Friday, January 6, 2017

5 Blind Spots Educators Must Address



More than likely, you've seen the video below. It is designed to test the power of your attention. It will take careful concentration to succeed in the task. 

In the video, two teams are passing basketballs, one team is wearing white shirts and the other team is wearing black shirts. Your task is to count the number of passes by the white team, ignoring the black team entirely. Before you read further, I would like for you to watch the video and see how you do.





The video has been watched millions of times. And over half those who view it do not see a person wearing a gorilla suit appear, join the other players, thump its chest, and exit. Were you among those who missed the gorilla? If so, don't feel bad. You may have the ability to focus in ways others could not. You didn't allow a silly gorilla to distract you.

The blindness to the gorilla is caused by the focused attention on counting the passes of the white team. Our brain has the ability to ignore what it doesn't perceive as important. And we all know the idea of effective multi-tasking is a myth. You can learn more about this study on selective attention at theinvisiblegorilla.com

One of the remarkable findings of the study is how surprised people are to realize they missed the gorilla. "No way!" they think. They cannot imagine how they could have not seen someone in a gorilla suit in the video. They can't believe they missed it.

The invisible gorilla study reveals a couple of interesting facts about our minds. 

First, we can be blind to the obvious. We can miss the forest for the trees. We are so focused on the details we miss the bigger picture.

And second, we are not only blind to the obvious, but we are unwilling to admit we didn't see clearly. We are also blind to our blindness.

This gorilla business got me thinking about blind spots we may have as educators. The day-to-day problems we face require intense concentration, and unless we pause to reflect, to listen, to pay attention to the world around us, we may miss some of the most important changes happening. Or we may miss things we need to change.

The world is changing rapidly. And we can be so busy we don't even realize what's happening. Because of our intense focus on the routine parts of our work, we may not be aware of how our classrooms and schools need to change. 

We can't afford to let that happen. Our students can't afford for us to have blind spots. Here are five questions to help you think through some issues that can be blind spots for educators. You may have assumptions that haven't been tested. Maybe these questions will help you see any 'gorillas' in your approach.

1. Are my lessons designed to help me teach better or to help students learn more?

Some teachers design lessons to deliver content to students. They strive to teach better. They seek better presentations, better strategies, more tools. They rely on a test at the end to know if students are learning. Other teachers design lessons that cause students to own their learning. Students are the ones doing the heavy lifting. They are creating instead of consuming. They are active in the process. Their learning is visible throughout.

2. Am I teaching students first, or a curriculum?

Some teachers implement a curriculum. They teach the standards of their curriculum with fidelity. But if that is all they do, in my mind, they are not an effective teacher. If you teach students first, you recognize their unique needs. You seek to guide them, mentor them, and help them grow as people. You make learning personal. And you want them to be more excited about learning when they leave your class than when they came. It's more important to develop a passion for learning than to check off standards.

3. Am I preparing students for the world they live in or the one I grew up in?

Some teachers are teaching exactly the same as they were taught. If you visited their classroom, there would be no way to distinguish between this classroom and one from 1991. Your classroom should never become a time capsule. It should actually be more of a time machine, helping students to see what they will need to be successful in their futures. The next 20 years will be the most dramatic period of change in the history of the world. How are you adjusting your classroom to prepare students an uncertain, complex world?

4. Would I want to be a student in my own classroom?

If you are like most learners, you don't enjoy sitting for long periods of time, listening to someone else, and having very little input about anything. Be the teacher who prepares learning experiences, not lectures. Listen to students and try to see learning through their eyes. That's one of the most powerful weapons a teachers can have. If you can understand your students better, you can create learning that is irresistible.

5. Do my students see me as a learner too?

Some teachers are afraid of being wrong. They want to have all the answers and be seen as the expert in the classroom. But more important than being the content expert, teachers need to be learning experts. They need to model how to be an effective lifelong learner. If you asked most student if their teacher learns new stuff, they might say yes—at a conference, or a training, or in teacher meetings. But what about the classroom? Do your students see you learning side-by-side with them every day?

Question: What other blind spots might educators have about learning? I think we all have areas we could see more clearly. Or, we miss the forest for the trees. Or, we don't acknowledge the gorilla. I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Friday, December 30, 2016

The Best Of 2016 From The @DavidGeurin Blog



Thank you! Thank you! Thank you...for reading, connecting, and sharing with me this past year. It's inspiring to be in community with so many passionate educators who come together to learn and lift each other up. I am humbled when readers express how an article was inspiring or helpful. I know that I am always learning and growing as I reflect and share with you. Thank you for responding and sharing your thoughts and ideas with me also!

I am looking forward to the new year with great expectation. As one of three 2017 NASSP Digital Principals, I look forward to making new connections and learning from educators across the country. I will remain committed to advocating for relevant and meaningful learning for all. In spite of the challenges we face, educators are working tirelessly to invest in the lives of students. We will continue to do so regardless of political, social, or economic uncertainties.

Here are my top 10 most popular posts from the blog this past year. If you see one you missed, I hope you'll check it out. 


Five Critical #EdTech Conversations For Your School

Developing a shared vision for technology in your school should include lots of conversations. These conversations should occur among teachers, students, parents, and other stakeholders. It's important to think through the pros and cons of technology use and how technology can play an valuable role in learning.


Does Your Professional Development Honor Teachers as Learners?

For the past couple of years, our school has worked to create a way of supporting professional learning that is more personally meaningful. We were inspired by the idea of So our message was clear. If it might make learning better for students, then pursue it.


9 Pieces of Advice Every Teacher Should Ignore

Every educator has received their share of advice from many well-meaning sources - other teachers, administrators, college professors, parents or even your students. You name it. You may have even received some of the advice on the list below. If so, you might want to ignore it.


7 Questions To Guide Decisions Of School Leaders

Our decisions can have a big impact on the school, learning, and ultimately our students. So it's very important to make the best decision possible. Of course, I often make decisions and then come to realize later that with different information or a different perspective, I might have acted differently in the situation.


7 Reasons To Use Social Media In Your School (INFOGRAPHIC)

One thing is for sure, social media is here to stay. Never before have people been able to connect, share, and learn from one another as we do now. I can only imagine what might be next! As a result, our students need skills to win at life in a digital world.


7 Ways Technology Can Transform Learning (INFOGRAPHIC)

In a previous post, I shared some thoughts on technology integration and how tech in the classroom is too often an add-on or extra and not part of an authentic learning experience. In fact, technology is so vital in today's world that it's on par with the school library.


Adaptable Learners Will Own the Future

When I was kid, my Grandpa Geurin bought me a pony. I know that sounds like the type of gift a spoiled rich kid might get. But we were definitely not rich. Grandpa owned a small farm in West Kentucky where he and my grandma worked tirelessly to make a living.


5 Challenges to Your Best School Year Ever

As the new school year is just around the corner, it's a great chance to commit to making learning more effective and meaningful in your classroom or school. Here are five challenges to make it the best year ever. 1. Greet Your Students at the Door Everyone can make it a point to greet students at the door each day.


Is It Time To Move Past Tech Integration?

What is your school's mindset surrounding technology use in the classroom? If you're like a lot of educators, you are probably working to integrate technology into instruction. You might even be discussing the merits of blended learning. But what does it mean to integrate technology? And what is blended learning?



9 Ways to Make Learning Irresistible

True story. The bell rang and nobody moved. How often are students counting down the minutes of each class? They have their eyes on the clock. They start But the underlying message was that learning is "work" and unpleasant and you need a break, so I'll give you some time later to visit.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

7 Reasons 'Classroom Leadership' Is Better Than 'Classroom Management' {Infographic}





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

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

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










Source: Verma and Wideman (1994)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are 7 Reasons 'Classroom Leadership' Is Better Than 'Classroom Management.'

1. Establishing a Vision for Learning

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

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

2. Building Strong Relationships 

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

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

3. Generating Enthusiasm

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

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

4. Building Trust 

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

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

5. Honest and Clear Communication

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

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


6. Leading By Example

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


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

7. Being Proactive vs. Reactive

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

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

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


Sunday, December 11, 2016

5 Reasons to Look Beyond Test Scores as the Measure of School Success



Are you beating the state average? The teacher down the hall? The school down the road? How about the Fins or the Singaporeans? How do your scores measure up? Is your school keeping up with the Joneses?

Lately, I've seen lots of comparisons of achievement data. Including the PISA international benchmark results that were just released. Once again, U.S. scores were not stellar in comparison to some of the best test takers in the world.

While reading Linchpin by Seth Godin, I was challenged to think about how we define success. And where we spend our energy to develop world class schools. Godin illustrates how difficult it is to be the best by any statistical comparison.

❝Donald Bradman was an Australian cricket player. He was also the best athlete who ever lived. By any statistical measure, he was comparatively the best at what he did. He was far better at cricket than Michael Jordan was at basketball or Jack Nicklaus was at golf.
It's very difficult to be as good as Donald Bradman. In fact, it's impossible. Here's a chart of Bradman's batting average compared with the other all-time cricket leaders. 
Bradman's Test batting average was 99.94. In cricket, a player's batting average is the
total number of runs scored by the number of times they have been out.

Everyone else is quite grouped near sixty. Bradman was in a league of his own, not even close to the others. 
The challenge of becoming a linchpin solely based on your skill at plying a craft or doing a task or playing a sport is that the market can find other people with the skill with surprising ease. Plenty of people can play the flute as well as you can, clean a house as well as you can, program in Python as well as you can. If all you can do is the task and you're not in a league of your own at doing the task, you're not indispensable. 
Statistics are a dangerous deal, because statistics make it strikingly clear that you're only a little better than the other guy. Or perhaps not better at all.
When you start down the path of beating the competition based on something that can be easily measured, you're betting that with practice and determination, you can do better than Len Hutton or Jack Hobbs did at cricket. Not a little better, but Don Bradman better.
And you can't. 

And this demonstrates the problem with measuring school performance based on standardized tests. To clarify...

1. Someone is always statistically better. 

You cannot be the best just on your effort or the effort of the students in your classroom or school. You cannot measure up. Even your best will not be enough. There will always be a Don Bradman. So when we accept this measure as judge and jury of our effectiveness, we are setting ourselves up for frustration and inadequacy.

2. More achievement is not always better.

A recent article about the learning culture in Singapore shows just how unhealthy a culture of over-achievement can be. Even in our own schools, we should not celebrate unhealthy attitudes toward achievement. How many ulcers, headaches, and mental health issues are a result of students, and educators, who are placing too much emphasis on achievement results? Being an effective human being involves a healthy attitude toward achievement, not high achievement no matter what it takes.

3. What can be measured doesn't always count the most.

And what counts the most can't always be measured. There are so many things about being an effective learner, a well-educated person beyond test scores. In fact, there are many people in our communities who are incredibly successful and lifelong learners, but who did not excel as test takers. Their success is attributable to many intangibles that cannot be easily measured. As Godin points out, "The easier it is to quantify the less it's worth." The most valuable things are often hard to measure.




4. High test scores are not a vision for learning.

When raising test scores becomes a chief aim of a school or district, it can easily become the vision of the school. And raising test scores is not a vision for learning. This approach marginalizes the individual and their learning needs in favor of data objectives that may not even be meaningful to the individual. In a sense, it dehumanizes learning. A vision for learning should always focus on the individual learner and create a culture that helps each student reach his or her goals. 

5. A school's identity should not be contingent on achievement.

The identity of a school, or individual, should not be contingent on achievement. It should be comprised of the way the school seeks to fulfill its mission. We should seek to have a high level of commitment, collaboration, and care. We should strive to help our students achieve, but also to fully engage, to be more excited about learning, to gain hope, to learn more about who they are, and to fulfill their potential in the broadest sense. We control our identity, but we can't always control our scores. Any teacher knows this, but sometimes we do our best work with students who DO NOT demonstrate achievement on tests.

So what's the alternative to playing the test score game? Godin suggests using emotional labor to make yourself indispensable. I think this principle can be applied to schools, too. The idea is to focus energy on connecting, supporting, reaching out, lifting up, and offering hope better than anyone else. It is always teaching students first, then curriculum.

Even though many educators realize how important emotional labor is, it is rarely included in strategic plans, teacher evaluations, or educator standards. It is not considered a strategic advantage. In my review of my state's principal standards, the word data was found 15 times. By contrast, the word relationships was not to be found. The era of accountability has created an assembly line approach to schooling. It seems to almost eliminate the human element. 

But the truth is the human element is everything in education and in most every profession. Once you have achieved a measure of expertise in polishing your craft, you become a game-changer only through your interaction with each child. Your emotional labor is what makes you able to do your job unlike anyone else on the planet. And if your school collectively does it's emotional labor better than anyone else, it will indeed be world class. And I'm betting your test scores will improve as an added bonus.

Question: How do you view the role of emotional labor in your classroom and school? Is it a measure of success? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Dear Defender of the Status Quo...



Dear Defender of the Status Quo,

The status quo does not need your help.

It is a powerful force on its own. It has inertia on its side. And fear. And control. 

You feel safer with what's familiar, but you're not. 

In the end, failure to change makes you antique, obsolescent, irrelevant, and eventually extinct.

You can see that the world is changing around you. Fast. Really fast. The evidence is everywhere. But what are you doing about it?

The status quo won't prepare students for the challenges they will face. 

Change is inevitable, and you are needed as a change-maker.

Is your teaching today much different from how you were taught? Are your lessons preparing students for yesterday or tomorrow? 

Desks are lined in straight rows. Students listen for instructions, complete assignments, take tests. How is the experience unique to the world today and not the world of 50 years ago?

You are more than a curriculum implementer. You are a positive change maker. You work with the most valuable resource in the worldchildren.

You matter.

A lot has been pushed on you I know. Your work has been devalued, disrespected, and run down.

Your work is more than a test score.

But it won't help to circle the wagons and just hang on to the old. 

It's tempting to become cynical. To resent the bureaucrats or pundits who want to change you from the outside. Who want to create a marketplace for a child's education.

Keep the focus on your students.

Keep an eye on tomorrow.

Don't let your school become a time capsule.

Be a champion for change. Don't wait for it to happen to you. Drive the change from your platform. You have a voice. 

You are a leader.

People want to know what you stand for, not just what you stand against. I want to know.

Share your story.

Inspire.

You can let the challenges cause you to clinch your fists and hang on to what you know, or you can reach for something new and be the one who creates a better tomorrow for public schools, and ultimately for kids.

Dream.

If technology isn't your strength, that's okay. But how are you growing? How are you becoming a stronger digital learner?


Grow.

You lead by example. Your example is your greatest opportunity for influence. Your students are watching.

Don't allow change to be something done to you. Be empowered.

Your work can't be replaced by a machine, but only if you connect and relate and stay relevant. You may be a kid's best chance. You can be a game-changer.

Spread hope.

Remember to always teach kids first, and then curriculum. Teach them how to think. How to work the problem. How to adapt to whatever they might face.

Create excitement around learning. Make it count for something besides a grade or a diploma or a test score.

The status quo is a taker. It takes your passion, your zest, your difference. It tries to make you like everyone else.

Stand out.

You are not an interchangeable part and neither are your students. Make your classroom more artwork and less assembly line.

And please, please don't be a defender of the status quo...

We've always done it this way just won't cut it anymore.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Hottest Posts Everyone's Reading this Fall #ICYMI

I can't believe it's Thanksgiving break! This fall has absolutely flown by. It's been an exciting few months, and I was thrilled to be named a 2017 NASSP Digital Principal of the Year, along with Darren Ellwein (@DEllwein) and Nicholas Indeglio (@DrIndeglio). I look forward to working with these awesome educators over the next year. It's an honor and privilege to promote the role of technology in learning with the ultimate goal of empowering learners!

Thank you for supporting my work on Twitter and here on my blog. I share my ideas on a variety of topics in hopes that my experience will be supportive and helpful to you. If you ideas for me and or any kind of feedback, I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment below or reach out on Twitter or Facebook.

Here is a look back at a few of the most popular posts from the past couple of months.


Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Ultimate 80's Countdown for Educators



Since VH1 never produced this important countdown (surprising I know), I am stepping up to the plate. For some reason, teachers and schools are often overlooked in rock music. I guess there was Hot for Teacher and Smokin' in the Boys Room. But that's not exactly what I had in mind. I'm looking for songs that actually have some educational/inspirational value related to learning. And for this list, they have to be from the 80's.

I'll share my list and you can leave a comment to let me know what you would add. Enjoy!

10. Rock Me Amadeus by Falco (1985)

The movie Amadeus was a huge hit that sparked an interest in classical music and the life of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. It's always great when pop culture leads to learning, even if the song is really weird. The Broadway show Hamilton is having a similar impact today. 




9. One Moment in Time by Whitney Houston (1988)



This Emmy Award winning song was the anthem of the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea. It's a song about reaching higher and striving to be the best you can be. It's really connected to the mission of educators, to help students see their potential and dream big dreams.

8. Don't Worry Be Happy by Bobby McFarren 


If everyone in your school came to school every day with this attitude, what kind of place would it be? We need classrooms and schools filled with positive and supportive people.

7. Chariots of Fire by Vangelis (1981)


This instrumental theme from the movie by the same name was included on my list for a couple of reasons. It's an inspirational piece of music for sure, but it's also from a film that I find very compelling. It's a fact-based story of Olympians who find great meaning and purpose in their running. Educators should also run their race with this type of commitment and purpose. 

6. We Didn't Start the Fire by Billy Joel (1989)


This song has been used in history classes over and again. In fact, there is a webpage that details the historical events listed in the song.

5. Highway to the Danger Zone by Kenny Loggins (1986)


You probably recognize this song from the hit movie Top Gun, starring Tom Cruise. For teachers, the danger zone might be the day after Halloween in an elementary school or after school parking lot duty in a high school. There are plenty of "dangerous" parts of the job.

4. I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For by U2 (1987)


This is one of my favorite songs. As an educator, you want to have success with every student and every lesson. But this is tough work and failure is inevitable. And there is always work to do. Until school works for every kid, I still haven't found what I'm looking for.

3. Man in the Mirror by Michael Jackson (1987)


The lyrics of this song are powerful. Great educators must concern themselves with social good. Be the change.

2. Don't You Forget About Me by Simple Minds (1985)


The Breakfast Club is one of the most iconic movies of the 80's. The themes are really important ones for educators to understand. The need to be understood, to feel a sense of belonging, etc. No one wants to be forgotten.

1. Don't Stop Believin' by Journey (1981)


Not a song about school. But it is a song about taking a chance, going places, and reaching for dreams. The best educators are dream builders and give hope to their students. Don't stop believin'!!! 

Question: What 80's tunes would you add to my list? How do they inspire you as an educator? Leave a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook.

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