Author Archives: mm31bps

About mm31bps

Principal, Birmingham (MI) Covington School. Husband to amazing wife and father to two beautiful children.

What Will You Give this Holiday Season? #BCSLearns

Many of us this holiday season have been thinking about that perfect gift to give each of our loved ones.  Most often, our gift-giving mind goes to a material item such as jewelry, technology, clothing, games, toys, etc.  But what if we though about these 10 Gifts That Don’t Cost a Thing that finance journalist Deborah Jacobs contributed to Forbes Magazine:

  1. Say “thank you”
  2. Give out compliments
  3. Celebrate successes
  4. Share information
  5. Offer recommendations
  6. Show you care
  7. Be respectful
  8. Smile
  9. Make people laugh
  10. Pay attention

These gifts cost nothing and their impact can last a lifetime.  That said, if you do happen to select that perfect material gift, it has the potential to last a lifetime and be forever impactful.  If you don’t believe it, take a look at this video about a boy who was gifted a piano at a very young age.  “The Power of a Gift.”  Recognize him?


Release Human Potential: Miracles Can Happen #BCSLearns

Sean Covey’s keynote address at this week’s MEMSPA conference opened with a reference to his father, Stephen, sharing that when his father decided he wanted to become a teacher rather than going into the family business, he told his father, “I want to release human potential.”  Sean is working to continue his father’s legacy and this purpose in his work today.  To get specific toward this purpose of releasing human potential (or organizational potential) he outlined to us these 4 Disciplines of Execution.

Image result for 4 disciplines of execution

The 4 Disciplines of Execution

  • Focus on the Wildly Important
    • Good is the enemy of great
    • “There will always be more good ideas that there is capacity to execute.”  We sometimes have to say no to good ideas.
  • Act on the Lead Measures
    • Have a disproportionate focus on the key outcomes
    • If everything is a priority, then nothing is a priority
  • Keep a Compelling Scoreboard
    • People play differently when they are keeping score.  There is something compelling about a public scoreboard.
  • Create a Cadence of Accountability
    • Make sure you have an “accountabili-buddy” or an accountability buddy
    • Cheering Works and the proof is in the short “Cheering Works” video below…

Covey closes referencing Roland Barth’s famous quote, “culture eats strategies for breakfast.”  Check out the summary video below of the 4 Disciplines of Execution, and, most importantly in the paradigm of change, Covey wants us to remember that “All change starts with me…and believe every child is a genius.”

Sean Covey’s co-author of  The 4 Disciplines of Execution, Chris McChesney, presents a 6-minute summary of the concepts in his book in the below video.

Something to Get Emotional About #BCSLearns

As educators at BCS with a commitment to inquiry and discovery based learning, we understand the importance of hands-on learning and having students inquire, design, create and iterate.  But, how important is this notion?  In the article The Brain Science of Making written for School Library Journal by educational consultant and author Conn McQuinn who outlines how and why “neuroscience gives us some pretty good reasons for supporting these efforts, and can help guide us as we provide these exciting opportunities for our students.” He denotes the following Brain Facts to prove this point:

  • Brain Fact #1: Your brain thinks your hands are the most important part of your body.
  • Brain Fact #2: Learning is a physical change in the brain that is enhanced by practice and repetition.
  • Brain Fact #3: Children involved in unstructured play, experimentation, and tinkering are practicing executive function skills.
  • Brain Fact #4: It is literally neurologically impossible to learn deeply about something you don’t care about according to Dr. Mary Helen Immordino-Yang
  • Brain Fact #5: Stress and fear impede learning

These are the brain facts he lists in his article, and, while the words he writes are compelling, the images he includes provide a visual enhancing his arguments and the importance of creating and “making.”  He summarized the research by suggesting that “making and makerspaces are popular for very good reasons. They align powerfully with what neuroscience tells us about how the brain works! In summary:

  • Making reflects the neurological primacy of our hands
  • Making provides opportunities for students to develop executive function abilities, such as self-direction, decision making, focus, planning, and reflection
  • Making provides opportunities to for deeper learning through focused, extended work and tapping into intrinsic interests and curiosity
  • Making provides opportunities for developing growth mindset and persistence in an environment of design, test, feedback, and revision”

Want more? In the YouTube video below, the cognitive neuroscientist and educational psychologist Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, quoted and linked above, “who studies the brain bases of emotion, social interaction and culture” gives an overview of her research and its implication on our teaching in the following 5-minute video

Let’s Be Irreplaceable #BCSLearns

An article from Forbes by contributing editor Nina Angelovska, an e-commerce CEO, was shared with me by a mentor of mine that provided me with a great deal of self-reflection.  The article, These 15 Behaviors Will Make You Almost Irreplaceable At Your Workplace, provoked the question for me, based on the noted behaviors, am I irreplaceable?  Which of these behaviors do I consistently demonstrate?  Which do I fall short on or could I model more frequently?  Additionally, this list had me thinking about Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and how each of the 15 behaviors can be attached to one of Covey’s Habits.

After each of the behaviors noted in Angelovska’s list (see below), I share my thinking of where the behavior lives in Covey’s Habits.  These people who are “almost irreplaceable,” according to Angelovska…

  1. do more than asked (Covey’s Habit 4: Think Win-Win)
  2. have exceptional communication skills (Covey’s Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then To Be Understood)
  3. are one-step ahead (Covey’s Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind)
  4. are good listeners and observers (Covey’s Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then To Be Understood)
  5. are trustworthy, accountable and reliable (Covey’s Habit 4: Think Win-Win)
  6. initiate (Covey’s Habit 1: Be Proactive)
  7. fill the room with good energy (Covey’s Habit 4: Think Win-Win)
  8. are adaptable (Covey’s Habit 6: Synergize)
  9. are problem solvers, not complainers (Covey’s Habit 6: Synergize)
  10. are self-motivated and can motivate others (Covey’s Habit 1: Be Proactive)
  11. don’t need to be micromanaged (Covey’s Habit 3: Put First Things First)
  12. embrace new challenges (Covey’s Habit 4: Think Win-Win)
  13. are fast learners and fast thinkers (Covey’s Habit 1: Be Proactive)
  14. love their job (Covey’s Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw)
  15. are well organized and efficient (Covey’s Habit 3: Put First Things First)

Feel free to view one or both of videos below both giving an overview of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.  Each one is about 7 minutes.  The first overview is presented by the founder himself, Stephen Covey, and the second, is an animated review of the 7 Habits.  Have a look and listen!  

This Thanksgiving, What’s on your List? #BCSLearns

May the upcoming Thanksgiving recess allow you time to find those people most important in your life for whom to share your gratitude.  Share with those around you this week for what you are grateful!  Personally, I am grateful to be a part of this incredible BCS community who is engaged so intently in supporting the growth and development of the students we serve – cognitively, socially, emotionally and physically.  We have great teachers and staff, great parents and guardians, and great students.  We are not a perfect school community (none are), though we work together every day to become a little more perfect than the day before.  Here’s the start of the list of reasons I am grateful…

  1. our teachers
  2. our staff
  3. our parents
  4. our students
  5. our community’s efforts together partnering toward continuous improvement
  6. education and learning
  7. servant leadership
  8. an amazing world
  9. positivity
  10. humility
  11. creativity
  12. solution-finding
  13. smiling
  14. laughter
  15. hugs
  16. warm blankets
  17. crackling fires
  18. the four seasons
  19. a wonderfully unique world
  20. human relationships
  21. an extended family support network
  22. my brother and sister
  23. my mom and dad
  24. my daughter and son
  25. my spouse

So, the above list, is the 25 things for which I am grateful.  How about Kid President’s list?  Have you heard of him? According to Kid President, “Life can be tough. It’s important to always take time to remember the things that make life awesome. This is just the start of a list. It’s only 25 things. Obviously, there are more! What else would you add? Let us know!”  Check out Kid President’s 25 Reasons to be Thankful! Then, view his video, which will put a smile on your face – smiling my reason #13.

  1. Bubble wrap
  2. Cat tongues
  3. Paw Pads
  4. Music
  5. Singing
  6. Old people who still hold hands
  7. Clouds that look like stuff
  8. Imagination
  9. Pants
  10. Fresh Prince of Bellaire
  11. Sleep
  12. Clothes with funny names
  13. Birthday cake
  14. “No Reason at All” cake
  15. Just cake
  16. Forgiveness
  17.  Plants
  18. Morgan Freeman’s voice
  19. Food
  20. Tacos
  21. Food (he knows he said this already – “my list, my rules”)
  22. Happiness
  23. Sadness – “Sadness isn’t bad. It helps you know what you care about.”
  24. People
  25. Being alive

Now make your list and share it. May your Thanksgiving be filled with gratitude you receive, and, more importantly, gratitude you share with others!

These Skills Are Hardly Soft #BCSLearns

In his article These Are the Skills That Your Kids Will Need for the Future (Hint: It’s Not Coding)Greg Satell, author, speaker, and innovation adviser, outlines four critical skills that our students will need in the future – think “soft skills” not “hard skills” like coding as his title suggests.

  • Understanding systems – As the world becomes more and more complex, understanding the big picture and how different aspects of the world connect and are aligned become increasing more critical.  In fact, deliberately and explicitly figuring out how to align things that may initially seem disconnected becomes an essential skill.
  • Apply empathy and design skills – although automation and robotic development are increasing and in many cases replacing the human element, there are human emotion (empathy and understanding others / the end user) and creativity that arguably cannot be replaced.  As Satell writes in his article, the “absence of empathy makes it hard for machines to design products and processes that will maximize enjoyment and utility for humans. So design skills are likely to be in high demand for decades to come as basic production and analytical processes are increasingly automated.”  We can begin by employing the Design Thinking process in our creative and effective approach to solution-finding – innovation for all.
  • The ability to communicate complex ideas – this fits right with our Communicate Like a Cobra oral and written communication goal and rubric at BCS where students artfully make claims, share evidence, reasoning, counterclaims, and synthesize their thinking to communicate their ideas.  Satell shares that “the ability to communicate ideas effectively is becoming a highly prized skill…Amazon…Though it is one of the most innovative and technically proficient organizations on the planet…is so fanatical about the ability to communicate that developing good writing skills are a key factor to building a successful career there.” And to do this, “learning technical subjects like math and science is always a good idea, studying things like literature, history, and philosophy is just as important.”  It’s not just about the STEM subjects.
  • Collaborating and working in teams – no other details needed her as this is one of the hallmarks to the the founding principles of BCS.  And, we teach collaboration through our Engage Teamwork Rubric.

Andy Wible TED Talk: “Soft skills are thought to be unmeasurable, unteachable, and unimportant. This presentation will challenge each of these assumptions. From the Ancient Greeks to today’s leaders, the evidence is clear that these skills are not so soft after all. They are essential to living a good life, creating a good community, and having meaningful employment.”

Are These Your Habits? #BCSLearns

We all have a deep desire to demonstrate those habits that make us the most effective educator, and much has been written on the topic of what makes a highly capable teacher.  In an Edutopia blog, academic director, teacher and workshop leader, Carrie Lam, shared her 11 Habits of an Effective Teacher.  Which of these habits do you “habitually” harness?  I list Lam’s habits and then posed questions that her 11 habits provoked in me.

  1. Enjoys Teaching – Do you love what you do?  Perhaps more importantly, do you love your students – all of the?
  2. Makes a Difference – Do you make a difference in the lives of the students you serve?  Perhaps more importantly, do you help your students make a difference in the lives of others through your curriculum and learning experiences?
  3. Spreads Positivity – Do people enjoy being around you because of your positive energy?  Perhaps as important, do you presume positive intent with those around you, adults and students alike?
  4. Gets Personal – Do you spend significant time getting to know your students as human beings, not just students? Their interests both in AND outside of school?
  5. Gives 100% – And with a growth mindset that we can be even better tomorrow? As Jim Collins would ask based on his book Good to Great because “good is the enemy of great”:  Do you have the professional will?  Getting to great requires “a paradoxical blend of professional will and personal humility.”
  6. Stays Organized – As Stephen Covey might say in planning ahead:  Do you begin each day, week, unit, year with the end in mind?  Also, important, are you sure to keep the piles (digital and paper) to a small stack?
  7. Is Open-Minded – As Jim Collins would ask based on his book Good to Great because “good is the enemy of great”:  Do you have the personal humility?  Getting to great requires “a paradoxical blend of professional will and personal humility.”
  8. Has Standards – Do you model an ethical way of being?  Do you model living into the BCS Moral Compass daily?
  9. Finds Inspiration – Are you relentless in discovering inspiration from as many sources as you can, people, products or print?
  10. Embraces Change – Do you make sure you gain energy from change rather than paralysis?
  11. Creates Reflection – Do you take time daily to reflect on your craft?  Perhaps as important, do you have your students take time for metacognitive moments – to reflect on their learning?

Have a look at the two videos I include below.  The first is where former high profile CEO, Pierre Pirard, shares his experiences upon his career change as a teacher in Brussels’ most disadvantaged neighborhoods.  Look at what he discovers – “The 5 Principles of Highly Effective Teachers.”  The second video is a brief summary of The 7 habits of Highly Effective Teachers applied from Stephen Covey’s book to the educational and personal arenas.