Friday, July 12, 2019

8 Things That Influence Who You're Becoming


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

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

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

The Bible puts it this way...

Above all else, guard your heart,
for everything you do flows from it.
Keep your mouth free of perversity;
keep corrupt talk far from your lips.
Let your eyes look straight ahead;
fix your gaze directly before you.
Give careful thought to the paths for your feet
and be steadfast in all your ways.
Do not turn to the right or the left;
keep your foot from evil.
Proverbs 4:23-27


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8 Things That Influence Who You're Becoming
1. What you watch
2. What you listen to
3. What you read
4. What you believe
5. How you spend your time
6. Who you spend your time with
7. The things you say to yourself
8. The thoughts you choose to accept

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

Friday, June 28, 2019

Are You a Change Agent?


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

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

Which of the following is most powerful?

Think, Analyze, Change or See, Feel, Change

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Give people experiences.

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

2. Give people affirmation.

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

3. Give people responsibility.

If you want people to rise, give them responsibility. It's amazing how the opportunity to take the lead can change a pattern. When you give responsibility, it shows faith and trust in someone. They don't want to let you down. The new responsibility can disrupt the pattern of disempowerment they've experienced.
"Few things can help an individual more than to place responsibility on him, and to let him know that you trust him." -Booker T. Washington.
4. Give people hope.

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

5. Give people connection.

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

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

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

From Implementing to Transforming


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

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

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

We can train people to be implementers.

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

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

That's transforming work.

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

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

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

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

Friday, June 21, 2019

Don't Just Plan Lessons, Create Experiences


"How did you become a Chicago Cubs fan?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As I wrote in my book, Future Driven,
Don’t just create lessons for your students. Create experiences. Students will forget a lesson, but an experience will have lasting value. We want to do more than cover content. We want to inspire learning.
Is your school making time for powerful learning experiences? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.


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!

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