loved ones. You feel overwhelmed. You don’t want to get out of bed in the morning. Lack of confidence tends to manifest itself in all sorts of harmful ways.



And then, when things go wrong as a result of your decisions, your confidence is shaken even further. You make even more poor decisions. And the cycle continues.



You need to be confident to be successful in the classroom. But you need success to help you feel confident in the classroom. It’s a terrible Catch 22.



But let’s look at this more carefully. Maybe it doesn’t really work this way. Maybe our confidence doesn’t have to be based on our success or lack of success.



The Truth About Confidence



1. Just because you have success in your classroom doesn’t guarantee you will be confident. You probably know a teacher who all the kids love, who has amazing lessons, and who is respected by all her colleagues, and yet she still seems to lack confidence. And conversely, you’ve probably known teachers that weren’t very successful and still seemed to be confident, even though they really didn’t have much to be confident about. What the heck!?!



Could it be that confidence isn’t determined by the external success you have as a teacher? Is it possible that confidence is actually more about our perception of ourselves regardless of any external results?



2. And since our confidence doesn’t have to be dependent on any external reality, perhaps improving our external results won’t guarantee an increase in confidence. Just because you have a better class, or get a compliment from your principal, or feel liked by your students, doesn’t guarantee you’ll be more confident.



You’ve probably experienced this before as an educator. You’ve received compliments, gotten recognition, or taught a killer lesson but still didn’t feel more confident. If we don’t have that internal confidence, we just write off our success to chance or give someone else the credit.



3. Confidence is a way of feeling. It seems we’re all born with it. Ever see a toddler who wasn’t confident? Somewhere along the way we start to lose it. It’s based on our sense of selfhow we see ourselves. For a teacher, confidence is the belief that you have everything you need to be successful with your students. It’s the feeling that you are fully equipped to be successful now and in the future. A teacher without confidence feels that they lack the knowledge, skill, or personality, etc. to be successful in the classroom. It can drive all sorts of behaviors that are not helpful.



One solution is to just convince yourself that you have everything you need to be successful. You just tell yourself you lack nothing. If you say it enough times, maybe you’ll start to believe it. 



While some positive self-talk can be useful, it’s not helpful to just pretend we don’t have weaknesses. In other words, acting confident can lead to increased confidence. Fake it till you make it. But it doesn’t work to ignore areas where you need to improve. You have to honestly self-reflect to grow and reach your potential.



So what is the answer to find peace and confidence in the classroom? It’s not to pretend you don’t have any weaknesses. Or act like you have everything you need. The answer is to recognize what you lack, but to accept and be comfortable with the ways in which you don’t measure up.



You may not have good classroom management…yet.



Your students may not be motivated or engaged…yet.



Your relationships with some of your students may not be great…yet.



You may not have great technology skills…yet.



You might not be very organized…yet.






But if you can be comfortable with who you are right now, in spite of what you lack, then you can continue to grow and press forward. That’s what it means to embrace failure. It’s not that we are happy to fail. We just see our failures as part of a process of growing. When we embrace our failures it allows us the freedom to take risks, to fully engage without fear, and to care about our students unconditionally. You don’t have to worry about the judgment of others.



So lean in to your shortcomings. When you start to feel sad, alone, or insufficient because of a failure in the classroom, remind yourself of the opportunity to grow and learn. No one has it all figured out. To be confident, we have to believe the best about ourselves in the moment and use our failures to our advantage.



Question: How will you grow your confidence as an educator? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook.

Read More How to Have Unshakable Confidence in the Classroom





Sometimes it’s really tough to be confident in the classroom. 



Especially if you’re a brand new teacher? You’ve never done this before. You don’t have a history of successes to prove to yourself that you can be good at this.



Or what if you’re not a new teacher, but you have that class. You know the one. Every second feels like a struggle to maintain control. I remember having nightmares, literally, about one of my classes. It was 7th period during my second year teaching. Those students learned very little. Neither did I. I was just trying to survive. My confidence was shaken.



How can you be confident when a student, colleague, or even your principal makes a comment filled with doubt about your ability to teach? You feel completely inadequate and begin to question if you’re even meant to do this.



And when it comes to confidence, it might seem like the rich get richer and poor get poorer. Success builds upon success, right? A lack of confidence results in all sorts of classroom practices that aren’t helpful. You try to be the cool teacher. You fail to set boundaries. You lash out in anger. It even extends beyond the classroom. You’re short tempered with your loved ones. You feel overwhelmed. You don’t want to get out of bed in the morning. Lack of confidence tends to manifest itself in all sorts of harmful ways.



And then, when things go wrong as a result of your decisions, your confidence is shaken even further. You make even more poor decisions. And the cycle continues.



You need to be confident to be successful in the classroom. But you need success to help you feel confident in the classroom. It’s a terrible Catch 22.



But let’s look at this more carefully. Maybe it doesn’t really work this way. Maybe our confidence doesn’t have to be based on our success or lack of success.



The Truth About Confidence



1. Just because you have success in your classroom doesn’t guarantee you will be confident. You probably know a teacher who all the kids love, who has amazing lessons, and who is respected by all her colleagues, and yet she still seems to lack confidence. And conversely, you’ve probably known teachers that weren’t very successful and still seemed to be confident, even though they really didn’t have much to be confident about. What the heck!?!



Could it be that confidence isn’t determined by the external success you have as a teacher? Is it possible that confidence is actually more about our perception of ourselves regardless of any external results?



2. And since our confidence doesn’t have to be dependent on any external reality, perhaps improving our external results won’t guarantee an increase in confidence. Just because you have a better class, or get a compliment from your principal, or feel liked by your students, doesn’t guarantee you’ll be more confident.



You’ve probably experienced this before as an educator. You’ve received compliments, gotten recognition, or taught a killer lesson but still didn’t feel more confident. If we don’t have that internal confidence, we just write off our success to chance or give someone else the credit.



3. Confidence is a way of feeling. It seems we’re all born with it. Ever see a toddler who wasn’t confident? Somewhere along the way we start to lose it. It’s based on our sense of selfhow we see ourselves. For a teacher, confidence is the belief that you have everything you need to be successful with your students. It’s the feeling that you are fully equipped to be successful now and in the future. A teacher without confidence feels that they lack the knowledge, skill, or personality, etc. to be successful in the classroom. It can drive all sorts of behaviors that are not helpful.



One solution is to just convince yourself that you have everything you need to be successful. You just tell yourself you lack nothing. If you say it enough times, maybe you’ll start to believe it. 



While some positive self-talk can be useful, it’s not helpful to just pretend we don’t have weaknesses. In other words, acting confident can lead to increased confidence. Fake it till you make it. But it doesn’t work to ignore areas where you need to improve. You have to honestly self-reflect to grow and reach your potential.



So what is the answer to find peace and confidence in the classroom? It’s not to pretend you don’t have any weaknesses. Or act like you have everything you need. The answer is to recognize what you lack, but to accept and be comfortable with the ways in which you don’t measure up.



You may not have good classroom management…yet.



Your students may not be motivated or engaged…yet.



Your relationships with some of your students may not be great…yet.



You may not have great technology skills…yet.



You might not be very organized…yet.






But if you can be comfortable with who you are right now, in spite of what you lack, then you can continue to grow and press forward. That’s what it means to embrace failure. It’s not that we are happy to fail. We just see our failures as part of a process of growing. When we embrace our failures it allows us the freedom to take risks, to fully engage without fear, and to care about our students unconditionally. You don’t have to worry about the judgment of others.



So lean in to your shortcomings. When you start to feel sad, alone, or insufficient because of a failure in the classroom, remind yourself of the opportunity to grow and learn. No one has it all figured out. To be confident, we have to believe the best about ourselves in the moment and use our failures to our advantage.



Question: How will you grow your confidence as an educator? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook.

Read More How to Have Unshakable Confidence in the Classroom





This past weekend, I decided to teach our 15-year-old daughter Maddie how to mow the yard using our zero-turn-radius mower. We have a pretty large yard to mow, and it takes about three hours to do the job. All summer I’ve relied on the two older boys to take care of mowing the grass, but now they are both at college.


Maddie is doing a great job learning to drive, so I thought it would be no problem to teach her how to mow. She was very excited about doing it, and I was happy to have help so that I’m not spending three hours every week on this task.


Well, it didn’t go as well as either of us had hoped. She had a little trouble at first getting the mower to steer in a straight line. And at times, she was missing sections of grass. A zero-turn mower can be a little tricky till you get the hang of it.


I was coaching the whole time. I would stop her and give her a little feedback, lots of encouragement, and even hop on the mower myself to demonstrate.


But in spite of my best efforts to keep everything positive, I could tell it was stressing her out a little. She was struggling. And I was just a few steps away when the mower hit a pipe right next to the wall. It broke right off. She was crushed. Her head dropped, and she looked so sad.


I tried to reassure her, but there were tears and she said, “I’m terrible at mowing.”


I really felt for her. I explained that everyone is a beginner at first. I did my best to comfort her. “You are just learning. You’re not terrible at mowing. You’re just new to mowing.”


I asked her if she wanted to take a break, and she said yes. I mowed for a while, and then she got back on and did fine until we finished. I felt it was important for her to get back on the mower, even after the accident. But I stayed with her the whole time.


As I was reflecting on this, I was thinking about how many kids feel like Maddie when it comes to school. They may be excited at first, but then it gets harder or doesn’t go well, and they really want to give up.


Our job as educators is to stay at their side and help them. We shouldn’t rescue them, but we shouldn’t leave them floundering either. We have to find the right balance. They need support and encouragement, but they need to learn perseverance too. These skills will serve them well for their entire lives.


A few of our teachers participated in an externship program this summer with GOCAPS (Greater Ozarks Center for Professional Studies). The main purpose of GOCAPS is to provide intership experiences for our high school juniors and seniors. But they also have a summer experience where teachers get to work in business and industry and get a better understanding of the working world outside of education. It’s called an externship.


At one of the meetings, business leaders were asked what schools could do to better prepare future employees. What is the one thing you wish your new hires could bring with them from their school experience? The response: We need people who don’t give up easily. Too many want to quit as soon as anything goes wrong or gets hard. We need young people who can face challenges and keep trying.


In the end, I was very proud of Maddie for not giving up. She didn’t enjoy mowing nearly as much as she thought she would. But she finished the job. Together we did it. And even thought it was hard, it was a good learning experience.


How are you teaching your students to be resilient? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.


Read More Too Many Want To Quit As Soon As It Gets Hard





This past weekend, I decided to teach our 15-year-old daughter Maddie how to mow the yard using our zero-turn-radius mower. We have a pretty large yard to mow, and it takes about three hours to do the job. All summer I’ve relied on the two older boys to take care of mowing the grass, but now they are both at college.


Maddie is doing a great job learning to drive, so I thought it would be no problem to teach her how to mow. She was very excited about doing it, and I was happy to have help so that I’m not spending three hours every week on this task.


Well, it didn’t go as well as either of us had hoped. She had a little trouble at first getting the mower to steer in a straight line. And at times, she was missing sections of grass. A zero-turn mower can be a little tricky till you get the hang of it.


I was coaching the whole time. I would stop her and give her a little feedback, lots of encouragement, and even hop on the mower myself to demonstrate.


But in spite of my best efforts to keep everything positive, I could tell it was stressing her out a little. She was struggling. And I was just a few steps away when the mower hit a pipe right next to the wall. It broke right off. She was crushed. Her head dropped, and she looked so sad.


I tried to reassure her, but there were tears and she said, “I’m terrible at mowing.”


I really felt for her. I explained that everyone is a beginner at first. I did my best to comfort her. “You are just learning. You’re not terrible at mowing. You’re just new to mowing.”


I asked her if she wanted to take a break, and she said yes. I mowed for a while, and then she got back on and did fine until we finished. I felt it was important for her to get back on the mower, even after the accident. But I stayed with her the whole time.


As I was reflecting on this, I was thinking about how many kids feel like Maddie when it comes to school. They may be excited at first, but then it gets harder or doesn’t go well, and they really want to give up.


Our job as educators is to stay at their side and help them. We shouldn’t rescue them, but we shouldn’t leave them floundering either. We have to find the right balance. They need support and encouragement, but they need to learn perseverance too. These skills will serve them well for their entire lives.


A few of our teachers participated in an externship program this summer with GOCAPS (Greater Ozarks Center for Professional Studies). The main purpose of GOCAPS is to provide intership experiences for our high school juniors and seniors. But they also have a summer experience where teachers get to work in business and industry and get a better understanding of the working world outside of education. It’s called an externship.


At one of the meetings, business leaders were asked what schools could do to better prepare future employees. What is the one thing you wish your new hires could bring with them from their school experience? The response: We need people who don’t give up easily. Too many want to quit as soon as anything goes wrong or gets hard. We need young people who can face challenges and keep trying.


In the end, I was very proud of Maddie for not giving up. She didn’t enjoy mowing nearly as much as she thought she would. But she finished the job. Together we did it. And even thought it was hard, it was a good learning experience.


How are you teaching your students to be resilient? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.


Read More Too Many Want To Quit As Soon As It Gets Hard



Yesterday, I had a conversation with one of our teachers about some new ideas she wanted to share with me about her plans for the coming school year. She shared ways she wanted to create more relevance for her students, give them more ownership, and create a more engaging learning experience in her classroom. Wow! Those are awesome goals.



She had several specific ideas for achieving these aims. So we chatted about them. She was seeking feedback so I made some comments and asked some clarifying questions. I also handed her a book I thought might be helpful as she’s thinking more about where her ideas will lead.



After the conversation, I was reflecting on it. I thought to myself, I wonder if she is more excited or less excited about her ideas after our meeting. Of course, my intention is to generate excitement around new ideas and create a culture of risk-taking and innovation in our school.



But trying to be a good coach, I shared some cautious comments too. While I loved the direction of her ideas, I wanted to interject some wisdom from my experience. I’m not sure how helpful that was. It’s difficult for me not to launch into my own ideas about how I would do such and such. For the most part, I think I avoided that. But the last thing I want is to be a dream killer.



I remember a conversation I had with someone who was a leader in my life. I was sharing some ideas that I was very excited about. My passion was in this area and my energy flowed when talking about the changes I was planning. 



My leader didn’t completely reject the ideas I shared, but every comment seemed laced with caution and barriers. I can remember two words distinctly from that conversation my leader used over and over.



Yeah, but…



Those two little words cut my enthusiasm in half. I didn’t feel energized by our discussion. I felt deflated. Instead of throwing gasoline on my dream, they poured water all over it.



I believe successful organizations are dream building organizations. They tap into people’s passions and create a sense of excitement and enthusiasm in the culture. I guess there are successful organizations that aren’t great at this, but I would venture there are no incredibly, extraordinarily successful organizations that don’t have a dream building culture.




Image source: http://goo.gl/jSxnpQ

And I think this post is challenging for all of us in schools, not just principals or others in formal leadership positions. If you’re a teacher, how does your classroom support students’ own goals and dreams, not just your goals for teaching a subject well? Does your classroom allow students enough freedom and flexibility to pursue things that are important to them?



And when your students share their dreams with you, do you pour gasoline on their dreams or douse them with water?



We’ve all had students share dreams with us that seemed impossible. Or, we felt they didn’t really understand what it takes to achieve the dream. Their actions weren’t lining up behind the words of their dreams. I think we must be very careful about how we show up in these conversations. We have a delicate balance to help build dreams and guide actions. 



Unless someone in our life is about to go off a cliff, I think we should do everything possible to lift them up and speak support and encouragement into their lives.



Jim Carrey was once a struggling young comic from a poor family trying to make it big. He didn’t have much, but he had a dream. And he wouldn’t give up on it. When he was 10-years-old, he even mailed his resume to Carol Burnett. He was bold and audacious believing he would someday entertain millions and make them laugh.



In 1990, he wrote himself a check for $10 million dated Thanksgiving 1995. He placed it in his wallet. At the time, he was broke and struggling to find work as a comic. In the notation on the check, he scribbled ‘for acting services rendered.’ He carried that check with him as a powerful reminder. It was the tangible representation of his dream.



By 1995, he had starred in multiple films, Ace Ventura, Pet Detective and Liar, Liar. He was earning nearly $20 million per movie!



I wonder how many people in Jim Carrey’s life thought his dreams of being a comedian were misguided? I bet there were lots of people who thought he’d never make it. Those people probably doused him with water. But there were probably others who saw something special in him, who threw gasoline on his dreams of being an actor and comedian.




Image source: http://goo.gl/kKYxWA



When we see students or teachers who struggle with apathy, I think it’s often because they’ve given up on their dreams. Everyone must have something to aspire to, something that makes you want to get up in the morning and push forward in life. We need dreams to chase. As educators, we should be that spark of inspiration for both our students and our colleagues. 



When someone shares their dreams with you, how will you respond? Will you be the ‘Yeah, but…’ voice in their life? I would suggest a different response. How about these two little words, instead? 



Yes, and…



1. Yes! You can do it.



2. Yes! I believe in you.



3. Yes! Tell me more about that.



4. Yes! Why is that important to you?



5. Yes! How can I help you?



6. Yes! You are on the right track.



7. Yes! Your dreams matter to me.



If you are going to inspire others in your life to dream big, you can’t get stuck in the where, when, who, and how. Dreams are about what you want and especially why you want it. I feel so guilty about this in parenting my own children. I feel like sometimes my expectations have placed limits on their dreams. Our adult minds are so practical and boring.



But today I am reminded to help those around me dream big, audacious dreams. I don’t want to crush dreams. I want people to be excited about their dreams and not the dreams I have for them.



How will you encourage the dreams of those in your circle of influence? Reflect on who the dream builders were in your life. I want to hear from you. Share a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook.

Read More Does Your School Build Dreams or Crush Them?



Yesterday, I had a conversation with one of our teachers about some new ideas she wanted to share with me about her plans for the coming school year. She shared ways she wanted to create more relevance for her students, give them more ownership, and create a more engaging learning experience in her classroom. Wow! Those are awesome goals.



She had several specific ideas for achieving these aims. So we chatted about them. She was seeking feedback so I made some comments and asked some clarifying questions. I also handed her a book I thought might be helpful as she’s thinking more about where her ideas will lead.



After the conversation, I was reflecting on it. I thought to myself, I wonder if she is more excited or less excited about her ideas after our meeting. Of course, my intention is to generate excitement around new ideas and create a culture of risk-taking and innovation in our school.



But trying to be a good coach, I shared some cautious comments too. While I loved the direction of her ideas, I wanted to interject some wisdom from my experience. I’m not sure how helpful that was. It’s difficult for me not to launch into my own ideas about how I would do such and such. For the most part, I think I avoided that. But the last thing I want is to be a dream killer.



I remember a conversation I had with someone who was a leader in my life. I was sharing some ideas that I was very excited about. My passion was in this area and my energy flowed when talking about the changes I was planning. 



My leader didn’t completely reject the ideas I shared, but every comment seemed laced with caution and barriers. I can remember two words distinctly from that conversation my leader used over and over.



Yeah, but…



Those two little words cut my enthusiasm in half. I didn’t feel energized by our discussion. I felt deflated. Instead of throwing gasoline on my dream, they poured water all over it.



I believe successful organizations are dream building organizations. They tap into people’s passions and create a sense of excitement and enthusiasm in the culture. I guess there are successful organizations that aren’t great at this, but I would venture there are no incredibly, extraordinarily successful organizations that don’t have a dream building culture.




Image source: http://goo.gl/jSxnpQ

And I think this post is challenging for all of us in schools, not just principals or others in formal leadership positions. If you’re a teacher, how does your classroom support students’ own goals and dreams, not just your goals for teaching a subject well? Does your classroom allow students enough freedom and flexibility to pursue things that are important to them?



And when your students share their dreams with you, do you pour gasoline on their dreams or douse them with water?



We’ve all had students share dreams with us that seemed impossible. Or, we felt they didn’t really understand what it takes to achieve the dream. Their actions weren’t lining up behind the words of their dreams. I think we must be very careful about how we show up in these conversations. We have a delicate balance to help build dreams and guide actions. 



Unless someone in our life is about to go off a cliff, I think we should do everything possible to lift them up and speak support and encouragement into their lives.



Jim Carrey was once a struggling young comic from a poor family trying to make it big. He didn’t have much, but he had a dream. And he wouldn’t give up on it. When he was 10-years-old, he even mailed his resume to Carol Burnett. He was bold and audacious believing he would someday entertain millions and make them laugh.



In 1990, he wrote himself a check for $10 million dated Thanksgiving 1995. He placed it in his wallet. At the time, he was broke and struggling to find work as a comic. In the notation on the check, he scribbled ‘for acting services rendered.’ He carried that check with him as a powerful reminder. It was the tangible representation of his dream.



By 1995, he had starred in multiple films, Ace Ventura, Pet Detective and Liar, Liar. He was earning nearly $20 million per movie!



I wonder how many people in Jim Carrey’s life thought his dreams of being a comedian were misguided? I bet there were lots of people who thought he’d never make it. Those people probably doused him with water. But there were probably others who saw something special in him, who threw gasoline on his dreams of being an actor and comedian.




Image source: http://goo.gl/kKYxWA



When we see students or teachers who struggle with apathy, I think it’s often because they’ve given up on their dreams. Everyone must have something to aspire to, something that makes you want to get up in the morning and push forward in life. We need dreams to chase. As educators, we should be that spark of inspiration for both our students and our colleagues. 



When someone shares their dreams with you, how will you respond? Will you be the ‘Yeah, but…’ voice in their life? I would suggest a different response. How about these two little words, instead? 



Yes, and…



1. Yes! You can do it.



2. Yes! I believe in you.



3. Yes! Tell me more about that.



4. Yes! Why is that important to you?



5. Yes! How can I help you?



6. Yes! You are on the right track.



7. Yes! Your dreams matter to me.



If you are going to inspire others in your life to dream big, you can’t get stuck in the where, when, who, and how. Dreams are about what you want and especially why you want it. I feel so guilty about this in parenting my own children. I feel like sometimes my expectations have placed limits on their dreams. Our adult minds are so practical and boring.



But today I am reminded to help those around me dream big, audacious dreams. I don’t want to crush dreams. I want people to be excited about their dreams and not the dreams I have for them.



How will you encourage the dreams of those in your circle of influence? Reflect on who the dream builders were in your life. I want to hear from you. Share a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook.

Read More Does Your School Build Dreams or Crush Them?



In a previous post, I discussed some possible distinctions between excellence and success, and why schools should aim for excellence. When success is defined only by the end results, it doesn’t honor the process and how not all aspects of our “success” are within our control.

I think about the Olympic athletes who will compete in Rio in just a couple of weeks. Not all of them will be successful as competitors there. In fact, someone is going to finish last in every single event.

But clearly, these are excellent athletes. At least I can’t imagine any of these elite athletes not demonstrating courage, heart, determination, hard work, and discipline. One would expect every Olympic athlete must exhibit these qualities just to make it to the games. These are qualities that embody excellence.

But in spite of their excellence, not all of these athletes will experience the same level of success. The same is true of teaching and schools. Sometimes, we do our best work in situations that may not appear to result in outward success.

Below are a few quotes that capture the spirit of excellence I am seeking to describe. For students, educators, and schools, a new school year is filled with possibilities. However, we can’t always control our level of success. But we can control our level of excellence.

“Excellence in education is when we do everything we can to make sure they become everything they can.” 

–Carol Ann Tomlinson

“Excellence is not an accomplishment. It is a spirit, a never-ending process.” 

– Lawrence M. Miller

“Strive for excellence, not perfection.” 

– H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit.” 

– Aristotle



“We should not judge people by their peak of excellence; but by how far they have traveled from the point where they started.’ 

– Henry Ward Beecher

“Excellence is to do an common thing in an uncommon way.” 

– Booker T. Washington

“Strive not to be a success but rather to be of value.” 

– Albert Einstein

“If you are going to achieve excellence in big things, you develop the habit in little matters. Excellence is not an exception, it is a prevailing attitude.” 

– Colin Powell



“The secret of living a life of excellence is merely a matter of thinking thoughts of excellence. Really, it’s a matter of programming our minds with the kind of information that will set us free.”

– Charles R. Swindoll

“Mediocrity always attacks excellence.”

– Michael Beckwith

Question: How will you demonstrate excellence as an educator? How will inspire your students to strive for excellence? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook.

Read More Top Quotes on Excellence for Educators



In a previous post, I discussed some possible distinctions between excellence and success, and why schools should aim for excellence. When success is defined only by the end results, it doesn’t honor the process and how not all aspects of our “success” are within our control.

I think about the Olympic athletes who will compete in Rio in just a couple of weeks. Not all of them will be successful as competitors there. In fact, someone is going to finish last in every single event.

But clearly, these are excellent athletes. At least I can’t imagine any of these elite athletes not demonstrating courage, heart, determination, hard work, and discipline. One would expect every Olympic athlete must exhibit these qualities just to make it to the games. These are qualities that embody excellence.

But in spite of their excellence, not all of these athletes will experience the same level of success. The same is true of teaching and schools. Sometimes, we do our best work in situations that may not appear to result in outward success.

Below are a few quotes that capture the spirit of excellence I am seeking to describe. For students, educators, and schools, a new school year is filled with possibilities. However, we can’t always control our level of success. But we can control our level of excellence.

“Excellence in education is when we do everything we can to make sure they become everything they can.” 

–Carol Ann Tomlinson

“Excellence is not an accomplishment. It is a spirit, a never-ending process.” 

– Lawrence M. Miller

“Strive for excellence, not perfection.” 

– H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit.” 

– Aristotle



“We should not judge people by their peak of excellence; but by how far they have traveled from the point where they started.’ 

– Henry Ward Beecher

“Excellence is to do an common thing in an uncommon way.” 

– Booker T. Washington

“Strive not to be a success but rather to be of value.” 

– Albert Einstein

“If you are going to achieve excellence in big things, you develop the habit in little matters. Excellence is not an exception, it is a prevailing attitude.” 

– Colin Powell



“The secret of living a life of excellence is merely a matter of thinking thoughts of excellence. Really, it’s a matter of programming our minds with the kind of information that will set us free.”

– Charles R. Swindoll

“Mediocrity always attacks excellence.”

– Michael Beckwith

Question: How will you demonstrate excellence as an educator? How will inspire your students to strive for excellence? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook.

Read More Top Quotes on Excellence for Educators



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



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


I was honored to recently be a guest on John Linney’s outstanding podcast, Edspiration. John shares great ideas and does a fantastic job hosting. He has developed a really interesting format for his shows. I’ve really enjoyed listening to several of his previous podcasts. 





During my interview, we discussed adapting to change, possibility thinking, and leading from where you are, and a few other ideas. I would invite you to listen to the full episode if you get a chance. And be sure to subscribe to the Edspiration podcast in iTunes or through your favorite podcast app. I like to use Stitcher.



Alternatively, you can visit the web home of Edspiration at schoolclimateinstitute.org. Below is a rundown of a few of the key ideas we discussed, and an embedded audio player for your listening convenience.








“The secret to success is leadership, and leadership is about making the lives of your team members better.” -Tony Dungy



1. Education has been trying to improve on a system that has been fundamentally the same for 50+ years. How can we think about completely new ways to think about education?



2. Everyone can lead. We need leaders from every corner of the school. A title doesn’t make you a leader. A willingness to serve others and to take risks are excellent leadership qualities.



3. If the rate of change in school lags too far behind how things are changing in the world, schooling will become increasingly irrelevant.



4. Possibility thinking goes beyond implementing what we already know. We need to dream big and believe there is probably a better way to do most everything.



5. Innovation starts with better thinking. Innovation is spread through leadership.



6. Risk taking is dependent on the level of trust and safety in the school culture.



7. Make learning personal for teachers. How does our professional learning have potential to improve student learning?



8. How are you connecting with other educators? Build your PLN.



9. If your school is going to be successful, it’s because of strong teacher leadership.

Question: How do you lead from where you are? How do you exercise your innovation muscles? Leave a comment below or share on Facebook or Twitter. I want to hear from you!



      

Read More Leading From Where You Are


I was honored to recently be a guest on John Linney’s outstanding podcast, Edspiration. John shares great ideas and does a fantastic job hosting. He has developed a really interesting format for his shows. I’ve really enjoyed listening to several of his previous podcasts. 





During my interview, we discussed adapting to change, possibility thinking, and leading from where you are, and a few other ideas. I would invite you to listen to the full episode if you get a chance. And be sure to subscribe to the Edspiration podcast in iTunes or through your favorite podcast app. I like to use Stitcher.



Alternatively, you can visit the web home of Edspiration at schoolclimateinstitute.org. Below is a rundown of a few of the key ideas we discussed, and an embedded audio player for your listening convenience.








“The secret to success is leadership, and leadership is about making the lives of your team members better.” -Tony Dungy



1. Education has been trying to improve on a system that has been fundamentally the same for 50+ years. How can we think about completely new ways to think about education?



2. Everyone can lead. We need leaders from every corner of the school. A title doesn’t make you a leader. A willingness to serve others and to take risks are excellent leadership qualities.



3. If the rate of change in school lags too far behind how things are changing in the world, schooling will become increasingly irrelevant.



4. Possibility thinking goes beyond implementing what we already know. We need to dream big and believe there is probably a better way to do most everything.



5. Innovation starts with better thinking. Innovation is spread through leadership.



6. Risk taking is dependent on the level of trust and safety in the school culture.



7. Make learning personal for teachers. How does our professional learning have potential to improve student learning?



8. How are you connecting with other educators? Build your PLN.



9. If your school is going to be successful, it’s because of strong teacher leadership.

Question: How do you lead from where you are? How do you exercise your innovation muscles? Leave a comment below or share on Facebook or Twitter. I want to hear from you!



      

Read More Leading From Where You Are

One day when I was a young teacher, I was shopping at a local grocery when I saw a very large man talking to a teenage girl down the aisle from where I was standing.

willful blindness
A story of courageous choice

I couldn’t hear what he was saying, but he was moving his hands aggressively, and she was backed against the shelves behind her.

I did what I believe most teachers would do: I walked over and asked what was happening.

“Butt out,” the man told me. He was at least a foot taller than I and outweighed me by at least 50 pounds.

I turned my attention to the girl. She was wearing a worker’s uniform. “Are you frightened?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said. “He’s married to my mother, but he’s not supposed to have contact with me. I’m just trying to get to work.”

“This is none of your damn business,” the man said stepping between us. Read More Making the Courageous Choice

You do not call leadership.  Leadership calls you…(here). Leadership draws you into a familiar place, (“Here I am again.”)  You know this space well.  It shows up time and time…

Read More You Are Here