Tag: risk taking

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

No one does their best work expecting a reward. 

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

Read More Doing Your Best Work

In my previous post, I wrote how failure is not the enemy of improvement. Failure is actually a healthy part of learning and growth. The enemy of excellence is apathy or mediocrity. It’s being content, either intentionally or unintentionally, with ho…

Read More 7 Things People Think or Say that Reinforce Mediocrity

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

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

Read More Evidence You Have Unlimited Potential



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 did you become a Chicago Cubs fan?”



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



As I wrote in my book, Future Driven,

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

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





Read More Don’t Just Plan Lessons, Create Experiences



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



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


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


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


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


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



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



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



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

Read More Balancing Achievement and Agency



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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

Read More 7 Future Driven Questions to Discuss With Your Team



Shouldn’t teaching be a creative profession? In my mind, most every profession should have opportunities for creativity. I think humans are made to be creative. And if we don’t have the chance to use those abilities, we are mostly going through the motions. We’re merely “doing” or “implementing” without much opportunity to use our unique gifts or strengths.



I’m referring to creativity here in the broadest sense. It’s not just artistic creativity, although that’s an important kind for sure. I’m talking about the ability to have ideas, initiate plans, and solve complex problems. Much creativity is needed for these types of activities.



So are you competent and creative? Having both. That’s probably the best scenario. Being competent is knowing your stuff. It’s being well-trained. It’s having knowledge and expertise and maybe experience too.



But being creative is the ability to use what’s available in novel and interesting ways. It’s the ability to meet the demands of your current situation and add tremendous value because of your unique gifts and abilities. Being an expert is great, but it has its limitations. How are you leveraging your expertise to create the greatest impact? That’s where creativity comes in.



I think we’ve valued competence to the extent in education that it’s placed limits on what we’re able to accomplish. When we simply double-down on past practices and past outcomes, we’re not thinking in interesting ways. We push for more of the same and pile on greater accountability and less freedom for good measure. 



The world is changing and the skills needed to be successful are changing too. When we fail to adapt our practices to current and future contexts students will face, we are failing to help them adapt. We must adapt if we want students to also have the ability to adapt and meet challenges. We need creative schools. We need adaptable schools.



Recently, LinkedIn published a list of the top in-demand soft and hard skills of 2019. Creativity was at the top of the list for soft skills. That’s right, creativity was number one. It’s clear the global economy continues to shift from an industrial world to a world of innovation. Ideas are increasingly important. Creativity is increasingly important.



So back to the original question, are you competent and creative? Does your school encourage you to be both? Or, does it limit your ability to be creative? Do you feel boxed in? 



Every organization has some limits. But limits don’t have to result in the end of creativity. It’s sad when schools create structures and expectations that crush creativity. But it’s equally sad when educators fail to use their creativity as best they can in the current situation, whatever it is. 



Even if you feel limited in your ability to use your creativity, use it to the fullest extent you can. You can still be creative. You may wish you had more freedom and flexibility in your work, but you can still create within your current situation.



Seek out others who are interested in finding ways to be creative too. You’ll be a happier, more successful, and stronger overall as an educator if you’re using your creative abilities as best you can.



How are you taking your creativity to new levels? When you’re creative in your work, do you see better results and enjoy greater fulfillment? Leave a comment below. Or, share on Twitter or Facebook. I look forward to hearing from you.

Read More Are You Competent and Creative?



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



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



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



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



So Rudy was scheduled for his operation.



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



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



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



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



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



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



Would Rudy ever walk on four legs again?



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






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



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



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



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



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



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



1. The BELIEF that you need to get better.



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



2. The DESIRE to want to get better.



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



3. The WILLINGNESS to take action to get better.



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



4. The WISDOM to learn how to get better.



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



5. The DISCIPLINE to follow through and be GREAT.



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



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

Read More Are You Reaching Your Full Capacity?



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



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



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



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



1. Allow Yourself to Be Vulnerable



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



2. Take Many, Smaller Risks to Start



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



3. Hang Out with Risk Takers



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



4. Do Something a Little Wild and Crazy



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



5. Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable



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



6. Be an Adaptable Learner.



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



7. Make No Excuses 



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



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

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



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



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



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



1. Allow Yourself to Be Vulnerable



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



2. Take Many, Smaller Risks to Start



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



3. Hang Out with Risk Takers



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



4. Do Something a Little Wild and Crazy



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



5. Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable



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



6. Be an Adaptable Learner.



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



7. Make No Excuses 



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



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

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



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



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



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



1. Allow Yourself to Be Vulnerable



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



2. Take Many, Smaller Risks to Start



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



3. Hang Out with Risk Takers



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



4. Do Something a Little Wild and Crazy



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



5. Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable



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



6. Be an Adaptable Learner.



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



7. Make No Excuses 



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



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

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



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



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



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



1. Allow Yourself to Be Vulnerable



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



2. Take Many, Smaller Risks to Start



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



3. Hang Out with Risk Takers



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



4. Do Something a Little Wild and Crazy



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



5. Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable



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



6. Be an Adaptable Learner.



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



7. Make No Excuses 



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



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

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



Most people get to a certain level of effectiveness in life, work, relationships, etc. and then just hit cruise control. It’s normal to just get comfortable and then go with the status quo. The current level of success becomes a sort of boundary they don’t cross. They grow content with how things are. After all, things are pretty good.



It feels safe.



But that’s not the way to create continual and extraordinary growth or develop amazing classrooms or schools. For me, I want to be relentless in pursuing a breakthrough or tipping point, where we go from good to great.



I want to remove the limits. I believe most people (teachers, students, principals, etc.) have incredible reserves of untapped talent and possibility that goes unrealized. How can we create an environment that brings out greatness?



It means taking risks.



Most schools have tremendous capacity that isn’t being realized. The school is the people. And when the people in the school aren’t pushing the limits, we settle for much less than is possible. And that’s not to devalue the work anyone is doing. It’s just saying, I believe in you. And I believe each of us has capacity to do so much more. I want more for you.



Our work matters too much to settle for less. Kids are counting on us. There is a future at stake. We can be the difference.



Mediocrity isn’t being bad at something. Some people get caught up in mediocrity and they’re actually pretty good at what they do. They just become content with being pretty good at what they do. 



Mediocrity is being satisfied with the status quo. It embraces apathy. It’s choosing, either intentionally or unintentionally, to stay the same. 


Excellence, on the other hand, is not necessarily being good at something. A first year teacher may not be a great teacher yet. They may really struggle. But they can have a relentless pursuit of improvement. They are excellent, not because of their current level of performance, but because they seek growth at every turn. They are pushing their limits.


Excellence is always striving to change, learn, and grow. It’s making the choice to get better every day.



So don’t aim for just good enough. Don’t even aim for a little better. Aim for a breakthrough. Set out to be a game changer.


Unfortunately, there are far more examples of mediocrity than excellence. Mediocrity is easy. Excellence is hard. When you notice someone who is doing something with excellence, take note. Learn from them. 


What will you do this year to aim for excellence and be a game changer in your school? Don’t be satisfied with just a little better. Let’s push the boundaries and unleash greatness. I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More Aiming for a Breakthrough



Most people get to a certain level of effectiveness in life, work, relationships, etc. and then just hit cruise control. It’s normal to just get comfortable and then go with the status quo. The current level of success becomes a sort of boundary they don’t cross. They grow content with how things are. After all, things are pretty good.



It feels safe.



But that’s not the way to create continual and extraordinary growth or develop amazing classrooms or schools. For me, I want to be relentless in pursuing a breakthrough or tipping point, where we go from good to great.



I want to remove the limits. I believe most people (teachers, students, principals, etc.) have incredible reserves of untapped talent and possibility that goes unrealized. How can we create an environment that brings out greatness?



It means taking risks.



Most schools have tremendous capacity that isn’t being realized. The school is the people. And when the people in the school aren’t pushing the limits, we settle for much less than is possible. And that’s not to devalue the work anyone is doing. It’s just saying, I believe in you. And I believe each of us has capacity to do so much more. I want more for you.



Our work matters too much to settle for less. Kids are counting on us. There is a future at stake. We can be the difference.



Mediocrity isn’t being bad at something. Some people get caught up in mediocrity and they’re actually pretty good at what they do. They just become content with being pretty good at what they do. 



Mediocrity is being satisfied with the status quo. It embraces apathy. It’s choosing, either intentionally or unintentionally, to stay the same. 


Excellence, on the other hand, is not necessarily being good at something. A first year teacher may not be a great teacher yet. They may really struggle. But they can have a relentless pursuit of improvement. They are excellent, not because of their current level of performance, but because they seek growth at every turn. They are pushing their limits.


Excellence is always striving to change, learn, and grow. It’s making the choice to get better every day.



So don’t aim for just good enough. Don’t even aim for a little better. Aim for a breakthrough. Set out to be a game changer.


Unfortunately, there are far more examples of mediocrity than excellence. Mediocrity is easy. Excellence is hard. When you notice someone who is doing something with excellence, take note. Learn from them. 


What will you do this year to aim for excellence and be a game changer in your school? Don’t be satisfied with just a little better. Let’s push the boundaries and unleash greatness. I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More Aiming for a Breakthrough