Monday, January 16, 2017

The Importance of Interaction

I've been thinking alot lately about interaction.  The simple human to human interaction we have every day.

I firmly believe that in every human interaction we have the choice and ability to EMPOWER, INSPIRE others.

I know that sounds silly, but I feel like it's true.  We bring energy into every space we enter.  That energy is felt by others and then transmitted throughout their world.  In other words, our simple interaction with have with another human is like a pebble in a pond which create a ripple.

So what does that have to do with learning and schools.  Well, imagine this, every interaction we have with our students matters.  Check out this video:

Every opportunity, every interaction, every word that is uttered, it either adds to, multiples, or takes away and divides.

I was recently at a school and some of the words and phrases I overheard were:

  • Don't Touch my things...
  • Pick your lab partner because I don't like to change seating charts. 
  • Can you come back in 5 minutes this is the boring part.
  • I will eventually get to know kids. I can't get behind the pacing guide.
  • If you can't get the work done we will help you..
  • You know it's (blank) and then (blank)....
I also saw a poster like this hanging in a classroom:

Think about those words and phrases listed above.  Do they inspire something better for others?

What we do each day matters, and more importantly every interaction (face to face, through email, over the phone, etc.) matters.  

Embrace each day as a choice to either ADD TO, Multiply, Create, EMPOWER, Inspire:

Fill buckets, post 'UP' arrows, whatever you need to do to remind yourself about the impact you're making.

Or Belittle, Subtract, Divide, Quiet, Hush, Make less, Post down arrows.  Just be careful you never know the ramifications of your actions:

Jerry Seinfeld once had a portion of a stand up routine around the difference between Up and Down:

He states "When you're little your whole life is up" as adults we're always trying to put others (kids especially) down.

I ask you choose differently today, tomorrow, and every minute of every day.

Choose Possibility, creativity, and wonder.....

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Silence Is So So Loud

As a teacher we have all experienced it. Silence.

That moment you ask a question to a room and nothing happens.

Over the years that silence has grown into more than just a "wait time" moment. It means something. The silence is so so telling.

Sure there are many reasons that silence could happen.  It may be nothing.  What I've found more often than not is that silence is a signal.

That silence is evidence of a lack of relationship. A lack of trust. A lack of willingness to take risks. That silence can be deafening.

As a coach without a classroom now I see (and hear) this silence in classrooms and workshops across the globe.  Teachers talking to fill the air and to share their views while students sit passively by in rows in their metal desks with the plastic seats.  Don't our students today deserve more?

The silence we hear speaks loudly. It's truly deafening and is a part of the core as to why students across the globe are disenfranchised with the current (and outdated) concept of school.

So let's do something different.  Let's ignore the pacing guide for a little bit.  Get to genuinely know your students.  Share a little bit about you.  It's time to invest in kids so they will in turn invest in others. Put the person first and genuinely care about them. Their needs, interests, values must be authentically heard.

The content, curriculum and pacing guide will be there, it always will, but the relationships make the school a place where kids want to be.

Only when there is a meaningful relationship built will we ever get past the silence.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

The importance of ketchup when building a team

I recently was listening to one of my favorite podcasts “Reply All.”  listen here:

They were interviewing Scott Page (TIME: 22:29), a professor of complex systems at the University of Michigan and an external faculty member at the Santa Fe Institute.  And his connection between the lowly condiment and building a team struck me!

"SCOTT: Now turns out if you’re British or if you’re African American from the South, not as a rule but generally speaking, you’re likely to keep your ketchup in the cupboard. If you’re not British and you’re not African American from the South, you tend to keep your ketchup in the fridge. And you could think “Vive le difference, who cares, right?” Well it actually does matter because suppose you run out of ketchup. If you’re out of ketchup and you’re a ketchup in the fridge person, what are you gonna use? Well you might use mayonnaise, you might use mustard because those are things you think of when what’s next to the ketchup. If, alternatively, you’re a ketchup in the cupboard person and you run out ketchup, what’s next to the ketchup in the cupboard? Well, malt vinegar.

GOLDMAN: So, the more diverse the backgrounds, the more associations you get, and the more paths towards solving a hard problem.

And there are actually a lot of real-life examples of this. Carl Zimmer, a science writer for the New York Times, he says that the ketchup story completely tracks with what he sees in the science world

CARL ZIMMER: You know if a scientist is looking at a problem and thinking about how am I going to solve it, there’s a range of approaches that they may think of just based on their training. You know, and they can’t even imagine that there’s another way of approaching it. You know, they can’t imagine that there’s ketchup in the pantry, really. And the fact is that another scientist can walk in and be like,“Oh, look, you’re looking at this totally the wrong way.”
That’s it!  The importance of building a great team is being able to understand where you keep the ketchup.

In all the profiling tools I’ve used, Strengthsfinder, Gallup, Myers-Briggs, Kolbe index, etc.  All of these tell me about who I am and how I work.  The importance of building a team is taking time to ask these kinds of questions, uncover the way we think and work and then build the best, most diverse, team possible.

So, the next time you’re building a team, pass the ketchup!

Do you want more innovation at your school, business or team? Focus on diversity!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The importance of scheduling the parade...

I live in St. Louis.  We are not afraid to host a parade, we've done it a lot lately in honor of the St. Louis Cardinals.  Here's an image from the 2011 World series parade:

I was listening to the latest edition of the EntreLeadership podcast when Dave Ramsey said something that made perfect sense.

Here's the episode link:, Dave's interview starts 24 minutes into the podcast.

If you aren't planning to win, you're planning to fail.  If you're not planning the celebration, will you set yourself up for a win?

Dave's exact quote:
"You don't schedule a loss, you schedule a win"

I'm working on our school's Comprehensive School Improvement Plan and couldn't help but think about that statement.

Sure we have a goal, a scale for measurement, and action steps to accomplish the goal, but do we have a date for the celebration?  How will we celebrate?

Whenever you start a task, a goal, an assignment, a unit, a season, a game, think about this and plan for it: How will we celebrate?

Monday, January 19, 2015

Can I be defined by a number?

My colleagues and I were having a great conversation around Data, Data-drive decision making, and numbers.  It was riveting and got me thinking.

Is there a number, any number really, that I would want to define me?

Credit Score

Test Score


Reading Level

AimsWeb Benchmark


Driving test score

Often I'm in meetings when we talk about kids, then list numbers associated with that kid.  Do we spend enough time on the qualitative descriptions of students than we do the test scores that they achieve.

What if we started discussing:


Family History

Home life

Favorite colors/foods/songs/movies

I'm not asking to eliminate ALL data from conversations with students, I'm just asking us to not LEAD with data.  Let's lead with the things that make a student special, unique, individual and real.

I'll be honest and say there is NO, I repeat NO, number I want to define me.  Please don't let numbers define the kids in your schools.

Monday, November 24, 2014

The "Power of Habit" and working in schools

Every day we react.  We react in the way we were taught, programmed, advised, mentored, parented, etc.

Our reactions have become a habit.

I recently was reading this:

 Then again came across this podcast about habit.  Learn more about habit here.

But do we ever analyze the way we react?

Have we even thought about whether we'd react the same way if we were given new opportunities?

Imagine this:

A kid is misbehaving in class.

The kids misbehaving are the stimulus.  The black box, being the thought process happening in our brain based on habit.  This leads to a response

That stimulus typically leads to a response from the teacher.  The teacher can:
  • discipline the student
  • reteach expectations
  • redirect the students
  • ignore the stimulus
  • send the student out of the class
  • etc.
But what if........

What if we imagined a different school?  What if we projected how they might behave, what their responses might be?  What if we taught differently? What if we thought differently...

Imagine the staff of "THE SCHOOL OF EXCELLENCE" (I know cheesy).

But how would the teachers at that school respond to stimulus?
If we can examine the habits we have, we may be able to analyze possible solutions and the adjacent possible solutions that impact our kids.

What we do an how quick we react impacts students.

Take some time to list stimuli that happen today, how did you react to it?  Would the staff of this fictional school react differently?

Time to form some new habits....

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Time well spent?

I am an amazingly productive person.  I pride myself in being to do more with a minute than most people can do with an hour.  I have leveraged a TON of resources to be more productive in a given day.  But yet, there's still something wrong.

I'm struggling with how I use my time.  I hate to admit it but it's true.  I'm not sure I'm doing the best I can.

About a year ago I wrote this post about balance.  I still think I'm a work in progress.

I turn to this space for a number of reasons:
1.  It's an opportunity to reflect.
2.  I know I'll get creative solutions.
3.  I know those of you that read this have something to give and are willing to give it.

I ran across this today that prompted this post:

So here are my priorities:

  1. Family
  2. Friends
  3. Webster Groves (where I work)
  4. ConnectED Learning (the company I started)
  5. Social media
  6. Reading books
  7. Reading blog posts (listening to podcasts)
  8. Religious obligations (church on Sunday, etc.)
  9. Working out
Here is how a day is typically structured:

Where are my opportunities for growth?  

Where can I be challenged to do/think differently?

If I were to base my priorities on where I spend my time, it would be:
  1. Webster Groves
  2. Family
  3. Social Media
  4. ConnectED Learning
  5. Reading blog posts (listening to podcasts) *typically do this while driving
  6. Reading books
  7. Religious obligations
  8. Working out
  9. Friends
What do you do?  How do you maximize and optimize your life? What does your day look like?