Advice: Is it useful?

My current read is giving me so much to think about.  The book is Quiet Leadership by David Rock.  He is also the author who inspired by previous post.  I am only 18 pages in and I have some action steps because it.  Join me in this journey as learn with this book.

The image below really spoke to me because my district is in the process of implementing the PLC process and have spent time talking about mission, visions and values.  I know some people are like “move on already,” but this image really gets to why we need to think about what lies underneath the surface.  Also if you focus on the results, you ignore all the other things, you won’t get anywhere because it is only the tip.


Another big take away is that no two brains are exactly alike.  It explains my frustration when I share space (physical or virtual) that needs to be organized.  So often, it takes me longer to find something because I have to figure out how the person was thinking when the put something somewhere.

Our environment literally shapes the physical nature of the our brains; therefore our brains are already quite different to each other’s at birth.

He therefore suggest that advice is useless because we are telling people what we do and it does not what they would do.  Below are two of my favorite quotes about this:

Highly successful, intelligent people are blind to the fact that they are trying to do make connections for people, assuming their brains are similar enough for this to work.

Doing the thinking for other people is not just a waste of our own energy; it also gets in the way of other people working out the right answers.

What does this mean for me in my role? What are my next steps?

I am going to work on not giving advice as if they are me. I want to ask questions to prompt thinking and let others make their own connections.  I am going to be observant as I work in reflective conversation with others.  Are they making connections?  Are they doing the thinking?

The other section I read was about how our brain uses experiences to hard wire our brain and these hard wires drive our perception.   I think this is important.  As leaders, we can change a person perception because it is his/her reality.  This hard wiring is double edged sword.  It allows us understand the information rich world with without being overwhelmed, but also allows us to defend our mental model against overwhelming evidence of the contrary.

Here’s a gem from that section:

Perhaps you have noticed that when we are for an idea we are more likely to allow tenuous links to become fact, and when we are against an idea we see even strong evidence as irrelevant.

So I could draw some connections for you, but remember I am letting others think and  draw their own connections.




Lately, it seems like that word has been front in center in my work life.  I could also argue that it is also in private life, but I will focus on how it impact teaching.

Last week, we shared an article with our teacher leaders about the SCARF model of motivation by David Rock.  As we were talking about all of them, the A for Autonomy stuck with me.  It brought how the work world has changed and how team work is valued in the business world.  Also at EdCampIowa we had a session on Autonomy vs Systems of Learning.  I think this topic will continue to bubble to the surface because of the public vision of teaching.

Think about it.  How many teaching movies can you name? Now mark out the ones where it is a lone charismatic teacher against the system.  Do you have any left?  I didn’t have any on my list.  Think about the not so recent past of the narrative of one room school house.  This lone teacher narrative is the one society portrays.

On the other hand, the other narrative that can come out is that the teacher needs to be controlled and the curriculum needs to be teacher proofed.  Just read some of the headlines around the country.

Both of these narratives do more harm than good.  I propose that it is time for a shift.  We need each other to be the best teacher we can be.  In his article, David Rock suggested that people will give up their some of their autonomy because they receive other rewards.  I will give up my some of my  autonomy to work with other teachers.  I know that I will gain status because my work will improve and gain a sense of community because I worked others.   All in all it is time for Hollywood to make a movie about a school that comes together to help all students learn.

Hero of the Month

On Thursday evening, I drive my son to soccer.  It’s becoming my favorite day of the week because of the conversations we have.  For example this week’s topic was First Friday.  He discussed all of the ins and outs what happens.  Then the conversation drifted to who would be the Hero of the Month.  He discussed that the hero got to eat pancakes, have their photo taken and have the whole school  hear about how good they are.  My son in a sad voice said, “I hope I am the Hero.”   I replied, “I hope you are too, bud.”  After that I asked how do you get to be the Hero.  My son just said you have to be really good.  I also prompted him to ask his teacher what could he do to be the Hero.    He replied,  “I wouldn’t want to do that it might take away from a friend who was working hard too.”

I bring this up because I became nervous about my role in these moments in the car of other parents.  Did they have the same reaction I did or did they blow it off?  Consider these questions:

  • Are your teachers using the same standard for selecting the students?
  • Can your students articulate how they can achieve this award?
  • Do students who do not achieve this award given feedback?

I would have never considered how the award impacts the other students.  It is important to highlight outstanding students, but we need to be sure that the answer is Yes to the questions above.

So Friday has come and gone.  My Little Man was not the Hero of the Month, but he is the Hero of our House.



It’s Not About Me

My morning at home did not go smoothly.  Little Bit did not want to wake up.  I styled her hair and short time later she yanked it out.  She had a meltdown about her hairstyle.  I would like to say that I handled it like a champ, but we all know that some days we are not at a champion level.

As I thought about this interaction, I was reminded of a PD for beginning educators last Thursday when the presenter said, “It’s not about you. 95% of students do not think about you.  It’s about them.”  This has been an important mantra for me this idea that other’s behaviors are not about me. Let me give you a few examples:

  1. Dress code issues: The student who you constantly have to ask to put their hoodie down.  He doesn’t keep putting it up to annoy you.  There is a reason behind it.  It could be it makes him feel safe or it may the only way he gets to hear his name during the day.  We all do certain behaviors because it has a payoff.
  2. Tardiness: The student who arrives late is not doing it to annoy you.  They may be avoiding the work or something as simple as something else was more exciting than class.
  3. Not Doing the Work: The student may find the work too easy or too hard.  She may just want to think about something other than work.

I am sure my list could go on, but I tell you this because once we accept it is not about us, then we can get to the heart of the issue without a power struggle.

Thinking back to this morning’s interaction with my Little Bit, I made it about me.   It this and other situations, I need to say to myself “It’s not about me.”  Then I need to empathize and move situation forward.


Earn Your Break

Last week at the gym, I got down right irate(actually in my head-that would not be me to get hot).  The instructor of the class said, “Earn your break.”  It really annoyed me.  Here am I sweating hard, lifting heavier weights, my heart rate above the goal area  I didn’t need that right now.  Can’t she see how hard I am working?  By the screen, I could see that most of the class was pushing it hard as well.  She was up on the platform walking back and forth.  She really never got down to provide feedback.


I tell you that story because this type of  frustration happens to many of our students.  When faced with a similar situation, he/she may say something under his/her breath or get irate and disrupt the class.

Now, I have gone back and heard other instructors use the same phrase.  I’ve come to the conclusion it is all about context.  I didn’t get annoyed because the instructor was moving around the gym and giving specific feedback to others.  I felt like she saw my hard work and was pushing me positively.  I felt respected.

I also tell you this second part because the same student who might react in the first example may not react as negatively when context has changed.  During the lesson, specific feedback was given and in the end the student felt respected.

Knowing my experience with this one phrase.  I am really going to focus on the context of my off the cuff remarks.  What may seem like nothing to me may be really huge for someone else.

The “Lost”

This past week, I spent a couple of nights a church leadership retreat.  This line has stayed with me:


I could spend some time talking about the New Testament and the idea of lost, but that is better left to others. Instead, I want to dig into this as it relates to school.

How quick are we to blame the student if he/she does get it the first time?  We might say things like this about it:

  • I taught it, they didn’t learn it.
  • They have so much potential, but they don’t use it.
  • It’s no their fault.  They have a rough home life.

Other times we blame the parents or society for the problem.  In reality, we must be like the shepherd and be relentless to find the lost sheep in the Bible.  We cannot blame student for being lost.

In addition to parents and students, we may also blame other educators.  I know, that at times, I am guilty of not being understanding of how someone does not____.  This may be the teacher who is nervous about trying a new strategy.

So how do we stop blaming and start finding the lost.  We start with empathy and share what we know.   When “the lost” has been  found, we need to celebrate it.

My One Word for 2017

Over break, my body decided to rebel against me.  I had great plans to accomplish some important work instead I spent most of the time being sick.  I used that time to catch up with my Feedly and reflecting on last year’s one word.   This video from Seth Godin hit me over the head and I knew I had found my word for 2017.  Go watch the video.  I’ll wait.

In this video, he talks about the importance of caring enough and being brave enough to ship before it is ready.  This line is key, “Will you choose to matter?”

I have chosen Matter as my word.  In the past few years, I have really focused on the skills and steps I need to do to be better at work and at home.  It was just like Seth discussed about all of the clarinet lessons he took.


So how will this translate in my everyday life?

  • Health/Wellness: I will try out new workouts.  I am ready to think about a 5 K.  I will make it matter.
  • Faith:  I know the prayers, beliefs and rituals that go with my faith.  I will go beyond and be the music that other want to hear.  I will care deeply and be very brave as I really dig into my relationship with God.
  • Work/professional life: I will work to ship things before other may be ready.  I will work to innovate now.
  • Home/personal:  I care even more and be there.  I want my family to realize that they matter.

I could continue the list, but then it becomes one more thing.  Simply put, I am done taking lessons and will begin to play.