Reset, Refresh, Recharge #BCSLearns

I came across this article in the weekly Marshall Memo that is quite fitting for this time of year.  The title?  We’ve Said Goodbye to This Year’s Students. Now It’s Time to Take Care of Ourselves included in Education Week Teacher.  Teachers and other educators have spent the year attending to the needs of everyone they serve, while, often times, neglecting the needs of themselves.  Summer vacation is a perfect time to turn the switch on this and attend to your needs.  In the articleArkansas teacher Justin Minkel believes summer is the time to ask yourself “Who are we when we’re not teaching?” and he has four strategies for success in answering this question:

  • Become the learner instead of the teacher. Learn something new – something you may have always wanted to learn or something that has become a more recent interest of yours. “It takes curiosity, perseverance, and humility to learn a new skill,” he says. “The struggle and excitement of being a novice can deepen our empathy for our students, who are asked every day to attempt new and difficult things.”  
  • Hyphenate yourself. The way Minkel hyphenates himself is by seeing himself as “a teacher-dad and a teacher-writer…second identities like “reader,” “hiker,” or “friend,” impact who I am and who I keep becoming as a teacher.”  Fundamentally, these hyphenations help students see their teachers as more than just a teacher.  Students see you as a person, a human being, beyond the role of teacher.
  • Be your full self with your loved ones. Teachers’ families (spouses and children) “often get a depleted version of us during the school week and year,” says Minkel.  Teachers come home exhausted from a long day at school and, at times, lack the energy to attend to the needs of or be fully present with those they most love.  Minkel suggests for us to use our summer vacation as the perfect opportunity to give our full self to our loved ones.  I, for one, will be taking a trip with my son to Boston at the end of the month to visit my daughter on her birthday!  What are your plans?
  • Join a new tribe or two. “It can be rejuvenating to experience the camaraderie of a new cohort” Minkel describes.  I know my children’s friends’ parents have varying careers and interests, so this cohort is a great mix for me.  I look forward to joining the new tribe of my daughter’s college friends’ parents who come from wonderfully geographically diverse locations.

As the article closes, Minkel shares that “Most of us love what we do [but] That doesn’t change the reality that this job is hard. We need deep rest and renewal if we’re going to keep doing it well.  His final suggestion when we are feeling overwhelmed by the job of teaching, is to remember that teaching is “the profession that makes all others possible.”  

And finally, I cannot end my last blog of the school year without a video.  So, to close, enjoy this summer vacation video from one of our favorites, Principal Brooks who asks the simple question: Which teacher are you?  The RST, the HYT or the BOFT?  If after viewing the short video, you are neither of these,  create your own acronym for what type of teacher you are!  “Look for these three types of teachers this summer and thank them for everything they do!” 

I thank our BCS teachers for all they do!  Have a happy summer becoming the learner instead of the teacher, hyphenating yourself, being your full self with your loved ones, and joining a new tribe or two!


Careful of this Advice #BCSLearns

The title of a recent article from the New York Times caught my attention:  Why ‘Find Your Passion’ is Terrible Advice.”  I know we, as educators and parents, want to help our students, our children, discover their passion.  So, how that that be bad advice?  The writer, Stephanie Lee, references a study, of which assistant professor of psychology at Yale-NUS College in Singapore, Paul A O’Keefe, was part, noting that we “often assume that [our] own interest or passion just needs to be ‘found’ or revealed. Once revealed, it will be in a fully formed state,” which he describes as “nonsense.”  This notion in counterintuitive, though.  As the article notes, “part of why we haven’t found our passion yet is that we tend to give up quickly on new things. The reason? Prepare for a hard truth: We’re pretty bad at most things when we first try them.”  The study noted in the article examined  the “fixed theory of interest” and the “growth theory of interest”.  Think fixed mindset vs. growth mindset, a topic I about which I have written in previous posts.  “The fixed theory, says that our interests are relatively fixed and unchanging, while the other, the growth theory, suggests our interests are developed over time and not necessarily innate to our personality.”  This study ultimately came to the conclusion that we do not really “find” our passions; rather, we “develop them over time.”  As Lee states in the article, “the researchers found that people who hold a fixed theory:

  • had less interest in things outside of their current interests,
  • were less likely to anticipate difficulties when pursuing new interests, and
  • lost interest in new things much quicker than people who hold a growth theory.

In essence, people with a growth mind-set of interest tend to believe that interests and passions are capable of developing with enough time, effort and investment.”

So, why does this matter when nurturing the development of the students we serve?  According to O’Keefe, “Someone with a fixed mind-set of interest might begin their pursuit with lots of enthusiasm, but it might diminish once things get too challenging or tedious.”

He concluded that passion alone is insufficient in helping people when faced with difficulty or challenge within a pursuit, and we can help students overcome those challenges by nurturing a growth mindset in them.

Included below is a 10-minute video from branding strategist Terri Trespicio who speaks to this “dangerously limiting idea” of finding your one singular passion.  Passions are feelings, and feelings can change over time, even day-to-day she says. Losing her job at Martha Stewart put her on a path of discovery.  Check out the video…

How Can We Learn to Learn? #BCSLearns

In the May issue of  Educational Leadership, author Ulrich Boser shares his article “Learning to Learn: Tips for Teens and Their Teachers.” As I read the article from this issue devoted completely to teens, I could not help but think that, YES, these “tips” indeed are critical for teens, but are they not considered best practice for any age?  We might adjust the language to meet our perspective of a preschool learner, but we, undoubtedly, want to infuse these “tips” from Boser in every student we serve.  I list the tips below and offer my take on each of them in my own words.

  • Actively retrieve and explain. Reading and note-taking, while important skills, alone are insufficient.  Having students peer review or peer conference in order to show evidence and explain their thinking will prove a deeper learning opportunity.
  • Focus. Suffice to say, that the distraction a phone or other device while working or studying will negatively influence short term memory, with will, in turn, impact depth of knowledge and understanding.  It will interrupt the learning process.  Be careful!
  • Check for understanding. Have you ever run into a teen (or even a younger student) who comes across as a know-it-all?  “Adolescents [in particular] can be naively overconfident about what they actually know,” says Boser. Therefore, we ought to help students get comfortable with and appreciate the importance and benefits of failure as a natural part of the learning process.  It’s okay not to know – teachers too!
  • Find the deep features. Identifying similarities and differences is a great place to start with students when helping them dig more deeply.  Help them dig further by making claims, providing evidence, reasoning and synthesizing their thinking as they demonstrate deep learning.
  • Embrace feedback. Feedback is the lifeblood to learning!
  • Being aware of feelings. We know that students’ emotional and hormonal development during adolescence is unpredictable. Helping teens understand this and use the skill of perspective taking can help mitigate the emotional roller coaster on which teens (or any person) may find themselves.
  • Reflect. Helping students ask reflective questions will support both their social emotional and cognitive (academic) development.  Check out these examples from TeachThought.

I do love tips and lists like these, and these skills that Boser outlines in his article are critical indeed – no doubt.  Is it the best list of learning skills?  What is your favorite list of “skills for learning”.  One I always come back to is from Daniel Pink’s book A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the World.  These are his “six senses” that resonate deeply with me:

  1. Design
  2. Story
  3. Symphony
  4. Empathy
  5. Play
  6. Meaning

View the below video of Pink summarizing these “six senses” in a cohesive way.

Don’t Worry, Be Happy #BCSLearns

Image result for happy emojis

Happiness is an emotional state most of us would consider the place we would want to “live in” most, if not all, of the time.  That said, one might think that success, no matter how one defines it, lead to happiness.  This notion can be counterintuitive.  Positive psychology research has concluded, that it is, indeed, the other way around; happiness leads to success.  So, how can we get happy?  In his book, The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor shares 7 principles of happiness based on his global research around positive psychology.  His research spanned 40 countries and concludes how happiness increases both business and educational outcomes.  The principles are noted below with a brief explanation of each.

  • The Happiness Advantage: “Happiness is the center, and success revolves around it”  – not the other way around.  This is the counterintuitive part.  Remember Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, and that physiological needs, safety needs, and love & belonging all come before success.
  • The Fulcrum and the Lever:  Fulcrum is actually our mindset, and the lever is the power. This principle teaches us how to adjust our way of thinking in such a way that it offers us the power to be more fulfilled and successful.
  • The Tetris Effect:  Identify patterns of options, so that we can take advantage of each opportunity we face.
  • Falling up: Achor describes the mental path that we need to find, so that we can avoid failure or learn from it and find our way towards happiness and then success.
  • The Zorro Circle: When feeling overwhelmed, he suggests focusing on smaller, more manageable goals, and gradually expanding our circle in order to obtain greater influence from there.
  • The 20-Second Rule: “Habits form because our brain actually changes in response to frequent practice.”  This rule teaches us how to replace bad habits with a good one.
  • Social Investment: “The most successful people invest in their friends, peers, and family members to propel themselves forward.”  Our social support system is the key to acquiring success and self-actualization.

Below is an introductory video by Shawn Achor highlighting “The Happiness Advantage.” You can learn more about the book at

Product or Process – What’s Your Take?

Process vs. Product has been long debated in educational arenas.  What’s more important, process or product?  I think the more important questions is: How do we make both of equal importance?  I believe wholeheartedly, that if an individual or team dials in an effective process, then a quality product will result.  Conversely, if a quality product results, then an effective process, at the very least, was navigated.  You may be asking at this point, what about failure?  Yes, failure, with the mindset of failing forward or F.A.I.L. (as in the First Attempt In Learning) is a critical component of the learning process, and when we fail, we can reflect on how to create a more effective process in order for our product to be of higher quality.  In short, if the process isn’t the best, then the product likely won’t be either.

All that said, Nigel Coutts, an Australian researcher and Dean of Teaching & Learning, has posted frequently about process and product.  In the post Process vs Product in Maker-centered Learning, he writes, “By valuing the process and not the product in maker-centered learning we can celebrate our student’s success and point them towards their next achievement even when the final product doesn’t meet expectations.”  Which is to say that documenting and reflecting upon our process as a learner allows us to iterate, this becoming more resilient and more likely to improve processes for improved product.  Specifically in this post, Coutts references the following resources that are well worth further exploring:

  • Personal Passion Projects are a projects “that connects their passion with all they have learned about managing inquiry/design based projects.”  Be sure to check out the thirteen insights Coutts discovers from his research on these types of projects.  “Prepare to be amazed!”
  • “‘Design Thinking might just be the next ‘new’ old thing in education. In her recent address to the National Press Club, Catherine Livingstone of The Business Council of Australia included ‘Design Thinking’ amongst the critical STEM skills required for Australia’s future.”  Check out this post to see what Coutts means by Design Thinking.
  • Tinkering gives learners “opportunities to explore devices from the past [which] open our eyes and lead us to new questions of how our devices function, how machines do the jobs we need them to do and how engineers solve problems.” This is the essence of tinkering Coutts details in his post.
  • These Habit Cards allow an individual to reflect upon which of these sixteen habits might be best given the context of the situation.
  • Larry Cuban’s take on Personalized Learning has changed over the years.  This EdWeek blog mentions Cuban’s skepticism particularly as personalized learning relates to technology and shares the beginning of Cuban’s new thinking: A Continuum of Personalized Learning.  Check out both posts!

Of all the above resources noted, the Habit Cards broadened my perspective of the malleability we need as learners, educators, leaders, parents – human beings.  Reflect on these sixteen habits (Coutts, 2014) , and I guarantee, upon reflection, you will find a time in your life when you either used one to navigate successfully a situation OR wished you would have used one to work through a situation. Yes?



Honesty Honestly #BCSLearns

Honesty is such a lonely word
Everyone is so untrue
Honesty is hardly ever heard
And mostly what I need from you

So goes the refrain in the Billy Joel song, Honesty.  It is a simple yet powerful word!  So easy to understand, but difficult to live into at certain times.  When it serves us well, it is easy to be honest, but when “self preservation” is on the line, our honesty, our integrity, is challenged.  So what does it take to live daily with honesty at the core of how you live your lift?  My take on that question later.

Perhaps an easier question is: Why do people lie?  In a post from Psychology Today, clinical psychologist Dr. Jay Ley shares 6 Reasons People Lie When They Don’t Need To.

  1. The lie does matter … to them.
  2. Telling the truth feels like giving up control.
  3. They don’t want to disappoint you.
  4. Lies snowball. 
  5. It’s not a lie to them.
  6. They want it to be true.

These are six reasons why people lie, but what are the conditions that make people tell the truth?  In my view, honesty not only needs to be a core value of an individual regardless of the context or conditions, but for me, I feel to be honest, a person needs a wonderfully complex blend of humility, love of self (self confidence), and courage.  Then, just like becoming skilled with anything else, relentlessly practice!  Take a look at this short video of a point during a tennis match in the Australian Open.  What do you think makes this person be honest, tell the truth?  Dare I say, humility, love of self, and courage?  Let’s, like this tennis player, make honesty teeming in our environments rather than lonely!

P.S. Enjoy Billy Joel’s song in the below video.

Calm Down for Crying out Loud #BCSLearns

An article that a teacher recently shared with me hit home!  I have often marveled at the manner in which my wife nurtured and supported the social and emotional growth of our two children.  Our children are very different human beings to be sure, but my wife nurtured their social and emotional well-being similarly.  Over the years, I have come to call her strategy “discipline through dialogue.”  She would talk through social experiences with our children and she would share stories with them as a way for them to think to the future about the kind of person they wanted to be.  So, when the article, How Inuit Parents Help Kids Control their Angerwas shared with me, I readily compared my wife’s approach with the Inuit way outlined in this article.  The article comes from a section of NPR called Goats and Soda: Stories of Life in a Changing World and shares that back in the 1960’s, Harvard Graduate student Jean Briggs, after convincing an Inuit family to “adopt” her, “quickly realized something remarkable was going on in these families: The adults had an extraordinary ability to control their anger…Even just showing a smidgen of frustration or irritation was considered weak and childlike.” In her research, Briggs answered these driving questions:

  • How do Inuit parents instill this ability in their children?
  • How do Inuit take tantrum-prone toddlers and turn them into cool-headed adults?

In short, below are the three strategies, Briggs discovered, at the core of the manner by which Inuit families nurture the social and emotional development of their children – the Inuit Way:

  • No scolding, no timeouts
  • Playing soccer with your head

  • Why don’t you hit me?

Read the complete article – it is thought-provoking indeed.  Now, let’s get real!  If you’re parent, chances are you have “lost it” with your child at sometime not invoking the Inuit way.  If you need a little laugh, check out the below video and the four stages through which this mom travels.

  • Stage 1 – Reasoning with your kids
  • Stage 2 – Threatening with all you’ve got
  • Stage 3 – Losing it
  • Stage 4 – Bribing

Nice work, kid!  Kids are smart, and as we attempt to nurture their development as children, they, simultaneously make efforts to nurture our development as parents (not always in the best of ways).  So, we best be careful and stay ahead of their thinking. 😉