Monday, August 5, 2019

11 Questions that Build Relationships and Foster Connection


Earlier this summer our district leadership team spent a day of training together around the Clifton Strengths Assessment. It was really interesting to learn more about self and others and how to leverage our individual and collective strengths to make our impact for kids stronger.

Of my top five strengths, I was a little disappointed to learn that none of them fell into the larger category of Relationship Building. 

That's right, I often write about how much I value relationships and how important they are, but connecting is not a natural strength for meat least not in my top 5 according to this instrument. 

Our trainer was really helpful in explaining that just because something isn't a natural strength doesn't mean you're not good at it, or that you don't find value in it. It just requires more effort and intention to be good at it. When you believe strongly in something, you can be effective in it even when it's not near the top of your strengths.

That was encouraging to me. 

My top 5 strengths were 1. Learner, 2. Activator, 3. Belief, 4. Futuristic (sounds like a familiar book title), and 5. Self-Assurance. These are all areas where I get energy, where I thrive.

But I also realize that relationships are the most important part of what I do. I can't be effective as an educator or as a human being for that matter, unless relationships are my number one priority. So I will remain intentional about how I strive to connect with others.

I've noticed sometimes when I interact with students I feel like I'm saying the same things over and over. Just simply exchanging pleasantries, smiling, nodding, fist-bumping, etc. And then maybe I'll ask about last night's game or how their classes are going.

I've also noticed that while we often talk about how important relationships are in education, we don't always share specific strategies for how to build relationships and connect in the middle of all those interactions we have every day. 

But I read an article recently about a study by psychologist Arthur Aron that described how certain questions have proven to build connection between people. And while the questions were designed to be used in a single 45 minute conversation, I'm wondering about how some of these questions might be helpful to me in working with students or colleagues, perhaps in shorter time frames. 

Some of the questions seemed more fitting than others. I thought I would share a few here in case you're like me and looking for ways to make your conversations more meaningful. The questions were divided into sets based on the level of vulnerability they might require.

I think they might even be good for staff meetings to build more connection and teamwork among teachers. When we share together we grow stronger together.

Set 1

1. Would you like to be famous? In what way?

2. What would constitute a "perfect" day for you?

3. For what in your life do you feel most grateful?

4. If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?

Set 2

5. What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?

6. What do you value most in a friendship?

7. What is your most treasured memory?

8. Is there something you've dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven't you done it?

Set 3

9. Your house, containing everything you own, catches fire. After saving your loved ones and pets, you have time to safely make a final dash to save any one item. What would it be? Why?

10. When did you last cry in front of another person? By yourself?

11. Make three true "we" statements each. For instance, "We are both in this room feeling..."

There were actually 36 questions total. I'm just sharing a few of the ones that seemed most likely that I might use. I would definitely be uncomfortable asking students, or even colleagues, a few of the questions that were included in the larger group, especially from Set 3. 

You might want to check out the full list of 36 questions and the protocol for the entire activity. You might find some other questions you like for your classroom or school. Or, you might want to try the entire process for date night with your significant other. Enjoy!

What are other questions or topics you rely on to foster connection? I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

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!

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.

Friday, February 1, 2019

Are You Competent and Creative?


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, January 18, 2019

The Importance of Teaching the Behaviors You Want to See


How do you respond when students don't exhibit the behaviors you would like to see? Do you tell students they need to change? Do you lecture them about responsibility or respect? Do you complain to your colleagues about kids these days? Do you punish or reward?

How effective are those options? Telling doesn't work. Lectures create distance. Complaining doesn't empower anyone. And rewards and punishments mostly work only to get compliance and not to build better better behavioral skills.

But what would be an effective response to harmful behaviors? 

What can educators do to better address non-learning behaviors? 

Teaching behavior is better than just punishing behavior.

Teach the students the new behaviors you want to see.

If they aren't organized, teach them how to be organized.

If they aren't respectful, teach them about respect and how to show it.

If they aren't responsible, teach them new skills to show responsibility.

If they are distracted, teach them how to focus.

Break down any behavior into specific skills and teach your students the steps to successfully exhibit the behaviors.

How to Teach Behavior

1. Know your own expectations for your students. Have a vision for exactly what you expect. Know exactly what you want to see.

2. Communicate your expectations clearly. Be very specific. Over communicate. Explain why the behavior is important. Use stories and examples to make it clear.

3. Build relationships. Students will always learn behavior lessons better from someone that's trusted and connected.

4. Discuss unwanted behaviors with your students. Don't tell. Ask questions. Listen. Understand.

5. Give students feedback on how they're doing. Correct them. Direct them. But most of all, encourage them.

6. Facilitate reflection with your students. Ask them to think about their own behavior and how they are learning and growing. Track progress.

7. Offer a fresh start each day. Don't bring up previous mistakes except as a teaching opportunity but never to shame or gain the upper hand. Be patient.

8. Always protect the dignity of each child. Don't lose your cool and say something harmful. Don't use shame or guilt to motivate. 

How would you treat him/her if his/her grandmother were watching?

9. Review. It's always good to circle back around to important lessons about expectations and how things are going.

What if I don't have time to teach behavior?

Better question: What if you DON'T take the time to teach behavior? If you don't teach the behaviors you want to see, you'll spend much more time correcting issues that might have been prevented. Make sure your expectations are clear.

When you are intentional about teaching the behaviors you want to see, you are being proactive instead of reactive. You don't just wait until there is a problem. Try to see things from the student's perspective and anticipate what reminders they might need.

What do you do to be proactive about teaching behaviors in your classroom? Share your strategies by leaving a comment below or responding on Facebook or Twitter.

Friday, January 4, 2019

What's More Professional?


Is it more professional to teach in a traditional manner, the way you remember your teachers teaching you? 

Or, is it more professional to teach in innovative ways that might be more relevant to today's world with today's students? 

Is being professional dressing a certain way, fulfilling your obligations consistently, or having a certain type of professional demeanor?

Maybe some of those things matter for professionalism. But what matters most?

What exactly does it mean to be professional?

It seems to me that being a professional is doing things in the best possible way to meet professional goals. If the ultimate goal is the best possible learning for students, then being professional isn't about doing it like it's always been done, or doing it the way you prefer, or doing it by some personal code that might communicate professionalism for the sake of professionalism.

What's most relevant for being a professional educator is taking actions and designing learning in a way that works best for the learners you are currently teaching, this group of kids, the ones you are working with right now.

Being a professional is understanding the needs of the students. It's seeing things from the perspective of the learner, and then seeking to meet their needs to create the strongest learning environment possible. It's being curious about how your students are experiencing learning. And it's having enough empathy to understand and adjust.

What's your professional identity?

It's only natural to teach in the way that's most comfortable for you. I think most people have a teaching identity that says, "I'm the type of person who teaches such and such way." I've even heard teachers make comments like, "That just doesn't work for me." 

They have a certain idea of their teaching identity. And then they build a story for why their students need the type of teacher they value, the type of teacher that fits their identity.

I'm the strict teacher. These kids need discipline.

I'm the lecturing teacher. These kids need to learn to take notes for college.

I'm the cool teacher. These kids need me to be their friend.

I'm the old school teacher. These kids need to value the things my generation valued.

I'm the dominion teacher. These kids need to fall into line and comply with authority.

But what if your teaching identity isn't really what your students need? Are you willing to reinvent yourself to do what's best for today's learners? All of them?

Being professional means doing beneficial things that aren't necessarily your natural inclination.

To me, that's being a professional. It's creating a classroom environment that will engage and ensure maximum learning even if that's not what's most comfortable for me. I'm going to step out of my comfort zone to make this better for my students.

The most professional educators (teachers, administrators, and other roles too) I know are the ones who are willing to do just about anything to make learning better for students. They are willing to adjust their practices to meet the needs of the students. 

In fact, they are actively seeking ways to adjust their practices to meet the legitimate learning needs of their students.

Well, I'm not here to entertain. I'm not doing a dog and pony show.

Is making learning come alive a dog and pony show? Is cultivating curiosity being an entertainer? 

The kids need to learn grit. They need to learn to do the work, even if they think it's boring. They need to learn perseverance.

Grit and perseverance are connected to things we find meaningful, relevant, and purposeful. Do students find your class meaningful, relevant, and purposeful?

I bet you apply effort to things you find meaningful. In fact, every action you're motivated to take is because you attach some meaning to it. You might even hate doing it. But you attach some meaning to it. Or you wouldn't do it.

What about your students? What are you doing to make learning more meaningful for your students? If they aren't motivated, it's because they don't see the meaning in what you're asking them to do. At least they don't see enough meaning in it, yet, because when they do, they will engage.

What adjustments are you making?

A professional educator is seeking to make learning irresistible. 

A professional educator is seeking to meet the legitimate learning needs of the students.

A professional educator is willing to set aside personal preferences for peak practices.

A professional educator is enthusiastic, excited, and energetic about learners and learning.

A professional educator isn't satisfied with going through the motions or arriving at good enough. There is a desire for continuous improvement that starts with the person in the mirror. What are the actions, attitudes, and approaches I need to take to succeed with these students?

What do you think about this riff on professionalism? Does it resonate with you? Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter. I look forward to reading your comments.
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