I don’t want to go back to normal

With the arrival of the vaccine and the outlook of a promising new year ahead, I don’t want normal back! I’m hopeful that we have a totally new normal where people have a little more life in the work/life balance (whatever that is), where we clearly see the injustice that has been here all along and work hard to change things to ensure equity and opportunity for all, where communities understand the value of education and educators, where we are all just a little bit kinder and understand everyone is going through things we may not realize, where we focus on our health and well-being because it is the foundation of all we do. I don’t want normal back, I want a new and better normal! I also want hugs and the ability to travel, gather and hang out with friends safely. The start of a new year has me hopeful for a better future for everyone. Cheers to 2021!


5 Ways SXSW EDU Will Spark Your Leadership

I proudly serve on the Programming Advisory Board for SXSW EDU and got to be a part of the selection process for the 2019 line up. It was exciting reading through the proposals that landed in my review pool and I’m so excited to see how the lineup came together. I’ve been attending SXSW EDU since the inaugural event in 2011, and from the start could tell this was not your typical education conference. The event has grown and evolved over time and in true SXSW fashion turned into a can’t miss learning event. Here are some themes that stood out to me and I hope it helps you understand what makes it so valuable for educational leaders.   

New people, new ideas

For ed folks used to hearing from the same people about the same issues, SXSW offers fresh takes from unexpected voices. You’ll find the diversity of speakers’ ideas, backgrounds and experience both exciting and challenging. Come with an open mind ­– you won’t agree with everything you hear. But I would argue that’s a good thing when you’re building your leadership muscles. Hearing from diverse voices will give you the opportunity to question your own assumptions and maybe even change your perspective.

Session Pick“Why Technology is Not Transforming Teaching” (Kevin Bushweller, Ed Week Executive Editor for Market Brief)

  • Description: Interactive talk that examines why teachers are far more likely to use technology to make their own jobs easier and to supplement traditional instructional strategies than to put students in control of their own learning. Research shows a handful of “early adopters” embrace innovative uses of new technology, while their colleagues make incremental or no changes to what they already do. Why is this the case? And what steps should schools take to fix it?
  • My take: Following the race to get tech in schools, Bushweller calls out the need to do better and offers tools and strategies to get there. There is no blame here, only support and ideas for disrupting the status quo.

Focus on equity

This conference is not afraid to tackle equity, to admit we’re falling short and to explore ways that we can serve ALL students better. No one disagrees that each child, regardless of background, should have the opportunity to reach their full potential. But what does that look like in practice? How do we know when we have achieved it? The conference has dedicated more than 15 sessions and 35 speakers to the topic of equity and will explore a host of creative solutions, from stronger math instruction to strategies for mental health support.

Session Pick: Improving Equity Through Unbiased Data  

  • Description: In a world increasingly focused on data and measurement but skeptical of standardized testing, how do you fairly measure student success? How can we make data-driven decisions without perpetuating bias or inequity? What role should students’ statistics play in determining their eligibility for opportunities? Hear from leaders in the education and data worlds on how they’re approaching this complicated issue in search of a more equitable world.
  • My take: Our lives are data driven, but if the data we are using perpetuate the problem, we will never reach a solution. I’m skeptical that unbiased data exist and am curious to learn if there are fair ways to measure success for students. Sessions on equity are often about our mindset and bias, but this one is offering technical solutions.

Building student agency

We need schools that go beyond the fundamentals and inspire kids to apply their knowledge and talents to help make the world a better place. Students don’t have to wait to be ‘leaders of the future’. They can be leaders right now, and educators should help create the conditions for that to happen.

Session Pick: Marley Dias, Changing the World One Black Girl Book at a Time  

  • Description: How can educators and caregivers promote the changes they want to see in the world? Marley will offer strategies for building-up joyful young readers and community activists, ultimately promoting a more just and equitable world. Marley will show that embracing equity, using diverse readings in the classroom and encouraging courageous conversations can increase literacy, make learning more fun and create sustainable change.
  • My take: I want to hear more from Marley about how she was inspired by an issue that concerned her and she took some simple steps to make a difference. I want to understand what made this possible so we can make it possible for more kids.

Spotlight on creativity 

The four Rs aren’t all there is to life, both in school and beyond. Educators know that, and it’s why they fight fiercely for music, art and theater programs. I love that this conference offers sessions and learning experiences that highlight skills so needed and valued in society.

Session PickMoth StorySLAM

  • Description: This open-mic storytelling competition is open to anyone with a true, personal five-minute story to share on the night’s theme of transformation. SXSW EDU attendees are invited to put their name in the hat to tell a story, or just enjoy the show.

Session Pick: The Moth in the Classroom

  • Description: Personal storytelling can play a key role in classrooms—connecting students to content, centering student voice, and developing essential skills. But how do we create the conditions for great storytelling? We will lead a lively, on-our-feet workshop for educators to brainstorm and craft their own true, personal stories, as well as reflect together on classroom strategies. Leave with concrete ideas for your classroom, and a new confidence in your story!

Session Pick24-Hour Playwriting Challenge 

  • Description: The title says it all: you will write a play in a day. In this hands-on session designed for folks who have never written a play, we’ll use theater to craft powerful narratives. You’ll start with ideas about social justice/education; learn story structures; go through a scaffolded process to write your script; work with professional actors to develop characters; practice giving/receiving feedback; and prepare for a performance of your play by the company of actors.
  • My take:  These kinds of activities put us right back in the learner’s seat. Test them out, flex your creativity muscle and see what they inspire you to bring back for your staff and students. We are all perpetual learners and putting ourselves in the hot seat for a day is a fun challenge.

No fear of tough topics 

Educators are not afraid of difficult conversations. They’re part of daily life in schools. Fortunately, SXSW is not afraid to host them either. Mental health, equity, social justice – these topics are deep and complex, but we owe it to ourselves to dig in and learn more.

Session Pick: Comedy & Poetry: Tools for Unpacking Mental Health  

  • Description: Our group specializes in using slam poetry and stand-up comedy to teach leadership and diversity skills. We’ll be instructing how to use these two art forms to create engaging content and connect with students on a level that helps empower them to be more open and understanding of their peers. Audience members will leave with a better understanding of other walks of life, and how vulnerability can create leaders that others naturally gravitate towards
  • My take: It can be tough to keep up with kids these days – what they are struggling with, what sparks them or resonate with them. Sessions like these offer tools for reaching students in new and unique ways.

I would love to hear what you are excited about learning or have learned in the past. Take time to connect with the people in attendance and come back with a boat load of inspiration and new ideas!

13 Quotes on Leadership & Change


I was working on a project to highlight inspiring quotes on education, leadership, teams, and change. Thought I would share some of my favorites. Would love to hear yours. Please share in the comments!

“Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world.”           ― Nelson Mandela

“A team is not a group of people that work together. A team is a group of people that trust each other.” – Simon Sinek

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” -John Quincy Adams

“Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” -John F. Kennedy

“The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. The leader adjusts the sails.” -John Maxwell

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” ― Leo Tolstoy

“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” ― Rumi

“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” ― Albert Einstein

“Change is an opportunity to do something AMAZING.” – George Couros

“A bad system will beat a good person every time.” – W. Edwards Deming

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” – Peter Drucker



My 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 to create and share 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?