Tag: Teacher Voice





As the school year winds down, what is your school doing to recognize students? It’s really common at this time of year to have awards programs to celebrate students for success and achievement. A problem with these types of programs is they tend to only recognize a certain kind of student.



Praising compliance, outstanding grades, and high achievement may be motivating for some, but may also lead to disengagement, resentment, and alienation for others. What kind of success are we celebrating?



I don’t want to send the message to our students that only a certain type of success or achievement is celebrated in our school. All of our students are valuable and make contributions in a variety of ways. 



And most importantly, I want to celebrate the process of growth and learning, and not just the outcomes. Students can’t always control the end result, but they can control the controllables, things like effort, enthusiasm, empathy, energy, and work ethic. It’s also important to recognize students for curiosity, creativity, and perseverance.



So we do our “awards” program differently.



Each teacher chooses one student to recognize at our end of school assembly. But the teacher selects the student based on whatever criteria they choose. It could be for effort, improvement, citizenship, school spirit, or just showing up well and having positive energy.









Some of the students who receive the award are the typical academic high flyers, but many are not. Many have probably never had their name called out in front of their peers, or their parents, to receive an award.



Each teacher says just a few words about why the student was selected. These stories are powerful for showing how we value students for more than just the grades they earn.



For some of our students, receiving an honor and affirmation like this could be pivotal. It could give them the spark of confidence and belief they needed at just the right time. It could inspire them to take on new challenges and set their sights higher.



Here are three reasons to recognize effort and growth over achievement and outcomes:



1. Avoid alienation.



By the time students arrive in high school, far too many believe the system of school won’t work for them. They are checked out. And no wonder. They’ve seen a certain type of student celebrated. They’ve built their identity around not being like those students, because they can’t measure up to those kids anyway, the ones who get all the awards. Personal growth isn’t even on their radar, and they don’t see that as the purpose of school anyway. To them, school expects quiet compliance, right answers, and perfect grades. That’s how you measure up. Recognizing progress and growth levels the playing field for all students.



2. Reinforce healthy attitudes about success.



It’s not healthy to get your sense of value or self-worth from achievements. For some, success is like a drug. They need more and more of it to get the same feeling. No matter how successful they are, in the end, it’s never enough. They are dependent on success to feel good about themselves, to feel secure. Any mistake or failure is almost unbearable. They feel threatened when others do well. Some of the most high performing students in your school may not be well-adjusted in this sense. It’s great to pursue excellence. But excellence is in the process of doing your very best, growing your strengths, and finding your purpose.



3. Encourage growth mindset.



A key finding of growth mindset was the recognition that praising effort was much more effective in motivating learning behaviors than praising fixed characteristics. The belief that I can grow my intelligence leads to better outcomes in the end. But the focus is on the process of growth, not the outcome. When we only recognize students for their achievements, we reinforce the fixed mindset. But when we recognize growth, we encourage all students to stretch themselves and strive to take on challenges. Success isn’t as important as progress in this system. And failure is only a temporary setback that provides an opportunity to learn and grow.



How is your school recognizing and celebrating students? Are you encouraging effort and growth over achievement and outcomes? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More 3 Reasons to Recognize Effort and Growth Over Achievement and Outcomes





As the school year winds down, what is your school doing to recognize students? It’s really common at this time of year to have awards programs to celebrate students for success and achievement. A problem with these types of programs is they tend to only recognize a certain kind of student.



Praising compliance, outstanding grades, and high achievement may be motivating for some, but may also lead to disengagement, resentment, and alienation for others. What kind of success are we celebrating?



I don’t want to send the message to our students that only a certain type of success or achievement is celebrated in our school. All of our students are valuable and make contributions in a variety of ways. 



And most importantly, I want to celebrate the process of growth and learning, and not just the outcomes. Students can’t always control the end result, but they can control the controllables, things like effort, enthusiasm, empathy, energy, and work ethic. It’s also important to recognize students for curiosity, creativity, and perseverance.



So we do our “awards” program differently.



Each teacher chooses one student to recognize at our end of school assembly. But the teacher selects the student based on whatever criteria they choose. It could be for effort, improvement, citizenship, school spirit, or just showing up well and having positive energy.









Some of the students who receive the award are the typical academic high flyers, but many are not. Many have probably never had their name called out in front of their peers, or their parents, to receive an award.



Each teacher says just a few words about why the student was selected. These stories are powerful for showing how we value students for more than just the grades they earn.



For some of our students, receiving an honor and affirmation like this could be pivotal. It could give them the spark of confidence and belief they needed at just the right time. It could inspire them to take on new challenges and set their sights higher.



Here are three reasons to recognize effort and growth over achievement and outcomes:



1. Avoid alienation.



By the time students arrive in high school, far too many believe the system of school won’t work for them. They are checked out. And no wonder. They’ve seen a certain type of student celebrated. They’ve built their identity around not being like those students, because they can’t measure up to those kids anyway, the ones who get all the awards. Personal growth isn’t even on their radar, and they don’t see that as the purpose of school anyway. To them, school expects quiet compliance, right answers, and perfect grades. That’s how you measure up. Recognizing progress and growth levels the playing field for all students.



2. Reinforce healthy attitudes about success.



It’s not healthy to get your sense of value or self-worth from achievements. For some, success is like a drug. They need more and more of it to get the same feeling. No matter how successful they are, in the end, it’s never enough. They are dependent on success to feel good about themselves, to feel secure. Any mistake or failure is almost unbearable. They feel threatened when others do well. Some of the most high performing students in your school may not be well-adjusted in this sense. It’s great to pursue excellence. But excellence is in the process of doing your very best, growing your strengths, and finding your purpose.



3. Encourage growth mindset.



A key finding of growth mindset was the recognition that praising effort was much more effective in motivating learning behaviors than praising fixed characteristics. The belief that I can grow my intelligence leads to better outcomes in the end. But the focus is on the process of growth, not the outcome. When we only recognize students for their achievements, we reinforce the fixed mindset. But when we recognize growth, we encourage all students to stretch themselves and strive to take on challenges. Success isn’t as important as progress in this system. And failure is only a temporary setback that provides an opportunity to learn and grow.



How is your school recognizing and celebrating students? Are you encouraging effort and growth over achievement and outcomes? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

      

Read More 3 Reasons to Recognize Effort and Growth Over Achievement and Outcomes





As the school year winds down, what is your school doing to recognize students? It’s really common at this time of year to have awards programs to celebrate students for success and achievement. A problem with these types of programs is they tend to only recognize a certain kind of student.



Praising compliance, outstanding grades, and high achievement may be motivating for some, but may also lead to disengagement, resentment, and alienation for others. What kind of success are we celebrating?



I don’t want to send the message to our students that only a certain type of success or achievement is celebrated in our school. All of our students are valuable and make contributions in a variety of ways. 



And most importantly, I want to celebrate the process of growth and learning, and not just the outcomes. Students can’t always control the end result, but they can control the controllables, things like effort, enthusiasm, empathy, energy, and work ethic. It’s also important to recognize students for curiosity, creativity, and perseverance.



So we do our “awards” program differently.



Each teacher chooses one student to recognize at our end of school assembly. But the teacher selects the student based on whatever criteria they choose. It could be for effort, improvement, citizenship, school spirit, or just showing up well and having positive energy.









Some of the students who receive the award are the typical academic high flyers, but many are not. Many have probably never had their name called out in front of their peers, or their parents, to receive an award.



Each teacher says just a few words about why the student was selected. These stories are powerful for showing how we value students for more than just the grades they earn.



For some of our students, receiving an honor and affirmation like this could be pivotal. It could give them the spark of confidence and belief they needed at just the right time. It could inspire them to take on new challenges and set their sights higher.



Here are three reasons to recognize effort and growth over achievement and outcomes:



1. Avoid alienation.



By the time students arrive in high school, far too many believe the system of school won’t work for them. They are checked out. And no wonder. They’ve seen a certain type of student celebrated. They’ve built their identity around not being like those students, because they can’t measure up to those kids anyway, the ones who get all the awards. Personal growth isn’t even on their radar, and they don’t see that as the purpose of school anyway. To them, school expects quiet compliance, right answers, and perfect grades. That’s how you measure up. Recognizing progress and growth levels the playing field for all students.



2. Reinforce healthy attitudes about success.



It’s not healthy to get your sense of value or self-worth from achievements. For some, success is like a drug. They need more and more of it to get the same feeling. No matter how successful they are, in the end, it’s never enough. They are dependent on success to feel good about themselves, to feel secure. Any mistake or failure is almost unbearable. They feel threatened when others do well. Some of the most high performing students in your school may not be well-adjusted in this sense. It’s great to pursue excellence. But excellence is in the process of doing your very best, growing your strengths, and finding your purpose.



3. Encourage growth mindset.



A key finding of growth mindset was the recognition that praising effort was much more effective in motivating learning behaviors than praising fixed characteristics. The belief that I can grow my intelligence leads to better outcomes in the end. But the focus is on the process of growth, not the outcome. When we only recognize students for their achievements, we reinforce the fixed mindset. But when we recognize growth, we encourage all students to stretch themselves and strive to take on challenges. Success isn’t as important as progress in this system. And failure is only a temporary setback that provides an opportunity to learn and grow.



How is your school recognizing and celebrating students? Are you encouraging effort and growth over achievement and outcomes? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

      

Read More 3 Reasons to Recognize Effort and Growth Over Achievement and Outcomes



Someone else’s experience is different from mine. 



It seems obvious doesn’t it? But I think it’s one of the most important things to come to terms with in developing empathy. It’s important to recognize another person’s experience is different than mine and then honor that experience and try to understand it.



That’s empathy. It’s the emotional skill of being able to recognize, understand, and honor the feelings of another person.



I have to admit, sometimes I struggle to understand another person’s experience. It seems so obvious to me how they should respond or how they should feel in a given situation. If I’m not careful, I start feeling the need to convince them why they should feel more like I do about this thing. My sweet wife will confirm this I promise!



But that’s not helpful. Every person has every right to every one of their feelings. They belong to that person. And that’s okay. 

I’ve learned better how to respond when I have those thoughts, when I’m tempted to expect others to see it my way, right away. In the past, I felt frustrated and even angry if a student or colleague (or my wife or kids) was being unreasonable in my view, if they didn’t see it my way, if they didn’t feel the same as me. 



It’s so important to keep healthy emotional boundaries. I’m not going to let your (emotional) stuff bump into my (emotional) stuff.

Instead of responding with anger or frustration, I’ve learned to try to respond with curiosity. Rather than being upset by someone else’s feelings, I respond with curiosity and puzzlement. Hm? I wonder what this person is experiencing right now or what this person has experienced in the past that makes them feel this way? I’m curious. I want to understand.



And that creates the safety for dialogue. It keeps safety in the conversation. And it requires me to listen. When I’m curious, I want to know more. I want to understand how this person is experiencing this. I remind myself that my feelings are still mine. I can feel a certain way while honoring another person’s feelings too. It helps me to show up well in the situation and work toward win-win solutions.



When we honor the other person’s experience, it opens paths for shared understanding. Most of us want to be understood. In fact, one of the things that bumps into me more than just about anything else is feeling misunderstood. I’m sure many of you can relate to that.



Some people (mainly guys) might see all of this as soft or weak, but it’s not. It’s actually being a much stronger person. You are stronger when you have your emotional abilities in hand. Weak people fly off the handle and act like toddlers when they don’t get their way. Strong people don’t feel threatened easily by someone’s differences. There is great strength in accepting differences.



But of course, it’s still completely appropriate and beneficial to call out bad behavior. We must hold people accountable when they act badly. Empathy is not being tolerant of bad behavior. But it is being tolerant of another person’s experiences and feelings. It’s addressing the behavior in a way that tries to understand what the behavior is communicating, because all behavior is communication.



Empathy helps us think about the needs of others, and ultimately when we do this we are much more likely to have our needs met too. We’re more likely to have authentic conversations that lead to better decisions. We’re also more likely to feel heard when we are able to have honest conversations that keep empathy at the center. 



So clearly I value empathy. Why is it so important? Here are 9 reasons for educators.



1. Empathy leads to kindness. It fosters acceptance and understanding. Empathy lifts up others. It meets needs. It believes the best about others.



2. Empathy brings people together in community. It helps us to connect in spite of our differences, no matter what our differences.



3. Empathy results in better lesson plans. It seeks to understand how students learn this best, how they are experiencing learning. It values them as learners. 



4. Empathy results in better discipline plans. Empathy is not punitive, it’s corrective and supportive. It seeks to understand and prevent the causes of poor behavior. It is essential to resolving conflict.



5. Empathy improves teamwork. Effective teams are build on trust and togetherness. Empathy allows for constructive conflict.



6. Empathy improves problem-solving. It opens us to new possibilities and it considers the end-user and how solutions will impact others.



7. Empathy improves performance. Performance is stronger when people value risk taking and accept failure as an opportunity to learn. Empathy provides the safety for that to flourish.



8. Empathy builds stronger relationships. Most people want to be liked, to have more friends, to have people we can really count on. Empathy is essential to developing stronger bonds between people.



9. Empathy can reduce anxiety and depression. When people feel heard, feel understood, and feel supported, it can help ease anxiety and depression. Depression for teens, especially has been on the rise. I wonder how a culture of empathy might ease this in our schools.



I want to hear from you. Why is empathy important to you and what are you doing to cultivate it in your classroom or school? Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.



Note: Header Image Retrieved https://www.pinterest.com/hattieshortie/english-to-kill-a-mockingbird/

Read More What Is Empathy? And Why Is It So Important?



Someone else’s experience is different from mine. 



It seems obvious doesn’t it? But I think it’s one of the most important things to come to terms with in developing empathy. It’s important to recognize another person’s experience is different than mine and then honor that experience and try to understand it.



That’s empathy. It’s the emotional skill of being able to recognize, understand, and honor the feelings of another person.



I have to admit, sometimes I struggle to understand another person’s experience. It seems so obvious to me how they should respond or how they should feel in a given situation. If I’m not careful, I start feeling the need to convince them why they should feel more like I do about this thing. My sweet wife will confirm this I promise!



But that’s not helpful. Every person has every right to every one of their feelings. They belong to that person. And that’s okay. 

I’ve learned better how to respond when I have those thoughts, when I’m tempted to expect others to see it my way, right away. In the past, I felt frustrated and even angry if a student or colleague (or my wife or kids) was being unreasonable in my view, if they didn’t see it my way, if they didn’t feel the same as me. 



It’s so important to keep healthy emotional boundaries. I’m not going to let your (emotional) stuff bump into my (emotional) stuff.

Instead of responding with anger or frustration, I’ve learned to try to respond with curiosity. Rather than being upset by someone else’s feelings, I respond with curiosity and puzzlement. Hm? I wonder what this person is experiencing right now or what this person has experienced in the past that makes them feel this way? I’m curious. I want to understand.



And that creates the safety for dialogue. It keeps safety in the conversation. And it requires me to listen. When I’m curious, I want to know more. I want to understand how this person is experiencing this. I remind myself that my feelings are still mine. I can feel a certain way while honoring another person’s feelings too. It helps me to show up well in the situation and work toward win-win solutions.



When we honor the other person’s experience, it opens paths for shared understanding. Most of us want to be understood. In fact, one of the things that bumps into me more than just about anything else is feeling misunderstood. I’m sure many of you can relate to that.



Some people (mainly guys) might see all of this as soft or weak, but it’s not. It’s actually being a much stronger person. You are stronger when you have your emotional abilities in hand. Weak people fly off the handle and act like toddlers when they don’t get their way. Strong people don’t feel threatened easily by someone’s differences. There is great strength in accepting differences.



But of course, it’s still completely appropriate and beneficial to call out bad behavior. We must hold people accountable when they act badly. Empathy is not being tolerant of bad behavior. But it is being tolerant of another person’s experiences and feelings. It’s addressing the behavior in a way that tries to understand what the behavior is communicating, because all behavior is communication.



Empathy helps us think about the needs of others, and ultimately when we do this we are much more likely to have our needs met too. We’re more likely to have authentic conversations that lead to better decisions. We’re also more likely to feel heard when we are able to have honest conversations that keep empathy at the center. 



So clearly I value empathy. Why is it so important? Here are 9 reasons for educators.



1. Empathy leads to kindness. It fosters acceptance and understanding. Empathy lifts up others. It meets needs. It believes the best about others.



2. Empathy brings people together in community. It helps us to connect in spite of our differences, no matter what our differences.



3. Empathy results in better lesson plans. It seeks to understand how students learn this best, how they are experiencing learning. It values them as learners. 



4. Empathy results in better discipline plans. Empathy is not punitive, it’s corrective and supportive. It seeks to understand and prevent the causes of poor behavior. It is essential to resolving conflict.



5. Empathy improves teamwork. Effective teams are build on trust and togetherness. Empathy allows for constructive conflict.



6. Empathy improves problem-solving. It opens us to new possibilities and it considers the end-user and how solutions will impact others.



7. Empathy improves performance. Performance is stronger when people value risk taking and accept failure as an opportunity to learn. Empathy provides the safety for that to flourish.



8. Empathy builds stronger relationships. Most people want to be liked, to have more friends, to have people we can really count on. Empathy is essential to developing stronger bonds between people.



9. Empathy can reduce anxiety and depression. When people feel heard, feel understood, and feel supported, it can help ease anxiety and depression. Depression for teens, especially has been on the rise. I wonder how a culture of empathy might ease this in our schools.



I want to hear from you. Why is empathy important to you and what are you doing to cultivate it in your classroom or school? Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.



Note: Header Image Retrieved https://www.pinterest.com/hattieshortie/english-to-kill-a-mockingbird/

Read More What Is Empathy? And Why Is It So Important?



George Couros had a great post recently, Relationships Are the Foundation of Great Schools (But They Aren’t Enough). He points out that it’s essential to build great relationships in schools, but we can’t stop there. It’s also essential to leverage strong relationships into growth for self and others. We become stronger when we are connected and when we are committed to pushing for better outcomes.



This discussion reminded me of the study from Judith Kleinfeld (1975) where she coined the term Warm Demander to describe teachers who are both warm (relationship builders) and demanding (communicating high expectations). She found that students whose teachers combined these qualities were more successful academically. But I’m guessing they were also more successful in a whole variety of ways.



I’ve noticed over the years just how difficult it can be to balance warmth and expectations. Some people tend to be really relationship-oriented but struggle to communicate and insist on high expectations. Others have very high expectations and push students to succeed but don’t make the personal connections that are needed to go next level.



I believe students will always do better with a teacher who cares about them, believes in them, and seeks to know them better. Strong relationships are extremely valuable in the classroom. The teacher who is demanding but fails to build relationships may get results in the short term, but it will probably only last as long as they are still pushing. 



The teacher who can build relationships while maintaining high expectations has the best chance to inspire learning. They can have a transformational impact. They help a student have a pivotal experience. They help them change directions. The student takes a new path entirely because of the influence of the teacher. 



From the beginning, warm-demanding teachers are communicating with students that they are going to push them. They let their students know they have very high expectations because they care about them. Let students know up front that you’re going to expect more of them than they think they can give. Then it won’t be a shock when you actually do expect more of them than they’ve been used to.



I noticed this tweet from Tobie Taylor Jones and thought it captured the essence of the warm-demanding teacher.

I wrote this for my students. It was inspired by another piece; please forgive me as I don’t know the original author who inspired me! All my students have read it. After being with me for 1/2 the year, they said this is accurate! I hope they know I love them. @Bville_Schools pic.twitter.com/Vcn6qF9GRj

— Tobie Taylor Jones (@tobiemichele) February 3, 2018



It’s so important to bring this type of energy and attitude to the classroom. Life will be demanding, and kids can’t develop the resilience and perseverance needed if they aren’t pushed out of their comfort zones. We don’t want to send kids out of our schools believing they are entitled. In life, you must work for everything you get.



Here are some other resources that provide more information about what it means to be a warm-demanding teacher. It’s important to build relationships and be relentless to ensure students are meeting their growth potential.



Being a Warm Demander – Steve Barkley

How does a teacher communicate caring and expectational beliefs in a way that most positively impacts student achievement? Judith Kleinfeld coined the term warm demanders when describing teachers who most successfully supported student achievement. Creating four quadrants with a vertical scale running from low to high expectations and a horizontal scale running from low to …

——————– 

The Warm Demander: An Equity Approach | Edutopia

“Warm demander” teachers expect great things from their students, convince them of their own brilliance, and help them reach their potential in a disciplined, structured environment. Recently, I was talking with a high school student about his frustrations with a first-year teacher. The student said, “I like [the teacher] because he’s understanding, but he doesn’t require enough discipline.

——————– 




(null)

——————–



Where are you on this continuum? Do you build relationships while also being relentless? I think it’s true for teachers and for school leaders. It’s important to be caring and to communicate expectations. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter. I want to hear from you!

Read More Build Relationships and Be Relentless



George Couros had a great post recently, Relationships Are the Foundation of Great Schools (But They Aren’t Enough). He points out that it’s essential to build great relationships in schools, but we can’t stop there. It’s also essential to leverage strong relationships into growth for self and others. We become stronger when we are connected and when we are committed to pushing for better outcomes.



This discussion reminded me of the study from Judith Kleinfeld (1975) where she coined the term Warm Demander to describe teachers who are both warm (relationship builders) and demanding (communicating high expectations). She found that students whose teachers combined these qualities were more successful academically. But I’m guessing they were also more successful in a whole variety of ways.



I’ve noticed over the years just how difficult it can be to balance warmth and expectations. Some people tend to be really relationship-oriented but struggle to communicate and insist on high expectations. Others have very high expectations and push students to succeed but don’t make the personal connections that are needed to go next level.



I believe students will always do better with a teacher who cares about them, believes in them, and seeks to know them better. Strong relationships are extremely valuable in the classroom. The teacher who is demanding but fails to build relationships may get results in the short term, but it will probably only last as long as they are still pushing. 



The teacher who can build relationships while maintaining high expectations has the best chance to inspire learning. They can have a transformational impact. They help a student have a pivotal experience. They help them change directions. The student takes a new path entirely because of the influence of the teacher. 



From the beginning, warm-demanding teachers are communicating with students that they are going to push them. They let their students know they have very high expectations because they care about them. Let students know up front that you’re going to expect more of them than they think they can give. Then it won’t be a shock when you actually do expect more of them than they’ve been used to.



I noticed this tweet from Tobie Taylor Jones and thought it captured the essence of the warm-demanding teacher.

I wrote this for my students. It was inspired by another piece; please forgive me as I don’t know the original author who inspired me! All my students have read it. After being with me for 1/2 the year, they said this is accurate! I hope they know I love them. @Bville_Schools pic.twitter.com/Vcn6qF9GRj

— Tobie Taylor Jones (@tobiemichele) February 3, 2018



It’s so important to bring this type of energy and attitude to the classroom. Life will be demanding, and kids can’t develop the resilience and perseverance needed if they aren’t pushed out of their comfort zones. We don’t want to send kids out of our schools believing they are entitled. In life, you must work for everything you get.



Here are some other resources that provide more information about what it means to be a warm-demanding teacher. It’s important to build relationships and be relentless to ensure students are meeting their growth potential.



Being a Warm Demander – Steve Barkley

How does a teacher communicate caring and expectational beliefs in a way that most positively impacts student achievement? Judith Kleinfeld coined the term warm demanders when describing teachers who most successfully supported student achievement. Creating four quadrants with a vertical scale running from low to high expectations and a horizontal scale running from low to …

——————– 

The Warm Demander: An Equity Approach | Edutopia

“Warm demander” teachers expect great things from their students, convince them of their own brilliance, and help them reach their potential in a disciplined, structured environment. Recently, I was talking with a high school student about his frustrations with a first-year teacher. The student said, “I like [the teacher] because he’s understanding, but he doesn’t require enough discipline.

——————– 




(null)

——————–



Where are you on this continuum? Do you build relationships while also being relentless? I think it’s true for teachers and for school leaders. It’s important to be caring and to communicate expectations. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter. I want to hear from you!

Read More Build Relationships and Be Relentless



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



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


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


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


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


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



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




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



Should every school love kids? Yes.



Should every school be a safe place? Yes.


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



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



Should every school promote life-long learning? Yes.



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



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



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



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

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

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



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



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



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


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



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



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



We’re aiming for excellence!




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



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

Read More Is Your School Extraordinary?



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



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


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


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


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


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



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




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



Should every school love kids? Yes.



Should every school be a safe place? Yes.


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



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



Should every school promote life-long learning? Yes.



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



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



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



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

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

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



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



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



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


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



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



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



We’re aiming for excellence!




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



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

Read More Is Your School Extraordinary?

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



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



The resistance: What if it makes a big mess? 



Well, it will.



The resistance: What if it makes some people uncomfortable? 



Well, it might.



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



Well, I hadn’t thought of that.



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



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



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



But is that such a bad thing?



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



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



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



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



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



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



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





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



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



But it was risky. 



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



And he said, “YES!”



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



He just said, “YES!”



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








Read More Creating a Culture of YES!

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



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



The resistance: What if it makes a big mess? 



Well, it will.



The resistance: What if it makes some people uncomfortable? 



Well, it might.



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



Well, I hadn’t thought of that.



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



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



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



But is that such a bad thing?



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



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



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



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



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



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



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





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



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



But it was risky. 



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



And he said, “YES!”



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



He just said, “YES!”



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








Read More Creating a Culture of YES!



A couple of years ago, I wrote a post Eight Things Successful Educators Never Say. In the post, I explained how words reveal so much about our attitude and mindset. 



Our words reflect our thoughts. And our thoughts often become our actions. And then our actions determine our destiny. The words we use tell so much about who we are and what we value. 



Words matter.



In that earlier post, I was thinking about things that I could never imagine hearing from a highly effective educator.



I’d like to add one more phrase to that list. 



“I already do that.”



Over the years, I’ve heard this phrase quite a bit, but rarely if ever have I heard it coming from the most successful educators. Let me unpack the context where I’ve heard the phrase used.



After a teacher/administrator shares an idea they tried that worked in their classroom/school, a colleague replies, “I already do that.”



After a day of professional development that involves learning about a practice or method, an educator boasts, “I already do that.”



When an administrator or instructional coach suggests a change that might be helpful for a classroom, a teacher responds, “I already do that.”



Often the phrase is followed by an explanation of ways the educator is already doing that practice. And it could be that the educator has done something similar, or maybe even something almost exactly the same. Maybe it’s true.



But regardless of whether the educator already does that or not, these words seem very dismissive to me. It seems to imply that I already know what you’re talking about, and there is nothing more I can learn from you on this topic.



Like many seasoned educators, over the years I’ve had hundreds if not thousands of conversations about teaching and learning, and I’ve participated in untold hours of formal and informal professional development.



And even when it was not my choice to attend the workshop or session, I tried to have the attitude that I might learn something from this. 



There were times that I didn’t fully engage, but I always tried to take away something. Sometimes I even learned what not to do. We’ve all been to bad PD sessions or uninspired training. But there can be learning nonetheless.



At other times, I heard ideas being expressed that were very familiar. Some of the themes in education remain the same. It’s been said there is nothing new under the sun. And at some level I think this holds true. Even our most innovative practices are built on fundamentals that might be familiar.



But even when I encounter ideas that are not new to me, I try to remind myself not to be dismissive or think, I already know that or I already do that. Hearing good information again and again is not a bad thing. It reinforces knowledge and ideas that are important.



And it can help us to feel validated and confirmed in the good work we are doing.



Sometimes I will share information on Twitter or even in my blog that may seem obvious. For instance, I occasionally share that “kids learn more from teachers who smile” or “every child in every school should hear an encouraging word every day.” Sure, these are simple truths, but they are also important reminders.



Recently, I had someone on Twitter push back, “Why are you talking down to teachers? Surely you don’t intend this for experienced teachers. Do you even know what teachers do?”



Sigh.



Certainly my intent is never to talk down to anyone, especially teachers. I have the greatest respect for teachers. I may be a principal, but I identify as a teacher too. I’m not teaching lessons day in and day out, but I always want to lift up teachers and make the teaching profession stronger.



Even if an idea may seem obvious, sometimes it’s still helpful to put words around it and help bring it to the surface again, to make it fresh, to shine a light on it, to celebrate it. 



Some people may encounter even a simple idea and be validated, encouraged, or inspired. Others may encounter the same idea and think, “I already do that.”



I think those are two very different kinds of people. Which kind of person are you?



Do you hear this phrase often? How should we respond when someone says, “I already do that?” Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More The Problem With "I Already Do That"



A couple of years ago, I wrote a post Eight Things Successful Educators Never Say. In the post, I explained how words reveal so much about our attitude and mindset. 



Our words reflect our thoughts. And our thoughts often become our actions. And then our actions determine our destiny. The words we use tell so much about who we are and what we value. 



Words matter.



In that earlier post, I was thinking about things that I could never imagine hearing from a highly effective educator.



I’d like to add one more phrase to that list. 



“I already do that.”



Over the years, I’ve heard this phrase quite a bit, but rarely if ever have I heard it coming from the most successful educators. Let me unpack the context where I’ve heard the phrase used.



After a teacher/administrator shares an idea they tried that worked in their classroom/school, a colleague replies, “I already do that.”



After a day of professional development that involves learning about a practice or method, an educator boasts, “I already do that.”



When an administrator or instructional coach suggests a change that might be helpful for a classroom, a teacher responds, “I already do that.”



Often the phrase is followed by an explanation of ways the educator is already doing that practice. And it could be that the educator has done something similar, or maybe even something almost exactly the same. Maybe it’s true.



But regardless of whether the educator already does that or not, these words seem very dismissive to me. It seems to imply that I already know what you’re talking about, and there is nothing more I can learn from you on this topic.



Like many seasoned educators, over the years I’ve had hundreds if not thousands of conversations about teaching and learning, and I’ve participated in untold hours of formal and informal professional development.



And even when it was not my choice to attend the workshop or session, I tried to have the attitude that I might learn something from this. 



There were times that I didn’t fully engage, but I always tried to take away something. Sometimes I even learned what not to do. We’ve all been to bad PD sessions or uninspired training. But there can be learning nonetheless.



At other times, I heard ideas being expressed that were very familiar. Some of the themes in education remain the same. It’s been said there is nothing new under the sun. And at some level I think this holds true. Even our most innovative practices are built on fundamentals that might be familiar.



But even when I encounter ideas that are not new to me, I try to remind myself not to be dismissive or think, I already know that or I already do that. Hearing good information again and again is not a bad thing. It reinforces knowledge and ideas that are important.



And it can help us to feel validated and confirmed in the good work we are doing.



Sometimes I will share information on Twitter or even in my blog that may seem obvious. For instance, I occasionally share that “kids learn more from teachers who smile” or “every child in every school should hear an encouraging word every day.” Sure, these are simple truths, but they are also important reminders.



Recently, I had someone on Twitter push back, “Why are you talking down to teachers? Surely you don’t intend this for experienced teachers. Do you even know what teachers do?”



Sigh.



Certainly my intent is never to talk down to anyone, especially teachers. I have the greatest respect for teachers. I may be a principal, but I identify as a teacher too. I’m not teaching lessons day in and day out, but I always want to lift up teachers and make the teaching profession stronger.



Even if an idea may seem obvious, sometimes it’s still helpful to put words around it and help bring it to the surface again, to make it fresh, to shine a light on it, to celebrate it. 



Some people may encounter even a simple idea and be validated, encouraged, or inspired. Others may encounter the same idea and think, “I already do that.”



I think those are two very different kinds of people. Which kind of person are you?



Do you hear this phrase often? How should we respond when someone says, “I already do that?” Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More The Problem With "I Already Do That"





Recently, I enjoyed a conversation with my friend Art Lieberman (@artFling). He is a middle school teacher in Texas and author of several books including The Art of Focus and The Art of Motivation



I’m sharing a recording of this conversation for you to enjoy. It’s a blogcast. It’s kind of a mix of a blogpost and a podcast. 



Art and I talked about how he became an author and why passion projects can be helpful for teachers. You can listen to the entire conversation embedded below, and I also included highlights and key takeaways in my notes below.



Notes



Twitter allowed Art and I to connect and eventually collaborate on a project. He helped edit my new book Future Driven.



Art credits his increase in productivity to changes in his diet and exercise habits. When he made these changes, he had more energy to devote to things outside the school day, like passion projects.



One of the changes was adding green smoothies to his diet. He explains how he makes them and why they make such a difference. They are much better than taking vitamins.



Art wanted to do more writing and so he started blogging.



Blogging is a great way to share, connect, and grow.



As he wrote more blog posts, Art realized with the amount of writing he had produced, he could’ve written a book.



Blogging helped Art practice his writing so he was ready to take on a bigger passion project, writing a book.



Passion projects can sometimes also be extra sources of income, but sometimes they are just for the love of the experience.



Being creative is good for us. Everyone has the ability to create. Everyone has gifts. When you use these gifts more fully, it actually helps you have more energy. It helps you be more productive.



Your passion project may be related to education, or it may not relate directly. However, a passion project can make you a better educator too. It’s one way educators can model lifelong learning.



And finally, don’t wait to start that passion project you want to do. There will never be enough time. You have to make time to do what’s important to you.

Be sure to check out Art’s podcasts here: One Teaching Tip.

Are you working on a passion project or thinking about starting one? Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter. I would like to hear from you.

Read More Pursuing Your Passion Projects: A Conversation with Art Lieberman





Recently, I enjoyed a conversation with my friend Art Lieberman (@artFling). He is a middle school teacher in Texas and author of several books including The Art of Focus and The Art of Motivation



I’m sharing a recording of this conversation for you to enjoy. It’s a blogcast. It’s kind of a mix of a blogpost and a podcast. 



Art and I talked about how he became an author and why passion projects can be helpful for teachers. You can listen to the entire conversation embedded below, and I also included highlights and key takeaways in my notes below.



Notes



Twitter allowed Art and I to connect and eventually collaborate on a project. He helped edit my new book Future Driven.



Art credits his increase in productivity to changes in his diet and exercise habits. When he made these changes, he had more energy to devote to things outside the school day, like passion projects.



One of the changes was adding green smoothies to his diet. He explains how he makes them and why they make such a difference. They are much better than taking vitamins.



Art wanted to do more writing and so he started blogging.



Blogging is a great way to share, connect, and grow.



As he wrote more blog posts, Art realized with the amount of writing he had produced, he could’ve written a book.



Blogging helped Art practice his writing so he was ready to take on a bigger passion project, writing a book.



Passion projects can sometimes also be extra sources of income, but sometimes they are just for the love of the experience.



Being creative is good for us. Everyone has the ability to create. Everyone has gifts. When you use these gifts more fully, it actually helps you have more energy. It helps you be more productive.



Your passion project may be related to education, or it may not relate directly. However, a passion project can make you a better educator too. It’s one way educators can model lifelong learning.



And finally, don’t wait to start that passion project you want to do. There will never be enough time. You have to make time to do what’s important to you.

Be sure to check out Art’s podcasts here: One Teaching Tip.

Are you working on a passion project or thinking about starting one? Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter. I would like to hear from you.

Read More Pursuing Your Passion Projects: A Conversation with Art Lieberman

 



Educators should be the most excited people on the planet for kids and learning. Your passion is needed in your school. Imagine what your school would be like if every person brought great passion every day.



A passionate, caring educator makes all the difference. When I think about the teachers in my life who made the greatest impact on me, they were passionate. They had high expectations and they expected success. They were deeply caring. They helped me be more than I thought I could be.



Here are 7 thoughts you might consider about being a passionate educator:



1. Passion is developed, not discovered.



You can’t expect passion to settle on you like a fog. It’s not just about finding something you like to do. For most people, you don’t just wake up one day and suddenly think, “Eureka! I’ve found my passion!” Passion and commitment feed each other. You won’t generate maximum passion without maximum effort to become everything you can be. As you continue growing and giving, your passion will also grow. And you will make a greater impact on the world around you. 



2. You are responsible for nurturing and growing your passion.



It’s never helpful to blame your circumstances for your lack of passion. I realize there are immense challenges you face as an educator. We can have personal issues that pile up. It’s easy to blame something outside of us for squelching passion. But the truth is there are educators who remain passionate in the worst possible situations. And there are also educators in thriving environments with tremendous support, who are lacking passion nonetheless. Don’t allow your passion to be a victim of anything outside of you.



3. Your students deserve a passionate teacher.



Our kids’ futures are too important to have educators in their lives who are just going through the motions. Every day counts. And your kids are counting on you. Great teachers bring so much passion and persistence to the classroom the kids know this person is not gonna settle for less than my best. Your students need you to bring your best to help them be their best. Bring it!



4. When teachers are more passionate about learning, students will be more passionate too.



Great teachers ignite the passion to learn. Your passion and commitment becomes contagious. Your energy and enthusiasm will spill over into the whole classroom. If your students master every standard without discovering joy and passion in learning, is that success? I don’t think it is. You want to be so passionate about teaching and learning that your students look at you and think, “I want to do that when I grow up! That’s a fun job! Teachers make a huge difference in people’s lives.”



5. Passion is pouring yourself into something you care deeply about. 



It’s important to always remember your ‘why’ and focus on making a difference. When it gets really hard and you want to quit, remember why you started. Remember your purpose. Remind yourself what kind of teacher you set out to be when you began. You wanted to be a difference maker. I’m guessing you didn’t want to just be average or mediocre. You wanted to be great. And you can be great! Let your passion lead you to greatness!



6. Passion will lead to greater significance and meaning in your life.



It’s living beyond yourself and using your talents and abilities in a way that impacts a greater good. You were created with gifts that make you great. When you use these gifts to the fullest, you will find the greatest significance and meaning. You’ll have more energy. You’ll jump out of bed in the morning to do the thing you were meant to do. And no one will have to make you do it. You will do more than expected. Passion and commitment will always surpass accountability and compliance.



7. The greater your passion, the smaller your problems.

Ever talk to educators who think the solution to every problem is better kids and better parents? Some people can’t resist the urge to blame and complain. They can’t fully realize their passion because they think, “If only…” If only something outside of me would change, I could be great. Too many educators are choosing dis-empowering thoughts. They are choosing to believe things can’t change. They are thinking the problems are too big. But that’s just not true. We must challenge our beliefs about what is possible. We can create schools that work for kids. We can have powerful learning that is irresistible. We can overcome the obstacles. When you are passionate and you focus your energy on solutions, anything is possible. 



Who is responsible for your passion? I hope it’s you. Let me know what you think. Leave me a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More 7 Thoughts on Being a Passionate Educator

 



Educators should be the most excited people on the planet for kids and learning. Your passion is needed in your school. Imagine what your school would be like if every person brought great passion every day.



A passionate, caring educator makes all the difference. When I think about the teachers in my life who made the greatest impact on me, they were passionate. They had high expectations and they expected success. They were deeply caring. They helped me be more than I thought I could be.



Here are 7 thoughts you might consider about being a passionate educator:



1. Passion is developed, not discovered.



You can’t expect passion to settle on you like a fog. It’s not just about finding something you like to do. For most people, you don’t just wake up one day and suddenly think, “Eureka! I’ve found my passion!” Passion and commitment feed each other. You won’t generate maximum passion without maximum effort to become everything you can be. As you continue growing and giving, your passion will also grow. And you will make a greater impact on the world around you. 



2. You are responsible for nurturing and growing your passion.



It’s never helpful to blame your circumstances for your lack of passion. I realize there are immense challenges you face as an educator. We can have personal issues that pile up. It’s easy to blame something outside of us for squelching passion. But the truth is there are educators who remain passionate in the worst possible situations. And there are also educators in thriving environments with tremendous support, who are lacking passion nonetheless. Don’t allow your passion to be a victim of anything outside of you.



3. Your students deserve a passionate teacher.



Our kids’ futures are too important to have educators in their lives who are just going through the motions. Every day counts. And your kids are counting on you. Great teachers bring so much passion and persistence to the classroom the kids know this person is not gonna settle for less than my best. Your students need you to bring your best to help them be their best. Bring it!



4. When teachers are more passionate about learning, students will be more passionate too.



Great teachers ignite the passion to learn. Your passion and commitment becomes contagious. Your energy and enthusiasm will spill over into the whole classroom. If your students master every standard without discovering joy and passion in learning, is that success? I don’t think it is. You want to be so passionate about teaching and learning that your students look at you and think, “I want to do that when I grow up! That’s a fun job! Teachers make a huge difference in people’s lives.”



5. Passion is pouring yourself into something you care deeply about. 



It’s important to always remember your ‘why’ and focus on making a difference. When it gets really hard and you want to quit, remember why you started. Remember your purpose. Remind yourself what kind of teacher you set out to be when you began. You wanted to be a difference maker. I’m guessing you didn’t want to just be average or mediocre. You wanted to be great. And you can be great! Let your passion lead you to greatness!



6. Passion will lead to greater significance and meaning in your life.



It’s living beyond yourself and using your talents and abilities in a way that impacts a greater good. You were created with gifts that make you great. When you use these gifts to the fullest, you will find the greatest significance and meaning. You’ll have more energy. You’ll jump out of bed in the morning to do the thing you were meant to do. And no one will have to make you do it. You will do more than expected. Passion and commitment will always surpass accountability and compliance.



7. The greater your passion, the smaller your problems.

Ever talk to educators who think the solution to every problem is better kids and better parents? Some people can’t resist the urge to blame and complain. They can’t fully realize their passion because they think, “If only…” If only something outside of me would change, I could be great. Too many educators are choosing dis-empowering thoughts. They are choosing to believe things can’t change. They are thinking the problems are too big. But that’s just not true. We must challenge our beliefs about what is possible. We can create schools that work for kids. We can have powerful learning that is irresistible. We can overcome the obstacles. When you are passionate and you focus your energy on solutions, anything is possible. 



Who is responsible for your passion? I hope it’s you. Let me know what you think. Leave me a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More 7 Thoughts on Being a Passionate Educator





In 1993, famed college basketball coach Jim Valvano gave an inspiring and hopeful message at the ESPY awards. Valvano was fighting terminal cancer that would soon cut short his remarkable life. I occasionally watch the speech over again. It reminds me of what’s most important.



During his passionate speech, Valvano helped put everything in perspective:

“If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day. And if you do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special.”

I invite you to take a few seconds to listen to Jimmy V speak these words in the video below.

So how can this apply to what we do as educators? Well, I think a great day at school includes the same things. We should laugh, we should certainly think, and we should also cry. 



I’m guessing that crying is harder for most of us to think about. We tend to think of some emotions as good or bad. We tend to hide those emotions that are sad or might be considered weak.



But emotions are an important way for us to connect. It’s how we better understand ourselves and others. Emotions help us to reach the heart and not just the mind.



We know that stories are powerful for learning. I think that’s because of how stories connect to emotions. You can talk about ideas all day, and I might be interested and even learn something. But if you connect those ideas with a story, and you touch my emotions, I may never forget what I’ve learned.



I remember one day years ago I was teaching freshmen English. It was one of those days when for whatever reason, I had a class period that was ahead of the others, and I needed to fill some time.



I decided to read a short story, The Scarlet Ibis, to the class. It was the first time I’d ever read the story myself, so I didn’t know exactly what to expect.



But as I read, I was drawn into the story in a powerful way. No doubt the class could sense my quivering voice, my efforts to fight back tears, and my unsettled body language. As they saw how the story was connecting with my heart, they too were drawn in. You could’ve heard a pin drop.



The story is about two brothers. The younger brother is born with health problems, and he was never able to keep up with his athletic older brother. At times, the older brother is cruel and ashamed of his handicapped sibling. At one point, he even thinks of smothering the little brother with a pillow.



But he also demonstrates his love for him. He nicknames the younger brother Doodle and decides to teach him the things he will need to be ready for school, how to run, swim, climb trees, and fight. You know, the important stuff.



But the Saturday before school starts, the older brother pushes Doodle to physical exhaustion while rowing a boat. And then a storm blows in suddenly. The older brother runs ahead angry with Doodle for not keeping up so they can get out of the rain.



But when the older brother’s anger calms, he notices Doodle is missing. He goes looking for him and finds him curled up under a bush with his head on his knees. He is bleeding from his mouth. He is dead.



It’s a tragic ending.



I remember talking with the class about how the two boys reminded me of my own sons. Both of my boys are perfectly healthy. But there was something about the way the brothers interacted that reminded me of my own sons.



I also remember talking to them about empathy and cruelty. How most of us have it in us to be cruel. How we can fail to understand what someone else is going through. How selfish we can be.



I know without a doubt, even many years later, during that class period, there was laughter, there was thinking, and there were definitely tears. I think every student in the class felt something special that day.



So what does a perfect day in the classroom look like? 100% mastery of the objective for the day?



For me, I think a great day is when students are learning the objective, and the learning is also connecting with the heart. I’m not sure who said it, but I believe it’s true, “Information without emotion is rarely retained.” The lessons that stay with us the longest connect to our emotions.



Are you teaching with heart? Let me know what you think. Leave a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook

Read More Information Without Emotion Is Rarely Retained





In 1993, famed college basketball coach Jim Valvano gave an inspiring and hopeful message at the ESPY awards. Valvano was fighting terminal cancer that would soon cut short his remarkable life. I occasionally watch the speech over again. It reminds me of what’s most important.



During his passionate speech, Valvano helped put everything in perspective:

“If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day. And if you do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special.”

I invite you to take a few seconds to listen to Jimmy V speak these words in the video below.

So how can this apply to what we do as educators? Well, I think a great day at school includes the same things. We should laugh, we should certainly think, and we should also cry. 



I’m guessing that crying is harder for most of us to think about. We tend to think of some emotions as good or bad. We tend to hide those emotions that are sad or might be considered weak.



But emotions are an important way for us to connect. It’s how we better understand ourselves and others. Emotions help us to reach the heart and not just the mind.



We know that stories are powerful for learning. I think that’s because of how stories connect to emotions. You can talk about ideas all day, and I might be interested and even learn something. But if you connect those ideas with a story, and you touch my emotions, I may never forget what I’ve learned.



I remember one day years ago I was teaching freshmen English. It was one of those days when for whatever reason, I had a class period that was ahead of the others, and I needed to fill some time.



I decided to read a short story, The Scarlet Ibis, to the class. It was the first time I’d ever read the story myself, so I didn’t know exactly what to expect.



But as I read, I was drawn into the story in a powerful way. No doubt the class could sense my quivering voice, my efforts to fight back tears, and my unsettled body language. As they saw how the story was connecting with my heart, they too were drawn in. You could’ve heard a pin drop.



The story is about two brothers. The younger brother is born with health problems, and he was never able to keep up with his athletic older brother. At times, the older brother is cruel and ashamed of his handicapped sibling. At one point, he even thinks of smothering the little brother with a pillow.



But he also demonstrates his love for him. He nicknames the younger brother Doodle and decides to teach him the things he will need to be ready for school, how to run, swim, climb trees, and fight. You know, the important stuff.



But the Saturday before school starts, the older brother pushes Doodle to physical exhaustion while rowing a boat. And then a storm blows in suddenly. The older brother runs ahead angry with Doodle for not keeping up so they can get out of the rain.



But when the older brother’s anger calms, he notices Doodle is missing. He goes looking for him and finds him curled up under a bush with his head on his knees. He is bleeding from his mouth. He is dead.



It’s a tragic ending.



I remember talking with the class about how the two boys reminded me of my own sons. Both of my boys are perfectly healthy. But there was something about the way the brothers interacted that reminded me of my own sons.



I also remember talking to them about empathy and cruelty. How most of us have it in us to be cruel. How we can fail to understand what someone else is going through. How selfish we can be.



I know without a doubt, even many years later, during that class period, there was laughter, there was thinking, and there were definitely tears. I think every student in the class felt something special that day.



So what does a perfect day in the classroom look like? 100% mastery of the objective for the day?



For me, I think a great day is when students are learning the objective, and the learning is also connecting with the heart. I’m not sure who said it, but I believe it’s true, “Information without emotion is rarely retained.” The lessons that stay with us the longest connect to our emotions.



Are you teaching with heart? Let me know what you think. Leave a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook

Read More Information Without Emotion Is Rarely Retained





I bet you are a fantastic problem solver. Most educators have developed this ability because problems come at you all day long. And you make hundreds of decisions from dawn till dusk.



Our time is a precious resource that can be extremely scarce because of all the demands we face. If we’re not careful, the tyranny of the urgent will consume us and may crowd out time for what’s most important.



Can we agree that the things that are most urgent are often not the most important? Reflect on your day. There were things you felt had to be done. But at what cost?



When you spend all your time dealing with urgent matters, not considering what things would have the highest leverage for success, you are simply spinning your wheels. Lots of activity not going anywhere.



Benjamin Franklin dedicated 5 hours of his week to learning. His personal growth and learning was a priority. Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, and Oprah Winfrey also share this personal commitment to learn at least one hour a day and probably more.



You will never reach your growth potential if you are captive to the urgent.



We did a strengths finder with our staff about a year ago. It was a survey instrument that gave us feedback on our strength areas. We shared these out in a meeting and enjoyed reflecting on how our differences make us collectively strong.



But we all got a chuckle when I asked for teachers to raise their hands if love of learning (one of the characteristics) made their top five strengths. Surprisingly, in this sizable group of educators, only 2-3 teachers had it in their top five.



Of course, I think our teachers love learning. But I also wonder how much of a priority we are giving to our own growth and learning. I challenge you to spend at least 5 hours a week learning and see how it impacts your effectiveness.



For me, my learning each week involves reading, blogging, connecting with other educators on Twitter, and thinking and reflecting. 



Make time to support your own growth and learning and watch how it influences the learning and growth of your students.



The most successful people in the world are extremely busy and they are still finding time to read and learn consistently. Don’t let the urgent things rule over you. Take back what’s important and invest in your own growth.



How are you growing and making time for the 5-hour rule? What are you reading? Leave a comment below or share your thoughts on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More Don’t Let What’s Urgent Keep You From What’s Important