Tuesday, June 11, 2019

What You Do Matters


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. "I keep doing this because they need me."

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

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

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

Who makes the difference in your school?

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

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

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

Friday, May 24, 2019

Balancing Achievement and Agency


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.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

7 Questions to Reflect on Kindness


Kindness is more than being nice. It's great to do nice things for people, and that's certainly part of being kind. But true kindness goes deeper. It tests our character because it isn't always easy. Most everyone is kind to others when they feel like it, or when other people are nice to them.

But here are 7 questions that take it deeper. These might be good to discuss with your students or even with your colleagues. I know I need to consistently reflect on these to keep growing and developing my own kindness qualities.


1. Are you happy for others when they succeed?

True kindness doesn't envy the success of others. It's being happy for others and celebrating with them and for them. 

2. How do you treat people who can do nothing for you in return?

Some people are kind to gain status or favor or tangible rewards. But true kindness shows up strongest with selfless motives, expecting nothing in return.

3. How do you treat others in times of crisis?

When things are spiraling out of control, that tests how committed we are to kindness. Do you still treat people respectfully and with dignity even when it's a crisis?

4. Are you able to maintain respectful dialogue with someone who strongly disagrees with you?

Disagreement doesn't have to result in disrespect. We should be able to share different perspectives without feeling diminished or making others feel diminished.

5. When you make a mistake or act poorly, do you take full ownership? Do you apologize immediately and sincerely?

Kindness doesn't make excuses. If you make a mistake, admit it and do what you can to make it right.

6. Do you have positive beliefs about others? Do you look for the best in them? Do you believe the best about their intentions?

A person who is kind believes the best about others. It's being the type of person who can see the strengths in others, even when they're hard to see.

7. Are you able to forgive others for their mistakes? Are you able to forgive even if they don't apologize or admit their mistake?

Holding a grudge is definitely not a kindness quality. But sometimes it's hard if the other person doesn't apologize. But true kindness is tested by the hard stuff.

What are other ways you can think of to show kindness? Leave a comment or respond on Facebook or Twitter. It would be great to hear from you!

Friday, April 19, 2019

The Importance of Emotions in Learning




Earlier this month, Dave Burgess shared a great tweet of a slide from Amy Fast's presentation at What Great Educators Do Differently in Houston.
It's true. It's so important to do the emotional work, your emotional work to connect and care and empathize, because it influences the emotions of everyone around you. It influences others. 

How important are emotions? Emotions are "energy in motion." Our emotions are always moving us toward something or away from something. We don't always have to choose to follow those emotions, but they are powerful. Just understand that when a student or colleague is stuck in a performance rut, there is nearly always an emotional component to that.

Most people want to succeed and do well, right? They didn't wake up in the morning wanting to fail. But sometimes they lose their way. At some point, their thoughts, beliefs, or feelings start getting in the way. Their words and actions are impacted. They allow the obstacles to weigh them down or stall their progress.

We need to create positive emotions in our classrooms and in our schools toward each other, toward learning, and toward making a difference. We need to support each other and believe in each other and never give up on each other. A positive learning environment is a positive emotional environment.

How often are there moments in your school that bring great joy, hope, and purpose? Those moments help create a heightened state of emotion. A peak state of emotion leads to a greater sense of motivation.

Think about it...
When you are laughing, smiling, encouraging, connecting, complimenting, progressing, and succeeding, you will have more energy, enthusiasm, effort, excitement, enjoyment, engagement and more. 

And conversely...
When you are frowning, criticizing, isolating, blaming, or complaining, you'll reap what you sow with that too. You'll have less energy. You'll be more tired. You'll be less likely to take a risk or do something great.

If you want to increase learning and performance, create an environment that provides for positive emotional support and growth. Create a positive environment. Create an uplifting environment, a fun environment. Bring your best energy.

Be intentional to create opportunities for students and colleagues to have more positive emotions. When the emotional environment improves, everyone has a better chance to change and grow and experience more powerful learning and connection.

What are ways you create an positive emotional environment in your classroom or school?

How do you set the tone each day for connection and care?

What behaviors need to be addressed that are damaging the emotional environment?

I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter. Thanks for all you do to bring your positive vibes each and every day!

Friday, April 5, 2019

7 Future Driven Questions to Discuss With Your Team


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

Friday, March 29, 2019

Should All Educators Be Lifelong Learners?


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, February 18, 2019

5 Reasons Metaverse is the Perfect Way to Bring AR to Your Classroom

This post is sponsored in partnership with Metaverse.
I’ve been experimenting recently with the Metaverse app, and I think it’s a fantastic learning tool for teachers and students. Metaverse allows users to create augmented reality experiences without having to write any of their own code. The possibilities are literally endless for the types of creative projects you can develop.


So how does it work? The Metaverse Studio provides a drag and drop interface to build your experience. You simply select different components to add to your “storyboard” and then you link them together.

There are all sorts of components to work with. You can even embed your own videos or select videos from YouTube. 



After you create an experience in the studio, it can be shared in a variety of ways. You can use a link or QR code, send them through email, or even embed them in your website or Learning Management System.

To interact with the experience, the user will need the Metaverse App (Android/iOS). Once you’ve downloaded the app, you can tap the link or scan the code to get started. It’s really fun and easy.

Teachers and students are creating all sorts of amazing things with Metaverse. You could make a breakout game, create a trivia/review game, develop a scavenger hunt, interactive story, and much more.

One school even used Metaverse to create a tour of their school for incoming freshmen. And students were the ones who developed the experience for their peers.

Just recently, Metaverse added a new feature to allow teachers to see all of the projects their students are working on, in one place. It’s called Collections. 


While collections is a paid feature (Metaverse is otherwise FREE), this addition makes Metaverse even more powerful as a student creation station. 


So here’s what I love about Metaverse…

1. It develops creative thinking.

Students need more opportunities to use creativity in the classroom. Metaverse provides a platform with endless options for creativity. Students can demonstrate their learning in new and interesting ways. They can make their own game, scavenger hunt, or story to show what they’re learning.

2. It develops reasoning skills.

Metaverse has a “storyboard” format that requires lots of if/then logical thinking. To create an experience, students will be using basic thinking skills used in coding, only without the coding. Everything is drag and drop. My cognitive reasoning skills were getting a good workout as I experimented with the tool.

3. It motivates learners.

Metaverse is a fun way to learn. I showed it to my own kids and they were immediately interested in how it worked and all of the different components that could be linked together. It definitely has a coolness factor that many other education apps lack. Students could work on their project individually or in teams.

4. It helps learners apply what they know.

It’s been often said, “No one cares what you know, they only care what you can do with what you know.” Metaverse is a great way to have students do something with what they know. There will no doubt be deeper learning when students create something that demonstrates their learning.

5. It’s a great alternative to traditional paper/pencil assessment.

Metaverse projects are a great way to assess learning. The teacher could develop a rubric for the essential learning outcomes and how those will be assessed in the Metaverse experience. As students work on the projects, the teacher could provide ongoing feedback. And students could provide feedback to each other too.

Overall, Metaverse is a great way to shift instruction from learning as a delivery system to learning that is a discovery system. The opportunities for engagement and creativity using this tool are unlimited.

Question: Have you tried Metaverse yet with your students? If not, you should give it a try. Right now you can try out Collections for free for one month using the following code: ARforEDU. Let me know what you think. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.
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