Tag: Empowerment

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No one does their best work out of compliance or out of obligation. 

No one does their best work expecting a reward. 

We do our best work when we see it as a privilege, a contribution, and an enjoyable experienc…

Read More Doing Your Best Work

I recently finished reading Peak: Secrets From the New Science of Expertise by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool.

One of the things in the book that was interesting to me was related to the impact of experience on performance. In 2005, Harvard Medic…

Read More Experience Alone Is Not Enough

Growth requires change. And it also requires doing some things that aren’t comfortable. We all have thought-patterns and beliefs that contribute to our progress or lack of progress. That’s why it’s so important to challenge any beliefs that might be …

Read More 3 Ideas You Must Reject If You Want to Grow

The focus of traditional education has mostly been on knowledge. The focus has been on learning more information. But now we have more information available to us than ever before. And the amount of information out there is growing exponentially…

Read More Knowing vs. Understanding vs. Applying

Whether you’re a teacher or a principal, or have another role as an educator, you probably have interactions on a daily basis that involve complaints coming your way. The complaints might come from students, parents, or colleagues. These interactions…

Read More 11 Phrases to Effectively Respond to Complaining

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

Did you learn things in your first year of teaching you knew you needed to do differently? Of course you did.

If you could do year one over again, do you think you could learn even more from it? Are there things you could do differently, more ef…

Read More Evidence You Have Unlimited Potential

Students who are in trouble almost always have a good reason for why they did what they did. Sometimes a student will admit fault and take full ownership, but that’s not usually the case, especially for students who habitually shift responsibility. U…

Read More Never Ask a Student This Question About Their Behavior

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It’s been great to see all the posts today for #WorldKindnessDay. It got me thinking about what it means to be kind. I think there are a few myths out there about this concept, and I wanted to address them.



Myth #1: Kindness is weak.



Kindness is NOT weak. In fact, it takes courage to show kindness. It takes strength. It takes setting aside what’s easy for what’s valuable. Being kind requires strength of character.



Myth #2: Kindness is the same as being nice.



Kindness is NOT just being nice. Being nice is one aspect of kindness, but that’s not the end of it. Kindness is about making decisions that result in healthy relationships. It’s about giving your time, your attention, your caring heart, your extra efforts, your helping hand, your selfless actions to lift up others. 





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Myth #3: Kindness is a feeling.



Kindness is NOT a feeling, it’s a choice. It’s a behavior. You’re not going to like everyone you meet. You’re probably not always going to feel like being kind to them. But you can choose to treat everyone you meet with all the care and concern of people you do like. 



The more you practice being kind, the easier it is to demonstrate this behavior consistently. It becomes a habit. It becomes who you are, and you don’t even hesitate to act in kind ways.




You can never do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late. -Ralph Waldo Emerson

How has someone shown kindness to you? How are you growing in your own ability to be kind to others? What other myths exist around kindness? Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More Three Myths About Kindness



Earlier this month, we hosted a CharacterStrong training in our school. Our presenter was Houston Kraft, CharacterStrong co-founder. He was amazing with the teachers, staff, and even a few students who attended. 



After the day concluded, I couldn’t stop thinking about how we must bring more of this type of hope, energy, and connection to the daily life of our school. All schools need this work. It’s truly an amazing experience!

As Houston shared with the group, one other idea really jumped out at me from the day. I was reminded just how powerful our lens can be. Our paradigm or perspective can have a powerful impact on the people we interact with. 



It’s true that how we see others, including our students, makes a huge difference in how they see themselves. Let me say that again, how you see your students influences how students will see themselves.



So consider this question Houston presented. Do you see your students as probabilities or as possibilities? Do you see their strengths and what’s possible for them? Or, do you only see the deficits, challenges, and shortcomings? Do you only see what’s probable for them based on how they show up today? Or what might be in their background?



After all, it’s easy to build a case for how another person will behave or what they will achieve in the future. We know that in general past performance is often a good predictor of future performance. It’s also easy to judge on other factors that limit our students and what they can accomplish.

However, if we want to add value, win hearts and minds, or be agents of change in our relationships, we have to see others for who they are becoming, not just for who they are right now. We have to see them as possibilities and not just probabilities. We have to see them as future world changers, as leaders, as influencers, as difference makers. 



And then we need to encourage them, provide experiences for them, and offer opportunities for them to rise up. How we view others has a big impact on how they view themselves. 



5 Ways to See Students as Possibilities



1. Notice their strengths and reinforce them every chance you get.



Every child in every school needs to hear an encouraging word every day. We need to build on the strengths of our students while simultaneously challenging them to stretch themselves to do hard stuff. 


2. Give them opportunities to lead and have responsibilities.


I love this quote from Booker T Washington…

“Few things can help an individual more than to place responsibility on him, and to let him know that you trust him.” -Booker T. Washington

What are ways you can give a student responsibility and demonstrate your trust in him or her? 



3. Listen to your students and respect their voice, background, and culture.



We need to be very careful about placing judgments on students because of our differences. Instead, we need to listen with caring and curious hearts. We need to recognize we’re not there to rescue, fix, or determine their future. We’re there to help, support, and influence them as they discover the story they want to create with their lives.



4. View mistakes as learning opportunities.


When we view mistakes as learning opportunities, we are far less likely to sort students or determine what’s possible for them based on how they show up right now. Many highly accomplished people have leveraged their challenges, failures, and shortcomings to do amazing things in life. Maybe your student will be one of those stories. And your belief in them can make the difference.


5. Never crush a child’s dream.


Yeah, we all know the odds of making it to the NBA are very slim. But my job as an educator is not to remind kids of what they can’t do. Encourage their dreams. But at the same time, hold them accountable to the value of other things along the journey too. NBA players need to be coachable, they need to be learners, and they need to solve problems and use their thinking skills. So good news…my classroom can help you get ready for the NBA!


What other tips do you have for seeing students as possibilities? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More Do You View Students as Possibilities or Probabilities?



I was taught as a kid that the things that you put into your mind would have an influence on who you are and who you are becoming. Garbage in, garbage out. How you fill your cup will determine what spills over in your life. 



Actually, at the time, I remember thinking some of this was just to keep me from listening to the “wrong” type of music in my teen years. 



I think my understanding of the concept was over simplified and more focused on what I should not do. But it has just as much to do with what we should do.

The Bible puts it this way…

Above all else, guard your heart,

for everything you do flows from it.

Keep your mouth free of perversity;

keep corrupt talk far from your lips.

Let your eyes look straight ahead;

fix your gaze directly before you.

Give careful thought to the paths for your feet

and be steadfast in all your ways.

Do not turn to the right or the left;

keep your foot from evil.

Proverbs 4:23-27

Now I understand more clearly the truth of this. We really do become what we think about about. The things that we focus on become more visible to us, more evident, in every area of life. It becomes our lens. And that influences our behavior.



When our family bought a Chevy Malibu a few years ago, all of the sudden I noticed how many Chevy Malibus were on the road. I had never noticed before, but these cars were everywhere. 



When a student or parent says to me, “There’s so much drama in high school” I find it interesting because I know others who haven’t experienced all of that drama. They see social conflict everywhere because it’s the paradigm they engage with. Others mostly avoid the drama, because they focus their attention on other things.



Tony Robbins has described it this way, “Where your focus goes, energy flows.” You move in the direction of the things you focus on. Your energy goes toward those things.



When you practice gratitude, it’s amazing how you will notice more things to be grateful for. I believe you actually start to have more things to be grateful for. Good things come to people who believe the best and expect the best.



Les Brown said it simply, “What you think about, you bring about.”



Below are 8 things that will influence your growth and who you are becoming. We often think this is the type of advice our students need, and for sure they need to hear this message. But I think we all need to reflect on these things. Everyone needs this message.



How are we spending our time? What are we putting into our minds, rehearsing in our minds, and how can we ensure that it is leading us where we want to go? The patterns of our mind are powerful. They can empower us or defeat us.



The things we think about influence our effectiveness in every area of life. If you want to be a more effective educator, friend, spouse, or neighbor, think about how you are being intentional with these things.



8 Things That Influence Who You’re Becoming

1. What you watch

2. What you listen to

3. What you read

4. What you believe

5. How you spend your time

6. Who you spend your time with

7. The things you say to yourself

8. The thoughts you choose to accept



What would you add to this list? What stands out to you on this list? Leave a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook. I’d love to hear what you think.

Read More 8 Things That Influence Who You’re Becoming



I noticed an educator recently who had ‘change agent’ listed in her Twitter bio. I thought that was cool. I think every teacher, every educator for that matter, should be a change agent. We aren’t just teaching lessons, we’re cultivating potential. We’re helping students become world changers. We are helping them build capacity in a variety of ways. Academics is only one part of what we do.



This summer I’ve read a number of books on change. One that was especially helpful was Switch by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. I wanted to share a few of my notes and how I think it might apply to classrooms and schools.



Which of the following is most powerful?



Think, Analyze, Change or See, Feel, Change



Think, Analyze, Change is when we use data, evaluation, reasoning, and research to drive change.



See, Feel, Change is when we utilize stories, experiences, connections, and emotions to drive change.



For smaller adjustments and minor behavioral changes, Think, Analyze, Change seems to work fine. But for transforming change that requires much bigger shifts in thinking and behavior, emotion is critical.



Think about the biggest decisions and the biggest changes you’ve made in your life. I bet they were more driven by emotion than by analyzing. Where you went to college. Who you married. Deciding to have children. Buying a car or home. I’m sure you used your powers of reasoning in these situations also. But there were also very strong emotions at play.



Do most people get into too much debt because of a problem with analyzing or a problem managing emotions?



It’s not uncommon for emotions to overpower the reasoning that we apply to a given situation.



So if you want the people (students, colleagues, staff) you are leading to change, it’s probably more effective to help them ‘see’ and ‘feel’ why the change is important and not just present them with the reasons why they should change. 



You can’t change them, but you can help create conditions where they can change themselves.



An example from Switch was a 1st grade teacher who told her students that by the end of the year, they were going to learn so much they would be as smart as 3rd graders. For 1st graders, it feels really good to be like a 3rd grader. It feels big and strong and important. So the teacher constantly revisited the idea that by the end of this class you’re going to be like 3rd graders.



Our emotions are often driven by our identity, and we tend to act in ways that are consistent with how we see ourselves, who we believe ourselves to be.



Change agents use See, Feel, Change to help others see themselves in new and powerful ways. They see them not just as they are now, but for who they are becoming.



Here are five ways to use See, Feel, Change as a teacher or principal or parent. You can use these in any role.



1. Give people experiences.



Powerful experiences can be transformational. I remember moments my thinking changed entirely at a conference. We’ve sent teachers to Ron Clark Academy, even though we’re a high school. And some of our teachers have credited that experience with a whole new trajectory in their teaching.



2. Give people affirmation.



Affirmation is not just giving a complement. Those are good too. But affirmation is seeing qualities in someone they may not see in themselves. My high school coach saw potential in me when I didn’t believe in myself. That made all the difference. The person who influences you the most isn’t the person you believe in. It’s the person who believes in you. All of our students are future world changers. See the good in them.



3. Give people responsibility.



If you want people to rise, give them responsibility. It’s amazing how the opportunity to take the lead can change a pattern. When you give responsibility, it shows faith and trust in someone. They don’t want to let you down. The new responsibility can disrupt the pattern of disempowerment they’ve experienced.

“Few things can help an individual more than to place responsibility on him, and to let him know that you trust him.” -Booker T. Washington.

4. Give people hope.



Some of our kids are hopeless because they don’t think it matters what they do. Nothing will change. So we need to constantly tell stories of courage, perseverance, and triumph to let them know what’s possible. We must give people something to believe in. Things can get better. We always have the power to decide. And our decisions will determine our destiny.



5. Give people connection.



And finally, give people connection. For people to change, they need to feel a sense of safety and belonging. They need to feel secure. They need to know they matter, that someone is listening, and that their presence here is making a difference. 



What are you thoughts on being a change agent? Is that something that’s important to you? How are you driving change? Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter. I would love to hear from you.

Read More Are You a Change Agent?



Implementing a program or procedure can result in a certain level of success. But “implementing work” will never achieve the value of “transforming work.”



Implementing is taking someone else’s work and replicating it with fidelity. When we talk about best practices in education, that’s implementing.



Implementing is the scripted lesson, it’s following the established pattern, it’s the well-worn path, the formula, the hack, the tried and true. It’s doing it the way it’s been done before.



We can train people to be implementers.



But implementing doesn’t account for the unique gifts and abilities you have to offer. Sure, we should start with learning best practices. In fact, it’s necessary to learn best practices. The work and wisdom of the past informs what’s possible next. Tomorrow’s progress is built on the progress of the past.



Tomorrow’s progress is also build on your contributions. We should contribute to progress. As we develop our expertise, we should seek to make a larger contribution. We should be molding and shaping best practices.



That’s transforming work.



Transforming work requires curiosity, creativity, imagination, and empathy. It makes a contribution to the world that is unique and beneficial. It’s going beyond best practices to bring something new and better.



There are a million ways you can go from implementing to transforming. Rely on your strengths. Discover your passions. Grow your influence. You’ll be more fulfilled when you do. 



Do the work you love. It’s hard to love implementing when you could be transforming. 



Are you stuck in an implementing rut? Or are you using your full creativity and imagination in your work? Are you reaching hearts and minds with transforming work? Leave a message below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More From Implementing to Transforming



How do you define student achievement? Is student achievement defined by how students perform on some type of standardized assessment? When politicians, policymakers, and lots of educators too, talk about raising student achievement, it usually means raising test scores.



The problem is that test scores are a very narrow way to define student success and student achievement. That definition favors a certain type of student, magnifying a certain type of skill set, while diminishing a whole range of other factors that can lead to success academically and in life.


So why is it the current definition of student achievement is always tied to how students perform on one test that happens in one moment once a year? I want to see more emphasis on student agency. I want to find ways for students to connect to what they are learning, to apply what they are learning, to do things with their learning that are making a difference. To me, when students exercise agency and demonstrate growth, that is achievement.


When we are driven by preparing kids for a test, we may neglect preparing them for life. I’m not saying we can’t prepare kids for the test and for life, but too often I think that’s exactly what’s happening. The test is driving everything in some schools. 


But does the learning stick? Will students remember the things they must know for the test? I really like how Will Richardson put words around this idea. He says we need to aim for learning that results in permanence. We should seek learning that has lasting value. When students have agency and ownership in learning, it’s much more likely to have long term impact. When it connects to their passions and their goals, they’re much more invested emotionally and intellectually.


Another question I would raise is this, does the learning shift perspective? Simply learning content and using it to answer test questions doesn’t necessarily change who you are or how you see the world. And I think education should always result in more empathy and understanding. It doesn’t just change what you know but helps you better understand who you are and how you can make a bigger difference.



If we want more permanence and perspective in education, we have to be willing to invest in agency. We must empower students and teachers to do things that are bigger than just mastering content standards. We have encourage creativity and connection and allow for learning that taps into strengths and passions.



So let’s aim to get a better balance between achievement and agency. Achievement won’t solve the world’s problems unless our students learn they are powerful problem solvers. They must know first and foremost the significant agency they have to make a difference.



What are you thoughts? How are you specifically equipping students with greater agency and empowerment in your classroom and school? Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More Balancing Achievement and Agency



Earlier this week, I was speaking at What Great Educators Do Differently in Houston. It was a fantastic event with a great lineup of inspiring education leaders.



My topic was Great Educators are Risk-Takers and Difference-Makers! When I have the opportunity to work with school districts or speak at conferences, I want to remind educators that we’re educating kids for the world they’ll live in and not the world we grew up in.



It’s an central message in my book, Future Driven



The world is changing faster than ever and schools need to be changing too. I always ask, “Is your school a time capsule (static) or a time machine (dynamic)?” We can’t afford to teach to a test or simply prepare kids for the next grade level, or even college or career. We’re preparing them for life and anything they might face.



We can’t continue to prize student achievement while ignoring the critical importance of student agency. Kids need more opportunities to make decisions and take initiative. We need to develop future leaders and passionate learners, not just proficient test takers.



And the only way that will happen is by allowing teachers to have the needed professional autonomy to be risk-takers and difference-makers. Educators must have the freedom to take initiative and make decisions. They need the flexibility to use their strengths and bring their passions into their classrooms.



But I also want to challenge educators. What are you doing with the autonomy you have? Are you pushing limits? Are you challenging the status quo? Are you creating extraordinary learning opportunities that prepare students for a complex, unpredictable world? If we’re going to crush student apathy, we have to start with addressing teacher apathy. We have to show up strong!



Here are 5 Future Driven questions to think about with your team…



1. What will students need to thrive in a complex, unpredictable world? (addressing rapid change)



2. How can our school better meet the unique needs of today’s kids? (kids are dealing with new issues/pressures)



3. How can we create a place where kids who resist school are empowered to love learning? (compliance vs. empowered learning)



4. Do teachers have the autonomy they need to create deeper learning? (teacher agency)



5. Do students have opportunities to pursue and explore their own questions? (inquiry)



6. Are students expected to create and innovate in your classroom? (critical thinking, problem-solving)



7. How are students helping others through what they’re learning? (empathy, service)



What other future driven questions do you think are relevant for educators to discuss? It’s amazing how questions can help us make the best decisions. I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter

Read More 7 Future Driven Questions to Discuss With Your Team



The answer to the question seems obvious, don’t you think? Of course, educators should be lifelong learners. 



But I recently heard an education leader give a presentation where he made a claim that expecting educators to be lifelong learners, at least in the sense of attending PD or reading on their own time, was unrealistic. 



Basically, he suggested that nobody has time for that. There are too many demands on teachers as it is. I found it interesting that in spite of his claim, he also shared he is currently writing a book for educators.



He suggested the best way for professional educators to learn was through experience and by reflecting on experience with others. And I agree, that is one way to learn.



He added that when he interviewed for open positions and candidates shared about being lifelong learners, that he didn’t believe it for a minute. The universities are simply coaching their pre-service teachers on keywords they need to use in interviews.



My thinking is quite different on this issue. A big problem I see in schools is that too few are making time for their own professional reading and growth. Most people become satisfied with a certain level of effectiveness in their life, work, relationships, etc. and then hit cruise control. They don’t continue to push the limits of their own possibilities.



But that’s not the way strive for your potential, and it’s not the way to become the most effective, fulfilled educator you can be.



So here are some of my thoughts about continuous learning for educators…



1. The quickest way to improve a school is for the people inside the school to work on improving themselves. When you individually learn more as an educator, your students win, and your whole school wins too. You make your school stronger by your growth.



2. People who don’t make time for reading and growing will never break through their current capacity. They may get a little better, but they won’t experience new levels of capacity. They won’t have breakthroughs



Why? Because they are limited to their own perspective. As John Maxwell said, “Some of my best thinking is done by others.” I learn so much from what some of the leading thinkers are writing and sharing.



3. I suggest the 5-hour-rule as a great way to learn and grow. Spend at least 5 hours per week reading to build your capacity. Many of the world’s busiest and most successful people are consistent readers. 



4. The most common excuse for not reading is not having enough time. But we make time for what’s important. We all have the same number of hours in the day. And I’m wondering if most of the same people complaining about not having enough time are finding plenty of time for Netflix, YouTube, and Facebook?



5. Seth Godin suggests the more professional your field, the more important it is to stay current. If we seek to raise the standing of education as a top profession, we need to strive to learn like other top professions.



6. You wouldn’t want a surgeon operating on you who hasn’t read the latest journals about the procedures he’s performing. You want the best techniques. And your students deserve the best techniques too.



7. One of the best ways to carve our time for reading is to make it part of your morning routine. When you start the day focused on your own growth, you’ll be better able to help your students with their growth.



Are you making time for your reading and growth? How do you find the time? Do you believe educators should be lifelong learners? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More Should All Educators Be Lifelong Learners?

I recently shared this image on Twitter: This was written in my book “The Innovator’s Mindset,” and since then, my thoughts have evolved on the question.  I will get to that in a minute. Here is one of the challenges I received on the question: I believe all 3 are key to success. Without compliance, … [Read more…]

Read More Discipline or compliance?



Your lessons matter. Your strategies matter. Your relationships matter. Lots of other things matter too. Some of these things are in your control and some of them are not.



But in every decision you make, in every action you take, there is a common thread. What is your mental approach? Do you have a growth mindset? Are you an empowered educator? Do you believe in your ability to make a difference? Do you have a strong sense of self-efficacy? 



A person’s mental approach to any situation has an incredible impact on outcomes. The choices we make determine our future. It is our choices more than any other factor that determine who we are and who we will become. I believe that’s true for students, and I believe that’s true for us as educators as well. 



1. Extraordinary results require you to expect big results.



Extraordinary results don’t happen by accident. Just look at what successful people do, and you’ll see what it takes. First, you have to believe great things can happen. Some people are hesitant to set the bar very high, because they might fall short. Others think about how much work it’s going to take to get there, and wonder if it’s going to be worth it? 



But if you’re not willing to aim for extraordinary results, are you settling for less than what you’re capable of doing? And if you’re settling for less, are you giving your students an experience that is less than they deserve? You deserve to be your best too. Crave that which is not easily within your grasp. Dream big.



2. It’s not lack of time, it’s lack of direction.



We all have exactly the same number of hours in each day. We have the same number of days in each week. I’ve rarely heard anyone complain about lack of time who also wasn’t wasting some amount of time every day and every week. The key is how we are using the time we have. Are you making the most of your time? Are you giving time to the things that will make the biggest impact? Do you know with clarity what’s most important in your day? 



Choose to pour your energy into the things that will transform your effectiveness. You have to take risks. You’ll miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. What actions are your multipliers? They make everything better. They pay dividends into the future. Pour your energy into things that give the most returns. Find your true north and set your direction accordingly.



3. Be willing to let of go of something good for something great.



Most people reach a certain level of effectiveness, and then they just maintain the status quo. They get into a routine without continuing to stretch and push forward. Too often we are polishing the past, trying to improve on practices that are simply outdated or no longer effective. We’re aiming to make things just a little better instead of opening our minds to new possibilities. 



Don’t settle for good enough. Don’t settle for teaching as you were taught. Our world is changing faster than ever before. So our schools should reflect those changes. We can’t allow schools to become time capsules, when they could be time machines. We need to adapt and create learning that’s relevant to the world our students will live in. 



4. See problems as they are, but not worse than they are.



I believe in the power of positive thinking. But positive thinking, in my mind, is not believing everything is okay. It’s not pretending everything is great. But it is believing things can get better. It’s focusing on solutions, not problems. We need to see problems for what they are, but not act like they are impossible to overcome. 



Some people focus their energy on blaming and complaining. They throw their hands up and quit. Their solution is for everything outside of them to change. But a different approach is to be focused on pursuing excellence. No obstacle is too big to stop trying. They believe that with hard work, determination, and the desire to continually learn and grow, there is no limit to what might be possible. 



5. One of the best ways to increase student effort and engagement is to increase your own energy and enthusiasm.



What type of energy are you bringing to your classroom or school? I notice some of our students dragging into school with very little energy. What’s it going to take to shift that energy and get them going? Many of our students have developed habits that prevent them from getting the most out of their learning. Those habits won’t change unless we as educators are intentional. We need to change. 



We need to bring so much determination and passion to what we do that students know, “This person is not going to accept less than my best.” Lots of things can stand in the way of learning in a school, let’s make sure it’s not the attitude or enthusiasm of the adults who work there. 



What other ideas do you have for establishing a solid mental approach as an educator? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More 5 Thoughts to Improve Your Mental Approach as an Educator



Here’s a reflective question to ask yourself when you’re making decisions about your priorities:



What would happen if you weren’t successful on this one thing?



What would be the ramifications? What would be the price to pay? What would be the cost if this thing did not happen? What would happen if success in this area isn’t made a priority? What would we stand to lose? How would it impact the student, the community, or the world? 



Some things are absolutely essential and some things are nice to see happen and some things really aren’t that important at all. Life’s all about priorities. But how often do we just go with the priorities of what’s been done in the past? 



How often do we accept the priorities of others without even considering if they are best for kids? How often do we push back against the priorities of the status quo because we know we can do better?



There isn’t enough time, energy, or resources to make everything a priority. We have to make good choices about what’s most important and how to apply our energy and effort. We have to establish the priorities that make the biggest difference.



Here are a few examples of my thinking as I work through this thought experiment…



1. What would happen if I didn’t develop the strongest relationships possible with my students?



I would risk losing the learner entirely. They might just check out and not follow my lead on anything. There’s greater chance of behavior problems, attitude problems, parent problems, and more. If the relationship is toxic, nothing I do will be good enough, interesting enough, or important enough. It’s impossible to have extraordinary learning experiences with mediocre relationships.



2. What would happen if students dreaded coming to our school or my classroom every day?



If students hate school, we know they’re going to be disengaged, distracted, and probably agitated. None of those are good conditions for learning. We can wish they would change and magically love school. Or we can change the school and find ways to reduce the friction. What if we made it harder for kids to hate school? What if we created a place where kids who hate (traditional) school love to learn?



3. What would happen if students didn’t get chances to lead and make decisions in this school?



If they don’t have chances to lead and make decisions now, they won’t be ready to lead and make decisions later. They won’t have opportunities to practice and they won’t be primed for leadership and decision making beyond school. Kids need practice leading and making decisions about their learning. They need agency just as much, if not more, than they need achievement. If I simply learn, I will probably forget. But if I have a strong enough learning identity, there is nothing I can’t learn eventually.



4. What would happen if students didn’t master every standard in this school?



They might not score as well as others on standardized tests. They might have some gaps in their learning. They might have to learn some things down the road if they’re faced with situations where they aren’t fully prepared. But is that really the worst thing? Is standards mastery the key to future success? I don’t think it is.



5. What would happen if students didn’t learn soft skills or develop good character in this school?



I’ll answer this question with another question. Would you prefer to have a neighbor that is a caring person or one who has outstanding academic skills? Of course, having both would be great. If you needed help with some complex math problems, they’d be able to help you and care enough about you to be willing to help you. But if you had to make a choice? I’m picking soft skills and character every time.



So what other questions might you ask to test your priorities and your school’s priorities? If we didn’t do this thing, what would happen? Pour your energy into the things that you know count the most. We get most of our results out of a small portion of our effort. We accomplish 80% of our results with just 20% of our effort. The rest of our effort is lost compared to that 20%. If we can learn to apply effort more efficiently, our overall capacity would greatly increase.



Let me know what you think about this thought experiment. Is what you’re doing today moving your students closer to what you want for them tomorrow? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook.

Read More What Would Happen If You Weren’t Successful On This Thing?



Last Christmas, we decided to add a new Boston Terrier puppy to our family. His name is Rudy. There have been many times over the past months that Rudy has tested our patience. And he’s tested the patience of our older Boston Terrier, Max, too.



He’s chewed up the house. He’s been slow to house train. He’s been quick to disobey. He’s a little too affectionate. He’s in your face affectionate. It’s cute and annoying at the same time.



But a few months ago we noticed something was wrong with Rudy. He was having problems with one of his back legs. It would happen occasionally, and he would limp around on three legs for a while, and then he was back to his old self.



But the problem became even more frequent. A trip to the vet revealed Rudy’s leg problem was Patellar Luxation, a knee cap that was dislocating. The leg would not get better on its own and needed to be addressed surgically.



So Rudy was scheduled for his operation.



After Rudy had his surgery, the vet said we needed to keep him from using the repaired knee. “No using that leg,” he said. 



Just how are you supposed to keep a dog from using a leg? Hey Rudy, no using that leg, okay? 



But turns out that wasn’t a problem. Rudy didn’t want to use the leg. I guess it was pretty sore, and he quit using it entirely after the surgery. 



Even weeks later, after several visits to the vet, Rudy was still not using the repaired leg. The vet suggested several ideas for getting him to start using the leg again, including swim therapy in our bath tub. Seriously.



But Rudy still refused to use his fourth leg. He was a three-legged dog, it seemed, forever.



However, it was clear from our trips to the veterinarian, Rudy’s leg had healed properly. He was simply choosing not to use the leg. He had created a limitation in his canine brain that he was a three-legged dog. He had created a new identity that kept him from reaching his full capacity.



Would Rudy ever walk on four legs again?



And then, in a matter of a couple of weeks, Rudy started testing the fourth leg a little more. He pushed out of his comfort zone and into his growth zone. The video clips below were shot on the same day in the span of about an hour. You’ll see his three legged routine and then what’s possible when he pushes past the limits. Rudy was very capable it seems.






When Rudy got past his limits, he was running around like any puppy should. He was back to annoying all of us again, in his regular way. He was starting to utilize his fourth leg to its full capacity.



But here’s the thing, how many of us are choosing, perhaps unintentionally, to be three-legged dogs? Could it be that most of us are only using a fraction of our true capacity? What might be possible if we would only test our limits and continue to learn and grow?



I think most people are only operating at a small percentage of full capacity. And I think most schools are only operating at a small percentage of full capacity. We’re probably capable of so much more. Our schools are probably capable of so much more.



Sure, we’re trying to make progress, but we’re walking on three legs. We’re trying to make things better, but we need to make ourselves better. Change you first.



What we really need is to cut loose and run on all four legs. And we need to create conditions where other people are able to reach their capacity, too. 



So how can you reach your capacity? You have to get started on a path of growth. Break through your limits with the following…



1. The BELIEF that you need to get better.



If you think you’re doing just fine on three legs, you’ll never find your true capacity. You’ll just keep limping along. You need a vision of what’s possible. Moreover, you also need the belief that things CAN get better. Don’t allow your past performance to limit your future possibilities.



2. The DESIRE to want to get better.



Growth is the more difficult choice. It’s easier just to be satisfied, either intentionally or unintentionally, with how things are. We have to crush apathy and reject mediocrity. We have to desire excellence. You have to commit. You have to really want it.



3. The WILLINGNESS to take action to get better.



You have to test your limits. You have to see what that fourth leg is capable of doing. Sometimes it feels really risky to step out in faith. It might hurt. But you must take action. Destiny is about decisions. It might be hard, but it’s worth it. 



4. The WISDOM to learn how to get better.



There is a certain wisdom and humility needed to recognize that we’re not currently all we could be. We’re probably capable of more, if we’re honest about it. We must therefore seek out opportunities to learn from others. We must apply the things we learn. We have to pursue growth intentionally. 



5. The DISCIPLINE to follow through and be GREAT.



Living a no limits life requires discipline. A new direction requires discipline. Full capacity requires discipline. You have to eliminate the choices that aren’t leading you toward your capacity. You have to be relentless to achieve the results.



What are some ways you want to test your limits? What are some ways you need to test your limits? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter

Read More Are You Reaching Your Full Capacity?