Crafting a Leadership Point of View

I’ve been in several leadership development sessions this year (as an attendee and planner) that have focused on the notion of personal leadership and creating/sharing your own leadership point of view. It has been an interesting and beneficial reflection process to think about the people, experiences, and values that shape my thinking around leadership.

At my current organization, we continue to create a strong culture of leadership and vulnerability. We not only had the participants share their leadership point of view during our learning sessions, at each staff meeting, we rotate through for everyone to share their own story. It has been one of the most powerful and meaningful team building exercises I have experienced. Not only do we learn more about each other and how we operate, people have shared some of the most meaningful experiences that have shaped their life and work. We find out what truly matters and it is beautiful!

Much of the work of crafting a leadership point of view centers on reflecting on people and events that have shaped out, identifying core values, clarifying how you came to hold those values, and reflecting upon how those values have played out in your life thus far. Ken Blanchard shares great tips from his executive leadership program on creating a leadership POV. There are many ways to go about it. Here is the process he suggests which involves answering these questions:

• What are three or four critical events in your life that shaped your beliefs about leadership?

• Who are three or four people in your life that shaped your beliefs about leading others?

• What do you know to be true about exceptional leaders?

• What are your top three to five values when leading others?

• What can others expect of you in the future as you align your actions with your core values?

• And, what do you expect of others as you align to your core values?

So here goes!

Events that shaped my life:

  1. I was raised by a police lieutenant and a legal secretary. Following the rules and the law was valued greatly in my family and I became very good at it. I had a healthy respect for authority, was a good student, never got in trouble (except once for chewing gum in 6th grade), and was overall very successful. I learned to play the game of school well. It took me a long time to see the value in breaking the rules, standing out and not caring so much what other people think. Being over 40 helps a lot with that!
  2. My parents got divorced (very amicably) when I was in middle school. This taught my sister and I how to become strong and independent women – a hard lesson I still value today. My mother got remarried as I was graduating HS and was moving to Texas. She suggested I visit UT to see if I would like to go there for college. Well of course, who doesn’t love Austin?! So she settled down in Port Aransas and I made my way to one of the largest universities in the nation only knowing 2 people.  I think it was my naiveté and independent spirit that carried me through that journey. I met such a wonderful array of unique individuals during my time at UT. It was so fun to be out in the world on my own and surrounded by intelligent, motivated people, who didn’t always follow the rules. This experience definitely helped shape me.
  3. In 2010 a former student, Taylor Storch, lost her life in a tragic skiing accident. I sill think about The Storch family daily. Before this loss, there would be days where I would dread making the lunches for my kids, or doing the laundry, or picking up the messes. Now I know her parents (and many others who have lost loved ones) would give anything to “have to” make that lunch, do the laundry, or clean up a mess made. I truly don’t take people or time for granted anymore and work to let those I care about know how I feel. Watching how this amazing family turned their loss into a gift for others through the creation of Taylor’s Gift (an organ donation foundation) has also changed me. I don’t know if I would have the strength to do the same, but am so grateful for their example.

People who have shaped my leadership:

Honestly it is hard to only name 3 or 4 people who have shaped me. I find people
fascinating and try to learn from everyone that crosses my path. I believe that all people
have a unique gift to share and show up in my life for a reason. So many have shown up
right when I needed it and I am grateful.

Sometimes I learned from people the kind of leader I do not want to be – backstabbing,
gossipy, negative, micromanaging, untrusting, playing favorites.

Qualities I have seen in the great teachers, principals, superintendents and education
leaders that have crossed my path have shown me how to:
– Have a relentless focus on making the lives of all children better in any way possible
– Everyone has value and gifts, you just have to find them…EVERYONE!
– Not be afraid to push hard to move education forward (I was taught to not make waves, so people with this kind of courage spark something and inspire me to be brave)
– Doing what is right even when it is not popular
– Hard work shouldn’t feel hard all the time and it is OK to have some FUN!

What do I know to be true about exceptional leaders?
Great leaders:
– Continually revisit the Why of the work. Give people a purpose
– Know that relationships are key. People (kids & adults) need to feel safe and supported if they are going to learn and thrive
– Great leaders empower others to bring their best skills, ideas and talents to the table
– Don’t take things personally
– Sometimes they totally break the rules for the right reasons

What are my top three to five values when leading others?
I will:
– Be authentic – I spent so long trying to be who I thought others wanted me to be, it was exhausting and I’m soooooo over that!
– Be positive – no whining/complaining/victim mentality. My reality is what I create.
– Never Stop Learning – there is always something I can get better at and the world is full of things I don’t know yet…
– Work Hard – we’ve got lots to do to transform education!
– Have Fun – We spend a lot of time working on this stuff…it can and should be enjoyable

What can others expect of me?
– I ask a lot of questions – I want to understand the big picture and how all the pieces fit together to make sure what I’m doing works. I’m also like to know what is going on.
– I’m here to help. Please ask! I’m happy to share what I know.
– I will be honest with you – if you want feedback I’ll give it.
– I’m opinionated, but can be swayed when presented a differing point of view. I also like to debate things. (Just ask my husband)
– I like to laugh and make jokes but don’t mistake that for a lighthearted attitude about the importance of the work I do. I take this work very seriously or work hard to bring my best to the table. Ultimately, we are in the kid business. We should be able to model learning at high levels but have fun doing it. Serious learning can be fun too!

What do I expect from others?

– Show up as your authentic self
– Do your best, whatever that may look like for you
– Ask questions, be curious – not judgemental
– If you have an issue with me, come to me. Let’s work it out
– Don’t take yourself too seriously – we all make mistakes and it is ok to have a little fun 🙂

If you made it this far – thank you! Now it is your turn. What would be in your leadership point of view? I encourage you to reflect, craft your own answers, share with me and with those you lead. It will be a powerful experience. Don’t let your story go untold.

What Parents Need to Know – 3 Questions

I just got back from attending my son’s open house, and I’m excited about what this year has in store! He attends a brand new middle school in our neighborhood thoughtfully designed with unique learning spaces, state of the art technology, and amazing athletic facilities (this is Texas). It’s wonderful that the students and teachers have the latest and greatest, as I know this is not the case for many schools around the country. However, this is NOT what I’m looking for in a school for my child.

I recently saw this tweet from Tom Loud about what students want to know from their teachers, and I think it is spot on.

Students don’t necessarily ask these questions consciously, but use them as a filter to decide how they will participate in the learning. As a parent, I think these same questions apply for what I want for my kids (and all children) in a classroom.

  1. Can I trust you?  
    Without trust, nothing else works. Sadly, many parents have a skeptical attitude towards teachers and school in general. It is imperative that teachers work to build trust with the parents and students they serve. Kids are in school more waking hours than at home and what happens has a tremendous impact on their development. Can I trust you to be fair, kind, forgiving, honest, a good listener, a quality role model and a skilled instructor to help my child be the best version of himself?
  2. Do you believe my child can succeed?
    If the answer is anything other than yes, there is a big problem. In Hattie’s most recent research analysis, teacher estimates of achievement ranked as the highest-impact influence on student learning and achievement. If teachers believe their students can achieve, they will. Beliefs determine behavior and teachers that believe all their students can succeed will plan and work to make it happen. Reminds me of one of my favorite quotes.


  3. Do you care about my child?
    Another make or break question. I want to know the teacher has my child’s best interest at heart. That doesn’t mean making learning too easy or always giving him what he wants. On the contrary, a teacher that cares about my child pushes him into the productive struggle of learning, while providing support and encouragement along the way. The classroom should be a safe place to take risks without ridicule, where differences are valued and appreciated, and everyone’s voice matters. Relationships matter – we know this. Rita Pearson said it best:

    Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like.

Open house and the beginning of the year are a great opportunity for teachers to help answer these three questions for parents. Yes, we need to understand the grading policies and how to find homework on your website, but to make the most of everyone’s time use it to build trust, share your beliefs and let them know you care!

The Entire Bell Curve

Everything you have ever wanted, is sitting on the other side of fear.

I recently spent a week learning with an amazing group of school leaders working with Hitendra Wadhwa from the Institute for Personal Leadership for the first session with The Holdsworth Center. His work focuses on maximizing your outer impact by first pursuing inner mastery. As busy school leaders, we spend so much time focusing on the outer work – the doing. How often do we spend time working on the inner pieces that drive the work? Hitendra defines the 5 pillars of personal mastery as purpose, wisdom, growth, self-awareness and love. It was a very different experience from the education leadership training I’m used to planning and attending, and I loved it! I took away many great nuggets of learning, a renewed passion and commitment to the work of supporting Texas school leaders and a change in perspective in how I tend to think about others. The cohort of leaders we are working with are truly remarkable people who shared their passion, dedication, vulnerability, hopes and dreams for their students and districts.

In leadership development we often focus on the bell curve and figuring out where our people are. I truly shifted my thinking when he shared this thought:

People are not ON the bell curve, they are the ENTIRE bell curve. – Hitendra Wadhwa

When I think about myself and how I work, this is completely true. Sometimes I am a high performer, at times average, and can be low when I procrastinate on or don’t have a developed skill set yet. It really depends on the task at hand where I would put myself on the bell curve, and I do represent all areas depending on the task. It should be no different for the students or staff we work with on a daily basis. But when I think about others, I usually plug them into one of those categories and watch for evidence that supports my designation. Sometimes people surprise you (at both ends of the curve) with what they accomplish (or don’t).

This is another reason why a growth mindset is critical. When we slap a label onto ourselves or others, people usually live up to that expectation. Our job as leaders is to create an organization where there is a culture of continuous learning for everyone involved – students, teachers, administrators, parents and community members. Mistakes are going to happen and it is only a failure if you don’t learn anything new from the situation.

It is also important to remember also that no one can be a high performer at everything. We are all working on something to get better at (or should be)! I am currently working to absorb as much information as possible about leadership pipeline and talent management for my new role with The Holdsworth Center. It has been a daunting 3 months in a brand new role and at brand new organization. I am definitely all over the bell curve with my own capabilities. New can be hard, but also fun. It is pretty amazing to be creating a new learning organization with smart, dedicated and passionate people. I’m working on my ability to learn, but am excited about what is to come and each day gets a little bit easier!

The great thing about people is they are all different with unique talents. TEPSA’s former Executive Director, Sandi Borden, used to say everyone has their own set of gift and graces, and warts and wrinkles. It always struck me as a funny statement, but also very true. It is a great reminder to look at the whole person and help them grow on their path. People are complex and when we try to put them at one spot on a curve we are doing everyone (including ourselves) a disservice.




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? 🤓

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.

— 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 – they venture into unknown territory and put themselves “out there” to try new things. They take “progressive risk” – 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 “derailer” 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 “game” 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” that elevates others every day.

  • LeBron’s 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’m more of a slow and steady kind of girl. The African Proverb says it best: “If you want to go fast, go alone – If you want to go far, go together.” I’m 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 “best friend at work” 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!