Tag: culture of learning

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I’m not sure exactly how it got started, but for the past few years I’ve shared a joke every morning with our entire building to start the school day.

It’s important to me to help get each day off to a good start and part of…

Read More How Humor Contributes to School Culture

I love the energy and intention of the word relentless. There is power in that word. It indicates persistence, perseverance, commitment, and fortitude. The word is strong and mighty.

When we talk about educators being relentless, that’s often a …

Read More Relentless About the Right Things

Which students are doing the creative work in your school? Who has the most opportunities to work on projects, solve problems, collaborate with classmates, develop ideas, design products, and publish for authentic audiences? If your school is like mo…

Read More All Kids Deserve Opportunities for Creative Work



“How did you become a Chicago Cubs fan?”



I asked the question to a Cubs fan I was visiting with recently. And I wasn’t being sarcastic, since I’m a St. Louis Cardinals fan, and that would be on point for fan behavior between the two teams.



No, I was just curious because he wasn’t from a part of the country that isn’t typically considered Cubs fan territory. He explained that some members of his family were Cubs fans but what really hooked him on the Cubs was when he attended a game at Wrigley Field (Chicago) as a young boy.



That experience, he said, was something he never forgot and resulted in his lifelong love of the Cubs. It was as simple as that.



Experiences are powerful. They can change our entire perspective for good or bad. In this case, a positive experience resulted in a deep attachment to a baseball team.



I’m wondering about how students experience school. Are we creating experiences that result in a lifelong attachment to learning? Are we creating powerful learning experiences that develop curiosity and cultivate interests?



While much of my own school experience was somewhat routine and mostly forgettable, there were some amazing experiences that really led me to want to learn more.



Most of those memorable experiences were projects or trips to visit interesting places. I remember visiting a cave, a Civil War battlefield, and even a museum with a real mummy, all part of opportunities through school.



I also remember creating a news broadcast and interviewing people from our community, as part of a project for class. I also remember competing in a stock market game, and I remember performing a classroom play.



I don’t remember a single lecture from school. I take that back. I remember one very gifted social studies teacher who could tell stories from the Civil War that were so interesting I wanted to learn more on my own. He had us on the edge of our seats.



I don’t remember any worksheet tasks standing out. I don’t remember any tests in particular. 



Here’s the thing. I’m not saying tests, or assignments, or routine work are all bad in school. I’m not saying they don’t have value. But if we want our students to be inspired learners, we better look for ways to connect learning to positive emotions. We better give students experiences that really capture their attention in ways that go far beyond the routine.



In a time where standards mastery seems to be at the top of all priorities, I wonder what types of experiences kids are having? 



What type of experience are they having when remediation has been routine for them year after year in school?



What type of experience are they having when they don’t have the opportunity to pursue things they’re interested in?



What type of experience are they having when they don’t get to learn outside the classroom by taking field trips?



A couple of high school principals were discussing how they are making sure any field trips in their school tie directly to meeting standards. I guess that’s one way to look at it.



But for me, I want our students to have as many opportunities as possible to learn and interact with interesting people and places away from our school campus. I especially want that for our under-resourced students who might not ever have those opportunities otherwise.



There is a time for rolling up our sleeves and doing the routine work of learning and life. But if we’re not also creating peak moments along the way, we are missing the joy in the journey. 



And we’re probably missing out on potential passions, and maybe even missing out on developing a passion for learning.



The routine work should flow from a deep sense of purpose. We need to know our why. That’s where lasting learning is nurtured.



As I wrote in my book, Future Driven,

Don’t just create lessons for your students. Create experiences. Students will forget a lesson, but an experience will have lasting value. We want to do more than cover content. We want to inspire learning.

Is your school making time for powerful learning experiences? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.





Read More Don’t Just Plan Lessons, Create Experiences



These tips are actually true for conversations with just about anyone, not only students. Too often I think we avoid having a difficult conversation about a topic because we aren’t sure how it will go. We aren’t sure if it will be productive, so we just remain silent.



Or, on the other hand, we know the topic might evoke some strong emotions, so we come at the conversation forcefully, from a position of dominance. It’s the “my way or the highway” approach. That might get compliance from students, but it won’t build trust or stronger relationships. Underneath it all, there will be a kid who resents you.



Neither of these approaches is successful. It’s not good to be silent and avoid the topic. And it’s not good to be aggressive and overbearing either. A healthy relationship is build on mutual trust that comes through respectful dialogue.



Here are five tips for having difficult conversations that create shared meaning and understanding.



1. Keep Dialogue Open



Let the student know that you are willing to listen and work together to solve the problem. Ask if they are willing to listen to your thoughts too. Keep the focus on the issue and not on sweeping generalizations like “You always…” or “You never…” statements. You might even ask the student, “How can we have this conversation in a way that is positive and helpful?”



2. Make Respect a Top Priority



Let the student know you believe it’s possible to solve any problem if both parties are respectful of one another. Let the student know you will never intentionally disrespect him or her. Let them know you want to hear what they think about the issue. The words we use are powerful and communicate our level of respect. Your body language and tone of voice are equally important.



3. Describe Your Intentions



You might say, “I’m willing to discuss this as long as it takes until we both feel good about how it’s resolved.” Let the student know you’re wanting a solution he or she can feel good about too. We’re aiming for a WIN/WIN outcome, not my way or the highway. As the teacher, you don’t have to prove you’re in charge. You ARE in charge. You don’t have to prove it. Work cooperatively with students to seek WIN/WIN solutions.



4. Be Curious, Not Furious



Ask questions to understand the student’s perspective. Be curious about what they are experiencing. Say, “Tell me more” or “Go on” to show you are interested in hearing the details. Paraphrase what they say to you to show you’re listening. My biggest mistake is talking too much. When I’m “telling” a student what I think should happen, I’m missing the opportunity to listen and better understand the student’s perspective.

5. Avoid Countering



Countering results in arguments. We start debating the facts. We build our case. We prove our points. It’s about “being right.” Try to avoid this trap. Try to stay curious and avoid countering. Spend more time listening. The goal is to get to a place where both parties let their guard down and work together cooperatively.



6. Timing is Everything



In my first few years as a principal, I would sometimes choose horrible timing to try to address an issue. I thought it had to be resolved immediately. Usually, that’s not true. Most of the time it can wait until cooler heads prevail. If I sense there is no way to have safe dialogue in the moment, I’ll step away temporarily. And then I’ll resume the conversation in a different location in a different time. This works much better than allowing a situation to escalate.



7. Focus on the Future



Every kid needs a fresh start every day. Time spent holding onto yesterday means less time moving forward today. Take inventory of the current situation, but then focus on the future. Where do we want our relationship to go from here? How can we work together to make the future brighter in this situation? What are we trying to accomplish? What will it look like if we are successful in resolving this problem?



Some people might view these tips as “going easy, or “being soft” or “having low expectations.” I would completely disagree. We must have firm boundaries. What’s easy is avoiding the conversation entirely. What’s easy is being silent. What’s easy is also using threats or power to get your way. What’s hard is listening to a student, understanding their perspective, and guiding them in a way that is cooperative and respectful. We MUST have boundaries, and we MUST challenge behavior that is harmful to learning. But the way we do it can either build trust or destroy it. 



What are some of your strategies for having difficult conversations with students? I know you have some great tips to share. I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More 7 Tips for Difficult Conversations with Students



These tips are actually true for conversations with just about anyone, not only students. Too often I think we avoid having a difficult conversation about a topic because we aren’t sure how it will go. We aren’t sure if it will be productive, so we just remain silent.



Or, on the other hand, we know the topic might evoke some strong emotions, so we come at the conversation forcefully, from a position of dominance. It’s the “my way or the highway” approach. That might get compliance from students, but it won’t build trust or stronger relationships. Underneath it all, there will be a kid who resents you.



Neither of these approaches is successful. It’s not good to be silent and avoid the topic. And it’s not good to be aggressive and overbearing either. A healthy relationship is build on mutual trust that comes through respectful dialogue.



Here are five tips for having difficult conversations that create shared meaning and understanding.



1. Keep Dialogue Open



Let the student know that you are willing to listen and work together to solve the problem. Ask if they are willing to listen to your thoughts too. Keep the focus on the issue and not on sweeping generalizations like “You always…” or “You never…” statements. You might even ask the student, “How can we have this conversation in a way that is positive and helpful?”



2. Make Respect a Top Priority



Let the student know you believe it’s possible to solve any problem if both parties are respectful of one another. Let the student know you will never intentionally disrespect him or her. Let them know you want to hear what they think about the issue. The words we use are powerful and communicate our level of respect. Your body language and tone of voice are equally important.



3. Describe Your Intentions



You might say, “I’m willing to discuss this as long as it takes until we both feel good about how it’s resolved.” Let the student know you’re wanting a solution he or she can feel good about too. We’re aiming for a WIN/WIN outcome, not my way or the highway. As the teacher, you don’t have to prove you’re in charge. You ARE in charge. You don’t have to prove it. Work cooperatively with students to seek WIN/WIN solutions.



4. Be Curious, Not Furious



Ask questions to understand the student’s perspective. Be curious about what they are experiencing. Say, “Tell me more” or “Go on” to show you are interested in hearing the details. Paraphrase what they say to you to show you’re listening. My biggest mistake is talking too much. When I’m “telling” a student what I think should happen, I’m missing the opportunity to listen and better understand the student’s perspective.

5. Avoid Countering



Countering results in arguments. We start debating the facts. We build our case. We prove our points. It’s about “being right.” Try to avoid this trap. Try to stay curious and avoid countering. Spend more time listening. The goal is to get to a place where both parties let their guard down and work together cooperatively.



6. Timing is Everything



In my first few years as a principal, I would sometimes choose horrible timing to try to address an issue. I thought it had to be resolved immediately. Usually, that’s not true. Most of the time it can wait until cooler heads prevail. If I sense there is no way to have safe dialogue in the moment, I’ll step away temporarily. And then I’ll resume the conversation in a different location in a different time. This works much better than allowing a situation to escalate.



7. Focus on the Future



Every kid needs a fresh start every day. Time spent holding onto yesterday means less time moving forward today. Take inventory of the current situation, but then focus on the future. Where do we want our relationship to go from here? How can we work together to make the future brighter in this situation? What are we trying to accomplish? What will it look like if we are successful in resolving this problem?



Some people might view these tips as “going easy, or “being soft” or “having low expectations.” I would completely disagree. We must have firm boundaries. What’s easy is avoiding the conversation entirely. What’s easy is being silent. What’s easy is also using threats or power to get your way. What’s hard is listening to a student, understanding their perspective, and guiding them in a way that is cooperative and respectful. We MUST have boundaries, and we MUST challenge behavior that is harmful to learning. But the way we do it can either build trust or destroy it. 



What are some of your strategies for having difficult conversations with students? I know you have some great tips to share. I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More 7 Tips for Difficult Conversations with Students



These tips are actually true for conversations with just about anyone, not only students. Too often I think we avoid having a difficult conversation about a topic because we aren’t sure how it will go. We aren’t sure if it will be productive, so we just remain silent.



Or, on the other hand, we know the topic might evoke some strong emotions, so we come at the conversation forcefully, from a position of dominance. It’s the “my way or the highway” approach. That might get compliance from students, but it won’t build trust or stronger relationships. Underneath it all, there will be a kid who resents you.



Neither of these approaches is successful. It’s not good to be silent and avoid the topic. And it’s not good to be aggressive and overbearing either. A healthy relationship is build on mutual trust that comes through respectful dialogue.



Here are five tips for having difficult conversations that create shared meaning and understanding.



1. Keep Dialogue Open



Let the student know that you are willing to listen and work together to solve the problem. Ask if they are willing to listen to your thoughts too. Keep the focus on the issue and not on sweeping generalizations like “You always…” or “You never…” statements. You might even ask the student, “How can we have this conversation in a way that is positive and helpful?”



2. Make Respect a Top Priority



Let the student know you believe it’s possible to solve any problem if both parties are respectful of one another. Let the student know you will never intentionally disrespect him or her. Let them know you want to hear what they think about the issue. The words we use are powerful and communicate our level of respect. Your body language and tone of voice are equally important.



3. Describe Your Intentions



You might say, “I’m willing to discuss this as long as it takes until we both feel good about how it’s resolved.” Let the student know you’re wanting a solution he or she can feel good about too. We’re aiming for a WIN/WIN outcome, not my way or the highway. As the teacher, you don’t have to prove you’re in charge. You ARE in charge. You don’t have to prove it. Work cooperatively with students to seek WIN/WIN solutions.



4. Be Curious, Not Furious



Ask questions to understand the student’s perspective. Be curious about what they are experiencing. Say, “Tell me more” or “Go on” to show you are interested in hearing the details. Paraphrase what they say to you to show you’re listening. My biggest mistake is talking too much. When I’m “telling” a student what I think should happen, I’m missing the opportunity to listen and better understand the student’s perspective.

5. Avoid Countering



Countering results in arguments. We start debating the facts. We build our case. We prove our points. It’s about “being right.” Try to avoid this trap. Try to stay curious and avoid countering. Spend more time listening. The goal is to get to a place where both parties let their guard down and work together cooperatively.



6. Timing is Everything



In my first few years as a principal, I would sometimes choose horrible timing to try to address an issue. I thought it had to be resolved immediately. Usually, that’s not true. Most of the time it can wait until cooler heads prevail. If I sense there is no way to have safe dialogue in the moment, I’ll step away temporarily. And then I’ll resume the conversation in a different location in a different time. This works much better than allowing a situation to escalate.



7. Focus on the Future



Every kid needs a fresh start every day. Time spent holding onto yesterday means less time moving forward today. Take inventory of the current situation, but then focus on the future. Where do we want our relationship to go from here? How can we work together to make the future brighter in this situation? What are we trying to accomplish? What will it look like if we are successful in resolving this problem?



Some people might view these tips as “going easy, or “being soft” or “having low expectations.” I would completely disagree. We must have firm boundaries. What’s easy is avoiding the conversation entirely. What’s easy is being silent. What’s easy is also using threats or power to get your way. What’s hard is listening to a student, understanding their perspective, and guiding them in a way that is cooperative and respectful. We MUST have boundaries, and we MUST challenge behavior that is harmful to learning. But the way we do it can either build trust or destroy it. 



What are some of your strategies for having difficult conversations with students? I know you have some great tips to share. I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More 7 Tips for Difficult Conversations with Students



These tips are actually true for conversations with just about anyone, not only students. Too often I think we avoid having a difficult conversation about a topic because we aren’t sure how it will go. We aren’t sure if it will be productive, so we just remain silent.



Or, on the other hand, we know the topic might evoke some strong emotions, so we come at the conversation forcefully, from a position of dominance. It’s the “my way or the highway” approach. That might get compliance from students, but it won’t build trust or stronger relationships. Underneath it all, there will be a kid who resents you.



Neither of these approaches is successful. It’s not good to be silent and avoid the topic. And it’s not good to be aggressive and overbearing either. A healthy relationship is build on mutual trust that comes through respectful dialogue.



Here are five tips for having difficult conversations that create shared meaning and understanding.



1. Keep Dialogue Open



Let the student know that you are willing to listen and work together to solve the problem. Ask if they are willing to listen to your thoughts too. Keep the focus on the issue and not on sweeping generalizations like “You always…” or “You never…” statements. You might even ask the student, “How can we have this conversation in a way that is positive and helpful?”



2. Make Respect a Top Priority



Let the student know you believe it’s possible to solve any problem if both parties are respectful of one another. Let the student know you will never intentionally disrespect him or her. Let them know you want to hear what they think about the issue. The words we use are powerful and communicate our level of respect. Your body language and tone of voice are equally important.



3. Describe Your Intentions



You might say, “I’m willing to discuss this as long as it takes until we both feel good about how it’s resolved.” Let the student know you’re wanting a solution he or she can feel good about too. We’re aiming for a WIN/WIN outcome, not my way or the highway. As the teacher, you don’t have to prove you’re in charge. You ARE in charge. You don’t have to prove it. Work cooperatively with students to seek WIN/WIN solutions.



4. Be Curious, Not Furious



Ask questions to understand the student’s perspective. Be curious about what they are experiencing. Say, “Tell me more” or “Go on” to show you are interested in hearing the details. Paraphrase what they say to you to show you’re listening. My biggest mistake is talking too much. When I’m “telling” a student what I think should happen, I’m missing the opportunity to listen and better understand the student’s perspective.

5. Avoid Countering



Countering results in arguments. We start debating the facts. We build our case. We prove our points. It’s about “being right.” Try to avoid this trap. Try to stay curious and avoid countering. Spend more time listening. The goal is to get to a place where both parties let their guard down and work together cooperatively.



6. Timing is Everything



In my first few years as a principal, I would sometimes choose horrible timing to try to address an issue. I thought it had to be resolved immediately. Usually, that’s not true. Most of the time it can wait until cooler heads prevail. If I sense there is no way to have safe dialogue in the moment, I’ll step away temporarily. And then I’ll resume the conversation in a different location in a different time. This works much better than allowing a situation to escalate.



7. Focus on the Future



Every kid needs a fresh start every day. Time spent holding onto yesterday means less time moving forward today. Take inventory of the current situation, but then focus on the future. Where do we want our relationship to go from here? How can we work together to make the future brighter in this situation? What are we trying to accomplish? What will it look like if we are successful in resolving this problem?



Some people might view these tips as “going easy, or “being soft” or “having low expectations.” I would completely disagree. We must have firm boundaries. What’s easy is avoiding the conversation entirely. What’s easy is being silent. What’s easy is also using threats or power to get your way. What’s hard is listening to a student, understanding their perspective, and guiding them in a way that is cooperative and respectful. We MUST have boundaries, and we MUST challenge behavior that is harmful to learning. But the way we do it can either build trust or destroy it. 



What are some of your strategies for having difficult conversations with students? I know you have some great tips to share. I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More 7 Tips for Difficult Conversations with Students



These tips are actually true for conversations with just about anyone, not only students. Too often I think we avoid having a difficult conversation about a topic because we aren’t sure how it will go. We aren’t sure if it will be productive, so we just remain silent.



Or, on the other hand, we know the topic might evoke some strong emotions, so we come at the conversation forcefully, from a position of dominance. It’s the “my way or the highway” approach. That might get compliance from students, but it won’t build trust or stronger relationships. Underneath it all, there will be a kid who resents you.



Neither of these approaches is successful. It’s not good to be silent and avoid the topic. And it’s not good to be aggressive and overbearing either. A healthy relationship is build on mutual trust that comes through respectful dialogue.



Here are five tips for having difficult conversations that create shared meaning and understanding.



1. Keep Dialogue Open



Let the student know that you are willing to listen and work together to solve the problem. Ask if they are willing to listen to your thoughts too. Keep the focus on the issue and not on sweeping generalizations like “You always…” or “You never…” statements. You might even ask the student, “How can we have this conversation in a way that is positive and helpful?”



2. Make Respect a Top Priority



Let the student know you believe it’s possible to solve any problem if both parties are respectful of one another. Let the student know you will never intentionally disrespect him or her. Let them know you want to hear what they think about the issue. The words we use are powerful and communicate our level of respect. Your body language and tone of voice are equally important.



3. Describe Your Intentions



You might say, “I’m willing to discuss this as long as it takes until we both feel good about how it’s resolved.” Let the student know you’re wanting a solution he or she can feel good about too. We’re aiming for a WIN/WIN outcome, not my way or the highway. As the teacher, you don’t have to prove you’re in charge. You ARE in charge. You don’t have to prove it. Work cooperatively with students to seek WIN/WIN solutions.



4. Be Curious, Not Furious



Ask questions to understand the student’s perspective. Be curious about what they are experiencing. Say, “Tell me more” or “Go on” to show you are interested in hearing the details. Paraphrase what they say to you to show you’re listening. My biggest mistake is talking too much. When I’m “telling” a student what I think should happen, I’m missing the opportunity to listen and better understand the student’s perspective.

5. Avoid Countering



Countering results in arguments. We start debating the facts. We build our case. We prove our points. It’s about “being right.” Try to avoid this trap. Try to stay curious and avoid countering. Spend more time listening. The goal is to get to a place where both parties let their guard down and work together cooperatively.



6. Timing is Everything



In my first few years as a principal, I would sometimes choose horrible timing to try to address an issue. I thought it had to be resolved immediately. Usually, that’s not true. Most of the time it can wait until cooler heads prevail. If I sense there is no way to have safe dialogue in the moment, I’ll step away temporarily. And then I’ll resume the conversation in a different location in a different time. This works much better than allowing a situation to escalate.



7. Focus on the Future



Every kid needs a fresh start every day. Time spent holding onto yesterday means less time moving forward today. Take inventory of the current situation, but then focus on the future. Where do we want our relationship to go from here? How can we work together to make the future brighter in this situation? What are we trying to accomplish? What will it look like if we are successful in resolving this problem?



Some people might view these tips as “going easy, or “being soft” or “having low expectations.” I would completely disagree. We must have firm boundaries. What’s easy is avoiding the conversation entirely. What’s easy is being silent. What’s easy is also using threats or power to get your way. What’s hard is listening to a student, understanding their perspective, and guiding them in a way that is cooperative and respectful. We MUST have boundaries, and we MUST challenge behavior that is harmful to learning. But the way we do it can either build trust or destroy it. 



What are some of your strategies for having difficult conversations with students? I know you have some great tips to share. I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More 7 Tips for Difficult Conversations with Students



If you want to learn and grow and make a greater impact, it’s essential to be a productive risk taker. Not all risks are productive of course, but most people actually make too few mistakes, not too many.



Former IBM President Thomas Watson boldly proclaimed, “If you want to succeed, double your rate of failure.” It’s through our mistakes that we learn. When we take risks, we either win or we learn. Not win or lose. Win or learn.



So how do you become a stronger risk taker? How do you find the courage to step out of your comfort zone and into your growth zone? Here are 7 ideas.



1. Allow Yourself to Be Vulnerable



Risk taking involves the possibility of failure. Be content with doing your best even if the outcome isn’t what you hoped for initially. 



2. Take Many, Smaller Risks to Start



If you want to grow as a risk taker, take more risks. But don’t think they have to be gigantic risks at first. In fact, it’s not wise to take larger risks to start. Taking lots of smaller risks helps you gain the confidence, practice, and good judgment to take larger risks eventually.



3. Hang Out with Risk Takers



If you spend your time with people who protect the status quo and simply try to stay comfortable, you’ll be more likely to do the same. Bring people into your life who are taking risks and living their dreams. It’s very difficult to rise above mediocrity if that’s what you are surrounded by every day. Seek excellence. And know that when you take risks, it’s going to make some people very uncomfortable.



4. Do Something a Little Wild and Crazy



There are lots of wild and crazy things you can do that might feel frightening but really aren’t that risky at all. You might risk embarrassment if it doesn’t work out, but that’s about it. Later this year my daughter Maddie and I will be contestants in our community’s Dancing with the Stars fundraiser. So although dancing in front of a big crowd is way out of my comfort zone, what’s the worst that could happen right? It should actually be fun. And I know it’s an opportunity to practice risk taking and just going for it.



5. Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable



It might feel safer to just be content with how things are. It might feel more comfortable to just go through the motions. But if you want to grow, you have to step out of your comfort zone. There is always that little voice telling you to play it safe. You have to push past that resistance. I’ve made it a habit to read and learn and spend time on personal growth at least 5-hours every week. At first, that was very difficult but eventually it became easier. What was uncomfortable as first became comfortable and increasingly valuable over time.



6. Be an Adaptable Learner.



Our world is changing faster than ever. The rate of change is accelerating. And since we’re not teaching kids from 20 years ago, our classrooms and schools shouldn’t look like 20 years ago either. Things are changing so quickly that even schools that are taking risks and making bold moves forward are likely still falling behind. Our students need to see us as adaptable learners. They need to see us model growth, change, and adaptability. 



7. Make No Excuses 



No one want to live an average, ordinary existence. Don’t sacrifice your capacity for excellence by listening to the voice telling you to settle for less. You can live an extraordinary life and have extraordinary impact. You just have to do it. You have to push through your fears and stop making excuses.



What risks are you willing to take this year? How will you push yourself out of your own comfort zone? I’d love to hear your feedback. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More 7 Ways to Be a Stronger, More Productive Risk Taker



If you want to learn and grow and make a greater impact, it’s essential to be a productive risk taker. Not all risks are productive of course, but most people actually make too few mistakes, not too many.



Former IBM President Thomas Watson boldly proclaimed, “If you want to succeed, double your rate of failure.” It’s through our mistakes that we learn. When we take risks, we either win or we learn. Not win or lose. Win or learn.



So how do you become a stronger risk taker? How do you find the courage to step out of your comfort zone and into your growth zone? Here are 7 ideas.



1. Allow Yourself to Be Vulnerable



Risk taking involves the possibility of failure. Be content with doing your best even if the outcome isn’t what you hoped for initially. 



2. Take Many, Smaller Risks to Start



If you want to grow as a risk taker, take more risks. But don’t think they have to be gigantic risks at first. In fact, it’s not wise to take larger risks to start. Taking lots of smaller risks helps you gain the confidence, practice, and good judgment to take larger risks eventually.



3. Hang Out with Risk Takers



If you spend your time with people who protect the status quo and simply try to stay comfortable, you’ll be more likely to do the same. Bring people into your life who are taking risks and living their dreams. It’s very difficult to rise above mediocrity if that’s what you are surrounded by every day. Seek excellence. And know that when you take risks, it’s going to make some people very uncomfortable.



4. Do Something a Little Wild and Crazy



There are lots of wild and crazy things you can do that might feel frightening but really aren’t that risky at all. You might risk embarrassment if it doesn’t work out, but that’s about it. Later this year my daughter Maddie and I will be contestants in our community’s Dancing with the Stars fundraiser. So although dancing in front of a big crowd is way out of my comfort zone, what’s the worst that could happen right? It should actually be fun. And I know it’s an opportunity to practice risk taking and just going for it.



5. Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable



It might feel safer to just be content with how things are. It might feel more comfortable to just go through the motions. But if you want to grow, you have to step out of your comfort zone. There is always that little voice telling you to play it safe. You have to push past that resistance. I’ve made it a habit to read and learn and spend time on personal growth at least 5-hours every week. At first, that was very difficult but eventually it became easier. What was uncomfortable as first became comfortable and increasingly valuable over time.



6. Be an Adaptable Learner.



Our world is changing faster than ever. The rate of change is accelerating. And since we’re not teaching kids from 20 years ago, our classrooms and schools shouldn’t look like 20 years ago either. Things are changing so quickly that even schools that are taking risks and making bold moves forward are likely still falling behind. Our students need to see us as adaptable learners. They need to see us model growth, change, and adaptability. 



7. Make No Excuses 



No one want to live an average, ordinary existence. Don’t sacrifice your capacity for excellence by listening to the voice telling you to settle for less. You can live an extraordinary life and have extraordinary impact. You just have to do it. You have to push through your fears and stop making excuses.



What risks are you willing to take this year? How will you push yourself out of your own comfort zone? I’d love to hear your feedback. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More 7 Ways to Be a Stronger, More Productive Risk Taker



If you want to learn and grow and make a greater impact, it’s essential to be a productive risk taker. Not all risks are productive of course, but most people actually make too few mistakes, not too many.



Former IBM President Thomas Watson boldly proclaimed, “If you want to succeed, double your rate of failure.” It’s through our mistakes that we learn. When we take risks, we either win or we learn. Not win or lose. Win or learn.



So how do you become a stronger risk taker? How do you find the courage to step out of your comfort zone and into your growth zone? Here are 7 ideas.



1. Allow Yourself to Be Vulnerable



Risk taking involves the possibility of failure. Be content with doing your best even if the outcome isn’t what you hoped for initially. 



2. Take Many, Smaller Risks to Start



If you want to grow as a risk taker, take more risks. But don’t think they have to be gigantic risks at first. In fact, it’s not wise to take larger risks to start. Taking lots of smaller risks helps you gain the confidence, practice, and good judgment to take larger risks eventually.



3. Hang Out with Risk Takers



If you spend your time with people who protect the status quo and simply try to stay comfortable, you’ll be more likely to do the same. Bring people into your life who are taking risks and living their dreams. It’s very difficult to rise above mediocrity if that’s what you are surrounded by every day. Seek excellence. And know that when you take risks, it’s going to make some people very uncomfortable.



4. Do Something a Little Wild and Crazy



There are lots of wild and crazy things you can do that might feel frightening but really aren’t that risky at all. You might risk embarrassment if it doesn’t work out, but that’s about it. Later this year my daughter Maddie and I will be contestants in our community’s Dancing with the Stars fundraiser. So although dancing in front of a big crowd is way out of my comfort zone, what’s the worst that could happen right? It should actually be fun. And I know it’s an opportunity to practice risk taking and just going for it.



5. Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable



It might feel safer to just be content with how things are. It might feel more comfortable to just go through the motions. But if you want to grow, you have to step out of your comfort zone. There is always that little voice telling you to play it safe. You have to push past that resistance. I’ve made it a habit to read and learn and spend time on personal growth at least 5-hours every week. At first, that was very difficult but eventually it became easier. What was uncomfortable as first became comfortable and increasingly valuable over time.



6. Be an Adaptable Learner.



Our world is changing faster than ever. The rate of change is accelerating. And since we’re not teaching kids from 20 years ago, our classrooms and schools shouldn’t look like 20 years ago either. Things are changing so quickly that even schools that are taking risks and making bold moves forward are likely still falling behind. Our students need to see us as adaptable learners. They need to see us model growth, change, and adaptability. 



7. Make No Excuses 



No one want to live an average, ordinary existence. Don’t sacrifice your capacity for excellence by listening to the voice telling you to settle for less. You can live an extraordinary life and have extraordinary impact. You just have to do it. You have to push through your fears and stop making excuses.



What risks are you willing to take this year? How will you push yourself out of your own comfort zone? I’d love to hear your feedback. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More 7 Ways to Be a Stronger, More Productive Risk Taker



If you want to learn and grow and make a greater impact, it’s essential to be a productive risk taker. Not all risks are productive of course, but most people actually make too few mistakes, not too many.



Former IBM President Thomas Watson boldly proclaimed, “If you want to succeed, double your rate of failure.” It’s through our mistakes that we learn. When we take risks, we either win or we learn. Not win or lose. Win or learn.



So how do you become a stronger risk taker? How do you find the courage to step out of your comfort zone and into your growth zone? Here are 7 ideas.



1. Allow Yourself to Be Vulnerable



Risk taking involves the possibility of failure. Be content with doing your best even if the outcome isn’t what you hoped for initially. 



2. Take Many, Smaller Risks to Start



If you want to grow as a risk taker, take more risks. But don’t think they have to be gigantic risks at first. In fact, it’s not wise to take larger risks to start. Taking lots of smaller risks helps you gain the confidence, practice, and good judgment to take larger risks eventually.



3. Hang Out with Risk Takers



If you spend your time with people who protect the status quo and simply try to stay comfortable, you’ll be more likely to do the same. Bring people into your life who are taking risks and living their dreams. It’s very difficult to rise above mediocrity if that’s what you are surrounded by every day. Seek excellence. And know that when you take risks, it’s going to make some people very uncomfortable.



4. Do Something a Little Wild and Crazy



There are lots of wild and crazy things you can do that might feel frightening but really aren’t that risky at all. You might risk embarrassment if it doesn’t work out, but that’s about it. Later this year my daughter Maddie and I will be contestants in our community’s Dancing with the Stars fundraiser. So although dancing in front of a big crowd is way out of my comfort zone, what’s the worst that could happen right? It should actually be fun. And I know it’s an opportunity to practice risk taking and just going for it.



5. Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable



It might feel safer to just be content with how things are. It might feel more comfortable to just go through the motions. But if you want to grow, you have to step out of your comfort zone. There is always that little voice telling you to play it safe. You have to push past that resistance. I’ve made it a habit to read and learn and spend time on personal growth at least 5-hours every week. At first, that was very difficult but eventually it became easier. What was uncomfortable as first became comfortable and increasingly valuable over time.



6. Be an Adaptable Learner.



Our world is changing faster than ever. The rate of change is accelerating. And since we’re not teaching kids from 20 years ago, our classrooms and schools shouldn’t look like 20 years ago either. Things are changing so quickly that even schools that are taking risks and making bold moves forward are likely still falling behind. Our students need to see us as adaptable learners. They need to see us model growth, change, and adaptability. 



7. Make No Excuses 



No one want to live an average, ordinary existence. Don’t sacrifice your capacity for excellence by listening to the voice telling you to settle for less. You can live an extraordinary life and have extraordinary impact. You just have to do it. You have to push through your fears and stop making excuses.



What risks are you willing to take this year? How will you push yourself out of your own comfort zone? I’d love to hear your feedback. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More 7 Ways to Be a Stronger, More Productive Risk Taker





As the school year winds down, what is your school doing to recognize students? It’s really common at this time of year to have awards programs to celebrate students for success and achievement. A problem with these types of programs is they tend to only recognize a certain kind of student.



Praising compliance, outstanding grades, and high achievement may be motivating for some, but may also lead to disengagement, resentment, and alienation for others. What kind of success are we celebrating?



I don’t want to send the message to our students that only a certain type of success or achievement is celebrated in our school. All of our students are valuable and make contributions in a variety of ways. 



And most importantly, I want to celebrate the process of growth and learning, and not just the outcomes. Students can’t always control the end result, but they can control the controllables, things like effort, enthusiasm, empathy, energy, and work ethic. It’s also important to recognize students for curiosity, creativity, and perseverance.



So we do our “awards” program differently.



Each teacher chooses one student to recognize at our end of school assembly. But the teacher selects the student based on whatever criteria they choose. It could be for effort, improvement, citizenship, school spirit, or just showing up well and having positive energy.









Some of the students who receive the award are the typical academic high flyers, but many are not. Many have probably never had their name called out in front of their peers, or their parents, to receive an award.



Each teacher says just a few words about why the student was selected. These stories are powerful for showing how we value students for more than just the grades they earn.



For some of our students, receiving an honor and affirmation like this could be pivotal. It could give them the spark of confidence and belief they needed at just the right time. It could inspire them to take on new challenges and set their sights higher.



Here are three reasons to recognize effort and growth over achievement and outcomes:



1. Avoid alienation.



By the time students arrive in high school, far too many believe the system of school won’t work for them. They are checked out. And no wonder. They’ve seen a certain type of student celebrated. They’ve built their identity around not being like those students, because they can’t measure up to those kids anyway, the ones who get all the awards. Personal growth isn’t even on their radar, and they don’t see that as the purpose of school anyway. To them, school expects quiet compliance, right answers, and perfect grades. That’s how you measure up. Recognizing progress and growth levels the playing field for all students.



2. Reinforce healthy attitudes about success.



It’s not healthy to get your sense of value or self-worth from achievements. For some, success is like a drug. They need more and more of it to get the same feeling. No matter how successful they are, in the end, it’s never enough. They are dependent on success to feel good about themselves, to feel secure. Any mistake or failure is almost unbearable. They feel threatened when others do well. Some of the most high performing students in your school may not be well-adjusted in this sense. It’s great to pursue excellence. But excellence is in the process of doing your very best, growing your strengths, and finding your purpose.



3. Encourage growth mindset.



A key finding of growth mindset was the recognition that praising effort was much more effective in motivating learning behaviors than praising fixed characteristics. The belief that I can grow my intelligence leads to better outcomes in the end. But the focus is on the process of growth, not the outcome. When we only recognize students for their achievements, we reinforce the fixed mindset. But when we recognize growth, we encourage all students to stretch themselves and strive to take on challenges. Success isn’t as important as progress in this system. And failure is only a temporary setback that provides an opportunity to learn and grow.



How is your school recognizing and celebrating students? Are you encouraging effort and growth over achievement and outcomes? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More 3 Reasons to Recognize Effort and Growth Over Achievement and Outcomes





As the school year winds down, what is your school doing to recognize students? It’s really common at this time of year to have awards programs to celebrate students for success and achievement. A problem with these types of programs is they tend to only recognize a certain kind of student.



Praising compliance, outstanding grades, and high achievement may be motivating for some, but may also lead to disengagement, resentment, and alienation for others. What kind of success are we celebrating?



I don’t want to send the message to our students that only a certain type of success or achievement is celebrated in our school. All of our students are valuable and make contributions in a variety of ways. 



And most importantly, I want to celebrate the process of growth and learning, and not just the outcomes. Students can’t always control the end result, but they can control the controllables, things like effort, enthusiasm, empathy, energy, and work ethic. It’s also important to recognize students for curiosity, creativity, and perseverance.



So we do our “awards” program differently.



Each teacher chooses one student to recognize at our end of school assembly. But the teacher selects the student based on whatever criteria they choose. It could be for effort, improvement, citizenship, school spirit, or just showing up well and having positive energy.









Some of the students who receive the award are the typical academic high flyers, but many are not. Many have probably never had their name called out in front of their peers, or their parents, to receive an award.



Each teacher says just a few words about why the student was selected. These stories are powerful for showing how we value students for more than just the grades they earn.



For some of our students, receiving an honor and affirmation like this could be pivotal. It could give them the spark of confidence and belief they needed at just the right time. It could inspire them to take on new challenges and set their sights higher.



Here are three reasons to recognize effort and growth over achievement and outcomes:



1. Avoid alienation.



By the time students arrive in high school, far too many believe the system of school won’t work for them. They are checked out. And no wonder. They’ve seen a certain type of student celebrated. They’ve built their identity around not being like those students, because they can’t measure up to those kids anyway, the ones who get all the awards. Personal growth isn’t even on their radar, and they don’t see that as the purpose of school anyway. To them, school expects quiet compliance, right answers, and perfect grades. That’s how you measure up. Recognizing progress and growth levels the playing field for all students.



2. Reinforce healthy attitudes about success.



It’s not healthy to get your sense of value or self-worth from achievements. For some, success is like a drug. They need more and more of it to get the same feeling. No matter how successful they are, in the end, it’s never enough. They are dependent on success to feel good about themselves, to feel secure. Any mistake or failure is almost unbearable. They feel threatened when others do well. Some of the most high performing students in your school may not be well-adjusted in this sense. It’s great to pursue excellence. But excellence is in the process of doing your very best, growing your strengths, and finding your purpose.



3. Encourage growth mindset.



A key finding of growth mindset was the recognition that praising effort was much more effective in motivating learning behaviors than praising fixed characteristics. The belief that I can grow my intelligence leads to better outcomes in the end. But the focus is on the process of growth, not the outcome. When we only recognize students for their achievements, we reinforce the fixed mindset. But when we recognize growth, we encourage all students to stretch themselves and strive to take on challenges. Success isn’t as important as progress in this system. And failure is only a temporary setback that provides an opportunity to learn and grow.



How is your school recognizing and celebrating students? Are you encouraging effort and growth over achievement and outcomes? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More 3 Reasons to Recognize Effort and Growth Over Achievement and Outcomes





As the school year winds down, what is your school doing to recognize students? It’s really common at this time of year to have awards programs to celebrate students for success and achievement. A problem with these types of programs is they tend to only recognize a certain kind of student.



Praising compliance, outstanding grades, and high achievement may be motivating for some, but may also lead to disengagement, resentment, and alienation for others. What kind of success are we celebrating?



I don’t want to send the message to our students that only a certain type of success or achievement is celebrated in our school. All of our students are valuable and make contributions in a variety of ways. 



And most importantly, I want to celebrate the process of growth and learning, and not just the outcomes. Students can’t always control the end result, but they can control the controllables, things like effort, enthusiasm, empathy, energy, and work ethic. It’s also important to recognize students for curiosity, creativity, and perseverance.



So we do our “awards” program differently.



Each teacher chooses one student to recognize at our end of school assembly. But the teacher selects the student based on whatever criteria they choose. It could be for effort, improvement, citizenship, school spirit, or just showing up well and having positive energy.









Some of the students who receive the award are the typical academic high flyers, but many are not. Many have probably never had their name called out in front of their peers, or their parents, to receive an award.



Each teacher says just a few words about why the student was selected. These stories are powerful for showing how we value students for more than just the grades they earn.



For some of our students, receiving an honor and affirmation like this could be pivotal. It could give them the spark of confidence and belief they needed at just the right time. It could inspire them to take on new challenges and set their sights higher.



Here are three reasons to recognize effort and growth over achievement and outcomes:



1. Avoid alienation.



By the time students arrive in high school, far too many believe the system of school won’t work for them. They are checked out. And no wonder. They’ve seen a certain type of student celebrated. They’ve built their identity around not being like those students, because they can’t measure up to those kids anyway, the ones who get all the awards. Personal growth isn’t even on their radar, and they don’t see that as the purpose of school anyway. To them, school expects quiet compliance, right answers, and perfect grades. That’s how you measure up. Recognizing progress and growth levels the playing field for all students.



2. Reinforce healthy attitudes about success.



It’s not healthy to get your sense of value or self-worth from achievements. For some, success is like a drug. They need more and more of it to get the same feeling. No matter how successful they are, in the end, it’s never enough. They are dependent on success to feel good about themselves, to feel secure. Any mistake or failure is almost unbearable. They feel threatened when others do well. Some of the most high performing students in your school may not be well-adjusted in this sense. It’s great to pursue excellence. But excellence is in the process of doing your very best, growing your strengths, and finding your purpose.



3. Encourage growth mindset.



A key finding of growth mindset was the recognition that praising effort was much more effective in motivating learning behaviors than praising fixed characteristics. The belief that I can grow my intelligence leads to better outcomes in the end. But the focus is on the process of growth, not the outcome. When we only recognize students for their achievements, we reinforce the fixed mindset. But when we recognize growth, we encourage all students to stretch themselves and strive to take on challenges. Success isn’t as important as progress in this system. And failure is only a temporary setback that provides an opportunity to learn and grow.



How is your school recognizing and celebrating students? Are you encouraging effort and growth over achievement and outcomes? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

      

Read More 3 Reasons to Recognize Effort and Growth Over Achievement and Outcomes





As the school year winds down, what is your school doing to recognize students? It’s really common at this time of year to have awards programs to celebrate students for success and achievement. A problem with these types of programs is they tend to only recognize a certain kind of student.



Praising compliance, outstanding grades, and high achievement may be motivating for some, but may also lead to disengagement, resentment, and alienation for others. What kind of success are we celebrating?



I don’t want to send the message to our students that only a certain type of success or achievement is celebrated in our school. All of our students are valuable and make contributions in a variety of ways. 



And most importantly, I want to celebrate the process of growth and learning, and not just the outcomes. Students can’t always control the end result, but they can control the controllables, things like effort, enthusiasm, empathy, energy, and work ethic. It’s also important to recognize students for curiosity, creativity, and perseverance.



So we do our “awards” program differently.



Each teacher chooses one student to recognize at our end of school assembly. But the teacher selects the student based on whatever criteria they choose. It could be for effort, improvement, citizenship, school spirit, or just showing up well and having positive energy.









Some of the students who receive the award are the typical academic high flyers, but many are not. Many have probably never had their name called out in front of their peers, or their parents, to receive an award.



Each teacher says just a few words about why the student was selected. These stories are powerful for showing how we value students for more than just the grades they earn.



For some of our students, receiving an honor and affirmation like this could be pivotal. It could give them the spark of confidence and belief they needed at just the right time. It could inspire them to take on new challenges and set their sights higher.



Here are three reasons to recognize effort and growth over achievement and outcomes:



1. Avoid alienation.



By the time students arrive in high school, far too many believe the system of school won’t work for them. They are checked out. And no wonder. They’ve seen a certain type of student celebrated. They’ve built their identity around not being like those students, because they can’t measure up to those kids anyway, the ones who get all the awards. Personal growth isn’t even on their radar, and they don’t see that as the purpose of school anyway. To them, school expects quiet compliance, right answers, and perfect grades. That’s how you measure up. Recognizing progress and growth levels the playing field for all students.



2. Reinforce healthy attitudes about success.



It’s not healthy to get your sense of value or self-worth from achievements. For some, success is like a drug. They need more and more of it to get the same feeling. No matter how successful they are, in the end, it’s never enough. They are dependent on success to feel good about themselves, to feel secure. Any mistake or failure is almost unbearable. They feel threatened when others do well. Some of the most high performing students in your school may not be well-adjusted in this sense. It’s great to pursue excellence. But excellence is in the process of doing your very best, growing your strengths, and finding your purpose.



3. Encourage growth mindset.



A key finding of growth mindset was the recognition that praising effort was much more effective in motivating learning behaviors than praising fixed characteristics. The belief that I can grow my intelligence leads to better outcomes in the end. But the focus is on the process of growth, not the outcome. When we only recognize students for their achievements, we reinforce the fixed mindset. But when we recognize growth, we encourage all students to stretch themselves and strive to take on challenges. Success isn’t as important as progress in this system. And failure is only a temporary setback that provides an opportunity to learn and grow.



How is your school recognizing and celebrating students? Are you encouraging effort and growth over achievement and outcomes? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

      

Read More 3 Reasons to Recognize Effort and Growth Over Achievement and Outcomes



In Future Driven, I wrote about how educators often want something that can be implemented quickly. We want something we can learn on Tuesday and use on Wednesday.

We want the strategy that can be used tomorrow. We want the handout, the cheat sheet, the quick fix. The hack. We want solutions that can be tossed in the microwave and heated up when we need them. Even if they taste like crap.

But the best solutions aren’t microwave friendly. They come through deliberate practice. They come through deeper thinking. They come by shifting perspective. So kick the quick fix to the curb. Do the hard work of challenging the status quo. Ponder the deeper questions and look at the world in new and interesting ways.

Question everything.

Getting better results doesn’t happen by having a magic bullet. There are no magic bullets. Better results come from having a long term perspective and working diligently to make things better now and in the future. We need to have a process for growth we can rely on, not just a quick fix.



Quick fixes usually make things better just for a moment. But looking good is not the same as being good. Looking good is on the surface. It’s superficial. We want to actually be good and continue getting better. Ultimately, we want to help students succeed for the long term, not just for today.

Lots of educators are working tirelessly every day to try to make sure students succeed. They are trying to be as productive as they possibly can. They’re putting out fires left and right. They’re dealing with urgent problems. They’re attending workshops to learn new ideas. And trying to implement new ideas.



But many feel like they’re spinning their wheels. And it’s no wonder.



In the busyness of everything that’s urgent, it’s really easy to neglect the importance of growing. Are you really examining your own growth? Are you looking inward? Are you developing greater self-awareness? Are you reflecting? And most importantly, are you really investing in building your own capacity?



Schools need to create environments to support educators in the process of growth. We must make sure professionals are given time, encouragement, and opportunity to build their own capacity. Leadership needs to support growth, not just demand productivity.



We focus lots of energy on problems. But how much time are we focusing on how we can become better problem solvers? Too much professional learning seems to try to “teacher-proof” the instructional process. It turns educators into implementers instead of initiators. And that’s clearly not professional learning. I believe professional learning should actually help people grow as people and professionals.



One of the best strategies for solving problems is building capacity for solving problems. Everything about your school can be improved as the people in your school grow and learn together, all of them—students, teachers, everyone. The best way to improve a school is for the people in the school to be focused on improving themselves. The entire school becomes a dynamic learning environment.



Here are 5 ways you can be more dynamic in your learning and build your capacity for solving problems:



1. Listen Before You Act



As we get input from our colleagues, mentors and PLN, we can grow into problem-solving before we rush into problem-solving. We become more like the people we spend the most time with. Spend more time with people who are growing and who are capable problem-solvers. Soon, you’ll be stronger too. 



2. Think, Don’t React



Better schools are built on better thinking. Take the limits off and look at issues from all sides and as objectively as possible. Emotions may say one thing, but careful thought may lead you in a different direction.



3. Test Ideas and Solutions



We can become better problem solvers when we are open to trying creative solutions. Generate lots of ideas and test them. We can’t keep doing the same things and expecting different results. Try a slightly different approach. Try a radically different approach. And see what works. Sometimes a massive change is needed.



4. Make Time for Learning



The most successful people make time for learning, not just doing. Benjamin Franklin, Warren Buffett, Oprah Winfrey, and Bill Gates all follow the 5-hour rule. At least five hours a week should be dedicated to learning something new. Always be learning.



5. Look Within, Reflect



Self-awareness allows us to examine our own thought process. When we take time to reflect, we learn more from our experiences and the experiences of others. Without reflection, we are constrained by our bias, blind spots, and habits. We won’t grow as problem-solvers unless we acknowledge the areas where we need to continue to learn and grow.



So what’s your reflection on these thoughts? Are you making time to learn and grow? Are you only focused on being productive (checking off your list each day)? Or, are you also focused on building your capacity? Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter. I would love to hear from you.












Read More 5 Ways to Build Capacity for Solving Problems



In Future Driven, I wrote about how educators often want something that can be implemented quickly. We want something we can learn on Tuesday and use on Wednesday.

We want the strategy that can be used tomorrow. We want the handout, the cheat sheet, the quick fix. The hack. We want solutions that can be tossed in the microwave and heated up when we need them. Even if they taste like crap.

But the best solutions aren’t microwave friendly. They come through deliberate practice. They come through deeper thinking. They come by shifting perspective. So kick the quick fix to the curb. Do the hard work of challenging the status quo. Ponder the deeper questions and look at the world in new and interesting ways.

Question everything.

Getting better results doesn’t happen by having a magic bullet. There are no magic bullets. Better results come from having a long term perspective and working diligently to make things better now and in the future. We need to have a process for growth we can rely on, not just a quick fix.



Quick fixes usually make things better just for a moment. But looking good is not the same as being good. Looking good is on the surface. It’s superficial. We want to actually be good and continue getting better. Ultimately, we want to help students succeed for the long term, not just for today.

Lots of educators are working tirelessly every day to try to make sure students succeed. They are trying to be as productive as they possibly can. They’re putting out fires left and right. They’re dealing with urgent problems. They’re attending workshops to learn new ideas. And trying to implement new ideas.



But many feel like they’re spinning their wheels. And it’s no wonder.



In the busyness of everything that’s urgent, it’s really easy to neglect the importance of growing. Are you really examining your own growth? Are you looking inward? Are you developing greater self-awareness? Are you reflecting? And most importantly, are you really investing in building your own capacity?



Schools need to create environments to support educators in the process of growth. We must make sure professionals are given time, encouragement, and opportunity to build their own capacity. Leadership needs to support growth, not just demand productivity.



We focus lots of energy on problems. But how much time are we focusing on how we can become better problem solvers? Too much professional learning seems to try to “teacher-proof” the instructional process. It turns educators into implementers instead of initiators. And that’s clearly not professional learning. I believe professional learning should actually help people grow as people and professionals.



One of the best strategies for solving problems is building capacity for solving problems. Everything about your school can be improved as the people in your school grow and learn together, all of them—students, teachers, everyone. The best way to improve a school is for the people in the school to be focused on improving themselves. The entire school becomes a dynamic learning environment.



Here are 5 ways you can be more dynamic in your learning and build your capacity for solving problems:



1. Listen Before You Act



As we get input from our colleagues, mentors and PLN, we can grow into problem-solving before we rush into problem-solving. We become more like the people we spend the most time with. Spend more time with people who are growing and who are capable problem-solvers. Soon, you’ll be stronger too. 



2. Think, Don’t React



Better schools are built on better thinking. Take the limits off and look at issues from all sides and as objectively as possible. Emotions may say one thing, but careful thought may lead you in a different direction.



3. Test Ideas and Solutions



We can become better problem solvers when we are open to trying creative solutions. Generate lots of ideas and test them. We can’t keep doing the same things and expecting different results. Try a slightly different approach. Try a radically different approach. And see what works. Sometimes a massive change is needed.



4. Make Time for Learning



The most successful people make time for learning, not just doing. Benjamin Franklin, Warren Buffett, Oprah Winfrey, and Bill Gates all follow the 5-hour rule. At least five hours a week should be dedicated to learning something new. Always be learning.



5. Look Within, Reflect



Self-awareness allows us to examine our own thought process. When we take time to reflect, we learn more from our experiences and the experiences of others. Without reflection, we are constrained by our bias, blind spots, and habits. We won’t grow as problem-solvers unless we acknowledge the areas where we need to continue to learn and grow.



So what’s your reflection on these thoughts? Are you making time to learn and grow? Are you only focused on being productive (checking off your list each day)? Or, are you also focused on building your capacity? Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter. I would love to hear from you.












Read More 5 Ways to Build Capacity for Solving Problems