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


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!!

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.                                                – from

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 “character” 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.                – from

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.”