Get Smarter by Seeking Difference #BCSLearns

In today’s world, some may say we’re more polarized than ever finding camps of commonalities and comfort within which to exist as individuals and communities.  I would like to challenge that notion as there are wonderful pockets of inclusive, integrated and socially diverse communities particularly found in two places in the United States:  our public schools and our most successful companies.  In the article How Diversity Makes Us Smart, Columbia Business School professor Katherine W. Phillips confirms that the scientific research on the importance of this level of social diversity is clearly evident.  She readily admits that “diversity of expertise confers benefits that are obvious – you would not think of building a new car without engineers, designers and quality-control experts.”  In this article she makes the case for social diversity by answering the question, “What good comes from diversity of race, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation?” In short, Phillips shares research proving that “being around people who are different from us makes us more creative, more diligent and harder-working.”  What better place than a public school is there to enjoy this level of social diversity and nurture our creativity and effort?  In the article, Phillips details three key aspects of social diversity:

  1. Socially diverse groups are more innovative than homogeneous groups.
  2. A group of people with diverse individual expertise is more effective than a homogeneous group at solving complex, nonroutine problems.
  3. This is not only because people with different backgrounds bring new information. Simply interacting with individuals who are different forces group members to prepare better, to anticipate alternative viewpoints and to expect that reaching consensus will take effort.

That said, in explicitly building our teams to maximize this social diversity, Juliet Bourke, leader of the Australian Diversity and Inclusion practice, explains that we need to avoid the “Noah’s Ark” response to building diverse teams.  Let’s not put our faith in luck simply shuffling people into our teams two by two!  Bourke shares her experience, research and lessons in the area of diversity and inclusion to answer the key question within her book title, Which two heads are better than one? How diverse teams create breakthrough ideas and make smarter decisions. Note the three lessons below and have a look at her 13-minute talk that further highlights these lessons.

  1. Diverse groups make better decisions.
  2. There are six mindsets and behaviors exhibited by inclusive leaders (commitment, courage, cognizance, curiosity, cultural intelligence and collaboration).
  3. Vulnerability begets vulnerability.

Here’s to each of us getting smarter within our socially diverse settings and building upon them to maximize the social diversity!

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Walk the Path of Empathy by Thinking Us, not Them #BCSLearns

With April upon us, we focus at BCS on our next habit of empathy, Think Us, Not Them, from Michelle Borba’s book Unselfie: Why Empathetic Kids Success in Our All-About-Me World.  In a Your Teen magazine interview, Borba shares, “The bottom line is empathy is lying dormant. Empathy can be cultivated, but we aren’t doing that intentionally enough as parents. Our definition of success has become IQ, grades, and SATs, with less focus on kindness. What we are doing is raising our kids to stay in the ‘me’ stage, and we need to start helping them think ‘we’ not ‘me.’” To do this, she suggests, we have to redirect kids away from all the negative media and Start showing them the good part of the world. They need to hear elevating experiences, like kids on the back page of a newspaper who are making a difference.”  We need to expose the world of kindness more broadly, intentially and intensely to our kids.

In an article from Medium entitled Think Us, not Them: A Useful Belief for First Time Managers, Narayan Kamath, this us vs. them mentality often times in naturally-formed in organizations.  Human beings naturally categorize, group, compare and separate.    Kamath writes, “Group identity is an innate part of being human and is indeed at the very foundation of people coming together as families, communities, societies and even nations. This shared sense of belonging is what makes organisations feasible and successful. However, group identity operates at several levels, and in organisations this can lead to several dysfunctional behaviours.”  These dysfunctions that move us away from thinking us, not them and my take on them include:

  • Blaming management – Other groups naturally will blame the management for the problems.  In a teacher’s case, students will blame the teacher for their problem be it a poor grade or missing work.  As leaders and teachers, we must ask for feedback and suggestions to those we serve so that we create an “us” mentality, we are in this together.  
  • Blaming other groups – like blaming management, naturally one group will blame another for the problems they are facing be it on an adult team or with a classroom. As leaders and teachers, we need to help students see their value as part of the community and empower them to be part of the solution influencing positive change.
  • Withholding information and resources – this creates a competitive culture rather than a collaborative one.  At BCS we ought to be enormously proud of the collaborative culture we have created where adults and students share information and resources for self improvement, team improvement and school improvement.

For Kamath, Think Us, Not Them is about “genuine collaboration across the organisation.” As one of our BCS belief statements reads, “people learn best in an atmosphere of curiosity, high expectations, collaboration and diversity.”  BCS is a great Place to Be!  

Finally, if you need more evidence on the importance of collaboration and thinking us , not them, check out the below video and remember these fiveLessons from Geese.” Check out how geese think us, not them / we, not me!

  • Lesson 1 – The Importance of Achieving Goals
    • As each goose flaps its wings it creates an UPLIFT for the birds that follow. By flying in a ‘V’ formation the whole flock adds 71 percent extra to the flying range. 
    • Outcome:  When we have a sense of community and focus, we create trust and can help each other to achieve our goals. 
  • Lesson 2 – The Importance of Team Work 
    • When a goose falls out of formation it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of flying alone. It quickly moves back to take advantage of the lifting power of the birds in front.
    • Outcome:  If we had as much sense as geese we would stay in formation with those headed where we want to go. We are willing to accept their help and give our help to others. 
  • Lesson 3 – The Importance of Sharing
    • When a goose tires of flying up front it drops back into formation and another goose flies to the point position. 
    • Outcome:  It pays to take turns doing the hard tasks. We should respect and protect each other’s unique arrangement of skills, capabilities, talents and resources. 
  • Lesson 4 – The Importance of Empathy and Understanding 
    • When a goose gets sick, two geese drop out of formation and follow it down to the ground to help and protect it. 
    • Outcome:  If we have as much sense as geese we will stand by each other in difficult times, as well as when we are strong. 
  • Lesson 5 – The Importance of Encouragement
    • Geese flying in formation ‘HONK’ to encourage those up front to keep up with their speed.
    • Outcome:  We need to make sure our honking is encouraging. In groups and teams where there is encouragement, production is much greater. ‘Individual empowerment results from quality honking’

Others-Focused Leadership #BCSLearns

An article in Edutopia by Robert Ward called Exploring the Benefit Mindset references the work of benefit mindset theorist Ash Buchanan.  According to Buchanan, the benefit mindset “describes societies everyday leaders who promote well-being on both an individual and a collective level. It builds on Carol Dweck’s pioneering research on how beliefs can profoundly shape the lives we lead and the actions we take.” 

Mindset has been a popular trend in education, business and leadership since Dweck’s research spurred its interest in her 2006 book.  Previous posts of mine include Empower a Positive Mindset and Growth Mindset – Fixin’ to See Its Implication for Adults & Kids Alike.  In this article from Edutopia, Ward details four ways educators can help nurture the benefits mindset in the students they serve shifting them from a “me” mindset to a “we” mindset.

  • Encouraging Inclusion – students include others, “no student eats alone”
  • Providing Peer Supports – this concept works perfectly with our BCS multiage looping approach where students become buddies or mentors for each other.
  • Empowering Change Makers: Students Acting Locally – service learning is an important component of our students’ learning experiences from raising salmon, to gardening (hydroponic and otherwise), to honeybees, to green efforts, to diversity and honoring individuality.  The list goes on, but supporting student learning that benefits others matters!
  • Emphasizing the Positive: Everyday Heroes Report – for this, Ward suggests students highlight “noble deeds” they observe around schools.  They could even write it up and report it out.

This benefit mindset is important to me and the core values I aspire to live into as a leader.  In my office posted on the wall behind me hangs these key leadership values:

  • Advocate on behalf of our students
  • Have an orientation toward continuous improvement
  • Being of service to other

The last one, being of service to others, for me, captures the essence of the benefit mindset.  This does not mean simply providing service; rather, at its core, service to others is about being others focused supporting others’ well-being on both an individual and collective level as is described by Buchanan’s work.  The short video below defined the three types of mindsets and why each of us should aspire to be an “everyday learner” and an “everyday leader.”  The video describes the fixed mindset as an “everyday expert,” the growth mindset as the “everyday learner,” and the benefit mindset as the “everyday leader”.  Check out the video!

The article in Edutopia closes by reminding us educators that “Acting with a benefit mindset is not something students put on one Saturday a month for two hours as a grudging act of service—it is a way of being, a way of well-being, that yields powerful results inside and outside of the classroom.”  Powerful results, in my mind, that nurture greater empathetic habits and a more profound service-mentality in each and every one of us.

These Trends Look Familiar? #BCSLearns

Following are the Most Popular Trends in Education from TeachThought. In reviewing these, I marveled at how many of these trends speak to and are deeply aligned with our BCS Vision, Mission, Values and Beliefs and how we approach learning at BCS.  In fact, noted after each, is a previous post referenced from my blog.  Which trends most resonate with you at a member of the BCS community?

  1. Growth Mindset (Growth Mindset – Fixin’ to See Its Implication for Adults & Kids Alike)
  2. Maker Learning (Can Our Students Change the World from Our Classrooms?)
  3. Bloom’s Taxonomy (Questioning: Powerful for Inquiry, Discovery & Curiosity-for learning!)
  4. Digital Citizenship/Literacy (Are You Future Proof?)
  5. Personalized Learning (Individualization, Differentiation & Personalized Learning – A comparison)
  6. Project-Based Learning (see links for #2)
  7. Team-Building for Learning (Give These Collaborative Team Roles a Try!)
  8. Blended Learning (Personalized Learning vs. Personal Learning)
  9. Genius Hour (see links for #5 and #8)
  10. Teaching Empathy (Now More than Ever! At BCS We Value Each Other through Empathy)
  11. Pushing Back on Education Technology (Is Your Technology Integration Rigorous and Relevant Enough?)
  12. Social/Emotional Learning (How You Feeling?)
  13. Alternatives to Traditional ‘School’ (see links for #2, #5, #6, #8 and #9)
  14. Robotics/Coding (The Hour of Code is coming)
  15. Alternatives to Letter Grades (Grading – How to Make it Less of a Herculean Effort)
  16. Brain-Based Learning (Empathy Equals?)
  17. Gamification (Can Gamers Make the World a Better Place?)
  18. Adaptive Learning Algorithms (see link for #5)
  19. Game-Based Learning (“Can Schools Have a Spirit of Entertainment & Play as Part of Their Learning?”)
  20. Mobile Learning (see link for #11)

I also came across this video of the “Top 20 Trends in 2017” where futurist and keynote speaker Jeremy Gutsche shares future trends for the year ahead in this 6-minutes.  Have a look at these business-related trends.  In thinking about them, maybe we ought to integrate more cuisine, travel, and wellness into our curriculum. 🙂

The Top 20 Trends are noted below the video for your review as well.
Which ones could be implemented in a school?

  1. Retail Kinship
  2. Big Data Concierge
  3. Quantified Self-Care
  4. Culinary Laboratory
  5. Extreme Wellness
  6. Prosumer Tourism
  7. Boomer Peer-to-Peer
  8. Detoxifying Libation
  9. Preferential Pop-up
  10. Condensed Broadcast
  11. Designer Customization
  12. Suspended Adulthood
  13. Shoppable Media
  14. Instagrammable Fitness
  15. Branded Education
  16. Sponsorship Gaming
  17. Communal Living
  18. Artisanal Education
  19. Analog Divergence
  20. Embedded Virtual Reality

Practice Kindness Relentlessly #BCSLearns

This year at BCS we have focused on our theme were lean in and lead with EMPATHY always embracing our BCS Moral Compass.  Each month we have embraced a different habit of empathy, and with March roaring in like a lion, we embrace another habit of empathy – the notion that empathetic people practice kindness.  In her book Unselfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World, author Michelle Borba proves from her research that “developing and exercising kindness and prosocial behaviors increases children’s concern about the welfare and feelings of others and enhances the likelihood that they will step in to help, support or comfort others.”  Borba purposefully names the habit as “practicing” kindness due to the fact that we, adults and children need to constantly work on this habit and “practice” our kindness.  Kindness is a habit and therefore can be strengthened like a muscle.  In fact, let’s view kindness, not as a noun, but as a verb.  It is an action, something we do and something upon which we act.  Additionally, let’s be sure we not only specifically praise our children and our students about their academics, but also for their acts of kindness as human beings.  Kindness is the way to Be!  As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. so eloquently states, “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.” 

At the end of this post, I include a video called “27 Easy Ways To Practice Kindness” from Mind Movies.  As the video states,  “If we all choose to see the abundance that surrounds us and we all put a little bit of effort into making the world a better place, we could actually live much happier lives and be surrounded by much friendlier people. The good news is that kindness is an attribute that can be learned, and by practicing it [relentlessly] you’ll not only be improving your own life, but you’ll also be making a contribution to your community and to the world around you.”  Convincing enough! Let’s take care of each other and relentlessly practice kindness.  Take look at these 27 ways to practice kindness and give them a try.  Above all else, keep that POSITIVE ATTITUDE and spread it near and far!

Let’s Choose Curation! #BCSLearns

In a post on her blog, Cult of Pedagogy, Jennifer Gonzalez, a profess and teacher of teachers, contributed a thought-provoking post called, Are you a Curator or a Dumper?  Her distinction between these two nouns is spot on!  Gonzalez writes that “Our brains learn by grouping lots of pieces of information into groups and patterns—cognitive scientists call these patterns schemas—and connecting it to knowledge we already have in long-term memory.”  Thus, dumping is overwhelming for learning, if not dangerous to the brain.  As I read her post, the idea of a landfill came to mind when I thought of this concept of dumping.  It just piles up more and more in no particular order and with no particular purpose.  With curating, on the other hand, the concept of museums come to mind, and Gonzalez shares that “Curators take piles and piles of artifacts and selects only a few to represent an idea, a moment, an event, or a phenomenon…[They are] given time and space to savor each artifact one at a time.  In the field of technology, this is called “experience design” or UX.  “UX designers spend all of their time looking at how to improve the way users interact with websites and other digital products.”  As we think about this notion of curation, what instructional approaches do we see at BCS where curation occurs? Gonzalez points to these approaches where schools curate:

  • Student-Directed Learning: differentiated, flipped, blended, and student-directed learning models
  • Classroom or school libraries: building a thriving classroom library
  • Communication with Parents: apply some basic curation and design principles to this communication. Why No One Reads Your Classroom Newsletter.
  • School or Teacher Websites: Gonzalez shares sites that make her want to click around, learn more. They make her excited about the learning that is happening in these schools. And it all comes down to the design, the thoughtful way the content is organized with the user experience in mind.
  • Sharing Research: Take the time to narrow your focus to just a few items, then share them in a way that’s appealing will make it more likely that people will actually consume the stuff you’re sharing.

Be it, pedagogy, material selection and organization, communication, or collaborating and researching, it goes without saying, that schools are constantly curating.  But, to what level of expertise?  According to Gonzalez, the following guidelines are critical to keep in mind as we curate with each other or engage our students or parents in curating:

  1. Keep the Best, Lose the Rest
  2. Chunk It
  3. Add Your Own Introductions
  4. Use Images as Anchors
  5. Polish your Hyperlinks
  6. Always, Always Build in White Space

How? Check out all the curation tools she lists at the end of the post.

To finish off this post, take a look at Innovate – curation! a TedTalk by Steve Rosenbaum, author of Curation Nation, who contends that “curation is the new magic that makes the web work…fixing the signal to noise problem, and making the world contextual and coherent again.”

Want to Innovate? Check your Mindset #BCSLearns

In a February 7, 2018 article in Fast Company, The Breakthrough Mindset: 5 Keys For Exponential Innovation to Solve Global Problems, John Elkington and Richard Johnson (colleagues at Volans a company that helps “leaders move from incremental to systemic solutions”) share five keys to “how big business can solve the world’s largest, most mind-numbing problems.”  The word innovator and innovation is oft-invoked term in global business and education today having posted about it in the past most notably in this December 6, 2015 post Moving from Pockets of Innovation to an Innovation Culture.  In their 5-minute read, Elkington and Johnson share their five keys to innovative problem solving after which I share my take on each:

  1. Re-perceive challenges as opportunities – to me this sounds a lot like Stephen Covey’s notion of reframing where he “uses the concept of a paradigm to explain how the way we see a situation and how we interpret its meaning, determines our possible choices of response.”  A mantra in which I work tirelessly to live, is presuming positive intent.  An approach closely aligned to this idea of re-perceiving or reframing.
  2. 10X your ambitions – see number 4.  How can we “forgo preconceived notions of how a problem should be solved” if we do not invite others to join in?
  3. Love the problem, not the solution – this has everything to to with Simon Sinek’s persuasive argument that we Start with Why.  Check out his book or the summary he give in this 18-minute presentation.
  4. Invite others to join in – meaning, at all costs, collaborate and bring divergent perspectives to the table
  5. Embrace uncertainty – the superintendent that hired me for my very first principalship, prior to recommending me for the position, share some poignant words with me back in 2000, “Be comfortable with ambiguity.”  How right Dr. Maxfield was.  Uncertainly is where dialogue, collaboration, innovation, creativity and problem solving rest.

Check out this 8-minute video that highlights how “Project Breakthrough is working with business to solve some of the world’s largest challenges.  [They have] spoken to leading innovators, and they all agree: it starts with a new mindset.”

In the video, The Single Biggest Reason Why Startups Succeed, Bill Gross shares how he gathered data from hundreds of companies and ranked each company on five key factors.  Though, he found one factor, surprisingly, that matters most.  These key factors are:

  1. Business model
  2. Funding
  3. Idea “truth” outlier
  4. Team/Execution
  5. Timing

Which one do you think matters most?  Check out Gross’s video below…