Tag: Influence

Countless books have been written on the topic of leadership. There are styles, and theories, and frameworks.

But at it’s essence, leadership is about energy. 

What kind of energy do you bring each day? Are you showing up with enthusiasm a…

Read More Leadership is Energy: Bring It!

No one is perfect. Not one of us. But if we’re not careful, we can fall into the trap of thinking we have to act perfect. 

I find it puzzling how students sometimes have the idea that teachers/principals/educators are somehow above making mis…

Read More 7 Benefits of Apologizing to Your Students

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

Read More 11 Phrases to Effectively Respond to Complaining

I recently finished reading A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix by by Edwin Friedman. The author shared a number of leadership insights that were helpful to me or at least pushed my thinking.

But one of his positions knocked…

Read More Is It Possible to Have Too Much Empathy?

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

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

Read More Relentless About the Right Things



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



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

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



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



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



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

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



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



5 Ways to See Students as Possibilities



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



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


2. Give them opportunities to lead and have responsibilities.


I love this quote from Booker T Washington…

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

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



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



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



4. View mistakes as learning opportunities.


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


5. Never crush a child’s dream.


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


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

Read More Do You View Students as Possibilities or Probabilities?



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



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



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

The Bible puts it this way…

Above all else, guard your heart,

for everything you do flows from it.

Keep your mouth free of perversity;

keep corrupt talk far from your lips.

Let your eyes look straight ahead;

fix your gaze directly before you.

Give careful thought to the paths for your feet

and be steadfast in all your ways.

Do not turn to the right or the left;

keep your foot from evil.

Proverbs 4:23-27

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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



8 Things That Influence Who You’re Becoming

1. What you watch

2. What you listen to

3. What you read

4. What you believe

5. How you spend your time

6. Who you spend your time with

7. The things you say to yourself

8. The thoughts you choose to accept



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

Read More 8 Things That Influence Who You’re Becoming



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



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



Which of the following is most powerful?



Think, Analyze, Change or See, Feel, Change



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



1. Give people experiences.



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



2. Give people affirmation.



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



3. Give people responsibility.



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

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

4. Give people hope.



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



5. Give people connection.



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



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

Read More Are You a Change Agent?



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



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



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



We can train people to be implementers.



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



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



That’s transforming work.



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



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



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



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

Read More From Implementing to Transforming



How important are bus drivers? Our kids’ safety is in their hands. They are the first point of contact in the morning and help set the tone for the day. Bus drivers make a difference. And so do cooks. And custodians. And everyone else who gives so much to the life of a school.



I was speaking last week at the Cypress-Fairbanks Rigor, Relevance, and Relationships Leadership conference in Houston. It was a great event, and I enjoyed making some wonderful connections with educators there.


One of the people I met shared some valuable wisdom with me. The conference provided a shuttle to and from the hotel, and my driver’s name was Tammy.


She drives a school bus for the district, but she’s not just a regular school bus driver. She substitutes for all the bus routes in the Cy-Fair district (one of the largest in Texas) wherever she’s needed.


I can’t imagine how difficult that must be to drive a different group of kids every day, on a different school bus, in city traffic, with your back turned to them. That takes a special skill set!


Tammy is amazing! I was inspired by her commitment and her kindness. I asked her how she handles working with so many different kids while navigating unfamiliar routes.


I’m paraphrasing what Tammy said…and then adding a few of my thoughts too. She shared great advice and encouragement!


1. “They can tell I enjoy them and love them. And that makes all the difference.”


When kids know you care about them and accept them, you’ll bring out the best in them. The quickest way to change another person’s behavior is to change your behavior towards them. Every kid wants to feel like they are easy to love.


2. “When I ask them to do something, I address them as sir or m’am. And when they follow through, I say thank you.”


Kids are going to make mistakes. But if you make it a point to enjoy being with them, and treat them with great respect and care, there is almost no mistake you can’t correct. They’ll be far more open to your feedback when they feel that you have the highest respect for them.


3. “When those middle school students realize they can’t get under my skin, I have them right where I want them.”


The kids are going to test you and see how you respond. If it’s with anger or frustration, the situation is likely to escalate. If you are firm, polite, and also calm and caring, you’ll get a much better result. Let them know you’re in their corner even when you’re correcting them.


4. “I keep doing this because they need me.”


Tammy explained she had thought about retiring, but I could tell she also felt great satisfaction and purpose in what she’s doing. She sees purpose and contribution in what she does. She’s making things better with each interaction she has.


5. “I can tell you put your heart and soul into what you do.”


She said that to me. I was so honored and humbled. She gave me a big hug when she dropped me off at the airport. And I’m not even that much of a hugger. She encouraged me and affirmed me and added value to me.


Who makes the difference in your school?


Every person who works in a school makes a difference. Every person contributes to the culture of the school. 


What if everyone in your school gave as generously as Tammy to love and support the kids and the adults in the school? What if we all showed a little more care and appreciation for every person in every interaction? That’s how you build a strong school culture.


Who is someone who inspires you? How are you giving generously to others? Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter. I would love to hear from you.

Read More What You Do Matters



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



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


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


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


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


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



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



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



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

Read More Balancing Achievement and Agency



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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

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



It’s inevitable. Sooner or later there will be conflict. People will have differences. Disagreements will erupt. Mistakes will be made. Stuff happens.



But we can sharpen our skills to be ready when unhealthy conflict begins to rise. And we can use our tools to keep dialogue open and productive. Disagreements don’t have to turn destructive. 



A difference of opinion doesn’t haven’t to escalate into a damaged relationship. The phrases I share below have worked well for me, for the most part. Tone of voice and body language are critically important too.



It doesn’t matter if the conflict is with a student, a colleague, or a parent, it’s so important to listen carefully and let the other person know you are listening carefully. 



Listen carefully and practice empathy. Try to fully understand where the other person is coming from.



Here are 11 phrases that might be helpful…

1. “Let’s work together to solve this.”



All of the problem-solving to address an issue shouldn’t come from one side or the other. It’s not me vs. you. It’s us vs. the problem.



2. “I may be wrong. I frequently am. Let’s look at the facts.”



Our natural tendency is to become defensive when someone challenges us. Take a tentative stance at the start. That shows you’re open to listening.



3. “If I’m wrong I want to correct it and make it right. I may be in error.”



If you start to defend your position right away you set yourself in opposition to the other side. When we set ourselves in opposition to another, it’s their instinct to cling to their ideas and defend them whether there is truly any merit to them or not.



4. “Let me see if I got that.”



Or “Let me see if I understand you correctly?” Listen actively. Acknowledge what the other person is saying. Instead of defending or explaining, start by paraphrasing. Repeat what they’ve said to ensure that you’re getting the right meaning. Ask clarifying questions. It makes the other person feel heard. It shows you are listening.



5. “What’s your biggest concern?”



Sometimes when people get upset they vent about all sorts of things that may be related and may not be related. This question helps focus on what the real issue is.



6. “How are you feeling about that?”



Again this question is acknowledging that there are strong feelings as a result of the situation. It’s good to validate the feelings someone is having. It doesn’t mean you agree with what needs to happen, but you are trying to understand how they feel. 



7. “What would you like to see happen? What would make you happy?”



Sometimes when I ask this question after I’ve listened carefully for a time, the person will say they don’t really want anything to happen. They just wanted to express their frustration. And sometimes there are specific requests. This question get possible next steps out on the table. 



8. “Is it possible that we could…?”



Or “What if…” Help introduce new possibilities to the situation. In emotionally charged situations, people often get locked into seeing things from only one perspective. We’re looking for a creative solution that is win/win.



9. “I’m willing to discuss this as long as needed until we’re both satisfied how it’s resolved.”



I love to say this when I can tell things are really heated. It immediately says to the other person that I’m not going to be your opponent in this discussion. I’m not going to allow this to be an argument. It almost always diffuses the situation.



10. “Let me think about this some more. Let’s try again later.”



Sometimes, even when I’ve tried to maintain dialogue and approach the problem with as much diplomacy as possible, we still can’t seem to either deescalate or find acceptable solutions. Then it’s time to say let’s both think about it some more and try again later.



11. “Do you feel like the situation’s been handled fairly?”



It’s very rewarding when a conversation that could be angry and awful ends up being successful. It actually builds a stronger relationship. Conflict can make us stronger. Sometimes I will even ask if the other person feels it’s been handled fairly. If they can’t say yes, then maybe we need to talk some more.



Don’t allow yourself to become an opponent in the conversation. If people sense that you are defensive, they will set themselves in opposition to you. They will cling to their ideas and defend them no matter what. Even if there isn’t merit to the concern, they will fight for their point of view. They won’t care about what’s right. They’ll only care about being right. They’ll defend the most ridiculous claims and blunders simply because they view you as an opponent.



And conversely, if you truly listen and avoid becoming an opponent, people are far more likely to admit errors of their own. If they are handled gently and respectfully, they will be more open to listening to your perspective too. But make sure they’ve had plenty of opportunities to be heard before you expect them to hear your point of view.



Do you have other ideas for disarming conflict? What’s been your experience with handling conflict successfully? I’d like to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook.

Read More 11 Helpful Phrases for Disarming Conflict



Curiosity might be good for you, and good for your students too, in ways you haven’t considered. One of our core values in our school is “start with questions.” We want our students to be more curious tomorrow than they are today. We want to design learning that develops curiosity. We believe in the benefits of curiosity. In fact, curiosity has been shown to contribute to academic success as much as hard work or intelligence. 



But curiosity has many benefits beyond academic success. When we are curious in a whole variety of situations, we can better come to terms with who we are, how we fit into the world, and how we can make an impact on the world around us.



So here are 7 ways curiosity can be beneficial beyond academic success…



1.  Curiosity About Feelings



We are seeing unprecedented levels of anxiety and depression among young people. But mindfulness principles are effective in addressing thoughts and feelings by leveraging curiosity, instead of angst or avoidance. Be curious about feelings in a nonjudgmental way. Recognize that feelings come and go and are neither inherently good or bad. Approach feelings with a sense of wonder, “I’m curious about why I’m feeling this way.” Be curious, not furious.



2. Curiosity About Relationships



Relationships grow stronger when we show empathy. And it’s necessary to be curious to develop empathy. You have to be curious about what the other person is experiencing. You have to put yourself in their shoes. When we are curious about others, it also makes them feel valued, listened to, and understood. Curiosity says, “I want to know more about you. You matter. You’re interesting to me.”



3. Curiosity About Perspectives



Our perspective shapes our mindset. We can view failure as something negative, or we can view it as an opportunity to learn and grow. Everything that happens to me can be useful to me and for my benefit. But that requires me to be curious to consider how I might reframe in a positive way things that on the surface seem to be hardships or difficulties.



4. Curiosity About Habits



After reading The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, I became far more curious about my habits and the habits that are common in our school. We want to create an extraordinary greeting for our students, every morning and each class period of the day. We want to make that a habit. I also want to examine my personal habits with curiosity, “Is this habit taking me where I want to go? Is this habit consistent with the path I want to be on?” Let’s be curious about the habits we have in the classroom and how they impact learning.

5. Curiosity About Risk Taking



What would you do if you had no fear? What do you fear? And why do you fear these things? What is holding you back? We need to be curious about these questions and why we aren’t willing to embrace positive risk taking. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. We cannot know what we are truly capable of accomplishing if we aren’t willing to push outside our comfort zone and take risks.



6. Curiosity About How Things Work



Have you ever wondered how electricity works? Or magnets? Or gravity? Science can explain these phenomenon, at least to an extent. But they also maintain a mysterious quality. They make me curious. But as a leader, I’m also curious about what makes our school culture work the way it does. I’m curious about how student’s motivation works. And I’m curious about how to facilitate positive change. There are so many examples of being curious about how things work. And sometimes, this curiosity leads to innovations and breakthroughs that make life better for everyone.



7. Curiosity About the Future



I’m curious about the future. I’m curious about what life will be like for my own kids and for my students. And, I’m curious about what educators need to be doing today to prepare students for their futures. When we are curious about the future, it helps us be more diligent in our decisions today. The choices we make today will shape the future. But we have to be curious and consider how today’s decisions might lead to future challenges or opportunities. Acting today with little thought for tomorrow is unlikely to end well. A long term perspective is needed to prepare for an uncertain future. Be curious about the future.



Can you think of any other unexpected benefits of curiosity? Is you school consistently making efforts to bring out curiosity in students? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook.

Read More 7 Unexpected Benefits of Curiosity



Curiosity might be good for you, and good for your students too, in ways you haven’t considered. One of our core values in our school is “start with questions.” We want our students to be more curious tomorrow than they are today. We want to design learning that develops curiosity. We believe in the benefits of curiosity. In fact, curiosity has been shown to contribute to academic success as much as hard work or intelligence. 



But curiosity has many benefits beyond academic success. When we are curious in a whole variety of situations, we can better come to terms with who we are, how we fit into the world, and how we can make an impact on the world around us.



So here are 7 ways curiosity can be beneficial beyond academic success…



1.  Curiosity About Feelings



We are seeing unprecedented levels of anxiety and depression among young people. But mindfulness principles are effective in addressing thoughts and feelings by leveraging curiosity, instead of angst or avoidance. Be curious about feelings in a nonjudgmental way. Recognize that feelings come and go and are neither inherently good or bad. Approach feelings with a sense of wonder, “I’m curious about why I’m feeling this way.” Be curious, not furious.



2. Curiosity About Relationships



Relationships grow stronger when we show empathy. And it’s necessary to be curious to develop empathy. You have to be curious about what the other person is experiencing. You have to put yourself in their shoes. When we are curious about others, it also makes them feel valued, listened to, and understood. Curiosity says, “I want to know more about you. You matter. You’re interesting to me.”



3. Curiosity About Perspectives



Our perspective shapes our mindset. We can view failure as something negative, or we can view it as an opportunity to learn and grow. Everything that happens to me can be useful to me and for my benefit. But that requires me to be curious to consider how I might reframe in a positive way things that on the surface seem to be hardships or difficulties.



4. Curiosity About Habits



After reading The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, I became far more curious about my habits and the habits that are common in our school. We want to create an extraordinary greeting for our students, every morning and each class period of the day. We want to make that a habit. I also want to examine my personal habits with curiosity, “Is this habit taking me where I want to go? Is this habit consistent with the path I want to be on?” Let’s be curious about the habits we have in the classroom and how they impact learning.

5. Curiosity About Risk Taking



What would you do if you had no fear? What do you fear? And why do you fear these things? What is holding you back? We need to be curious about these questions and why we aren’t willing to embrace positive risk taking. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. We cannot know what we are truly capable of accomplishing if we aren’t willing to push outside our comfort zone and take risks.



6. Curiosity About How Things Work



Have you ever wondered how electricity works? Or magnets? Or gravity? Science can explain these phenomenon, at least to an extent. But they also maintain a mysterious quality. They make me curious. But as a leader, I’m also curious about what makes our school culture work the way it does. I’m curious about how student’s motivation works. And I’m curious about how to facilitate positive change. There are so many examples of being curious about how things work. And sometimes, this curiosity leads to innovations and breakthroughs that make life better for everyone.



7. Curiosity About the Future



I’m curious about the future. I’m curious about what life will be like for my own kids and for my students. And, I’m curious about what educators need to be doing today to prepare students for their futures. When we are curious about the future, it helps us be more diligent in our decisions today. The choices we make today will shape the future. But we have to be curious and consider how today’s decisions might lead to future challenges or opportunities. Acting today with little thought for tomorrow is unlikely to end well. A long term perspective is needed to prepare for an uncertain future. Be curious about the future.



Can you think of any other unexpected benefits of curiosity? Is you school consistently making efforts to bring out curiosity in students? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook.

Read More 7 Unexpected Benefits of Curiosity



Curiosity might be good for you, and good for your students too, in ways you haven’t considered. One of our core values in our school is “start with questions.” We want our students to be more curious tomorrow than they are today. We want to design learning that develops curiosity. We believe in the benefits of curiosity. In fact, curiosity has been shown to contribute to academic success as much as hard work or intelligence. 



But curiosity has many benefits beyond academic success. When we are curious in a whole variety of situations, we can better come to terms with who we are, how we fit into the world, and how we can make an impact on the world around us.



So here are 7 ways curiosity can be beneficial beyond academic success…



1.  Curiosity About Feelings



We are seeing unprecedented levels of anxiety and depression among young people. But mindfulness principles are effective in addressing thoughts and feelings by leveraging curiosity, instead of angst or avoidance. Be curious about feelings in a nonjudgmental way. Recognize that feelings come and go and are neither inherently good or bad. Approach feelings with a sense of wonder, “I’m curious about why I’m feeling this way.” Be curious, not furious.



2. Curiosity About Relationships



Relationships grow stronger when we show empathy. And it’s necessary to be curious to develop empathy. You have to be curious about what the other person is experiencing. You have to put yourself in their shoes. When we are curious about others, it also makes them feel valued, listened to, and understood. Curiosity says, “I want to know more about you. You matter. You’re interesting to me.”



3. Curiosity About Perspectives



Our perspective shapes our mindset. We can view failure as something negative, or we can view it as an opportunity to learn and grow. Everything that happens to me can be useful to me and for my benefit. But that requires me to be curious to consider how I might reframe in a positive way things that on the surface seem to be hardships or difficulties.



4. Curiosity About Habits



After reading The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, I became far more curious about my habits and the habits that are common in our school. We want to create an extraordinary greeting for our students, every morning and each class period of the day. We want to make that a habit. I also want to examine my personal habits with curiosity, “Is this habit taking me where I want to go? Is this habit consistent with the path I want to be on?” Let’s be curious about the habits we have in the classroom and how they impact learning.

5. Curiosity About Risk Taking



What would you do if you had no fear? What do you fear? And why do you fear these things? What is holding you back? We need to be curious about these questions and why we aren’t willing to embrace positive risk taking. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. We cannot know what we are truly capable of accomplishing if we aren’t willing to push outside our comfort zone and take risks.



6. Curiosity About How Things Work



Have you ever wondered how electricity works? Or magnets? Or gravity? Science can explain these phenomenon, at least to an extent. But they also maintain a mysterious quality. They make me curious. But as a leader, I’m also curious about what makes our school culture work the way it does. I’m curious about how student’s motivation works. And I’m curious about how to facilitate positive change. There are so many examples of being curious about how things work. And sometimes, this curiosity leads to innovations and breakthroughs that make life better for everyone.



7. Curiosity About the Future



I’m curious about the future. I’m curious about what life will be like for my own kids and for my students. And, I’m curious about what educators need to be doing today to prepare students for their futures. When we are curious about the future, it helps us be more diligent in our decisions today. The choices we make today will shape the future. But we have to be curious and consider how today’s decisions might lead to future challenges or opportunities. Acting today with little thought for tomorrow is unlikely to end well. A long term perspective is needed to prepare for an uncertain future. Be curious about the future.



Can you think of any other unexpected benefits of curiosity? Is you school consistently making efforts to bring out curiosity in students? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook.

Read More 7 Unexpected Benefits of Curiosity



Curiosity might be good for you, and good for your students too, in ways you haven’t considered. One of our core values in our school is “start with questions.” We want our students to be more curious tomorrow than they are today. We want to design learning that develops curiosity. We believe in the benefits of curiosity. In fact, curiosity has been shown to contribute to academic success as much as hard work or intelligence. 



But curiosity has many benefits beyond academic success. When we are curious in a whole variety of situations, we can better come to terms with who we are, how we fit into the world, and how we can make an impact on the world around us.



So here are 7 ways curiosity can be beneficial beyond academic success…



1.  Curiosity About Feelings



We are seeing unprecedented levels of anxiety and depression among young people. But mindfulness principles are effective in addressing thoughts and feelings by leveraging curiosity, instead of angst or avoidance. Be curious about feelings in a nonjudgmental way. Recognize that feelings come and go and are neither inherently good or bad. Approach feelings with a sense of wonder, “I’m curious about why I’m feeling this way.” Be curious, not furious.



2. Curiosity About Relationships



Relationships grow stronger when we show empathy. And it’s necessary to be curious to develop empathy. You have to be curious about what the other person is experiencing. You have to put yourself in their shoes. When we are curious about others, it also makes them feel valued, listened to, and understood. Curiosity says, “I want to know more about you. You matter. You’re interesting to me.”



3. Curiosity About Perspectives



Our perspective shapes our mindset. We can view failure as something negative, or we can view it as an opportunity to learn and grow. Everything that happens to me can be useful to me and for my benefit. But that requires me to be curious to consider how I might reframe in a positive way things that on the surface seem to be hardships or difficulties.



4. Curiosity About Habits



After reading The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, I became far more curious about my habits and the habits that are common in our school. We want to create an extraordinary greeting for our students, every morning and each class period of the day. We want to make that a habit. I also want to examine my personal habits with curiosity, “Is this habit taking me where I want to go? Is this habit consistent with the path I want to be on?” Let’s be curious about the habits we have in the classroom and how they impact learning.

5. Curiosity About Risk Taking



What would you do if you had no fear? What do you fear? And why do you fear these things? What is holding you back? We need to be curious about these questions and why we aren’t willing to embrace positive risk taking. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. We cannot know what we are truly capable of accomplishing if we aren’t willing to push outside our comfort zone and take risks.



6. Curiosity About How Things Work



Have you ever wondered how electricity works? Or magnets? Or gravity? Science can explain these phenomenon, at least to an extent. But they also maintain a mysterious quality. They make me curious. But as a leader, I’m also curious about what makes our school culture work the way it does. I’m curious about how student’s motivation works. And I’m curious about how to facilitate positive change. There are so many examples of being curious about how things work. And sometimes, this curiosity leads to innovations and breakthroughs that make life better for everyone.



7. Curiosity About the Future



I’m curious about the future. I’m curious about what life will be like for my own kids and for my students. And, I’m curious about what educators need to be doing today to prepare students for their futures. When we are curious about the future, it helps us be more diligent in our decisions today. The choices we make today will shape the future. But we have to be curious and consider how today’s decisions might lead to future challenges or opportunities. Acting today with little thought for tomorrow is unlikely to end well. A long term perspective is needed to prepare for an uncertain future. Be curious about the future.



Can you think of any other unexpected benefits of curiosity? Is you school consistently making efforts to bring out curiosity in students? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook.

Read More 7 Unexpected Benefits of Curiosity



I met John Norlin this summer at the National Principals Conference and knew right away I wanted to learn more about his story and his work as co-founder of CharacterStrong. One thing led to another and luckily we were able to have him present to our staff earlier this week.



It was awesome. Many of the ideas he shared are reminders. He pointed this out more than once. These aren’t new ideas. 



“I’m not here to inform you today as much as I’m here to remind you,” he said.



We all know how important relationships are. We know how important it is to develop character. We all know academic skills won’t take you very far unless you can also work effectively with people. We know kindness counts. 



But even when we know these things, we can get better at doing these things. We can become better people. And we can help our students become better people too. But we have to be intentional. We have to work at it. We have to develop our own habits. And it’s hard work. 



It doesn’t even necessarily take more time. But it does require us to use the time we have in very intentional ways. 



The reminders John shared are very important reminders. He shared the message in a way that inspired us and helped our staff build even stronger connections. I think we left more excited about our work and more committed to our students. I think we left more committed to each other too.



Here are a few reminders that stood out to me…



-Everyone NEEDS character development. All of us.



-We are built to be relational. Stronger relationships help build a stronger school and better learning.



-We need purpose more than we need happiness. Most are trying to be happy, but deeply fulfilled people know their purpose. 



-Students need a deeper why. So many don’t know their purpose and how school fits with that purpose.



-Many of our students need hope. In truth, we all need hope and we need to be hope for each other.



-Our school culture is built on behaviors. Character is revealed by behaviors. We make thousands of choices daily. How are your choices contributing to the culture of your school?



-Such an important question: What have you done for others today?



In Future Driven, I wrote about my efforts to greet students each morning. I had always tried to be visible and friendly as students arrived to school in the morning. But then I decided to be more intentional. I made sure I was at the door to welcome as many students as possible, to learn as many names as possible, to make the greeting as extraordinary as possible. 



When I became more intentional, I noticed all sorts of cool things started happening. Like this…


One day I had some help with my greeting routine. One of our students, Nathaniel, was already at the bus drop off door. He was holding it open. I didn’t think too much of it, but then he started showing up every day. He’s always there now ready to help, even before I arrive. He’s quiet, so he doesn’t say much to the other kids as they come in, but many of the other students will tell him thank you as they walk by.

And I’ve gotten to know Nathaniel a little. He is passionate about professional wrestling. He looks forward to watching it on TV each week, and he asks me if I watched it too. I asked him if he knew about Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant, wrestling heroes from when I was a kid. He just grinned and said he heard of them. I also learned a little about his family, where he lives, and some of his favorite things. I even learned we have 22 buses that drop off students in the morning because Nathaniel counted them for me.
Isn’t it amazing the impact our small actions can make? Just showing up in the morning to greet kids inspired Nathaniel to do the same. Our investment in people has a way of multiplying. Nathaniel wanted to help out. I think he feels good about holding the door open in the morning. I know I feel better each day I get to see Nathaniel and hang out with him for a few minutes. We never know when a simple conversation with a student might spark something lasting and worthwhile. Every interaction is an opportunity for relationship building.

Nathaniel was part of the Class of 2018. As graduation approached this past May, he asked me over and over, “Who are you going to get to replace me when I graduate?



He had faithfully met me at the door each morning and now as he was about to leave our school, he was concerned about who was going to do his job. He had purpose. He was selfless. He was kind.



I told Nathaniel he would be really hard to replace. I asked if he had any suggestions for who could took his place. We talked about a couple of kids he thought might work out. 



And then a few days later he walked across the stage and was awarded his diploma. When I shook his hand, he smiled and said, “Who are you going to find to replace me?”



I was proud of him.



A few weeks ago, one of our teachers came into my office and shared that Nathaniel was very sick and in the hospital. A couple days later I went to the hospital but couldn’t see him because of the limited visiting hours in intensive care.



And then on Friday morning, September 28th we got the news that Nathaniel had passed away. It was crushing news. It still hurts as I’m writing this post.



But I’m so grateful that my story intersects with Nathaniel’s story. I’m thankful I can share about our time together. I’m thankful I can share about a student who had purpose, who was selfless, and who was kind to others.



He wasn’t worried about being popular, or cool, or a big deal. He just wanted to make a difference. 



I can’t even imagine the kind of greeting Nathaniel received in heaven. He certainly deserves the best. He might even get a job holding a door open for others arriving on the scene. 



For those of us still doing our best here on planet earth, we need reminders. Let’s not forget every interaction is an opportunity for relationship building.

Read More Every Interaction Is an Opportunity for Relationship Building