Your Ability to Learn

I saw this tweet a few days ago and it sparked my curiosity. My thoughts began to wonder about my own ability to learn. I’m in a new role at a brand new organization and there is an overwhelming amount of information to learn and put into action quickly! Each day I learn a ton, but also realize how much more there is to know. At times it feels like I’m moving as fast as I can, but am still falling behind. What is my ability to learn? How can I improve it? Is there an internet quiz I can take for this? ūü§ď

I love learning, I’m open to trying new things, but what is my actual ability to learn? Like most people my perception is that I’m above average, but don’t we all think we are a little above average? My mom used to read and listen to the Prairie Home Companion stories from Garrison Keillor and he always said this:

Welcome to Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.

‚ÄĒ Garrison Keillor

How would we measure ability to learn? Should we? Is it an innate skill or something that can be taught? Can the ability to learn be learned? How can we look for this in individuals seeking leadership positions? What research is there about one’s ability to learn? So many new questions…

For almost a decade I’ve been learning as much as I can about leadership and working to develop school leaders. Ideas abound on this topic and there are unlimited books and resources available. The hard part is actually building better leaders. With the amount of information out there on leadership, we should all be experts! I agree with Dan’s tweet that your ability to learn represents your leadership potential, so how can I apply that in my work?

Investigating this notion I found this article, “Improve Your Ability to Learn” from HBR in 2015. The researchers found 4 qualities of learning agile individuals and one derailer. Here is the section from the article that describes them:

  • Innovating: This involves questioning the status quo and challenging long-held assumptions with the goal of discovering new and unique ways of doing things. Innovating requires new experiences, which provide perspective and a bigger knowledge base. Learning-agile individuals generate new ideas through their ability to view issues from multiple angles.
  • Performing: Learning from experience occurs most often when overcoming an unfamiliar challenge. But in order to learn from such challenges, the individual must remain present and engaged, handle the stress brought on by ambiguity and adapt quickly in order to perform. This requires observation and listening skills, and the ability to process data quickly. Learning-agile people pick up new skills quickly and perform them better than less agile colleagues.
  • Reflecting: Having new experiences does not guarantee that you will learn from them. Learning-agile people look for feedback and eagerly process information to better understand their own assumptions and behavior. As a result they are insightful about themselves, others and problems. In fact, in prior studies, Green Peak Partners discovered that strong self-awareness was the single highest predictor of success across C-suite roles.
  • Risking: Learning-agile people are pioneers ‚Äď they venture into unknown territory and put themselves ‚Äúout there‚ÄĚ to try new things. They take ‚Äúprogressive risk‚ÄĚ ‚Äď not thrill-seeking, but risk that leads to opportunity. They volunteer for jobs and roles where success is not guaranteed, where failure is a possibility. They stretch themselves outside their comfort zones in a continuous cycle of learning and confidence-building that ultimately leads to success.

The learning-agility ‚Äúderailer‚ÄĚ is:

  • Defending: Being open to experience is fundamental to learning. Individuals who remain closed or defensive when challenged or given critical feedback tend to be low in learning agility. By contrast, high learning-agile individuals seek feedback, process it and adapt based on their newfound understanding of themselves, situations and problems.

In school we measure student learning of content, but with how quickly the world is changing, we must teach our students to be adept learners. What if we measured learning skills instead of content? What would that look like? What kinds of activities would we see in the classroom? 

Clearly this idea sparked way more questions than answers for me, but I’m inspired to dig deeper. I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic and how to increase learning abilities for yourself and others.

Never stop learning!


Courageous Principals


“What does courageous leadership mean to you?” Answers from participants in room 1056 facilitated by Myra Dingman (Deloitte) and Nancy Tovar (TEPSA President, El Paso ISD)
I had the privilege to join 180 school leaders from Texas and across the country last weekend at Deloitte University for the Courageous Principals program. First of all, I have to say how impressive it is for Deloitte, a global business services firm that focuses on audit, tax, consulting and advisory support, to donate their time and expertise to support school leaders! The campus at DU itself is a world class executive training facility Deloitte uses for their training and development programs. For several weekends each year they welcome school leaders to experience a program created by their former global CEO, Jim Quigley, to give back in some small way. This was TEPSA’s second cohort participating in this leadership experience and we were joined by some amazing leaders from the San Diego County Office of Education, as well as leaders from a Tulsa charter school system and graduates of Teach for America that are now principals.

The goal of this program is to enhance the leadership skills of campus principals to truly lead like the CEO of their building. Deloitte understands first and foremost, great leaders understand how to build relationships. Prior to coming to the program the participants completed their Business Chemistry profile. We learned about our style focusing on the top two traits inherent in our leadership style based on the four categories: Pioneer, Driver, Integrator or Guardian. I came out Pioneer, Integrator and I couldn’t agree more for my most comfortable style, however there are times where the work or life calls for something different. I think we all have a mix of these styles and effective leaders have ability to shift when needed and bring what is necessary to the table. It is also important to think about the team you are building and ensure that you have a good balance of all the traits. While there are positive and negative attributes to each type, it is important to have a balance. bc_overview_60wx72h

We’ve all done personality profiles whether it is your true colors, Myers Briggs or something else. What I really like about the Deloitte Business Chemistry assessment and blueprint is how easy it is to understand and apply. I’m sure you can guess what your tendencies are and those who you work with, without even having taken the assessment. Where do you fit? Your team?

The next step in the program focused on the 10 moves to make moments matter. You know those times when something happens and your response is going to make or break the situation? Some people intuitively know just what to do to help make things better, but others may need some ideas. The ten moves are very helpful and not ground-breaking, but to be mindful of which situation could benefit most is a great leadership exercise. We don’t often make time to reflect and refine our leadership practice. Having 2 1/2 days to do it with other school leaders was a very powerful experience.

Moments that matter

  1. Walk in their shoes
  2. Work it together
  3. Show-up
  4. Suspend self-interest
  5. Tailor it
  6. Own it
  7. Change the lens
  8. Say what no one else will
  9. Bring a point of view
  10. Up your game

Some of these take a whole lot more courage than others. Say what no one else will could really put you in a tough situation. It is moments like this that you hope the strength of the relationships you have can sustain the honest input a courageous leader will share.What was the last moment that mattered in your day and how did you respond? Think about a situation you may be struggling with. What move would make the difference? What can you bring to the table?

Each leader came to the weekend with a specific leadership challenge in mind. Much of the small group interactions focused on delving deeper into their personal challenge. For the most part, most principals were strategizing ways to get non-compliant teachers on board to a new initiative or the vision of the school. Why do we fixate on that individual or small group of naysayers that is not on board with the program? Are they really hindering your progress? Do they need to suck away your energy? What hard things could you do today that would make the difference and not allow this behavior to continue?

I will continue with more from the Courageous Principals experience in future posts. Thanks for reading and I hope you find a little more courage from this to be the leader your students deserve! My favorite quote of the weekend came from Jim Quigley at the panel discussion dinner –

Leadership is not position, leadership is action. – Jim Quigley, former Deloitte Global CEO


Making an Impact #IMMOOCBB


I (Kirsten) shared this quote with my awesome #IMMOOC blogging buddy (Charlie) and even though it is not from The Innovator’s Mindset, we felt like it directly correlates to our work and mission. Here is our buddy blog experiment sharing the wonderings about leadership, empowerment and impact. View his awesome blog Educationomics for more great reading!

Most of my (Charlie) teaching strategies have developed from my time coaching sports. While I began my career in education as both a teacher and coach, I recognized that my gift for working with young people existed on the playing field long before I figured out how to lead a classroom. My love for sports (namely, lacrosse) and my ability to inspire players to give their best effort and elevate their strategic thinking galvanized my career choice years ago, and I haven’t looked back since.

Along the way, I worked with many inspirational student athletes. They found their role models in athletics and built their ‚Äúgame‚ÄĚ as inspired copies of their favorite television sports heroes. Names like LeBron James or Tom Brady come to mind as people who motivated my young athletes. These superstars demonstrate leadership within their “field‚ÄĚ that elevates others every day.

  • LeBron‚Äôs teammates gain confidence when he is present; they come together to play better as a team. The ball feeds through LeBron at the exact right time to give teammates the best chance to score. Lebron has vision two or three passes beyond the current one, carrying an oil can in one hand and a wrench in the other as he tweaks and tightens the basketball machine.
  • When Tom Brady walks up to the line of scrimmage and barks out the play, calls an audible, or makes a hand signal towards his receivers, everyone listen.G including his opponents). Tom recognizes something that is about to happen based on the moving pieces in front of him. No one else sees the game like he can, so the other players on the field follow his lead, orchestrating a masterful charge down the field.

While these examples are a bit sensational, the framework for them equals that which is required for classroom leadership: the opportunity for our students to make an impact in their current and future lives depends on the teacher elevating his or her own game within the learning space. We model the way so that others will recognize the value in giving one’s best effort and in setting challenging standards.

My (Kirsten) journey at TEPSA is about to come to a close as I move to a new adventure working with school system leaders in the coming weeks. The thought of what my legacy will be is at the forefront. I’m no LeBron or Tom Brady, but hope there is a legacy of good work that will last in my absence.

I am not the kind of leader that comes in and makes sweeping changes from the start. I told our Executive Director that right from the start. You want major changes, I‚Äôm more of a slow and steady kind of girl. The African Proverb says it best: ‚ÄúIf you want to go fast, go alone – If you want to go far, go together.‚ÄĚ I‚Äôm in it for the long haul with the crew on board. Along the way with little changes here and there, conversations, shifts, additions, and deletions you look up and find what was there several years ago has transformed into something new and different (and hopefully better). In reflecting on what builds sustainable change over time, I think it boils down to these qualities. Feel free to add your own in the comments of what we did not include!

Build Something Meaningful

No one wants to sustain a practice that is irrelevant or not adding value to the organization after the originator leaves. To know what is meaningful for staff, students and parents, you must know them! Meaningful work comes from connecting with others and we all know relationships are key. Ensure what you create and implement resonates with the learning community and is something worth keeping over time.

Empower Others

The experiences discovered in our learning spaces should instill self-confidence and a desire to know more. But these two characteristics prove empty without the skills and ability that drive them. That is what empowering others means:. a person who has filled his or her learning toolbelt can tackle any topic and pursue any passion. It’s our job to demonstrate these tools and the innovative uses for them.

Share, Share, Share

If you have knowledge, let others light their candles in it.

-Margaret Fuller

Knowledge has no value when kept in secret. As we push for more innovation in our learning spaces, collaborative effort remains the only skeleton key. Knowledge should not be kept as power, it needs to be shared to create powerful learning throughout the organization. Teaching students skills to know and be able to do things independently is so rewarding. Do not forget we need to do that for the adults as well. The #IMMOOC experience is a great model for this! George, Katie and all the other gracious learning collaborators are sharing their time and talents so we can learn with them. It is wonderful to find such a smart and fun group of educators to connect with and stretch my thinking. I look forward to continuing this learning journey even after the experience is over and sharing what I’ve learned to hopefully help others.

We would love to hear your thoughts on this topic, please share in the comments. What are you doing to improve others and make a lasting impact?

Patience and Determination #IMMOOCB3

Patience & DeterminationI do a lot of yoga. My practice keeps me physically fit, and helps me clear my head. Often times there are great nuggets of wisdom shared by the teacher during shavasana (basically laying still with the only goal to relax). This afternoon in class our teacher, Mardy, shared this:

“Yoga is finding the right balance of patience and determination.” – Mardy Chen

I think this applies directly to leadership – and life!

Too much or not enough of either one can be problematic. Some days you may be lacking energy or struggling with difficult challenges. In those times, it is important to be patient with yourself or others and not push too hard. Other days when you are feeling strong and energized, you will be able to drum up a little extra determination and push to a new edge. Not enough patience and you may hurt yourself, but too much you won’t be moving forward. Too much determination could lead to injuries or exhaustion, but not enough can hold you back. The key is knowing yourself and what each situation calls for.

Balance is not bringing equal amounts of each quality, it is figuring out what is needed at the time to create the best outcome. Where are you at today? What do you need more of?


School vs Learning #IMMOOCB2

As a student, I did “school” really well. Showed up, completed assignments, memorized facts and figures for the test but school was not relevant to me. I didn’t see how I would use what we were learning in my daily life or future. Little did I know I would be using y=mx + b to decipher the latest school accountability formulas in Texas (don’t ask).

I was always impressed that my brainiac sister actually remembered details and enjoyed learning. For me the joy was sucked out because I was focused on doing well on the test. We both did well, but she did much better! How is it that sisters in the same schools (2 years apart) had very different experiences?

Where I saw school, she saw learning.

I’m floored by the ability of my own children to learn new things when it is something that they care about. Using the internet and their networks they literally have access to the world. Spanish becomes very relevant when playing games online with kids from South America who only speak Spanish. They actually want to learn new vocabulary and try out speaking the language! Extra credit in Spanish class for this??

How can we make school more authentic for students? What if school was a place kids couldn’t wait to go to learn about things that interested them? A place that would help kids learn things relevant today and for the future. A place where we help kids discover their unique gifts and talents even if it’s not academics.

The great teachers already do this, but the system doesn’t support it…yet.

There is work to be done moving from pockets of greatness to a better system. We are in a very exciting time in education and I see the tide turning. Parents no longer value standardized tests, colleges are looking for more than the highest GPAs for their incoming students. It should not be school vs learning – school should be the hub of learning. And it should be a joyful place.

Let’s keep working on that!

The Importance of Critical Friends #IMMOOCB1


There are plenty of critics out there – but do you have critical friends??
Love this graphic by Bill Ferriter @plugusin

There were so many great nuggets of learning in the latest #IMMOOC episode with two awesome Texas principals, Amber Teamann and Matt Arend! One part of the conversation that really hit home was talking about the importance of critical friends. These people are so important to have in your life to call you out when you may need a push, or to offer support when things get difficult.

I’ve been lucky enough to work in some schools and systems that truly value relationships and what a difference it makes. One of our admin book studies years ago was Vital Friends by Tom Rath. I’ve always seen the value in connecting with others and this bit of research strengthened the notion that it is not only valuable, but critical to success.

People who have a ‚Äúbest friend at work‚ÄĚ are seven times as likely to be engaged in their job. – Tom Rath research findings in Vital Friends

7 times more engaged!!

Who are your critical/vital friends? Let them know, check in with them for feedback on a regular basis. Share your goals and worries, or reach out to say hello. Do not carry the load alone, we are all in this together. Education is one of the most stressful yet rewarding careers out there and people are our business. Find your people whether it is in your building, district or great online groups like #IMMOOC, doesn’t matter, just find them. The only way to build quality relationships with people is to invest time doing it. You do not want to wait until you may need that critical friend to find one.

To my people…you know who you are, and thank you!!

Never Stop Learning #IMMOOC

EinsteinI’m excited to participate in round 2 of the Innovator’s Mindset Massive Online Open Course (#IMMOOC) led by George Couros and Katie Martin. I was more of a lurnker¬†in the fall with the first go around since I hadn’t started to¬†blog yet. By connecting and learning from this great group,¬†it was the nudge I needed to get going and share¬†more of my voice.

If there were traditional grades assigned with the first IMMOOC, I would have totally FAILED! I didn’t complete the “assignments” or keep up with the rest of the group. However, the learning I gained was invaluable. This group sparked¬†my brain into overdrive and totally changed my trajectory as a learner and leader. I’m already behind again, so I’m going to combine weeks 1 & 2 together here to get caught up. 2-for-1 here ya¬†go!

The Purpose of Education & Why is Innovation Needed

I love the Einstein quote in the introduction of The¬†Innovator’s Mindset. But I would¬†add that the true value of learning, is what you do with it! I have always loved learning. School was a place that I enjoyed going and was very successful. People like me are not usually the ones that want to change school since it worked so well for them, but I knew there was a better way. I got really good at the “game of school” by acing¬†tests, getting good¬†grades, and pleasing the teachers. However, my learning was not deep or meaningful and I wasn’t really doing anything with it (other than what the teacher’s had assigned).

I want the kids I teach¬†(and my own children) to gain knowledge and skills to help them be successful in life, not be performers on worksheets and tests. This should be the purpose of education. Probably because most of my days in the classroom were spent with English Language Learners, I knew what I taught them (or didn’t) made¬†an impact in their lives. It was not about getting a good grade. It was about learning the language and culture to survive and thrive in a new place.

As an adult I’ve become a much better learner, not just a student. I learn things that I want or need to know. I may use Youtube to find a video about how to fix the washing machine, or learn more about Easter Island before our adventurous trip there. (Worthy of a future blog post!) ¬†School should be meaningful for our students in their lives now. My own children have had some wonderful innovative teachers who have connected with them and sparked curiosity. But there are¬†also the drudgery and test driven classes that kill the joy of learning.¬†This is why we need more innovation and not just in pockets.

I see a transformation happening, especially in Texas. Many¬†visionary superintendents and principals embrace A New Vision for Public Education¬†that was created back in 2008. Many of the principles discussed are becoming more accepted, but are still not commonplace. The good news is I feel the tide turning with so many more educators on board to be creative, create meaningful learning opportunities for all kids and have more fun in school. We are getting there, but there is still much work to be done! As more teachers embrace the characteristics of the Innovator’s Mindset, new and better learning opportunities will be available for our kids.

Characteristics of the Innovator’s Mindset


The characteristics of the Innovator’s Mindset where I “glow” or are strongest are being¬†empathetic and reflective. Probably the most¬†emotional qualities here¬†and the more passive.¬†But it would be interesting to find out what other people would say about me on this – feel free to chime in!

I don’t think I am alone sharing these qualities. Most of us went into education to serve others and make a difference. I think those goals go right along with empathy and reflection. I can easily connect with kids (and teachers) to build strong relationships that¬†foster growth. I also spend a lot of time thinking about what is working and what is not. As a designer of professional learning, I’m constantly thinking about¬†how to improve experiences and help school leaders in their growth to make the most impact. Time is precious and I could plan learning opportunities all day. But what is going to make a difference for the students we serve and what are the BEST ideas that they need to learn?

The characteristic I’m consciously trying¬†to “grow” is risk-taking.¬†Educators, for the most part, are a very risk averse group. Even our lower car insurance premiums prove that as Katie mentioned in episode 2! I continue to work at taking¬†new risks (like writing a blog) and am building that muscle little by little. I have to say the connection that Sarah Thomas made to Fight Club was epic! I actually love that movie¬†and¬†can totally relate to it.¬†At times, there is a crazy person inside my head that is totally fearless. It helps to think of that¬†alter ego when I need to do hard things and channel an¬†inner drive to make it happen. Sometimes I have to step outside of myself to move past fear and anxiety. It is also hard to let go of control, but I am working on that too!

Earlier today I was listening to the¬†pivot podcast with Jenny Blake and she ends every episode by saying, “Build first, then your courage will follow”. I always thought it was the other way around…that I had to be brave enough BEFORE¬†I started. But my thinking has been completely backwards. This notion that courage is a muscle you can¬†build up by continuing to try new things is extremely¬†freeing. Growth mindset in action. When I first started participating in¬†twitter chats I would overanalyze each tweet and wonder what people would think. Now I am much more¬†comfortable sharing my thoughts in 140 characters. I’ve seen my¬†courage and confidence grow¬†significantly. Now I save all the overthinking for the blog posts, reading and re-reading them before I hit the dreaded Publish button. Each one gets easier over time and I look forward to a day where I write, edit and publish without hesitation.

If you have read this far, I really appreciate you sticking with¬†it! I will keep working on the risk-taking ¬†while being empathetic and reflective. I hope to continue to make great connections to build¬†my network and find a problem or two to solve along the way. Where do you “glow” and where would you like to “grow”? I would love to hear, please share your thoughts!





Letting Go of Control


This year has brought a whole new level of parenting as our oldest son is learning how to drive. I’m a certified, master degreed educator with 20 years of experience. I should be able to handle this. But I have to be honest, it is remarkably terrifying! It is not his driving that is the scary part. He’s actually a very careful driver and a quick learner. It is the inability to control the situation that is the most difficult for me. I know how to drive, I have years of experience doing it. We would get there safer and faster if I took the wheel, but the whole point of this is HE needs to learn.

This experience made me reflect on how much control we exert over our students in the classroom. How often do we just take the wheel when we think they are not ready? Have we swooped in to save the day when things were not going according to plan? Do we really let them take control of their learning to gain mastery? One of my favorite questions from Alan November is, “Who owns the learning?” I think many times if we answer honestly, it is the teacher and not the students.

There is value in productive struggle. The struggle is real and that’s OK. That is where the learning happens! Students must sit with hard questions, difficult tasks, test solutions, discuss, debate, question and try again. There is not value in learning if they are just given the answers. As educators we need to support and guide learners with supports to help connect the dots, and then we need to let go. That may be the hardest part of teaching after all!

In a twitter chat earlier this month this tweet from awesome Plano ISD Principal Matthew Arend got me thinking.

TTESS is the newly created Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System. The goal is to not only look at teacher practices, but how students respond to what they are doing. The rubric works to move from teacher-centered to student-centered actions. The new model is much more like Cognitive Coaching with continuous feedback and includes the teachers as a partner in their learning by setting goals to create a meaningful professional development plan. It is a great model of differentiated support for teachers, just as we should see in the classroom for students.

It is what teachers do in the classroom that allows the learning to happen, but the students should be the ones doing the real work. It is the educator’s responsibility to set up the learning environment to allow curiosity, make space for real exploration and collaboration, then release control to the students so they are the owners of their learning.

Like my son with his learner’s permit, he is not allowed to go out on the road unsupervised …yet. Thankfully, I get to be there as a guide, providing constant feedback and support while working on my own patience to remain calm. But the end goal is for him to have enough experience and practice to be able to make it out there safely on his own. This is what the classroom should be for students. A place to practice, learn, get feedback and grow enough so they will be able to make it on their own without us. They need to learn how to learn new things, not just content. We can’t let go too soon, but we also can’t hold on too long. What can you let go of to let your learners take the wheel? You may be pleasantly surprised at the outcome.

Why Character Education Matters



Unlike academics, character education is not tested or monitored for school accountability purposes and may¬†fall down the list of priorities. I would argue in today’s world, it is the most important learning¬†we need our students to connect with and take with them into the world!

One of my favorite projects¬†to oversee¬†is the State Schools of Character¬†program for Texas. This is the 6th year that TEPSA¬†has been the state sponsor and I cannot tell you how inspiring¬†it is to read¬†the applications and learn about all the great things¬†going on in schools across the state. If you have ever heard someone say they don’t have time for character education – they are totally missing the mark. It should be embedded in the work we do everyday!

Because students spend so much time in school, our schools offer a critically important opportunity to ensure that all students get the support and help they need to reach their full potential. Schools that embrace character education become places people want to be because they bring out the best in everyone.                                                Рfrom

Don’t we want that for our staff, students and families? Schools to be a place that people want to be and bring out the best in others – I do!! Building this¬†should be the number one priority of schools. If a culture exists where core values are collaboratively developed, understood, taught and lived out – learning will go far beyond expectations.¬†We’ve all seen the stories and about that¬†teacher or principal who brought their students to amazing success in the face of extreme challenges. This doesn’t happen with implementing the latest technology or a new academic program. It always goes back to the dedication and commitment of educators building strong relationships to bring out the best in others – that is character education.

I’ve learned so much about the quality tenets of character education and what schools should be doing from being a part of this process. It is not about a program or specific training to develop strong character in your staff and students. While there are several quality initiatives¬†that exists, they are not a necessity to be successful. A great¬†free resource is the framework of¬†the 11 Principles of Effective Character Education. These principles were developed by experts in the field and serve as a way to assess campus efforts around¬†character education.

The 11 Principles are:

  1. The school community promotes core ethical and performance values as the foundation of good character.
  2. The school defines ‚Äúcharacter‚ÄĚ comprehensively to include thinking, feeling, and doing.
  3. The school uses a comprehensive, intentional, and proactive approach to character development.
  4. The school creates a caring community.
  5. The school provides students with opportunities for moral action.
  6. The school offers a meaningful and challenging academic curriculum that respects all learners, develops their character, and helps them to succeed.
  7. The school fosters students’ self-motivation.
  8. The school staff is an ethical learning community that shares responsibility for character education and adheres to the same core values that guide the students.
  9. The school fosters shared leadership and long-range support of the character education initiative.
  10. The school engages families and community members as partners in the character-building effort.
  11. The school regularly assesses its culture and climate, the functioning of its staff as character educators, and the extent to which its students manifest good character.

How is your school doing in your character education¬†efforts? Most campuses are doing several of these very well, but there is¬†always room¬†to grow. One area where I see schools often missing the mark is in developing¬†self/intrinsic motivation. Educators¬†tend to rely heavily on individual awards and extrinsic motivators for encouragement. Research shows that extrinsic motivation only produces short term effects (at best). As a teacher I was never good at keeping up with the sticker charts or prize patrol for my students.¬†I knew in my heart if they were doing it for a sticker or prize, that wasn’t the right reason.¬†I wanted my students (and my own children)¬†to make good choices even when no one was watching because that is where true character shows.

Moving to intrinsic motivation takes time and commitment.¬†Edutopia has some great ideas to help develop intrinsic motivation in students. Kids also learn to be their best selves by watching strong role models (you!) and learning about others exhibiting strong¬†character in difficult situations. Scholastic put together a great list for elementary educators¬†of 100 books that develop character with lesson guides and resources. Sometimes we need to develop more intrinsic motivation in our staff too. Daniel Pink explains the puzzle of motivation in this TED-Talk. The true keys he explains in his book Drive are autonomy, mastery and purpose. If you haven’t read it yet, you should.

Another area where the 11 principles takes it to a deeper level is in the opportunity for moral action through service learning. Many campuses do community service projects and that is fine. But service learning empowers students to identify a community need and lead the initiative while integrating academic content within the project.

Service learning is different than community service in several key ways. Service learning includes student leadership, reflective and academic components, and chances for celebration once the service activity has been successfully completed. Students reflect on community needs, ways to help, and once their service has been completed, they can internalize how their efforts have helped, while learning more about academics such as geography, math, or science.                Рfrom

If you are looking for more ways to develop character I hope you gained a little insight reading this. Some other great resources on character education include:

Drumroll…we will soon find out who will be named a State School of Character¬†for 2017. A huge congratulations to the campuses that receive this recognition as it does not come easy¬†– and congratulations to all of the other schools that are doing great things to build quality character that have not applied…yet. Check out the schools listed. Plan a visit (in person or virtual) to one to learn more. A wonderful thing about schools of character is they love to share the work they are doing to help others!

We’ll start and end with Martin Luther King’s thoughts because no one says it better. “Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.”

No Longer a Lurnker

If you are new to Twitter, or any social media platform, you have probably done your share of lurking. Not creeping in the bushes with a flashlight kind of lurking…but watching the feed, reading through a chat or seeing¬†what others post without contributing your own thoughts. I know I have and there is nothing wrong with that! I’ve been on Twitter awhile and I was all about the lurking and learning at first. It takes time¬†to get used to the format, functionality and flow¬†of any new platform. I had all kinds of questions like what’s the difference between the @names and #hashtags? What does this button do? Will they know if I follow/unfollow them? How do I make it do that? It¬†can be a bit discombobulating trying to make sense of it all.

In the #txed chat earlier this month we got into a funny sidebar conversation about lurking and learning that led to the creation our new word Рlurnking!

There is definitely some value in lurnking, just don’t stay there very long. Don’t be the kid at the back of the class that never speaks up. You’ll never experience the full¬†value in connecting and learning (in person or on social media) until you move from lurnker to contributor. As with many endeavors in life – The more you give, the more you get!

I’ve purposefully become more active on Twitter participating and leading chats regularly. I cannot tell you how many great people I have met and actually feel connected to, even though we have not met face to face. I used to think social media was a way to stay connected to those I already knew and don’t see all the time. It is great for that, but there is so much more when you are willing to put yourself out there, share ideas and learn with others. That never would have happened if I stayed in lurnking mode! And the ideas – oh my goodness. They just never stop! I’ve had in depth conversations about dyslexia, professional learning, design thinking and learned all about #booksnaps from Tara Martin in just the last few weeks!

Twitter¬†can be one scary¬†place and educators really don’t need anyone else criticizing the important work we do. But I have found that educators who are active on Twitter are the most positive, supportive, smart, fun and energetic group of people. They are so committed that you could spend all your nights and¬†weekends participating in learning conversations. I don’t recommend¬†that because we all need unplugged time,¬†but they will be there when you need them! You just may need¬†to know where to find them. Read this if you need the basics of getting started on Twitter.

Here are some tips to find and connect with amazing educators on Twitter.

  1. Follow the Leaders: The amazing thing about Twitter is you can easily connect with education experts from all over the world in an instant. Here is a great list to get you started from Craig Kemp. You can find him @mrkempnz See who your favorites are following and connect with them too!
  2. Education Hashtags:¬†There is a hashtag for everything! New to the principalship? search #cpchat (connected principals).¬†Want to learn more about flipped classrooms and¬†byod – no problem – #flipclass and¬†#byod will get you there. George Couros¬†recently asked his followers¬†about their¬†favorite education hashtags to follow. It was fun to see what was¬†shared!¬†Here is the complete list of education hashtags put together by Maybe¬†your campus or¬†school district already has a #hashtag to follow, so you are able to share and see all the great learning happening with your school community. If not you should look into getting that started! My former campus uses #AustinLearns¬†and it is awesome to keep up with them. What’s your hashtag, I would love to see what’s going on at your school?!
  3. Education Chats: Many educators have specific days and times to meet for a chat focused on different topics. There is no lack of chats to join, the trick is finding what is relevant and important for you. Here is the official list of education chats for twitter. If your is not on there, you can submit to have it added. Once you’ve participated in some Twitter chats and are no longer a lunrker, you may want to host your own. Here are some great tips¬†on hosting your own chat.

Maybe you’ve¬†already found your network, know all about social media and moved out of lurnker mode. If so, congratulations! If not, I hope you feel a bit more empowered to join the amazing conversation in¬†education. We need your voice to be a part of it!