Sunday, November 30, 2014

Quote-A-Day: Day 335

 w/o  is akin to swimming w/o water. In both cases you'll never get anywhere.     

Last evening my wife and I got together with an old friend of hers.  I've known this friend since I was eighteen, and while we don't get together too often, it is always a blast when we do.

Last night was uproarious.

We all laughed harder than we likely have in a long time, so hard, in fact, that all of our stomachs hurt.  The power of good food, good friends, and good fun should never be underestimated.

In fact, it is the power of laughter that the best leaders are able to harness.  Laughter is definitely the best medicine, but it is also a necessity for anyone who wants to lead effectively.

Trying to lead without laughter being a mainstay is much like attempting to swim without water.  In both scenarios you really won't get anywhere.

Even in the most dire circumstances, deep laughter can lift a cloud, so much so that people can feel re-energized to continue the deep and hard work that may be in front of them.

Embracing laughter doesn't mean you need to be a jokester or a comedian.  But it does mean you have to recognize humor when it happens, and welcome it.

Smiles and laughter are contagious, and it is always much better to fall victim to a bout of laughter than to fall victim to a bout of anger or frustration.

We need to lead (and live) with laughter, and encourage all those we serve to do so as well.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Quote-A-Day: Day 334

It isn't the fault of the media for info overload. Rather, it is our fault for not knowing how to manage it.   

This morning, as I was sitting in the gym parking lot, I had the opportunity to engage in #satchathack. I only was able to stay for the first two questions, however, as I was answering them, they made me consider the issue of information overload, and how best to deal with it.

As I was talking to other leaders and learners, I started to think about the fact that information has always been out there; it's just our access to it that has changed over the last thirty years. We are now much more capable of retrieving and evaluating information than we were in the past.

The difference is that we still have the same amount of time to do this collecting and evaluating, making it that much harder to truly tell whether the information we're receiving is true, false, or something in-between.

Information overload isn't the fault of the media though.  After all, the media is just doing what it has been doing for decades.  However, despite having much more access to "news," we haven't necessarily become better at managing this access.

And that's where the problem lies.

In order to be the best we can at leading and learning, we need to make sure that we look at information for what it is, simply words, pictures, and noise, until it can be validated.

Regardless of the source, I choose to never believe "news" I come across, unless I can validate it from multiple sources.  After all, with so much information at our fingertips, this multiple confirmation is actually easier, right?

So, why not do it?

Friday, November 28, 2014

Quote-A-Day: Day 333

Being connected is never enough.  Rather, it is how we care for our connections that is most important.    

Truly  connected leaders aren't just "connected."

Truly connected leaders are much more.

It isn't enough to simply be connected.  Instead, it is all about how we care for our connections that matters.

The best leaders are not only connected, but they are also connected and caring; they care for their connections regularly, and make sure that those they are connected to see the value of the connections that they have formed.

Connections that aren't taken care of wilt, and like a plant, if those wilting connections aren't reinvigorated, they are apt to fade away.

Anyone can be a connected leader, but not everyone can go beyond connecting, and truly make the connections about the care that exists within them.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Quote-A-Day: Day 332

The best  are thankful for what they have, and worry little about what they don't.      

Today is a day to be thankful.

But realistically, we should be thankful every day of our lives.

The best leaders are consistently thankful for those they serve, and for what every day brings them, despite the challenges that may arise.

These leaders also spend less time worrying about what they don't have, instead choosing to leverage what they've got to make life and learning better for everyone.

Today, as you celebrate with yourself, family, and friends, remember that while today is Thanksgiving, we should be always giving thanks for the lives we lead.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Quote-A-Day: Day 331

Everyone has baggage.  The best leaders know how to help others carry it, and unpack it.      

As I'm looking out at the first real snow of the year, I can't help but wonder about the "fresh start" title we tend to associate with snow.  I'm not sure what it is, but there is something "pure" about a coating of snow.

But, even though we might associate snow with "pure" thoughts, there is a lot of baggage associated with snow.  From the clearing of the roads and driveways to the hazardous driving conditions, to the cold temperatures, to the slushy conditions we're left with after the fact, even what appears serene has a lot hidden underneath.

So too with those we serve.  Everyone (including us) brings baggage to the learning and leading we do.  And that baggage can be a major hindrance to success.

Or, it can be a hurdle that requires a little help to surmount.

The best leaders know that everyone brings baggage to the table, and therefore spend time on helping stakeholders develop the skills to carry their baggage, and when they're ready, begin to unpack it.

True leaders aren't necessarily problem solvers on their own but rather question askers and skill developers, so that a team can work together to tackle a problems cooperatively.

It is never a negative that we carry baggage (it would be kind of weird if we didn't).  Rather, it only becomes troubling if we're never allowed to find and develop the tools we need to hold that baggage (and discard it, if needed) in a way that benefits as many people as possible.

The best leaders among us cultivate this understanding that baggage is something we can't avoid, and as such, we need to become better capable to use it to leverage our learning and leading.

So, back to the snow, there is something beautiful about it, but we must remember that even snow has baggage that needs to be carried (and eventually plowed away).

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Quote-A-Day: Day 330

There is a power in #play, a power that needs to be protected, and promoted. #QuoteADay #Day330 #edchat #edu #NYedchat #satchat cc: @InstituteofPlay

Today we were lucky enough to have the chance to work with a team from the Institute of Play (IoP).  If you haven’t yet heard of IoP, you need to look them up.  Here’s their site:

A main premise of their work is simple: It is important (and necessary) to promote game-based thinking into the work we do with learners.  

Below are a few pictures of workshop attendees as they modified existing games to better understand game design and start to consider the benefits of game-based learning:

Modding Tic Tac Toe

Modding Picture Talk

Note that engaging in game-based learning doesn’t mean we’re constantly “playing games,” (or that all games are great learning tools) but it does mean that we utilize the structure and design theory inherent in games to further the learning we want students of all ages to experience.

As a life-long gamer, these are ideals that I live by.  I’ve enjoyed playing board, card, video, and thinking games/puzzles for as long as I can remember, and the only thing preventing me from gaming more is simply time.  At the same time, I understand that games for learning are very different than games for games-sake.

As a classroom teacher, I tended to embed game-design in some of my work (I always wished I could do more).  Here’s a picture of a game I still have in my office to remind me of the power of play:

There is a power in play, a power that needs to be protected and promoted at all costs. 

And here’s the rub: Gaming isn’t new; it’s been happening in schools for decades. 

What is a little bit different these days is the fact that so many more learners are gamers in some regard, particularly with the advent of smartphones and puzzle apps (even my one year old will swipe at a screen, even if it isn’t on, or it doesn’t have a touch screen J).

With such a huge base of ready and able gamers, we shouldn’t deny embedding game-based thinking and learning into our work. 

If the main goal of education is to help others learn and lead, then why wouldn’t we want to shape learning in a relevant and enjoyable way?

Monday, November 24, 2014

Quote-A-Day: Day 329

A true friend is someone who will tell you you're wrong, even when you "know" you're right. #QuoteADay #Day329 #edchat #satchat #NYedchat

First, there’s nothing wrong with being wrong.  In fact, we should welcome being wrong more often than we do, as simply the act of being incorrect prompts us to learn more and engage further.

And seriously, who wants to be right all the time if all it does is make it less likely that we’ll want to investigate things further?

Even knowing all this, we still love to be right, and human nature imprints us with a desire to prove ourselves, and for whatever reason, proving ourselves often means showing others how much we know (despite the fact that others don’t really care how much we know).

Friendship isn’t just having a buddy to hang around with.  Rather, true friendship is a relationship with someone that is based on keeping each other honest, and honestly keeping each other informed.
This means a true friend lets you know when you’re wrong, even when you believe at all costs that you’re right. 

There’s a power to having a friend who is able to help you keep your instinct for being right in check.  It builds humility, and it also helps us remember that it is less about being right and wrong, and more about learning (or not learning).

We also owe it to these friends to do the same for them, as nobody is free from the “being right” instinct; we all have to battle it if we are to be the best leaders we can possibly be.

Consider your list of friends.  Who will stick their neck out to tell you when you’re wrong about something?  Who won’t?

The best leaders surround themselves with friends who will be honest and check their thinking.  The worst leaders surround themselves with people who will only tell them what they want to hear.

What type of leader are you?

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Quote-A-Day: Day 328

The best seek , not .

Face it, there are a lot of problems that exist in this world.  And, truth be told, it would be great if finding solutions was as easy as finding problems.

But, as I've learned throughout my personal and professional life so far, it is rarely about the answers you get, and always about the questions you ask.

Leadership isn't about getting people to places.  Instead, it's about asking people where they want to go, and helping them find the pathway to get themselves there.

The best leaders, the ones who truly understand what it means to "lead" actually prefer to not "close the loop," vying instead to push others to investigate the loop and close it themselves.

An answer does two things: It provides closure, and it shows that someone can do their homework.

However, a question does three: It keeps the learning going, it puts the power in the hands of those invested in finding out more, and it encourages an "I don't know, let's find out" approach to life.

By focusing more on questions and less on answers, we provide for a structure that puts the emphasis on always learning more and not on shutting the learning down.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Quote-A-Day: Day 327

 are born curious; we should spend less time trying to create , and more trying to save it.   

Every day I look at my two daughters, and I'm amazed with what they're willing to try, and what they want to explore.  Even my four year old, who has spent the last four years experimenting with the world around her is incredibly curious about the "whys" and "hows."  Children just can't get enough of trying to figure out how things work.

What's so fascinating to me is that I've never met a toddler or young child who lacks for curiosity.


Yet, somehow, by the time these toddlers reach middle school, or upper elementary school, for some, that curiosity, that drive to learn and experiment, is gone.


One thing I'm wondering about is maybe we're going about approaching curiosity in schools all wrong.  Sure, we need to make sure we don't cut or destroy creativity, and it is clear that in some cases, we need to provide assistance to educators on how to avoid "curiosity killing" (I talked about this in an earlier post this year. . . one of the best ways to promote curiosity?  Be comfortable saying "I don't know.")

But aside from making sure all understand the importance of promoting curious thinking, maybe we need to worry less about creating curiosity, and spend more time on the defensive, by doing what we can to save it.

Since our youngest learners and leaders are born with a natural desire to be curious (most animals exhibit this inborn trait too), we don't have to "build" this up in our youngest members of society.  But, we, as a society (it isn't just education that is doing this, it is our parenting, our scheduling of day-to-day life, etc.), need to work harder to save it in our children so that by the time they reach secondary school, they still have that fire burning to learn all that the world has to offer.

As an educator, this means letting students do more exploring in class, with freedom to learn, and a strand of inquiry throughout.

As a parent, this means backing up  a bit, and letting a child learn on his/her own; that climbing up on a rock might result in a fall and a bruise, but wow, it sure was fun to climb up there. If we don't let our children and our students explore and take some risks, they'll no longer be curious about what exists around the next bend.  And if we want a society that lives on innovation and a desire for constant improvement, then we need to make sure that we save curiosity, at all costs.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Quote-A-Day: Day 326

Nobody knows what the day will bring.

But you know what you can bring to each day.

Today was a great day, but it didn’t start off great. 

My youngest is battling a really bad cough, and neither my wife nor I was able to take off work today (happily she didn’t have a fever).  So, we sent her in to day care, sadly, and started going about our day in a bit of a cloud of negativitiy.

This could have had a really negative impact on the start of my day, but I didn’t let it.  Our monthly Curriculum Council meeting was today, and I needed to do my best to focus on our group and our region’s needs.

We never know what the day will bring to us.

But, we do know what we are capable of, and what we can bring to each day.

This is important because we are the true keepers of our mood.  We can choose to greet the day with frustration, anger, and negativity, or we can welcome it with happiness, humor, and a sense of thankfulness.

Today, I chose the latter, and often I do my best to make it the only choice I even consider.  It makes me a more effective leader, a more capable learner, and a more enjoyable person to be around. J

As the day winds down, I can now return my focus to my daughter, feeling comfortable in knowing that I did my best professionally so I can be my best personally.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Quote-A-Day: Day 325

Claims without #evidence are like piggy banks without change: Both ring empty. #QuoteADay325 #edchat #satchat #NYedchat #BlogEveryDay

One of the important lessons I’ve learned in my leadership role and throughout my life experience as a learner is that if you’re going to make a claim, you had best have evidence to support it.

As interesting as I might be (or as interesting as I might think that I might be J), very few people are interested in what I “think.”  Rather, they want to know what I think only when there is evidence to back it up.  If I’m making any type of claim, then I need to be able to substantiate it.

The problem is that we live in a society where information flies quicker than it can be interpreted and analyzed.  This means that often, what we think we know isn’t true, and it almost always means that every story is much deeper than it first appears.

As leaders and learners we need to make sure that we are holding others to the lofty benchmark of supplying evidence with the claims that they make.  This means asking questions such as, “How do you know this?”  “What resources exist that can support (or detract) from this?”  “What additional sources can we call on that may know even more about this?” and “How much follow-up has been done regarding this?”

We also need to make sure that we hold ourselves to this benchmark.  How do we do this?  We can begin by taking the following steps:

1.        Check in with at least three reputable sources before reporting “news.”

2.       Share sources and text with those who the information pertains to.  Don’t attempt to interpret information if you can supply the original wording/text.

3.       Continue to follow up on an issue.  “News” changes quickly, and what was a big story at nine in the morning may turn out to be a non-issue by noon (or a bigger deal by three).

In our desire to be knowledgeable, we often make the mistake of sharing information as soon as it surfaces.  Better to truly be knowledgeable by taking the time to gather data on a situation, think deeply about it, and only then, share.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Quote-A-Day: Day 324

There is much to be learned from simply closing our mouths and observing.  #QuoteADay #Day324 #edchat #edu #satchat #NYedchat #ASCDL2L

This morning I had a great opportunity to visit the classroom of a colleague who is truly an innovative educator.  Jasper Fox, a science educator in the Lakeland School District, had invited me to come by and watch him work with students on a lesson on assembly line design and optimization.  Jasper’s goal was to provide for student-focused inquiry, and experiment with a number of practices inherent in the Next Generation Science Standards through this process.

I'll leave Jasper to share details from the lesson itself and what he learned (you can see a few pics/videos in my Twitter/Vine feed).

Instead, I’ll take just a moment to comment on the importance of all leaders and learners taking the time to stop talking and simply observe.

As someone who loves to talk (and write), I can sometimes get lost in my own thinking.  While it is important for us to reflect, and to reflect regularly, we need to be careful not to lose the opportunity to simply sit back and observe.

Today provided a great opportunity for me to do that.  I was able to focus on what Jasper was doing, interact with his students, and engage in discussion with him afterwards about his practice and education in general.

Not once did I have to reflect on my own practice. 

And in this case, that was a great thing.

The opportunity to spend time outside our own skin is incredibly important.  Sometimes, to make ourselves better, we need to engage in conversation with others about helping them to continuously improve.  Not only did I reflect on science and character education on the ride back to my office, but I shared with our Regional Science Coordinator the work that Jasper was doing, in hopes of connecting the two of them together in the future.

If we would only take more time to listen, and less time to speak, we would be better able to hear ideas that can make all of us better leaders and learners.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Quote-A-Day: Day 323

We can never remove 100% of the risk in a situation.

And realistically, why would we want to?

Risk is a funny thing.

One the one hand, we often want to avoid it at all costs when we’re making decisions that could impact others (and ourselves).

On the other hand, we know how important it is to take risks; innovation and the status quo definitely don’t mix.

But, here’s the thing: If we know that it is important to take risks in order to innovate, and if we know that we can’t really avoid risks in life, then we need to get in the habit of thinking, “Why should I even want to avoid this risk?”

Sure, in some cases, it is easy to think of why some risks should be avoided.  Risks that do outright harm to others are definitely ones to stay away from.

But, since we don’t always know what is going to happen, and since we can’t predict whether a risk is simply just a veiled opportunity, in the majority of cases we should invite risk in happily.

After all, what better way to spur on innovation than to walk a path in which we don’t yet know the destination.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Quote-A-Day: Day 322

#PD isn't something that is done to, or for, you. It is something that you do to, or for, yourself. #QuoteADay #Day322 #edchat #satchat #PAN

I’ve been thinking quite a lot lately about what PD means to me.  Her are a few of the big ideas I’ve been ruminating on:
1.        It isn’t so much PD as it is PO.  We aren’t really professionally developed.  Instead, we’re provided with a variety of professional opportunities to further ourselves, if we so choose.  And that is how it should be in our schools, businesses, and organizations.  If there is no choice built into the learning, then there isn’t really any learning at all.

2.        PD can’t be done for you.  You have to make it happen for yourself.  Even in the most extreme situations, where we require PD to in order to continue in our job roles, there has to be an intrinsic “wanting” of the learning for true learning to happen.  If we’re sitting in a session that we have no interest in, it is akin to our learners who haven’t yet been captivated by the work happening in their classrooms or organizations.  We can never force people to learn, and if the learning opportunity doesn’t jive with those who it is provided to, then no good (and likely no “anything”) will come of it.

3.       PD without an action component is unlikely to cause deep learning.  While being provided with choice and having a learning session that truly interests you sets the stage for you to take your learning further, it doesn’t guarantee it.  Why?  Because without professional learning including action steps, the learning (if we can call it that) just gets archived and put on a shelf in our minds.  PD must incorporate action steps and then time for reflection, if it is to truly be meaningful for participants.

As I continue to build my PD providing skills, I ask myself the following three questions before pitching a session, and when evaluating the sessions others have proposed:

·         Is there inherent choice in this session, and how does it relate to other offerings that exist?
·         Is it tied to what practitioners want, need, and value?  Can I provide evidence to support this?
·         Is there an action component prior to, during, and after the session?  If so, where?  If no, what needs to change?

I never claim to have all the answers, but these three pillars and their associated questions are making me a better provider of PD and a better learner from it.  Hopefully they’ll do the same for you.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Quote-A-Day: Day 321

It's never the words in your message that matters, but rather the message in your words.

I had a conversation with a number of fellow learners yesterday during #satchat about the power of writing.  In many ways, we're all bloggers, as we all have stories to tell and reflections to make that we want to share with others.

But the question always is, how do we find the time to write?

All of us have families, professions, and other personal hobbies that detract from the time needed to reflect and write.  But, as I've learned, blogging doesn't have to require a lot of writing.  In fact, writing should rarely be about the number of words, and always about the message in those words, as few as they might be.

As I've embarked on my Quote-A-Day experience, I've learned that when you're blogging or writing every day, you need to make the most of the time you have to write.

You also have to maximize your reflective thinking, so that you feel as if you have a message to share (that will be both helpful to you and to others who might read it).

I've written blog posts that have been pages in length, and others that have been a paragraph or two.  Rather than worry about that, I've learned that the more important piece is what these writings say.

If the message could be powerful, than why worry about the words?

The implication for leaders and learners is clear:  We need to speak and write when our message is important, and worry less about how important we sound or the words we use.  Everyone's time is precious.  If we can meld meaning into every message we make, then we can show the power of words without worrying about the word count.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Quote-A-Day: Day 320

It isn't enough to belong to a network that "learns." We must also belong to a network that "does."

This morning I was given the opportunity to guest moderate #satchat (immense gratitude for the privilege).

And what a tremendous opportunity it was.  I engaged in extremely thoughtful conversations with hundreds of leaders and learners, all around the topic of evolving our PLNs.

One idea that was solidified for me after the chat is that as great as a PLN is, it is only as good as when it operates as a PAN (a Professional Action Network), as learning isn't really "learning" until we "do" something with it.

And by "something," I mean take action.

The challenge for us all, and it is certainly a challenge for me, is to make sure that the conversations we have with others don't simply exist as "just" conversations.  They need to build beyond the talking that happens during chats and move into the realm of acting, which can be tougher, particularly if we don't have strong accountability built into the design of our networks.

And for all the talk about accountability being problematic when it comes to testing and evaluations, it can't be denied that without strong accountability (whether of the self, or via critical friends), we won't get any better.

It just won't happen.

The best leaders know that all true communities have an inherent strength; a drive to make the world better for all who are a part.  These leaders also know that to draw out that strength, they need to always be doing two things: moving from talking to acting, and embracing accountability for all.

The communities that live by these ideals end up being the communities that truly serve their constituents, and by extension, end up being the communities that truly help their learners and leaders to grow.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Quote-A-Day: Day 319

You never know who is going to be your leader, so always lead with people in mind. #QuoteADay #Day319 #edchat #edu #LeadForPeople

A funny thing happened to me yesterday.  I was facilitating a workshop, and when I looked over the attendance list, I saw a name I recognized. 

But first, the backstory. . .

My wife, daughters, and I bought a home a year ago yesterday, and when we set up our cable and Internet package, we were also given a phone number (I know, I know, boring story so far). 

It turns out that the phone number we received belonged to someone who also used to live in our town, and who must have just moved fairly recently. 

How did we know? 

Because we were constantly getting all types of calls for that family, which clearly isn’t us. J

The calls continue a year later, and it speaks to the importance of always updating your information.  It also speaks to the importance of paying attention to the details as you never know when they’ll be important.

Going back to the start of my story, here’s why:

So, I recognized a name of the attendance list that matched the name of one of the people who we always get calls for.  I chatted with her for a few minutes and then asked, “Did you happen to have the phone number. . . .”

Her eyes widened and she said, “How did you know?”

I explained the story (what a small world it is), and we both started laughing.  Turns out they had moved to Florida for a few months, found out it wasn’t a place they currently wanted to be, and came back to New York to be near friends and family.  They are now living in a different house, with a totally different phone number (obviously). :)

I then asked her if she would contact her doctor, dentist, etc. and update her records now that she is back.  Now that we’ve made a connection, I have no doubt she will.

The moral of the story?

Since we never know who we’re going to run into, and we never know how people will play a role in our lives, we always have to treat people as if they were our friends, our family, and potential people we might serve down the line. 


We should always “Lead for People,” because in so doing, we make sure that when we run into people in the future, or make random acquaintances (and the story above is proof that it will happen), we’ve never burned any bridges as all we’ve done is help build people up. 

And “Leading for People” doesn’t have to be difficult.  Simply, we need to treat people with the respect they deserve, give them voice and incorporate them in decision-making.