Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The 2 Approaches to Failure

The most embarrassing events in my life have been those that involved failure. Failure to pass. Failure to win. Failure to achieve. Failure to "you name it".

Let's face it. Everyone fails, but how you mentally approach and process the idea of failure is the ultimate reason why excellent people overcome it and mediocre people succumb to it. Talent doesn't beat failure. Tenacity does.

To beat failure you don't need to be great. You must have grit. 

We Always Have 2 Choices:
in how we approach and ultimately respond to failure.

We Can
With a Fix Mindset
With a Growth Mindset
Use it to
Define Us
Refine Us
View failure as a
Permanent Result
Opportunity for Growth
From It
Through It

Failure is not about what happens now.  It's about what happens NEXT.  What happens next will determine if we let failure limit us or if we will allow it to lead us.  Ultimately it is our attitude and our passion for personal growth that will tell us whether or not we will grow through our failures.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The Alignment of Competence

When you think about alignment in schools, what do you think of?  Most people think of curriculum. Now while curriculum alignment is important, I would strongly contend that it's not necessarily the most important. The reason why is quite simple.

Teachers deserve to work in schools where clarity is not only valued but developed with passion. And that makes sense. When teachers work in schools where clarity is defined and continuously refined, teachers thrive and students excel in learning.

How do We get Clarity?
The only pathway to clarity is alignment. In fact when leaders focus on systemic alignment of understanding from teacher to teacher and department to department, schools increase in effectiveness. Aligned understanding is the purest definition of clarity. 

What should Schools Align?
Schools must align everything that teachers have in common. To get started, here are just a few things that leaders should ask teams of teachers to align in order to create the most effective school for all kids. 

  • Knowledge in the Use of School Resources
  • Expectations for Learning and Behavior
  • Responses to Appropriate and Inappropriate Behavior
  • Common Language for Instruction and Expectations
  • Relationship Building Strategies
  • Engagement Strategies for Active Student Learning
  • Rigorous Questioning 
  • Response to Student Failure
  • Celebration of Success

If leaders provide teams of teachers the time and the structure to collaborate about the universal topics and actions essential to student success, there is a strong chance that all students and teachers will grow closer toward excellence. In the absence of a regular opportunity to collaborate around the actions that lead to systemic excellence, leader muddy the water with the ambiguous rhetoric of "high expectations" and ultimately frustrate teachers with inconsistent actions and structures.

Kids Deserve an Alignment of Excellence
Students deserve a classroom where competence is universal, and teachers deserve a school where clarity is valued and sought so that systemic competence is attained. Alignment and the time to align are the most powerful priorities for schools, and leaders will create a highly consistent as well as high performing school that will ultimately guarantee excellence for every child from every teacher in every classroom every day in every way. 

Monday, July 4, 2016

Independence: It's not a Day. It's our Future

Happy Independence Day!  On July 4, 1776 we claimed our independence as a sovereign and independent nation and for the last 240 years this day has been one of national pride and celebration. In fact the 4th of July reminds us of the importance of living our lives free from the tyranny of dependence. But the question we must ask ourselves is this.

Do our Schools and Classrooms create Dependent Followers or Independent Learners?

The future of our independence is completely dependent on the generation sitting in our classrooms right now. If kids don't learn how to be independent learners right now, they will be conditioned to be dependent on someone to provide for them for the rest of their lives. If school leaders fail to create schools that teach students the value of independence, we are doing tremendous harm to our kids. But if we all create learning spaces that fail to transform the 20th century learning paradigm of dependent followership into the 21st century learning mindset of independence and interdependence, we may be doing permanent and irreparable damage to our nation.

The Greatest Threat
The greatest threat to our nation is not the economy, national security or even health care. It is creating a generation of dependent people who will have failed to learn the most important lesson of all time, that a nation of dependent people will ultimately relinquish the very freedom that we have treasured for over 240 years. Dependence on others was the very reason why our forefathers were fed up and fought to no longer be a dependent nation, and maintaining our independence is the only way that we will preserve our democracy. 

The Greatest Challenge
Educators, parents and community leaders must remember that our mission is to work together to create schools that create independent individuals, self-reliant students, and hard-working contributors. We must accept our moral imperative that we don't teach content. We teach kids, and we must teach them that in order to be successful, they must be ACTIVE learners:

  • Assertive
  • Creative
  • Tenacious
  • Independent
  • Valuable
  • Enthusiastic

Active learning is the only way that we can mold students into independent and contributing members of society, and the reason we must do this is for one simple reason. Active learners view independence as a benefit not a burden. The way we became an independent nation is by being active and taking action.  The way we will remain a free and independent society is by creating independent and active learners who take pride in themselves individually and pride in their country. Then and only then will we preserve and defend our free and independent way of life.