Tag: culture of learning



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



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



Someone with many years in education was visiting our building recently and commented, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a high school lunch period this quiet.” 



I think they caught us on a good day. But it was a nice compliment.


I know our lunches aren’t perfect. In fact, there were a few grapes flying around recently too. Kids will be kids, right? But I was a proud principal after hearing the visitor’s perspective, because I think it is a small indicator of our culture.



I was speaking with another educator who shared, “At my previous school, we had to have supervision all across the lunch room to keep everyone’s behavior in line.” It sounded like they had a bunch of people on guard to make sure there weren’t any problems.



It’s possible to achieve good behaviors by “running a tight ship” or by being “heavy handed.” There are lots of ways to influence behavior. And forcing compliance is one way to change behavior. Fear is a way to change behavior. Sticks and carrots are a way to change behavior. 



So don’t mistake a culture of compliance for a culture of character. There’s a difference in doing the rights things, and doing the right things for the right reasons.



What happens when the adults aren’t watching? How will the students act in those situations? That’s when character is revealed. We can keep our thumb on them to get what we want, but are we really helping them develop the decision-making and responsibility they need?



I want students to learn why character matters. 



I want them to show empathy.



I want them to be upstanders and not bystanders.



I want students to understand how they treat all people makes a difference. 



I want students to know it’s important to be honest, with themselves and with others.



I want students to learn to admit mistakes and move past them in a positive way.



I want to see students take full responsibility.



Ultimately, my goal is to create an environment that brings out the best in our students. I want them to feel supported and valued. And I want them to know I have very high expectations for them, not because of what they do but because of who they are. I believe in you, want the best for you, and I’m here to support you. That’s the message I want to send.



I think the traditional model of education has been very focused on compliance. In fact, compliance is often celebrated. I’ve had parents and teachers talk with admiration about teachers and administrators who ran classrooms and schools with an iron fist. They applaud the strict adherence to commands and rules. I have to admit that used to impress me too. 



But not anymore. I’ve come to realize that schools can be extremely orderly and run with precision and under the surface have a character deficit. I’m all for discipline, but I want to see that students are taking ownership for their behavior and can self-manage in positive ways. I want to see students empowered to do good and make a difference in the world. That won’t happen in a culture of compliance. It will only happen in a culture of character.



Is any of this making sense? I want to hear from you. I’m convinced that teaching character and developing it in our schools is as important as ever. What do you think? Leave a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook.

Read More Culture of Compliance or Culture of Character?



Someone with many years in education was visiting our building recently and commented, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a high school lunch period this quiet.” 



I think they caught us on a good day. But it was a nice compliment.


I know our lunches aren’t perfect. In fact, there were a few grapes flying around recently too. Kids will be kids, right? But I was a proud principal after hearing the visitor’s perspective, because I think it is a small indicator of our culture.



I was speaking with another educator who shared, “At my previous school, we had to have supervision all across the lunch room to keep everyone’s behavior in line.” It sounded like they had a bunch of people on guard to make sure there weren’t any problems.



It’s possible to achieve good behaviors by “running a tight ship” or by being “heavy handed.” There are lots of ways to influence behavior. And forcing compliance is one way to change behavior. Fear is a way to change behavior. Sticks and carrots are a way to change behavior. 



So don’t mistake a culture of compliance for a culture of character. There’s a difference in doing the rights things, and doing the right things for the right reasons.



What happens when the adults aren’t watching? How will the students act in those situations? That’s when character is revealed. We can keep our thumb on them to get what we want, but are we really helping them develop the decision-making and responsibility they need?



I want students to learn why character matters. 



I want them to show empathy.



I want them to be upstanders and not bystanders.



I want students to understand how they treat all people makes a difference. 



I want students to know it’s important to be honest, with themselves and with others.



I want students to learn to admit mistakes and move past them in a positive way.



I want to see students take full responsibility.



Ultimately, my goal is to create an environment that brings out the best in our students. I want them to feel supported and valued. And I want them to know I have very high expectations for them, not because of what they do but because of who they are. I believe in you, want the best for you, and I’m here to support you. That’s the message I want to send.



I think the traditional model of education has been very focused on compliance. In fact, compliance is often celebrated. I’ve had parents and teachers talk with admiration about teachers and administrators who ran classrooms and schools with an iron fist. They applaud the strict adherence to commands and rules. I have to admit that used to impress me too. 



But not anymore. I’ve come to realize that schools can be extremely orderly and run with precision and under the surface have a character deficit. I’m all for discipline, but I want to see that students are taking ownership for their behavior and can self-manage in positive ways. I want to see students empowered to do good and make a difference in the world. That won’t happen in a culture of compliance. It will only happen in a culture of character.



Is any of this making sense? I want to hear from you. I’m convinced that teaching character and developing it in our schools is as important as ever. What do you think? Leave a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook.

Read More Culture of Compliance or Culture of Character?



Someone with many years in education was visiting our building recently and commented, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a high school lunch period this quiet.” 



I think they caught us on a good day. But it was a nice compliment.


I know our lunches aren’t perfect. In fact, there were a few grapes flying around recently too. Kids will be kids, right? But I was a proud principal after hearing the visitor’s perspective, because I think it is a small indicator of our culture.



I was speaking with another educator who shared, “At my previous school, we had to have supervision all across the lunch room to keep everyone’s behavior in line.” It sounded like they had a bunch of people on guard to make sure there weren’t any problems.



It’s possible to achieve good behaviors by “running a tight ship” or by being “heavy handed.” There are lots of ways to influence behavior. And forcing compliance is one way to change behavior. Fear is a way to change behavior. Sticks and carrots are a way to change behavior. 



So don’t mistake a culture of compliance for a culture of character. There’s a difference in doing the rights things, and doing the right things for the right reasons.



What happens when the adults aren’t watching? How will the students act in those situations? That’s when character is revealed. We can keep our thumb on them to get what we want, but are we really helping them develop the decision-making and responsibility they need?



I want students to learn why character matters. 



I want them to show empathy.



I want them to be upstanders and not bystanders.



I want students to understand how they treat all people makes a difference. 



I want students to know it’s important to be honest, with themselves and with others.



I want students to learn to admit mistakes and move past them in a positive way.



I want to see students take full responsibility.



Ultimately, my goal is to create an environment that brings out the best in our students. I want them to feel supported and valued. And I want them to know I have very high expectations for them, not because of what they do but because of who they are. I believe in you, want the best for you, and I’m here to support you. That’s the message I want to send.



I think the traditional model of education has been very focused on compliance. In fact, compliance is often celebrated. I’ve had parents and teachers talk with admiration about teachers and administrators who ran classrooms and schools with an iron fist. They applaud the strict adherence to commands and rules. I have to admit that used to impress me too. 



But not anymore. I’ve come to realize that schools can be extremely orderly and run with precision and under the surface have a character deficit. I’m all for discipline, but I want to see that students are taking ownership for their behavior and can self-manage in positive ways. I want to see students empowered to do good and make a difference in the world. That won’t happen in a culture of compliance. It will only happen in a culture of character.



Is any of this making sense? I want to hear from you. I’m convinced that teaching character and developing it in our schools is as important as ever. What do you think? Leave a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook.

      

Read More Culture of Compliance or Culture of Character?



Someone with many years in education was visiting our building recently and commented, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a high school lunch period this quiet.” 



I think they caught us on a good day. But it was a nice compliment.


I know our lunches aren’t perfect. In fact, there were a few grapes flying around recently too. Kids will be kids, right? But I was a proud principal after hearing the visitor’s perspective, because I think it is a small indicator of our culture.



I was speaking with another educator who shared, “At my previous school, we had to have supervision all across the lunch room to keep everyone’s behavior in line.” It sounded like they had a bunch of people on guard to make sure there weren’t any problems.



It’s possible to achieve good behaviors by “running a tight ship” or by being “heavy handed.” There are lots of ways to influence behavior. And forcing compliance is one way to change behavior. Fear is a way to change behavior. Sticks and carrots are a way to change behavior. 



So don’t mistake a culture of compliance for a culture of character. There’s a difference in doing the rights things, and doing the right things for the right reasons.



What happens when the adults aren’t watching? How will the students act in those situations? That’s when character is revealed. We can keep our thumb on them to get what we want, but are we really helping them develop the decision-making and responsibility they need?



I want students to learn why character matters. 



I want them to show empathy.



I want them to be upstanders and not bystanders.



I want students to understand how they treat all people makes a difference. 



I want students to know it’s important to be honest, with themselves and with others.



I want students to learn to admit mistakes and move past them in a positive way.



I want to see students take full responsibility.



Ultimately, my goal is to create an environment that brings out the best in our students. I want them to feel supported and valued. And I want them to know I have very high expectations for them, not because of what they do but because of who they are. I believe in you, want the best for you, and I’m here to support you. That’s the message I want to send.



I think the traditional model of education has been very focused on compliance. In fact, compliance is often celebrated. I’ve had parents and teachers talk with admiration about teachers and administrators who ran classrooms and schools with an iron fist. They applaud the strict adherence to commands and rules. I have to admit that used to impress me too. 



But not anymore. I’ve come to realize that schools can be extremely orderly and run with precision and under the surface have a character deficit. I’m all for discipline, but I want to see that students are taking ownership for their behavior and can self-manage in positive ways. I want to see students empowered to do good and make a difference in the world. That won’t happen in a culture of compliance. It will only happen in a culture of character.



Is any of this making sense? I want to hear from you. I’m convinced that teaching character and developing it in our schools is as important as ever. What do you think? Leave a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook.

      

Read More Culture of Compliance or Culture of Character?



You have a choice when it comes to your attention. You give it to things you value, the things you find interesting or rewarding or helpful. And you withhold your attention from things that seem less valuable to you. We are constantly making decisions about our attention, where to focus it, and how to spend it.



And your students are no different. They also make choices about where to focus their attention. And that’s why it’s so important to provide a classroom experience that students will find meaningful (this is important to me) and rewarding (I can be successful here).



What if we treated students like volunteers? What if we acted as if they had no obligation to learn the things we must teach? What if we made it our mission to cause them to want to learn more?



Wouldn’t it be great if students saw learning as something they get to do instead of something they have to do?



What if we decided it was up to us to create a force that pulls them in? After all, students make decisions with their attention just like the rest of us. Let’s make learning so great it becomes irresistible. 



How strong is your lesson’s gravitational pull? Be a force field of energy. Bring so much passion, enthusiasm, and creativity to your lesson that students think, “There is no way this teacher is gonna settle for less than my best!”



Bring that type of energy. Are your students pulled into your lesson? How is the energy in your classroom? How is your culture of learning?



When I visit classrooms, every single one feels a little different. But when things are working right there is a kind of energy that makes learning go. It’s focused energy. It’s energy that’s driving learning forward.



It’s kids really connecting to learning. There’s a kind of positive tension, a push forward that comes with growth. 



And none of this is necessarily about specific teaching methods. There are lots of different methods that can work. But where is the attention flowing? Are you pulling them in? The teacher may be sage on the stage, or guide by the side. Lots of methods can work.



But the method doesn’t matter most. Whatever the method, the room is focused. It might be noisy or quiet but there is intentionality. It might be teacher-centered or student-centered, but ultimately it’s learning-centered.



So be intentional about how energy is flowing in your space. And don’t settle for mediocrity. Aim for excellence. Is attention flowing toward learning? Does the energy pull them toward success?



Here are 15 ways to get attention focused and get energy flowing toward learning. I’ve divided them into three different categories.



Connect. Students will focus energy on learning when the relationship with the teacher is stronger. 

1. Greet students.

2. Call them by name.

3. Smile.

4. Make eye contact.

5. Learn something new about each student.



Communicate. Effective classroom communication helps focus energy in desirable ways. 

6. Clarify expectations.

7. Start with why. Explain context and relevance.

8. Tell stories to illustrate concepts. Stories capture attention.

9. Increase student voice and choice.

10. Redirect unfocused energy. Call out energy drifters.



Inspire. When learning is meaningful and authentic, students will give more. Don’t play the game of school. Do stuff that matters and makes a difference.

11. Connect learning to student interests.

12. Challenge students to design, think, and problem-solve.

13. Make surprises routine. Mix it up.

14. Be the Chief Energy Officer. Lead the fun.

15. Incorporate curiosity and creativity consistently.



What else would you add to this list? How would you take these ideas deeper? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More 15 Ways to Increase Focused Energy in Your Classroom



You have a choice when it comes to your attention. You give it to things you value, the things you find interesting or rewarding or helpful. And you withhold your attention from things that seem less valuable to you. We are constantly making decisions about our attention, where to focus it, and how to spend it.



And your students are no different. They also make choices about where to focus their attention. And that’s why it’s so important to provide a classroom experience that students will find meaningful (this is important to me) and rewarding (I can be successful here).



What if we treated students like volunteers? What if we acted as if they had no obligation to learn the things we must teach? What if we made it our mission to cause them to want to learn more?



Wouldn’t it be great if students saw learning as something they get to do instead of something they have to do?



What if we decided it was up to us to create a force that pulls them in? After all, students make decisions with their attention just like the rest of us. Let’s make learning so great it becomes irresistible. 



How strong is your lesson’s gravitational pull? Be a force field of energy. Bring so much passion, enthusiasm, and creativity to your lesson that students think, “There is no way this teacher is gonna settle for less than my best!”



Bring that type of energy. Are your students pulled into your lesson? How is the energy in your classroom? How is your culture of learning?



When I visit classrooms, every single one feels a little different. But when things are working right there is a kind of energy that makes learning go. It’s focused energy. It’s energy that’s driving learning forward.



It’s kids really connecting to learning. There’s a kind of positive tension, a push forward that comes with growth. 



And none of this is necessarily about specific teaching methods. There are lots of different methods that can work. But where is the attention flowing? Are you pulling them in? The teacher may be sage on the stage, or guide by the side. Lots of methods can work.



But the method doesn’t matter most. Whatever the method, the room is focused. It might be noisy or quiet but there is intentionality. It might be teacher-centered or student-centered, but ultimately it’s learning-centered.



So be intentional about how energy is flowing in your space. And don’t settle for mediocrity. Aim for excellence. Is attention flowing toward learning? Does the energy pull them toward success?



Here are 15 ways to get attention focused and get energy flowing toward learning. I’ve divided them into three different categories.



Connect. Students will focus energy on learning when the relationship with the teacher is stronger. 

1. Greet students.

2. Call them by name.

3. Smile.

4. Make eye contact.

5. Learn something new about each student.



Communicate. Effective classroom communication helps focus energy in desirable ways. 

6. Clarify expectations.

7. Start with why. Explain context and relevance.

8. Tell stories to illustrate concepts. Stories capture attention.

9. Increase student voice and choice.

10. Redirect unfocused energy. Call out energy drifters.



Inspire. When learning is meaningful and authentic, students will give more. Don’t play the game of school. Do stuff that matters and makes a difference.

11. Connect learning to student interests.

12. Challenge students to design, think, and problem-solve.

13. Make surprises routine. Mix it up.

14. Be the Chief Energy Officer. Lead the fun.

15. Incorporate curiosity and creativity consistently.



What else would you add to this list? How would you take these ideas deeper? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More 15 Ways to Increase Focused Energy in Your Classroom




Passion and proficiency. Both are important. But what’s your priority? What comes first? Some teachers know their content, have great strategies, and work hard every day. And yet they aren’t getting the results they hope for.



In Future Driven, I wrote about the importance of rekindling passion in an accountability era where proficiency has been prioritized to the detriment of everything else.

“More than proficiency, we need passion. We need people who are passionate about life, solving problems, helping others, and doing amazing work. Passionate people aren’t just concerned what’s in it for them. They don’t want someone to take care of them, to create a job for them, or make it easy for them. They want to make a difference in the world. They want their life to count.

Proficiency is about cheap labor, following the rules, being an interchangeable part. It’s following the map, taking orders, playing it safe. In school, it’s being ready for the next grade level or for college. These aren’t bad things. But it’s not what allows us to use all of our gifts.” 

If we are going to crush apathy in our schools and create learning that’s irresistible, it won’t happen by doubling down our efforts to reach proficiency. We have to start by developing environments where students can rekindle what it means to be a passionate learner.



After all, they came to us this way, right? When kids entered school for the first time, they were filled with curiosity, creativity, and hope. They came to us with these qualities so shouldn’t they leave us with them also?



So what can you do to create that passionate learning culture in your classroom?



1. Model passionate learning yourself. Be curious yourself. Learn rights alongside your students. Your energy, enthusiasm, and excitement towards learning will make a huge difference for your students.



2. Focus more on developing interesting questions, engaging in deeper and better thinking, and making meaning with your students. Some things are more valuable than getting right answers. Intellectual curiosity is exciting if it isn’t crushed by fear of getting the wrong answer. Let’s start with questions.



3. Connect learning to making a difference. Give students ways to learn that will impact their family, their community, a global society. Help students make a difference now. We aren’t just preparing leaders for the future. Kids need opportunities to lead and make a difference now.



4. Connect learning to creativity. Passionate learning involves creating something new, not just regurgitating established information. Creativity allow us to connect who we are to what we are learning. We are creative beings. We need opportunities to create.



5. Connect learning to emotion. Developing our cognitive abilities needs to go hand in hand with developing our emotional abilities. Let’s work on developing conditions where learning connects to the heart and not just to the mind. I’m not sure where it originated but I love this quote, “Information without emotion is rarely retained.”

Hugh Macleod (@hughcards) shared this bit on his Twitter feed. It captures so much truth in such a simple visual. The world is rapidly changing. The type of work and the value of different kinds of work is also rapidly changing.



Proficiency won’t help you compete with robots or zombies. They know their stuff. They have the market cornered on proficiency. But they can’t go deeper. They’re soulless. If you want to be great, you have to be an artist. Not necessarily an artist who paints, or sculpts, or writes poetry. But you have to offer more from your humanity than a zombie is willing to give or a robot is able to give.


So here’s the challenge. If your students are mostly doing robot work or zombie work in school, how are they going to be ready to do art work in a world that demands it? 


As our world becomes increasingly automated and technological, our students are going to gain the greatest advantage not just by their proficiency, but by their ability to leverage emotional labor to produce great work. 




Is proficiency still important? Absolutely. But if we keep pursuing proficiency to the exclusion of what’s most important, we are doing our children a terrible disservice. 


What are your thoughts on passion vs. proficiency? If we generated more passionate learning, would proficiency take care of itself? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More What’s Your Priority? Passion or Proficiency




Passion and proficiency. Both are important. But what’s your priority? What comes first? Some teachers know their content, have great strategies, and work hard every day. And yet they aren’t getting the results they hope for.



In Future Driven, I wrote about the importance of rekindling passion in an accountability era where proficiency has been prioritized to the detriment of everything else.

“More than proficiency, we need passion. We need people who are passionate about life, solving problems, helping others, and doing amazing work. Passionate people aren’t just concerned what’s in it for them. They don’t want someone to take care of them, to create a job for them, or make it easy for them. They want to make a difference in the world. They want their life to count.

Proficiency is about cheap labor, following the rules, being an interchangeable part. It’s following the map, taking orders, playing it safe. In school, it’s being ready for the next grade level or for college. These aren’t bad things. But it’s not what allows us to use all of our gifts.” 

If we are going to crush apathy in our schools and create learning that’s irresistible, it won’t happen by doubling down our efforts to reach proficiency. We have to start by developing environments where students can rekindle what it means to be a passionate learner.



After all, they came to us this way, right? When kids entered school for the first time, they were filled with curiosity, creativity, and hope. They came to us with these qualities so shouldn’t they leave us with them also?



So what can you do to create that passionate learning culture in your classroom?



1. Model passionate learning yourself. Be curious yourself. Learn rights alongside your students. Your energy, enthusiasm, and excitement towards learning will make a huge difference for your students.



2. Focus more on developing interesting questions, engaging in deeper and better thinking, and making meaning with your students. Some things are more valuable than getting right answers. Intellectual curiosity is exciting if it isn’t crushed by fear of getting the wrong answer. Let’s start with questions.



3. Connect learning to making a difference. Give students ways to learn that will impact their family, their community, a global society. Help students make a difference now. We aren’t just preparing leaders for the future. Kids need opportunities to lead and make a difference now.



4. Connect learning to creativity. Passionate learning involves creating something new, not just regurgitating established information. Creativity allow us to connect who we are to what we are learning. We are creative beings. We need opportunities to create.



5. Connect learning to emotion. Developing our cognitive abilities needs to go hand in hand with developing our emotional abilities. Let’s work on developing conditions where learning connects to the heart and not just to the mind. I’m not sure where it originated but I love this quote, “Information without emotion is rarely retained.”

Hugh Macleod (@hughcards) shared this bit on his Twitter feed. It captures so much truth in such a simple visual. The world is rapidly changing. The type of work and the value of different kinds of work is also rapidly changing.



Proficiency won’t help you compete with robots or zombies. They know their stuff. They have the market cornered on proficiency. But they can’t go deeper. They’re soulless. If you want to be great, you have to be an artist. Not necessarily an artist who paints, or sculpts, or writes poetry. But you have to offer more from your humanity than a zombie is willing to give or a robot is able to give.


So here’s the challenge. If your students are mostly doing robot work or zombie work in school, how are they going to be ready to do art work in a world that demands it? 


As our world becomes increasingly automated and technological, our students are going to gain the greatest advantage not just by their proficiency, but by their ability to leverage emotional labor to produce great work. 




Is proficiency still important? Absolutely. But if we keep pursuing proficiency to the exclusion of what’s most important, we are doing our children a terrible disservice. 


What are your thoughts on passion vs. proficiency? If we generated more passionate learning, would proficiency take care of itself? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More What’s Your Priority? Passion or Proficiency



We have a basic speech class that we require just about every student in our school to take. It’s not a graduation requirement, but our counselors include this semester class for all sophomores unless there is some compelling reason they just can’t fit it into their schedule.



We expect all students to take it because we know how important it is to develop good oral communication skills. The class includes public speaking components, but it also provides practice with interpersonal skills and interviewing. It’s essential stuff for life.



You’ve probably heard it stated that people fear public speaking more than death, in surveys at least. So inevitably, there are students who don’t want to take this course. And from time to time, I will here from parents who don’t want their child to take the course.



Jerry Seinfeld found the humor in just how much most people dread public speaking:

“According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.”

I get it. Public speaking can produce anxiety, dread, discomfort, apprehension, and more.



As a result, I always listen carefully to parent concerns and try to show empathy and understanding. It can be scary to stand in front of your peers and speak.



But I’m not easily persuaded to change our expectations about students taking this class. It’s an excellent opportunity for students to grow and develop all sorts of valuable skills.



So, my dialogue with parents asks them to consider what’s best for their child:



“I understand this class makes lots of students uncomfortable. But that can be a good thing because growth requires stepping out of comfort zones. We don’t grow stronger by doing what’s easy. When we face something hard and push through it, that makes us stronger. So I’m always asking myself as a parent, do I want my kids to be comfortable or do I want them to grow? And the answer, of course, is I want them to grow. Isn’t that what all parents want for their kids?”



And of course, parents do want their kids to grow, but for some reason, we’ve developed a desire in our culture to protect our kids from anything that is uncomfortable or difficult. It’s very common to see parents protecting their kids from anything that produces discomfort.



But we can’t have it both ways.



Growth demands stretching the limits and trying something new. Growth demands risk of failure. It requires some discomfort. So we need to invite kids to embrace the discomfort. And we need to invite parents to encourage discomfort and not rescue kids from the struggle.



So I will continue to share with everyone in our school my belief that we have to get uncomfortable if we want to be all we can be. We have to push past our fear and go for it.



Do you have tips for helping parents understand that it’s not a bad thing for their child to be uncomfortable? That productive struggle is a good thing? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter

Read More Do You Want Your Child to Grow or Do You Want Him to Be Comfortable?



We have a basic speech class that we require just about every student in our school to take. It’s not a graduation requirement, but our counselors include this semester class for all sophomores unless there is some compelling reason they just can’t fit it into their schedule.



We expect all students to take it because we know how important it is to develop good oral communication skills. The class includes public speaking components, but it also provides practice with interpersonal skills and interviewing. It’s essential stuff for life.



You’ve probably heard it stated that people fear public speaking more than death, in surveys at least. So inevitably, there are students who don’t want to take this course. And from time to time, I will here from parents who don’t want their child to take the course.



Jerry Seinfeld found the humor in just how much most people dread public speaking:

“According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.”

I get it. Public speaking can produce anxiety, dread, discomfort, apprehension, and more.



As a result, I always listen carefully to parent concerns and try to show empathy and understanding. It can be scary to stand in front of your peers and speak.



But I’m not easily persuaded to change our expectations about students taking this class. It’s an excellent opportunity for students to grow and develop all sorts of valuable skills.



So, my dialogue with parents asks them to consider what’s best for their child:



“I understand this class makes lots of students uncomfortable. But that can be a good thing because growth requires stepping out of comfort zones. We don’t grow stronger by doing what’s easy. When we face something hard and push through it, that makes us stronger. So I’m always asking myself as a parent, do I want my kids to be comfortable or do I want them to grow? And the answer, of course, is I want them to grow. Isn’t that what all parents want for their kids?”



And of course, parents do want their kids to grow, but for some reason, we’ve developed a desire in our culture to protect our kids from anything that is uncomfortable or difficult. It’s very common to see parents protecting their kids from anything that produces discomfort.



But we can’t have it both ways.



Growth demands stretching the limits and trying something new. Growth demands risk of failure. It requires some discomfort. So we need to invite kids to embrace the discomfort. And we need to invite parents to encourage discomfort and not rescue kids from the struggle.



So I will continue to share with everyone in our school my belief that we have to get uncomfortable if we want to be all we can be. We have to push past our fear and go for it.



Do you have tips for helping parents understand that it’s not a bad thing for their child to be uncomfortable? That productive struggle is a good thing? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter

Read More Do You Want Your Child to Grow or Do You Want Him to Be Comfortable?



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



Everyone needs to matter!



All. Of. Us.



It’s through relationships we create the supportive, inclusive, positive, and caring place we want to see. A place where people can thrive. A place to be great. A place to reach higher and do more.



Students are trying to answer these questions. And adults are trying to answer these questions too. The title of this post might be focused on the kids. But all of the adults in the building have these needs as well. These questions are essential to us all.



1. Am I important to someone here?



2. Do I belong here?



3. Am I good at something here?



4. Who will listen to me here?



5. Is my presence here making a difference?



As we work to improve the culture of learning in our schools, we should always keep these questions in mind. Can students and staff members answer these questions positively and confidently? What are we doing to build stronger connections and take care of each other?



This week every chance you get, look for ways to help others find the answers to these questions. You can show another person they matter to you. You can lift them up and make them feel like they are valued for who they are. You can show them they are heard. You can notice the unique talents and gifts they have to offer the world. You can show them how they are making a difference.



What are ways you are helping your students and your colleagues answer these questions? Who will you lift up this week? Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter. It’s always a privilege to connect with you.

Read More 5 Questions Every Kid Is Trying to Answer



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



Everyone needs to matter!



All. Of. Us.



It’s through relationships we create the supportive, inclusive, positive, and caring place we want to see. A place where people can thrive. A place to be great. A place to reach higher and do more.



Students are trying to answer these questions. And adults are trying to answer these questions too. The title of this post might be focused on the kids. But all of the adults in the building have these needs as well. These questions are essential to us all.



1. Am I important to someone here?



2. Do I belong here?



3. Am I good at something here?



4. Who will listen to me here?



5. Is my presence here making a difference?



As we work to improve the culture of learning in our schools, we should always keep these questions in mind. Can students and staff members answer these questions positively and confidently? What are we doing to build stronger connections and take care of each other?



This week every chance you get, look for ways to help others find the answers to these questions. You can show another person they matter to you. You can lift them up and make them feel like they are valued for who they are. You can show them they are heard. You can notice the unique talents and gifts they have to offer the world. You can show them how they are making a difference.



What are ways you are helping your students and your colleagues answer these questions? Who will you lift up this week? Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter. It’s always a privilege to connect with you.

Read More 5 Questions Every Kid Is Trying to Answer



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



Everyone needs to matter!



All. Of. Us.



It’s through relationships we create the supportive, inclusive, positive, and caring place we want to see. A place where people can thrive. A place to be great. A place to reach higher and do more.



Students are trying to answer these questions. And adults are trying to answer these questions too. The title of this post might be focused on the kids. But all of the adults in the building have these needs as well. These questions are essential to us all.



1. Am I important to someone here?



2. Do I belong here?



3. Am I good at something here?



4. Who will listen to me here?



5. Is my presence here making a difference?



As we work to improve the culture of learning in our schools, we should always keep these questions in mind. Can students and staff members answer these questions positively and confidently? What are we doing to build stronger connections and take care of each other?



This week every chance you get, look for ways to help others find the answers to these questions. You can show another person they matter to you. You can lift them up and make them feel like they are valued for who they are. You can show them they are heard. You can notice the unique talents and gifts they have to offer the world. You can show them how they are making a difference.



What are ways you are helping your students and your colleagues answer these questions? Who will you lift up this week? Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter. It’s always a privilege to connect with you.

Read More 5 Questions Every Kid Is Trying to Answer



Think about the best dining experience you ever had. What made it exceptional? Was it the service, the atmosphere, or the cuisine? How was the experience more than just a good meal? Why was it truly memorable?



We recently asked our teachers to reflect on these questions during a faculty meeting. And the point of the reflection wasn’t to assess what kind of foodies are among our staff members. However, our culinary arts teacher (@BettyGlasgow) had plenty to say on the topic! 


Our chief aim was to examine what makes an extraordinary culture for a restaurant and how can that relate to creating an extraordinary culture in our school. Most everyone can recount a dining experience that was truly outstanding. What made it different?


One of our instructional coaches (@ealove21) had participated in a similar activity in a graduate class. In the end, our goal was to draw parallels between an extraordinary dining experience and an outstanding classroom experience.


Our staff talked about things like how they were treated by the wait staff. How they felt like they were the most important guests ever. They shared how there was attention to just about every detail. How the atmosphere made them feel wonderful. They explained how the entire experience exceeded their expectations in every way. And of course, the food was outstanding, too.


If I just want to get a decent meal, my options are endless. But if I want a truly remarkable dining experience, there seem to be only a few restaurants meeting that standard. There is something extra that really makes it stand out.



Can the same be said for schools too? Are we providing something extraordinary? Is your classroom meeting expectations or exceeding them? Is your school truly excellent or doing pretty much what every school is expected to do?




Our next part of the conversation with our team was to ask our teachers to consider the basic expectations for schools. What exactly is it that every school should be doing? What things are just the minimum requirements?



Should every school love kids? Yes.



Should every school be a safe place? Yes.


Should every school implement engaging, relevant curriculum and instruction? Yes.



Should every school work together with families and the community? Yes.



Should every school promote life-long learning? Yes.



Those are all really important things schools should do. And there are many more. But those are really just the basic expectations. Excellence is how we can do those things in remarkable ways, in ways that demonstrate passion, commitment, and continuous growth.



In what ways are we making learning extraordinary and not just routine? Our kids deserve to have a truly remarkable, world class education. So it’s really good that we’re doing the things that make for a good school. But let’s not be satisfied with being good when we can be GREAT!



While Chick-Fil-A is certainly not counted among my best dining experiences ever, I would say that among fast food restaurants, this chain is remarkable. And because of the commitment to their values and culture, Chik-Fil-A is crushing the competition. 



A Forbes article detailed the extraordinary culture and success of the fast food giant:

Chick-fil-A has achieved tremendous success by any business standard. They’ve experienced a more than 10% sales increase almost every year since launching in 1946. Franchisees retention rate has been 96% for nearly 50 years, while the corporate staff retention rate has hovered at 95-97% over the same time period.

If you are familiar with Chick-Fil-A, I bet you can think of several things related to their culture that makes them extraordinary. One thing some people even find annoying is when Chick-Fil-A employees will always say, “It’s my pleasure” anytime a customer says “Thank you.” Whether you think that is annoying or remarkable, it demonstrates this company is committed to doing things a certain way. 



One of our teachers commented, “When you’re at a Chick-Fil-A, there is just something that feels different about it.”



Most fast food restaurants are the complete opposite of that. They aren’t remarkable. They are in a race to the bottom, to do it the cheapest, and with the least personal attention, or so it seems. We never want school to be like that. We want to be more like Chick-Fil-A



Do we do things in a certain way as part of our culture that makes us remarkable? I’m not talking about being good or bad. Clearly, most teachers are doing really good work and are willing to make extra efforts to help kids. Most schools are striving to meet expectations. But how are you demonstrating your excellence in visible and tangible ways? How is your classroom or school different? 


In our school, we have a goal this year related to our culture. We are striving to have an outstanding greeting for our students each and every day, both on arrival to school and arrival to each classroom. It’s a simple thing, but it can make a huge difference. We’ve always greeted students, but we are working to make our greetings awesome.



We are aiming to provide a greeting that is extraordinary, that shows our students all the care and concern we believe they deserve. We believe it will translate and help make our school stronger in a whole variety of ways.



And our students have noticed how this is becoming a thing. We keep raising the bar. We added music to the morning greeting. We added handshakes and high fives. We’re striving to make sure we know every student’s name. Students have joined us to help welcome other students. And we’ve added signs that communicate our values. We’ve taken a simple thing and are doing all we can to make it extraordinary.



We’re aiming for excellence!




Shout out to Brian McCann (@casehighprinc) for the sign inspiration!



Question: What is something your school is doing that is extraordinary? What makes your classroom or school different? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More Is Your School Extraordinary?



Think about the best dining experience you ever had. What made it exceptional? Was it the service, the atmosphere, or the cuisine? How was the experience more than just a good meal? Why was it truly memorable?



We recently asked our teachers to reflect on these questions during a faculty meeting. And the point of the reflection wasn’t to assess what kind of foodies are among our staff members. However, our culinary arts teacher (@BettyGlasgow) had plenty to say on the topic! 


Our chief aim was to examine what makes an extraordinary culture for a restaurant and how can that relate to creating an extraordinary culture in our school. Most everyone can recount a dining experience that was truly outstanding. What made it different?


One of our instructional coaches (@ealove21) had participated in a similar activity in a graduate class. In the end, our goal was to draw parallels between an extraordinary dining experience and an outstanding classroom experience.


Our staff talked about things like how they were treated by the wait staff. How they felt like they were the most important guests ever. They shared how there was attention to just about every detail. How the atmosphere made them feel wonderful. They explained how the entire experience exceeded their expectations in every way. And of course, the food was outstanding, too.


If I just want to get a decent meal, my options are endless. But if I want a truly remarkable dining experience, there seem to be only a few restaurants meeting that standard. There is something extra that really makes it stand out.



Can the same be said for schools too? Are we providing something extraordinary? Is your classroom meeting expectations or exceeding them? Is your school truly excellent or doing pretty much what every school is expected to do?




Our next part of the conversation with our team was to ask our teachers to consider the basic expectations for schools. What exactly is it that every school should be doing? What things are just the minimum requirements?



Should every school love kids? Yes.



Should every school be a safe place? Yes.


Should every school implement engaging, relevant curriculum and instruction? Yes.



Should every school work together with families and the community? Yes.



Should every school promote life-long learning? Yes.



Those are all really important things schools should do. And there are many more. But those are really just the basic expectations. Excellence is how we can do those things in remarkable ways, in ways that demonstrate passion, commitment, and continuous growth.



In what ways are we making learning extraordinary and not just routine? Our kids deserve to have a truly remarkable, world class education. So it’s really good that we’re doing the things that make for a good school. But let’s not be satisfied with being good when we can be GREAT!



While Chick-Fil-A is certainly not counted among my best dining experiences ever, I would say that among fast food restaurants, this chain is remarkable. And because of the commitment to their values and culture, Chik-Fil-A is crushing the competition. 



A Forbes article detailed the extraordinary culture and success of the fast food giant:

Chick-fil-A has achieved tremendous success by any business standard. They’ve experienced a more than 10% sales increase almost every year since launching in 1946. Franchisees retention rate has been 96% for nearly 50 years, while the corporate staff retention rate has hovered at 95-97% over the same time period.

If you are familiar with Chick-Fil-A, I bet you can think of several things related to their culture that makes them extraordinary. One thing some people even find annoying is when Chick-Fil-A employees will always say, “It’s my pleasure” anytime a customer says “Thank you.” Whether you think that is annoying or remarkable, it demonstrates this company is committed to doing things a certain way. 



One of our teachers commented, “When you’re at a Chick-Fil-A, there is just something that feels different about it.”



Most fast food restaurants are the complete opposite of that. They aren’t remarkable. They are in a race to the bottom, to do it the cheapest, and with the least personal attention, or so it seems. We never want school to be like that. We want to be more like Chick-Fil-A



Do we do things in a certain way as part of our culture that makes us remarkable? I’m not talking about being good or bad. Clearly, most teachers are doing really good work and are willing to make extra efforts to help kids. Most schools are striving to meet expectations. But how are you demonstrating your excellence in visible and tangible ways? How is your classroom or school different? 


In our school, we have a goal this year related to our culture. We are striving to have an outstanding greeting for our students each and every day, both on arrival to school and arrival to each classroom. It’s a simple thing, but it can make a huge difference. We’ve always greeted students, but we are working to make our greetings awesome.



We are aiming to provide a greeting that is extraordinary, that shows our students all the care and concern we believe they deserve. We believe it will translate and help make our school stronger in a whole variety of ways.



And our students have noticed how this is becoming a thing. We keep raising the bar. We added music to the morning greeting. We added handshakes and high fives. We’re striving to make sure we know every student’s name. Students have joined us to help welcome other students. And we’ve added signs that communicate our values. We’ve taken a simple thing and are doing all we can to make it extraordinary.



We’re aiming for excellence!




Shout out to Brian McCann (@casehighprinc) for the sign inspiration!



Question: What is something your school is doing that is extraordinary? What makes your classroom or school different? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More Is Your School Extraordinary?

Retrieved: http://www.chicagonow.com/quilting-sewing-creating/files/2014/04/say-yes.png



The idea: What if we had all the kids take a handful of confetti and throw it into the air?



The resistance: What if it makes a big mess? 



Well, it will.



The resistance: What if it makes some people uncomfortable? 



Well, it might.



The resistance: What if a kid gets confetti in his eyes? 



Well, I hadn’t thought of that.



The resistance: What about the janitors? Doesn’t this make their job tougher? 



I’ll help clean it up. My family will help too.



The resistance: You know this isn’t how we normally do things?



But is that such a bad thing?



You might be familiar with the idea of a children’s message during a church service. I’m sure at some point that was an innovation. But for all of my years attending services, I remember it being a thinga really good thing. 



All of the little kids are invited down to the front for a short message/story that is intended just for them. It’s usually an object lesson or story that conveys a Biblical truth in an interactive way. As much as it’s intended for the kids, I think the adults often get a lot out of it too. 



Well, on Christmas Eve, our whole family went to church together, all six of us. And during the service, all of the little kids were invited to the front. I teased our youngest daughter Emma who is 15 and told her she should head down front. She gave me the “Really dad?” look. There may have been a little eye-rolling too.



There was a huge crowd at church for the Christmas Eve service, and the entire stage was filled with little kids brimming with energy. I mean, it’s Christmas Eve! Kids have a lot on their minds this time of year.



Our children’s minister planned a lesson about how joy comes from God, and we should share that joy with others around us. Of course, it included the story of how the shepherds, in particular, shared the news of the birth of Jesus with great enthusiasm. When you have true joy, you can’t help but share it.



A good message for sure. And then the truly unexpected part of the message was about to happen. The children’s minister explained how when we are excited and celebrating something great, sometimes there is confetti.



“Let’s all get some confetti and celebrate the birth of Jesus. And then together we are all going to throw it into the air. Let’s share our joy for everyone to see.”





It was a beautiful thing. And memorable. And a perfect illustration.



There was joy in the congregation. There was certainly joy in the kids. And I’m pretty sure the joy went home with the kids and probably went with them wherever they went. After all, several were stuffing confetti in their pockets. It was a beautiful thing.



But it was risky. 



And to be sure, our children’s minister had asked our pastor ahead of time for permission. 



And he said, “YES!”



And I’m pretty sure he didn’t ask all of those questions that might come from the resistance



He just said, “YES!”



What kind of culture are you creating in your classroom or school? Are you missing something truly memorable and remarkable because you aren’t willing to take a risk?








Read More Creating a Culture of YES!

Retrieved: http://www.chicagonow.com/quilting-sewing-creating/files/2014/04/say-yes.png



The idea: What if we had all the kids take a handful of confetti and throw it into the air?



The resistance: What if it makes a big mess? 



Well, it will.



The resistance: What if it makes some people uncomfortable? 



Well, it might.



The resistance: What if a kid gets confetti in his eyes? 



Well, I hadn’t thought of that.



The resistance: What about the janitors? Doesn’t this make their job tougher? 



I’ll help clean it up. My family will help too.



The resistance: You know this isn’t how we normally do things?



But is that such a bad thing?



You might be familiar with the idea of a children’s message during a church service. I’m sure at some point that was an innovation. But for all of my years attending services, I remember it being a thinga really good thing. 



All of the little kids are invited down to the front for a short message/story that is intended just for them. It’s usually an object lesson or story that conveys a Biblical truth in an interactive way. As much as it’s intended for the kids, I think the adults often get a lot out of it too. 



Well, on Christmas Eve, our whole family went to church together, all six of us. And during the service, all of the little kids were invited to the front. I teased our youngest daughter Emma who is 15 and told her she should head down front. She gave me the “Really dad?” look. There may have been a little eye-rolling too.



There was a huge crowd at church for the Christmas Eve service, and the entire stage was filled with little kids brimming with energy. I mean, it’s Christmas Eve! Kids have a lot on their minds this time of year.



Our children’s minister planned a lesson about how joy comes from God, and we should share that joy with others around us. Of course, it included the story of how the shepherds, in particular, shared the news of the birth of Jesus with great enthusiasm. When you have true joy, you can’t help but share it.



A good message for sure. And then the truly unexpected part of the message was about to happen. The children’s minister explained how when we are excited and celebrating something great, sometimes there is confetti.



“Let’s all get some confetti and celebrate the birth of Jesus. And then together we are all going to throw it into the air. Let’s share our joy for everyone to see.”





It was a beautiful thing. And memorable. And a perfect illustration.



There was joy in the congregation. There was certainly joy in the kids. And I’m pretty sure the joy went home with the kids and probably went with them wherever they went. After all, several were stuffing confetti in their pockets. It was a beautiful thing.



But it was risky. 



And to be sure, our children’s minister had asked our pastor ahead of time for permission. 



And he said, “YES!”



And I’m pretty sure he didn’t ask all of those questions that might come from the resistance



He just said, “YES!”



What kind of culture are you creating in your classroom or school? Are you missing something truly memorable and remarkable because you aren’t willing to take a risk?








Read More Creating a Culture of YES!