Tag: Encouragement



We have a group at Bolivar High School known as the SWAT team. SWAT stands for Students Working to Advance Technology. The club started in 2015 to support our 1:1 program that was just getting off the ground. 



SWAT provides valuable support related to how we use technology in our school. For instance, they have presented how-to workshops for teachers during our annual PD day, the past two years. And they’ve been involved in parent open house to demonstrate ways technology is being used for learning in our school. They also help out in the library with issues students are having with their Chromebooks.






Most recently, the group offered tech support for senior citizens in our community every Thursday after school in February from 4-5:00pm. We publicized the opportunity in our local newspaper and on Facebook. It was a simple concept. We had some digital natives (our students) on hand to help the older crowd in our community with anything tech related we could help with.



The senior adults could bring their own device (most of them did) or the students used their Chromebooks to help with Facebook, Gmail, or whatever tool they wanted to learn.



We didn’t really know what to expect. It was our first time trying something like this. But it was a huge success. We had customers every single Thursday, and several of our guests came back week after week.








This activity was beneficial on several levels. 



1. It was helpful to the senior citizens we served.



Our students helped with Macs, PCs, iPads, Android devices, multiple smart phones, and a Kindle Fire. I don’t think there was a single question that our students didn’t handle effectively. In one case, it took about 45 minutes to research a solution, but in the end, they resolved the issue.



2. It was a fantastic opportunity to connect with our community.



I think it’s great when students can go out into the community or we can bring the community in. In this case, we had quite a few people into our school building that might not normally stop by for a visit. 



3. It was a great learning experience for our students.



Our students had the opportunity to give back and lend a helping hand. They got to practice communication skills, empathy, patience, and problem solving. It gave them the opportunity to serve others.



4. Everyone seemed to love it. 



Our students enjoyed this experience so much, they asked me if we could keep doing it each week. For a variety of reasons, I made them take a break for the month of March. We’ll see after that. But I was proud they wanted to continue. And the senior citizens seemed to have a great time too. Some of them asked me if we could keep doing it, too! Okay, after reading that I feel like a scrooge for making them take a break. 🙂



Here’s a 2 minute video that includes some student voice about how they experienced this project…




Question: Is this something you might try with your students? What questions do you have about this activity? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More What Happened When We Launched Student-Led Senior Citizen Tech Support



We have a group at Bolivar High School known as the SWAT team. SWAT stands for Students Working to Advance Technology. The club started in 2015 to support our 1:1 program that was just getting off the ground. 



SWAT provides valuable support related to how we use technology in our school. For instance, they have presented how-to workshops for teachers during our annual PD day, the past two years. And they’ve been involved in parent open house to demonstrate ways technology is being used for learning in our school. They also help out in the library with issues students are having with their Chromebooks.






Most recently, the group offered tech support for senior citizens in our community every Thursday after school in February from 4-5:00pm. We publicized the opportunity in our local newspaper and on Facebook. It was a simple concept. We had some digital natives (our students) on hand to help the older crowd in our community with anything tech related we could help with.



The senior adults could bring their own device (most of them did) or the students used their Chromebooks to help with Facebook, Gmail, or whatever tool they wanted to learn.



We didn’t really know what to expect. It was our first time trying something like this. But it was a huge success. We had customers every single Thursday, and several of our guests came back week after week.








This activity was beneficial on several levels. 



1. It was helpful to the senior citizens we served.



Our students helped with Macs, PCs, iPads, Android devices, multiple smart phones, and a Kindle Fire. I don’t think there was a single question that our students didn’t handle effectively. In one case, it took about 45 minutes to research a solution, but in the end, they resolved the issue.



2. It was a fantastic opportunity to connect with our community.



I think it’s great when students can go out into the community or we can bring the community in. In this case, we had quite a few people into our school building that might not normally stop by for a visit. 



3. It was a great learning experience for our students.



Our students had the opportunity to give back and lend a helping hand. They got to practice communication skills, empathy, patience, and problem solving. It gave them the opportunity to serve others.



4. Everyone seemed to love it. 



Our students enjoyed this experience so much, they asked me if we could keep doing it each week. For a variety of reasons, I made them take a break for the month of March. We’ll see after that. But I was proud they wanted to continue. And the senior citizens seemed to have a great time too. Some of them asked me if we could keep doing it, too! Okay, after reading that I feel like a scrooge for making them take a break. 🙂



Here’s a 2 minute video that includes some student voice about how they experienced this project…




Question: Is this something you might try with your students? What questions do you have about this activity? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More What Happened When We Launched Student-Led Senior Citizen Tech Support

Several weeks ago, I shared a post discussing how effective teachers develop classroom leadership skills instead of viewing themselves as classroom managers. The post describes how great teachers are great leaders, too. They have leadership skills far beyond simply managing classroom structures, procedures, etc. Great leaders connect with people. They inspire people. They don’t just make people do stuff. They inspire people to want to become their best.



In our school, we’ve spent quite a bit of time this year working on strategies and procedures for addressing difficult student behaviors more effectively. We often think new teachers have the most room to grow in this area, but every educator should always continue to develop the ability to influence students to make positive choices. Ultimately, we want all students to contribute constructively to a better classroom learning culture.



So here are 7 quick ideas for building classroom culture and limiting those problem behaviors. 



1. Treat students with respect no matter how they behave.



Building a culture of respect is critical for classroom success. You may be tempted to get your feelings tangled up in addressing a student behavior issue. Don’t. If you are having strong negative feelings toward a child, it’s probably not the time to have an in-depth conversation about his or her behavior. It’s okay to delay the talk until later when you’ve had time to process your feelings and can meet with the child in a productive manner. Note: It’s okay to have upset feelings about unacceptable classroom behaviors, and it’s okay to express these feelings in a productive way. But you don’t want to do something that harms the relationship or robs dignity from a child.



One time during a pep assembly a group of our students did something that went directly against what I had asked them to do. And I felt hurt and angered by the choice. After the assembly, I gave them a passionate speech about how disappointed I was. I told them how much I cared about them, how I wanted to trust them, and how I would never intentionally disrespect them. This talk was filled with emotion on my part. I was intense. But I didn’t disrespect anyone. I just tried to lead with my heart. In the end, I did not regret how I addressed the incident, and I think it was a productive response.



2. Be future-focused.



None of us wants our past mistakes held against us. We want to be forgiven and for people to give us grace. If you are having strong feelings about what a student did yesterday or the day before, that needs to be resolved so you can move forward in a positive way. Some people are always focused on the past. They complain about how kids these days aren’t as respectful or as responsible as they used to be. But that type of thinking isn’t helpful at all. 



When we are future-focused, we expect students to take responsibility for what they’ve done, admit how their actions were harmful, and then commit to show up in better, more productive ways in the future. 



3. Set high expectations and hold to them.



One of the most important things successful teachers do is clearly communicate expectations. That can be hard to do. It requires consistently reflecting on what’s working and what’s not working and then having conversations with your class about what needs to be different and why. When students understand your expectations and understand you will address deviation from the expectations, they will begin to take you seriously. I think sometimes teachers think they’ve communicated expectations and then just become frustrated when students don’t comply. When expectations aren’t met, circle back and teach the behaviors you’re looking for to create the best classroom culture. I’ve noticed the most effective teachers work hard to set clear boundaries and expectations.



4. Design the most engaging lessons possible.



When your lessons are more engaging, your students will be focused on learning. And when they are focused on learning, there will be less problem behaviors you’ll have to deal with. So be proactive and develop learning experiences that cause students to be active learners. I wrote a post on making learning irresistible. Check it out.

5. Handle private matters privately.



The older the student, the more important this one becomes. It goes back to #1. If a student feels you are being publicly critical, they are probably going to feel disrespected and the relationship will suffer. It’s certainly okay to give instructions or make a request publicly, but if you are dealing with a conflict or a correction, it’s better to do it as privately as possible. 



Some of my biggest failures as a teacher and principal happened when I allowed a conflict to have an audience. I wanted to resolve an issue immediately, but that isn’t always necessary. The best teachers resolve the issue when the timing is right. We never want to paint a kid into a corner when emotions are running high.



It may seem obvious, but never complain about a student who isn’t present. Even if what you say is true, I promise it’s not helpful or even fair to share your feelings with others.

6. Be active all around your classroom.



Smaller problems can turn into larger problems when teachers aren’t making the rounds in the classroom. You were probably taught about how great teachers have with-it-ness in your college classes—meaning they have a keen awareness of what is happening in the classroom and how it is impacting learning. Some teachers tend to stay at the front of the room or near their desk. But great teachers are observing and interacting with students all around the room. It helps to make sure things are headed in a positive direction.



7. Be intentional about building strong relationships with your students.



If this list were in any particular order, this one would need to be #1. The foundation of leadership for any educator is a consistent investment in building relationships. So how do you do that? Greet students at the door, call them by their name, give high-fives and fist-bumps, get to know their interests, give an encouraging word, attend one of their activities or games, ask them how they’re doing. And never, never give up on them. When students see you care about them as people first, it will result in them being better students also.



Question: What are your best tips for dealing with problem behaviors? I’d love for you to expand on these ideas. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More 7 Tips for Limiting Problem Behaviors in Your Classroom

Several weeks ago, I shared a post discussing how effective teachers develop classroom leadership skills instead of viewing themselves as classroom managers. The post describes how great teachers are great leaders, too. They have leadership skills far beyond simply managing classroom structures, procedures, etc. Great leaders connect with people. They inspire people. They don’t just make people do stuff. They inspire people to want to become their best.



In our school, we’ve spent quite a bit of time this year working on strategies and procedures for addressing difficult student behaviors more effectively. We often think new teachers have the most room to grow in this area, but every educator should always continue to develop the ability to influence students to make positive choices. Ultimately, we want all students to contribute constructively to a better classroom learning culture.



So here are 7 quick ideas for building classroom culture and limiting those problem behaviors. 



1. Treat students with respect no matter how they behave.



Building a culture of respect is critical for classroom success. You may be tempted to get your feelings tangled up in addressing a student behavior issue. Don’t. If you are having strong negative feelings toward a child, it’s probably not the time to have an in-depth conversation about his or her behavior. It’s okay to delay the talk until later when you’ve had time to process your feelings and can meet with the child in a productive manner. Note: It’s okay to have upset feelings about unacceptable classroom behaviors, and it’s okay to express these feelings in a productive way. But you don’t want to do something that harms the relationship or robs dignity from a child.



One time during a pep assembly a group of our students did something that went directly against what I had asked them to do. And I felt hurt and angered by the choice. After the assembly, I gave them a passionate speech about how disappointed I was. I told them how much I cared about them, how I wanted to trust them, and how I would never intentionally disrespect them. This talk was filled with emotion on my part. I was intense. But I didn’t disrespect anyone. I just tried to lead with my heart. In the end, I did not regret how I addressed the incident, and I think it was a productive response.



2. Be future-focused.



None of us wants our past mistakes held against us. We want to be forgiven and for people to give us grace. If you are having strong feelings about what a student did yesterday or the day before, that needs to be resolved so you can move forward in a positive way. Some people are always focused on the past. They complain about how kids these days aren’t as respectful or as responsible as they used to be. But that type of thinking isn’t helpful at all. 



When we are future-focused, we expect students to take responsibility for what they’ve done, admit how their actions were harmful, and then commit to show up in better, more productive ways in the future. 



3. Set high expectations and hold to them.



One of the most important things successful teachers do is clearly communicate expectations. That can be hard to do. It requires consistently reflecting on what’s working and what’s not working and then having conversations with your class about what needs to be different and why. When students understand your expectations and understand you will address deviation from the expectations, they will begin to take you seriously. I think sometimes teachers think they’ve communicated expectations and then just become frustrated when students don’t comply. When expectations aren’t met, circle back and teach the behaviors you’re looking for to create the best classroom culture. I’ve noticed the most effective teachers work hard to set clear boundaries and expectations.



4. Design the most engaging lessons possible.



When your lessons are more engaging, your students will be focused on learning. And when they are focused on learning, there will be less problem behaviors you’ll have to deal with. So be proactive and develop learning experiences that cause students to be active learners. I wrote a post on making learning irresistible. Check it out.

5. Handle private matters privately.



The older the student, the more important this one becomes. It goes back to #1. If a student feels you are being publicly critical, they are probably going to feel disrespected and the relationship will suffer. It’s certainly okay to give instructions or make a request publicly, but if you are dealing with a conflict or a correction, it’s better to do it as privately as possible. 



Some of my biggest failures as a teacher and principal happened when I allowed a conflict to have an audience. I wanted to resolve an issue immediately, but that isn’t always necessary. The best teachers resolve the issue when the timing is right. We never want to paint a kid into a corner when emotions are running high.



It may seem obvious, but never complain about a student who isn’t present. Even if what you say is true, I promise it’s not helpful or even fair to share your feelings with others.

6. Be active all around your classroom.



Smaller problems can turn into larger problems when teachers aren’t making the rounds in the classroom. You were probably taught about how great teachers have with-it-ness in your college classes—meaning they have a keen awareness of what is happening in the classroom and how it is impacting learning. Some teachers tend to stay at the front of the room or near their desk. But great teachers are observing and interacting with students all around the room. It helps to make sure things are headed in a positive direction.



7. Be intentional about building strong relationships with your students.



If this list were in any particular order, this one would need to be #1. The foundation of leadership for any educator is a consistent investment in building relationships. So how do you do that? Greet students at the door, call them by their name, give high-fives and fist-bumps, get to know their interests, give an encouraging word, attend one of their activities or games, ask them how they’re doing. And never, never give up on them. When students see you care about them as people first, it will result in them being better students also.



Question: What are your best tips for dealing with problem behaviors? I’d love for you to expand on these ideas. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More 7 Tips for Limiting Problem Behaviors in Your Classroom





Your legacy is one of your most valuable possessions. It is a treasure. It is your gift to the world. For every person you come in contact with, your influence—good and badgoes with them to some extent. Your legacy is how you are remembered.

Who Has Inspired You?



There are a number of educators, and other mentors, who have had a profound impact on my life. They influence me even when they are not present, even if I have not seen or spoken with them in years. Just thinking about the type of person they are inspires me even now to learn more, dream more, do more, and become more.



These people lift me up and make me stronger. They have a strong legacy in my life.



How Will You Inspire Others?



I want to have a strong legacy too. Not only because I want to be remembered fondly. Of course, I do. But more importantly, I want to make a difference. I want my life to count for something bigger than me. I want to be that legacy person for someone else. I want to help others.



I was recently listening to a podcast by Andy Stanley. He shared an exercise he said changed his life many years ago. He was reading The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. 



In 7 Habits, Covey challenges his readers with an exercise that is profound. You might find it unsettling or even slightly grim. But I urge you to read it carefully and thoughtfully. As you read the excerpt, consider how reflecting on this passage might be life changing for you too.

In your mind’s eye, see yourself going to the funeral of a loved one. Picture yourself driving to the funeral parlor or chapel, parking the car, and getting out. As you walk inside the building, you notice the flowers, the soft organ music. You see the faces of friends and family you pass along the way. You feel the shared sorrow of losing, the joy of having known, that radiates from the hearts of the people there.

As you walk down to the front of the room and look inside the casket, you suddenly come face to face with yourself. This is your funeral, three years from today. All these people have come to honor you, to express feelings of love and appreciation for your life.

As you take a seat and wait for the services to begin, you look at the program in your hand. There are to be four speakers. The first is from your family, immediate and also extended —children, brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces, aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents who have come from all over the country to attend. The second speaker is one of your friends, someone who can give a sense of what you were as a person. The third speaker is from your work or profession. And the fourth is from your church or some community organization where you’ve been involved in service.

Now think deeply. What would you like each of these speakers to say about you and your life? What kind of husband, wife, father, or mother would like their words to reflect? What kind of son or daughter or cousin? What kind of friend? What kind of working associate?

What character would you like them to have seen in you? What contributions, what achievements would you want them to remember? Look carefully at the people around you. What difference would you like to have made in their lives?

Stanley shared how he spent several days reflecting, in writing, on the questions set forth in the passage.



The 3-year timeline until your death is an important detail in the exercise. It creates a stronger sense of urgency. As educators, we should always have a sense of urgency too. We may be our students’ best hope. But we only have so much time. We may not have the same opportunity to influence them next year. They will likely move on to a new classroom with a different teacher.



Educators Leave a Lasting Legacy



Although the funeral exercise is great reflection for living a meaningful life, how might it be slightly modified to narrow the reflection for you as a teacher/educator? In a similar instance, what might your students say about you as their teacher? What would their parents say? How about the community you where you work? What is your legacy in that?



As I reflect on those questions, I am reminded of what’s most important to me. And I am also reminded of things that might distract me from the most important things. The most valuable thing is how I treat people, all of them. People come first. I want to be the kind of person who is always learning, who lifts others up, and who treats people with kindness, care, and consideration.



It’s easy to get distracted from the most important things. I am a person who also wants progress, who has goals, who is driven. If fact, in the past, there were times I was too focused on achieving and not tuned in to the people around me. I am working hard to make sure that doesn’t happen anymore.



I am convinced that reaching goals, making progress, and achieving success will be more likely to happen—mostly inevitable—if the first priority is people. If we treat people with all the care and concern we possibly can, we will see progress and success like never before. 



I respect every person who works hard and gets stuff done. There is value in working hard and earning a living to support yourself and your loved ones. But teaching provides the opportunity to do far more than just earning a paycheck. It’s more than a job. When teaching is your life’s work, you have the opportunity to make a lasting difference. You have the opportunity to make an important contribution. Your legacy counts!

So think about it…

What really matters?

What keeps you up at night?

What makes you want to be a better teacher, principal, parent or friend?

I hope these questions are helpful as you think about your legacy and what’s most important to you. Reflecting on what you really value is one of the best things you can do to find purpose and meaning in your life and work.

Questions? What do you want your legacy to be? Are you focused on the right things? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More What Do You Want Your Legacy to Be?





Your legacy is one of your most valuable possessions. It is a treasure. It is your gift to the world. For every person you come in contact with, your influence—good and badgoes with them to some extent. Your legacy is how you are remembered.

Who Has Inspired You?



There are a number of educators, and other mentors, who have had a profound impact on my life. They influence me even when they are not present, even if I have not seen or spoken with them in years. Just thinking about the type of person they are inspires me even now to learn more, dream more, do more, and become more.



These people lift me up and make me stronger. They have a strong legacy in my life.



How Will You Inspire Others?



I want to have a strong legacy too. Not only because I want to be remembered fondly. Of course, I do. But more importantly, I want to make a difference. I want my life to count for something bigger than me. I want to be that legacy person for someone else. I want to help others.



I was recently listening to a podcast by Andy Stanley. He shared an exercise he said changed his life many years ago. He was reading The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. 



In 7 Habits, Covey challenges his readers with an exercise that is profound. You might find it unsettling or even slightly grim. But I urge you to read it carefully and thoughtfully. As you read the excerpt, consider how reflecting on this passage might be life changing for you too.

In your mind’s eye, see yourself going to the funeral of a loved one. Picture yourself driving to the funeral parlor or chapel, parking the car, and getting out. As you walk inside the building, you notice the flowers, the soft organ music. You see the faces of friends and family you pass along the way. You feel the shared sorrow of losing, the joy of having known, that radiates from the hearts of the people there.

As you walk down to the front of the room and look inside the casket, you suddenly come face to face with yourself. This is your funeral, three years from today. All these people have come to honor you, to express feelings of love and appreciation for your life.

As you take a seat and wait for the services to begin, you look at the program in your hand. There are to be four speakers. The first is from your family, immediate and also extended —children, brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces, aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents who have come from all over the country to attend. The second speaker is one of your friends, someone who can give a sense of what you were as a person. The third speaker is from your work or profession. And the fourth is from your church or some community organization where you’ve been involved in service.

Now think deeply. What would you like each of these speakers to say about you and your life? What kind of husband, wife, father, or mother would like their words to reflect? What kind of son or daughter or cousin? What kind of friend? What kind of working associate?

What character would you like them to have seen in you? What contributions, what achievements would you want them to remember? Look carefully at the people around you. What difference would you like to have made in their lives?

Stanley shared how he spent several days reflecting, in writing, on the questions set forth in the passage.



The 3-year timeline until your death is an important detail in the exercise. It creates a stronger sense of urgency. As educators, we should always have a sense of urgency too. We may be our students’ best hope. But we only have so much time. We may not have the same opportunity to influence them next year. They will likely move on to a new classroom with a different teacher.



Educators Leave a Lasting Legacy



Although the funeral exercise is great reflection for living a meaningful life, how might it be slightly modified to narrow the reflection for you as a teacher/educator? In a similar instance, what might your students say about you as their teacher? What would their parents say? How about the community you where you work? What is your legacy in that?



As I reflect on those questions, I am reminded of what’s most important to me. And I am also reminded of things that might distract me from the most important things. The most valuable thing is how I treat people, all of them. People come first. I want to be the kind of person who is always learning, who lifts others up, and who treats people with kindness, care, and consideration.



It’s easy to get distracted from the most important things. I am a person who also wants progress, who has goals, who is driven. If fact, in the past, there were times I was too focused on achieving and not tuned in to the people around me. I am working hard to make sure that doesn’t happen anymore.



I am convinced that reaching goals, making progress, and achieving success will be more likely to happen—mostly inevitable—if the first priority is people. If we treat people with all the care and concern we possibly can, we will see progress and success like never before. 



I respect every person who works hard and gets stuff done. There is value in working hard and earning a living to support yourself and your loved ones. But teaching provides the opportunity to do far more than just earning a paycheck. It’s more than a job. When teaching is your life’s work, you have the opportunity to make a lasting difference. You have the opportunity to make an important contribution. Your legacy counts!

So think about it…

What really matters?

What keeps you up at night?

What makes you want to be a better teacher, principal, parent or friend?

I hope these questions are helpful as you think about your legacy and what’s most important to you. Reflecting on what you really value is one of the best things you can do to find purpose and meaning in your life and work.

Questions? What do you want your legacy to be? Are you focused on the right things? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More What Do You Want Your Legacy to Be?





In an earlier post, I (David) shared 5 Blind Spots Educators Must Address. My friend Jennifer Hogan commented that one way to overcome blind spots is through coaching. That conversation led to the idea of writing this collaborative blog post.



There are lots of ways we can become more aware of our blind spots. Usually, it happens when we have some input (reading, discussing, observing, etc.) and then reflect on that information. But one type of input that is probably underutilized is coaching. We all need to be open to coaching.


Coaching is a good strategy for revealing blind spots while also building on strengths. How do we open ourselves up to embrace coaching as a way to grow both professionally and personally?


Blind spots represent gaps between what we think is true and what is really true, and uncovering blind spots is an important part of one’s personal and professional growth. Blind spots may be certain behaviors, traits, habits, or thoughts that are observable to others but not immediately evident to us. To reduce blind spots we must be open to acknowledging what the other person sees and be willing to reflect on different perspectives. When we recognize a blind spot exists, we can work on changing, reducing, or eliminating them.


We all have blind spots. There are things we do not immediately recognize in our own patterns and behaviors that are plainly evident to others. It’s almost always easier to see how others could improve than to see areas in ourselves that we might improve. For the most part, you know far less about yourself than you feel you do.


Here are a few ideas for developing an openness to coaching and receiving feedback.


Coaching involves building trusting relationships.


Unless there is trusting relationship, it is impossible to have an effective coaching relationship. We can’t act with good faith on feedback from a person we don’t fully trust. But if we sincerely believe a person wants the best for us, we should always openly consider the feedback they provide. Why would we ever be closed to someone who genuinely wants good things for us? It doesn’t mean we automatically have to agree with their perspective, but we need to listen carefully. This person has my best interest in mind. They want me to do well. Why wouldn’t I listen to their feedback?


Good coaching involves listening, not judging.


Feeling judged makes the defenses go up. But feeling heard creates safety. Listening is one of the best tools a coach can use. It’s not a situation where one person is the expert fixing someone else’s problem. Even if it might seem obvious someone has a blindspot, it is ultimately their responsibility to own that. In a coaching conversation, the goal is shared meaning and solutions that arrive as a result of both parties contributions to the discussion. Listening opens doors to new ways of thinking and makes room for others to reflect on their own thinking.


Accepting coaching means facing, and even embracing, failure.



Most people see failure as a threat. We’ve learned failure is bad, and we want to avoid it. We want everyone to think we are successful all the time. But if we reframe failure, and think of it as an important part of how we learn, then we can translate our failures into even greater successes. Each time we fail, we can feel defeated and afraid. Or, we can look for the possibilities for growth in the situation. Some of our greatest opportunities are disguised as failures. Productive failure leads to personal and professional growth. We just need to see clearly. We need to overcome our blind spots.


Identifying blind spots requires seeking evidence that might be critical.


If we truly want to grow, we have to seek evidence of things we might be doing that aren’t working. Sometimes we might not want to look too carefully at something because we might find something we don’t like. But that type of thinking will always hinder our performance. John Hattie urges educators to “know thy impact.” Seek evidence to understand what’s working and what’s not. Hattie focuses on collecting evidence regarding one’s impact on student learning. Coaching can help us reflect on and process what we are doing and how it is impacting student learning. When we better understand what’s working and what’s not, we can focus our energies on highlighting the strengths and mitigating the weaknesses.


A coachable person views criticism with curiosity.


Curiosity leads to discovery and experimentation. A curious person will listen to criticism and feedback with an open mind and a willingness to continue learning. Curiosity is the engine that keeps us searching until we understand something or trying until we can do something. The inclination to explore new ideas, even ones that contradict current beliefs, help to close the gap between what we think is true and what is really true.


Asking for feedback makes it more powerful


Unwelcome feedback usually falls on deaf ears. Unless there is a high level of trust and a desire to hear a different perspective, it is usually a waste to offer feedback. We need to create a culture where it is normal and routine to have honest conversations about performance. Leaders need to model this. They need to ask for feedback too. When leaders demonstrate consistent comfort with examining their own areas for growth, others will feel more comfortable doing this too.


Effective coaching leads to positive change.


Learning is messy. As adults, we are in control of a lot of things. We decide what we’re having for dinner, how our classroom will run, where we will vacation, what time to leave the house, and so many more little and big decisions. Learning is messy. The process is never linear. Learning and trying something new goes against our habits of creating control in life situations. Especially when we know that we will be accountable for the learning and will get feedback throughout the messy process. But ultimately, coaching can lead to clarity, confidence, and growth.


What happens when we don’t open ourselves to receive coaching? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More Why Successful People Are Open to Coaching





In an earlier post, I (David) shared 5 Blind Spots Educators Must Address. My friend Jennifer Hogan commented that one way to overcome blind spots is through coaching. That conversation led to the idea of writing this collaborative blog post.



There are lots of ways we can become more aware of our blind spots. Usually, it happens when we have some input (reading, discussing, observing, etc.) and then reflect on that information. But one type of input that is probably underutilized is coaching. We all need to be open to coaching.


Coaching is a good strategy for revealing blind spots while also building on strengths. How do we open ourselves up to embrace coaching as a way to grow both professionally and personally?


Blind spots represent gaps between what we think is true and what is really true, and uncovering blind spots is an important part of one’s personal and professional growth. Blind spots may be certain behaviors, traits, habits, or thoughts that are observable to others but not immediately evident to us. To reduce blind spots we must be open to acknowledging what the other person sees and be willing to reflect on different perspectives. When we recognize a blind spot exists, we can work on changing, reducing, or eliminating them.


We all have blind spots. There are things we do not immediately recognize in our own patterns and behaviors that are plainly evident to others. It’s almost always easier to see how others could improve than to see areas in ourselves that we might improve. For the most part, you know far less about yourself than you feel you do.


Here are a few ideas for developing an openness to coaching and receiving feedback.


Coaching involves building trusting relationships.


Unless there is trusting relationship, it is impossible to have an effective coaching relationship. We can’t act with good faith on feedback from a person we don’t fully trust. But if we sincerely believe a person wants the best for us, we should always openly consider the feedback they provide. Why would we ever be closed to someone who genuinely wants good things for us? It doesn’t mean we automatically have to agree with their perspective, but we need to listen carefully. This person has my best interest in mind. They want me to do well. Why wouldn’t I listen to their feedback?


Good coaching involves listening, not judging.


Feeling judged makes the defenses go up. But feeling heard creates safety. Listening is one of the best tools a coach can use. It’s not a situation where one person is the expert fixing someone else’s problem. Even if it might seem obvious someone has a blindspot, it is ultimately their responsibility to own that. In a coaching conversation, the goal is shared meaning and solutions that arrive as a result of both parties contributions to the discussion. Listening opens doors to new ways of thinking and makes room for others to reflect on their own thinking.


Accepting coaching means facing, and even embracing, failure.



Most people see failure as a threat. We’ve learned failure is bad, and we want to avoid it. We want everyone to think we are successful all the time. But if we reframe failure, and think of it as an important part of how we learn, then we can translate our failures into even greater successes. Each time we fail, we can feel defeated and afraid. Or, we can look for the possibilities for growth in the situation. Some of our greatest opportunities are disguised as failures. Productive failure leads to personal and professional growth. We just need to see clearly. We need to overcome our blind spots.


Identifying blind spots requires seeking evidence that might be critical.


If we truly want to grow, we have to seek evidence of things we might be doing that aren’t working. Sometimes we might not want to look too carefully at something because we might find something we don’t like. But that type of thinking will always hinder our performance. John Hattie urges educators to “know thy impact.” Seek evidence to understand what’s working and what’s not. Hattie focuses on collecting evidence regarding one’s impact on student learning. Coaching can help us reflect on and process what we are doing and how it is impacting student learning. When we better understand what’s working and what’s not, we can focus our energies on highlighting the strengths and mitigating the weaknesses.


A coachable person views criticism with curiosity.


Curiosity leads to discovery and experimentation. A curious person will listen to criticism and feedback with an open mind and a willingness to continue learning. Curiosity is the engine that keeps us searching until we understand something or trying until we can do something. The inclination to explore new ideas, even ones that contradict current beliefs, help to close the gap between what we think is true and what is really true.


Asking for feedback makes it more powerful


Unwelcome feedback usually falls on deaf ears. Unless there is a high level of trust and a desire to hear a different perspective, it is usually a waste to offer feedback. We need to create a culture where it is normal and routine to have honest conversations about performance. Leaders need to model this. They need to ask for feedback too. When leaders demonstrate consistent comfort with examining their own areas for growth, others will feel more comfortable doing this too.


Effective coaching leads to positive change.


Learning is messy. As adults, we are in control of a lot of things. We decide what we’re having for dinner, how our classroom will run, where we will vacation, what time to leave the house, and so many more little and big decisions. Learning is messy. The process is never linear. Learning and trying something new goes against our habits of creating control in life situations. Especially when we know that we will be accountable for the learning and will get feedback throughout the messy process. But ultimately, coaching can lead to clarity, confidence, and growth.


What happens when we don’t open ourselves to receive coaching? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More Why Successful People Are Open to Coaching



There are a number of visuals like the one above that illustrate some distinctions between a boss and a leader. I bet you can think of a specific person who characterizes the boss list. This type of person tends to make big impression. You can probably also think of someone who exhibits the leader qualities. You probably admire that person. Of course, these are illustrations intended for the workplace, not the classroom.



Clearly, they are relevant to school administrators, but I’m also thinking they can be applied to classroom leaders as well, aka teachers. In fact, they can apply to anyone charged with leading people and charged with getting something done.



Here’s another. This one is similar but contrasting management vs. leadership.




Source: Verma and Wideman (1994)

Most everyone would agree leadership is a top priority in moving any group of people toward a desired outcome or goal. But in education we use the term classroom management frequently to refer to how teachers get things done in the classroom. Some educators actually reject the term. They would say you manage things (grading papers) and you lead people (students). 



But I’m not overly concerned about using the term classroom management as long as we can work from a shared understanding of the meaning. To me, it’s all about the things we do to create a positive and productive learning culture in the classroom.



But that will never happen just by managing. If we rely on the lists in the left columns without having the necessary leadership qualities, we are doomed to failure. Sure, some students will still learn, but the overall classroom learning culture will not thrive. And there will be little passion or inspiration for learning.



But on the other hand, if we don’t also establish some ‘management’ qualities to go with leadership, we may have great ideas and willing students but a lack of specific steps to achieve the goal.



Although several items from each column have value in context, I would always choose leaders over managers. Most everyone leans one way or another.



In fact, most every problem that persists in the classroom is at its root a leadership issue. That is not to blame the ‘leader’ but to say that if an ongoing problem is to be overcome it will usually happen by good leadership and not through better management.



Here are 7 Reasons ‘Classroom Leadership’ Is Better Than ‘Classroom Management.’



1. Establishing a Vision for Learning



Leaders create a vision for learning. They communicate why the learning is important. Better yet, they help followers (students) unpack for themselves how and why the learning is important. When there is a clear vision, students will be empowered to move toward aims without having to be pushed there forcefully.



How are you clarifying a vision of learning for your students?

2. Building Strong Relationships 



Building positive relationships is essential to establishing a positive classroom learning culture. Leaders develop a ‘we’ feeling with students. Students feel safe, connected, like they belong. Every student feels like they are valued. The leader doesn’t use fear as a motivator. Instead, they rely on relationship building to correct and guide.



How can you commit to building stronger relationships with your students?



3. Generating Enthusiasm



Leaders are inspiring and energizing. They have passion for what they are doing and it’s contagious. They encourage others to come along on the learning journey. Managers don’t think about the energy they bring. They rely more on structure and organization to be efficient. Efficiency is more important than passion to the manager. 



What are ways you show enthusiasm not only for your subject but also for your students?



4. Building Trust 



When trust is lost, it does incredible damage. A leader is careful to ensure students don’t feel disrespected, overlooked, or misunderstood. When things go wrong, leaders help to shoulder blame. And when things go right, they are willing to share the credit. Leaders are quick to forgive. And work to repair a relationship that is hurting.



Will you protect the dignity of each child in your classroom?



5. Honest and Clear Communication



Even if you establish great, trusting relationships with students, you won’t have a strong learning culture unless you are communicating effectively. Sometimes this includes delivering hard truth to students. Sometimes it means standing firm. Setting boundaries. Giving consequences. However, consequences are never as effective as communication for establishing a positive change.



Are you consistently communicating with students and clarifying the classroom norms and expectations?



6. Leading By Example



Managers don’t feel the need to set an example. They view their role as making sure the kids are doing what they’re supposed to, but don’t look at their own actions. Leaders have high expectations for themselves. They start with the person in the mirror. They model the types of behaviors and mindsets they want to see in others.





How are you modeling the values you want to establish in your classroom?



7. Being Proactive vs. Reactive



Managers react. Leaders prevent. Managers focus on what just happened. Leaders focus on what will happen next. An effective leader anticipates the needs of followers and works to stay in front of problems. 



In what ways are being proactive in building a learning culture rather than being reactive when the culture goes off the tracks?



Question: What are your thoughts on building a learning culture in your classroom or school? What would you add to the thinking I’ve shared? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or share on Facebook or Twitter.





Read More 7 Reasons ‘Classroom Leadership’ Is Better Than ‘Classroom Management’ {Infographic}



There are a number of visuals like the one above that illustrate some distinctions between a boss and a leader. I bet you can think of a specific person who characterizes the boss list. This type of person tends to make big impression. You can probably also think of someone who exhibits the leader qualities. You probably admire that person. Of course, these are illustrations intended for the workplace, not the classroom.



Clearly, they are relevant to school administrators, but I’m also thinking they can be applied to classroom leaders as well, aka teachers. In fact, they can apply to anyone charged with leading people and charged with getting something done.



Here’s another. This one is similar but contrasting management vs. leadership.




Source: Verma and Wideman (1994)

Most everyone would agree leadership is a top priority in moving any group of people toward a desired outcome or goal. But in education we use the term classroom management frequently to refer to how teachers get things done in the classroom. Some educators actually reject the term. They would say you manage things (grading papers) and you lead people (students). 



But I’m not overly concerned about using the term classroom management as long as we can work from a shared understanding of the meaning. To me, it’s all about the things we do to create a positive and productive learning culture in the classroom.



But that will never happen just by managing. If we rely on the lists in the left columns without having the necessary leadership qualities, we are doomed to failure. Sure, some students will still learn, but the overall classroom learning culture will not thrive. And there will be little passion or inspiration for learning.



But on the other hand, if we don’t also establish some ‘management’ qualities to go with leadership, we may have great ideas and willing students but a lack of specific steps to achieve the goal.



Although several items from each column have value in context, I would always choose leaders over managers. Most everyone leans one way or another.



In fact, most every problem that persists in the classroom is at its root a leadership issue. That is not to blame the ‘leader’ but to say that if an ongoing problem is to be overcome it will usually happen by good leadership and not through better management.



Here are 7 Reasons ‘Classroom Leadership’ Is Better Than ‘Classroom Management.’



1. Establishing a Vision for Learning



Leaders create a vision for learning. They communicate why the learning is important. Better yet, they help followers (students) unpack for themselves how and why the learning is important. When there is a clear vision, students will be empowered to move toward aims without having to be pushed there forcefully.



How are you clarifying a vision of learning for your students?

2. Building Strong Relationships 



Building positive relationships is essential to establishing a positive classroom learning culture. Leaders develop a ‘we’ feeling with students. Students feel safe, connected, like they belong. Every student feels like they are valued. The leader doesn’t use fear as a motivator. Instead, they rely on relationship building to correct and guide.



How can you commit to building stronger relationships with your students?



3. Generating Enthusiasm



Leaders are inspiring and energizing. They have passion for what they are doing and it’s contagious. They encourage others to come along on the learning journey. Managers don’t think about the energy they bring. They rely more on structure and organization to be efficient. Efficiency is more important than passion to the manager. 



What are ways you show enthusiasm not only for your subject but also for your students?



4. Building Trust 



When trust is lost, it does incredible damage. A leader is careful to ensure students don’t feel disrespected, overlooked, or misunderstood. When things go wrong, leaders help to shoulder blame. And when things go right, they are willing to share the credit. Leaders are quick to forgive. And work to repair a relationship that is hurting.



Will you protect the dignity of each child in your classroom?



5. Honest and Clear Communication



Even if you establish great, trusting relationships with students, you won’t have a strong learning culture unless you are communicating effectively. Sometimes this includes delivering hard truth to students. Sometimes it means standing firm. Setting boundaries. Giving consequences. However, consequences are never as effective as communication for establishing a positive change.



Are you consistently communicating with students and clarifying the classroom norms and expectations?



6. Leading By Example



Managers don’t feel the need to set an example. They view their role as making sure the kids are doing what they’re supposed to, but don’t look at their own actions. Leaders have high expectations for themselves. They start with the person in the mirror. They model the types of behaviors and mindsets they want to see in others.





How are you modeling the values you want to establish in your classroom?



7. Being Proactive vs. Reactive



Managers react. Leaders prevent. Managers focus on what just happened. Leaders focus on what will happen next. An effective leader anticipates the needs of followers and works to stay in front of problems. 



In what ways are being proactive in building a learning culture rather than being reactive when the culture goes off the tracks?



Question: What are your thoughts on building a learning culture in your classroom or school? What would you add to the thinking I’ve shared? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or share on Facebook or Twitter.





Read More 7 Reasons ‘Classroom Leadership’ Is Better Than ‘Classroom Management’ {Infographic}



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



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




 



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



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



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

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

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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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

Read More 9 Ways to Help Your Students Show Up Well



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



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




 



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



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



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

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

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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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

Read More 9 Ways to Help Your Students Show Up Well

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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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







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

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

— SBU Athletics (@sbubearcats) September 18, 2016



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



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




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



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



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



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



Read More Never Underestimate Your Influence

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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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







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

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

— SBU Athletics (@sbubearcats) September 18, 2016



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



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




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



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



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



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



Read More Never Underestimate Your Influence



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



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



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



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



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






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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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


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


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


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




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


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

Read More Not Just Better, But Different



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



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



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



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



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






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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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


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


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


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




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


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

Read More Not Just Better, But Different



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



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



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



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



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






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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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


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


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


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




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


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

Read More Not Just Better, But Different





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


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


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

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

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



1. Be Present



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



2. Ask



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



3. Listen



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



4. Understand



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



5. Speak Up



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



6. Take Action



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



7. Always Encourage



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



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



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

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





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


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


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

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

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



1. Be Present



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



2. Ask



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



3. Listen



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



4. Understand



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



5. Speak Up



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



6. Take Action



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



7. Always Encourage



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



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



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

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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



I hope you get my point.



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



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

Read More Do We Really Have Time for Digital Citizenship?