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My Hope for our Departing 8th Graders? Continue Creating! #BCSLearns

Dear 8th graders:

The theme for this year’s 8th grade Farewell Celebration for the BCS Class of 2017 was “Forever a Cobra!”  Our vision at BCS is to “inspire students to lead in the global community through a passion for learning, innovating, and inquiry & design.”  To help you “forever” live into that (note the play on our theme “forever a cobra”) and continue to hone and practice your skills, inside and outside the classroom; skills of critical thinking and problem solving, inquire and design, and create.  In short, our ultimate hope for you, in that “forever a cobra” spirit, is to “continue creating, whether items that are tangible or intangible.   To that end, let’s think together about what you “created” in your time at BCS.  What exactly did you create?

  • You “created” great friendships and relationships with others; many of which won’t be forgotten.
  • You “created” projects, works of art and deep learning experiences.
  • You “created” a level of madness among your teachers with fidget spinners, bottle flipping and snap chatting.
  • Many of you shared what you designed and “created” at our first Make Share Faire earlier this month.
  • This Friday, you will have “created” a deep sense of pride in yourself as you finish your 8th grade year.

To be sure, you are moving on from BCS, and, while you will be “forever a cobra”, you will indeed continue to design and create as you move forward into high school…How might you ask?  You will…

  • “create” more great friends and deeper relationships!  Some that may last a lifetime!
  • “create” even greater projects, more phenomenal works of art and profoundly deeper learning experiences to strive toward the best version of yourself!
  • keep a deep focus on “creating” little successes each day, each week, each year for it is these seemingly little creations of success that lead to extraordinary results!
  • “create” the best four years of high school proud of what you’ve experienced and accomplished!

And most importantly thinking about your high school experience and beyond, my sincere hope for each of you is to “create” a successful life…

  • “Create” opportunities to be grateful with a positive attitude as part of your everyday life…
  • “Create” daily actions showcasing your honesty & integrity, respect & kindness, and responsibility & accountability the lifeskills by which you live and the key ingredients within Our Moral Compass
  • “Create” efforts that result in a powerfully positive difference in your life and in the lives of others…
  • “Create” strategies and action plans to make your goals and dreams a reality…
  • “Create” the most amazing life you can imagine…

You are “forever a cobra”, though I hope your life will be “forever successful”!

To sum it up, let me leave you with two definitions of success as my ultimate hope for you in “making” a successful life.  First from American poet, Ralph Waldo Emerson…

To laugh often and much;
To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;
To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others;
To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child,  
a garden patch or a redeemed social condition;
To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded.

And finally, BCS class of 2017, in thinking on the theme of “Forever a Cobra”, here’s to a successful next phase of your life. Let me close with an oft-used quote from the Dalai Lama…

I have found that the greatest degree of inner tranquility comes from the development of love and compassion. The more we care for the happiness of others, the greater is our own sense of well-being. Cultivating a close, warmhearted feeling for others automatically puts the mind at ease. It is the ultimate source of success in life.

Congratulations BCS Class of 2017!

Forever a Cobra!

Live Life, Learn and Laugh this Summer! #BCSLearns

As the title of this post suggests, many teachers will look forward to living some wonderfully relaxing life experiences, learning experiences, and laughing experiences during the summer months.  A few weeks ago I posted about “four well-being workouts” in a post I titled It’s Time to “Get Happy” that might be a great reference for maximizing our well-being this summer.  Review the blog and re-read the article.  Then, and only then, get some chuckles from the brief videos below and feel free to share them broadly!

Summer swag countdown…

What not to do this summer…

Song for Summer…

Most importantly, Teachers, we appreciate you and GIVE YOU A HAND!…

 

What Leads to Innovation? #BCSLearns

In a blog post by Keara Duggan, ‎Senior Director of Design and Implementation at Education Elements, entitled Ten Tips for Creating a Culture of Innovation, she highlights the key ingredients in creating a culture of innovation in our classrooms and schools.  I’ve posted about innovative learning and innovation culture in past posts, and Duggan’s “Ten Tips” definitely caught my attention.  Note them below, particularly the last (top) two.  Make sense they’re the same?

  • Know who you are – Let’s be inspired by our vision and values.
  • Encourage your team to ask questions – Duggan references a NY Times article about the power of simple questions like  “why?” and “what if?” in changing the culture of organizations.
  • Move beyond compliance-driven structures – Duggan contends that “we want to move our staff towards engagement that is based on creativity, relevance, and meaningful relationships.” It needs to be “less about compliance and more about authentic engagement.”
  • Engage in R&D – She suggests developing a cycle of experimentation and experience for research and development as we tinker toward utopia (in the words of a famous book title).
  • Don’t drop everything – “True innovation is about iterating on what already exists” rather than scrapping what’s already there according to Duggan.
  • Support all voices – “Create a school to ensure all voices and ideas can be heard,” implores Duggan, where there is an “inclusive feedback system.”
  • Train your team to think like intrapreneurs –  According to Duggan, if teachers “want to do something new and different, they [don’t] have to take on a new role…[take on a] maker mindset…in beginning [this] ‘intrapreneurship.’”  This is about a growth mindset.
  • Break down silos – “Innovation requires diverse and new perspectives” contends Duggan.  Optimize collaboration among all stakeholders.
  • Be willing to get messy – Fail forward and then…
  • Be willing to get REALLY messy and even fail – “Innovation…requires frequent, fast failures that you learn and grow from.” Check out the Harvard Business Review article Duggan references.

Check out the 10 minute interview with David Kester, Chief Executive, Design Council where he shares how to foster a culture of innovation.  What does he say that aligns with Duggan’s Ten Tips?

It’s Time to “Get Happy” #BCSLearns

Has anyone felt the pace of spring in schools pick up recently?  Anyone working longer hours, planning for two years (this year and next), trying to catch you own children’s end-of-year events? Running out of time?  Sorry for all the rhetorical questions, but, yes, spring in schools is at its peak energy level.  To that end, I thought I’d share an article called Get Happy: Four Well-Being Workouts from the New York Times Education Life section (April 5, 2017).  What are the four personal workouts as described in the article?

  • Identify Signature Strengths – A study by Dr. Martin Seligman, author of Authentic Happiness, concluded that when people identified strengths they demonstrate when they are at their best self and “deploy one of their signature strengths ‘in a new and different way’ every day for one week…people had on average lower rates of depression and higher life satisfaction.”  (See the video below for more of Martin Seligman.)
  • Find the Good – “Before you go to bed each night…write down three things that went really well that day. Next to each event answer the question, ‘Why did this good thing happen?’  Seligman contends that this strategy “turns your attention to the good things in life, so it changes what you attend to.”
  • Make a Gratitude Visit – pay a visit to someone whom you have not properly thank for their efforts.  “It’s common that when people do the gratitude visit both people weep out of joy,” according to Seligman. “It puts you in better touch with other people, with your place in the world.”
  • Respond Constructively – When a person shares good news with you, with what Dr. Shelly Gable, a social psychologist at the UC-Santa Barbara, calls an “active constructive response.”  Rather than a short, quick response like, “Oh, that’s nice” or not much of a response at all, stay present in the conversation and encourage them to talk more about it with some probing questions or even “encouraging them to tell others or suggest a celebratory activity.”

Check out the 6 minute video below on YouTube with Seligman sharing his view of “Happiness and well-being and how to achieve them.”

It’s No Longer the Three R’s #BCSLearns

As we get closer to finishing another year strong and think to our summer R&R which inevitably includes our teachers thinking enthusiastically about next school year, I thought I would share an article that’s an “oldie but goodie”, The Seven R’s of a Quality Curriculum by Ron Ritchhart.   More recently, Ritchharts work around Creating Cultures of Thinking, The 8 Cultural Forces that Define our Classroomand Making Thinking Visible has supported us in implementing high-quality learning experiences in our classrooms.  This article helps us quickly think deeply about what to be sure to include in our learning experience for our students.  Here’s a quick summary of Ritcharts “Seven R’s“:

  • Rigorous – Ritchhart suggests, “Rather than think of [rigor as] difficulty, I think in terms of affordances. A rigorous curriculum embodies and affords students opportunities to develop a deeper understanding and not just show what they already know.”
  • Real – As it relates to the performance task, Ritchhart encourages us to “engage students in authentic [inter]disciplinary activities so that students’ classroom activities mirror the real work of adults in the field.”
  • Requires Independence – Ritchhart references “Educational theorist Jerome Bruner [who] defines understanding as the ability to use and apply one’s skills in novel situations to solve problems, make decisions, and advance new understandings.”
  • Rich in Thinking – “Students must make connections, observe closely, ask questions, form conjectures, identify points of view, consider alternatives, evaluate outcomes, make evidence-based judgments, and so on.” Ritchhart explains.
  • Revealing – This is about formative assessment and Ritchhart contends that, “This is the holy grail of ongoing assessment, which is not a separate piece of the enacted curriculum but part and parcel of it.”
  • Rewarding – In classrooms where deep learning is occurring, “There is a sense of purpose to the work [students] are doing…Students can articulate what they are learning and why…” suggests Ritchhart, “The written curriculum seldom addresses the issue of intrinsic rewards, but the enacted curriculum must if it is to engage students in building [deep] understanding.
  • Reflective – In his final “R”, Richhart makes the case that “Reflection on one’s learning—not one’s feelings about an activity or experience but on the actual learning itself—helps to anchor understanding and facilitates connection making [for the learner].”  This is the power of metacognition!

Want more? Check out the video below where Ron Ritchhart defines Cultures of Thinking and reflect on how Cultures of Thinking relate to the Seven R’s.

 

Soft Skills Aren’t So Hard, But They’re Critical #BCSLearns

I have referenced Daniel Goleman and his important work with emotional intelligence in a past post titled How Important is EQ? including the four domains of his model.  I recently came across a website called More than Sound on which Goleman and his team share resources and summaries of their research.  I found the section from the website called Emotional and Social Intelligence Leadership Competencies: An Overview” from last April, a great summary of his work. He shares that there are four parts, or domains, to his Emotional and Social Intelligence Model: Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Social Awareness, and Relationship Management.  Within each domain, are what Goleman calls “learned competencies” and below they are listed and described quoted directly from the article.

Self-Awareness

  • Emotional Self-Awareness: The ability to understand our own emotions and their effects on our performance.

Self-Management

  • Emotional Self-Control: The ability to keep disruptive emotions and impulses in check and maintain our effectiveness under stressful or hostile conditions.
  • Achievement Orientation: Striving to meet or exceed a standard of excellence; looking for ways to do things better, set challenging goals and take calculated risks.
  • Positive Outlook: The ability to see the positive in people, situations, and events and persistence in pursuing goals despite obstacles and setbacks.
  • Adaptability: Flexibility in handling change, juggling multiple demands, and adapting our ideas or approaches.

Social Awareness

  • Empathy: The ability to sense others’ feelings and perspectives, taking an active interest in their concerns and picking up cues about what others feel and think.
  • Organizational Awareness: The ability to read a group’s emotional currents and power relationships, identifying influencers, networks, and organizational dynamics.

 Relationship Management

  • Influence: The ability to have a positive impact on others, persuading or convincing others in order to gain their support.
  • Coach and Mentor: The ability to foster the long-term learning or development of others by giving feedback, guidance, and support.
  • Conflict Management: The ability to help others through emotional or tense situations, tactfully bringing disagreements into the open and finding solutions all can endorse.
  • Inspirational Leadership: The ability to inspire and guide individuals and groups towards a meaningful vision of excellence, and to bring out the best in others.
  • Teamwork: The ability to work with others towards a shared goal; participating actively, sharing responsibility and rewards, and contributing to the capability of the team.

Check out the image below for the framework of the model and take the video below of a clip for the movie Patch Adams.  How would you assess Patch’s emotional intelligence?  His self-awareness? His self-management? His social awareness? His relationship management?  Have a look with Goleman’s domains in mind, as well as these two quotes:

  • “Death is not the enemy gentlemen. If we’re going to fight a disease, let’s fight one of the most terrible diseases of all, indifference.”
  • “You treat a disease, you win, you lose. You treat a person, I guarantee you, you’ll win, no matter what the outcome.”

What other quotes from the clip resonate with you about emotional intelligence?

 

If you didn’t last year, be sure to view the videos (one of Goleman and another from Seinfeld) on emotional intelligence from my February 21, 2016 post.

Keeping with the Theme of Culture #BCSLearns

How does Asana, a workplace-productivity management company founded by former Facebookers and Googlers, create a culture of shorter hours, intense collaboration, and lots of time for reflection?  In the article from Fast Company, How Asana Built the Best Company Culture in Tech, Taylor Lorenz explains how: “The company is built on the idea that mindfulness, clear communication, and compassion are all critical to long-term success. Asana has become known for its radically inclusive, positive work environment.” 

Core Values of Asana include:

  • healthy work-life balance
  • inclusiveness
  • embracing mindfulness and equanimity
  • taking responsibility and
  • always communicating openly and honestly

How did the build this culture and how do they sustain it?  It’s simple, “We decided to treat culture as a product,” states co-founder Justin Rosenstein.  In effect, he and his partner, Dustin Moskovitz, take the approach that I also firmly believe is flawed thinking –  the belief that culture is something that will just happen and take care of itself based on the good people we hire.  At Asana, culture is “carefully designed, tested, debugged, and iterated on, like any other product they released.”  Culture is indeed something that needs to be nurtured.

Key questions to elicit feedback:

  1. What’s working well?
  2. What isn’t working well?

Do you think BCS could offer some of those Asana “top-notch perks”?

  • Free meals and snacks
  • its own in-house cook
  • new employees are given $10,000 to set up their own customized workspace
  • a row of treadmill desks
  • a game area
  • squishy chairs to relax in
  • in-house yoga sessions
  • access to a life coach.

Oh, well.  Maybe not most of these, but we certainly can attend to many of the other strategies that promote a positive culture.

The article end with Rosenstein’s poignant quote, “Companies that are succeeding with a more mercenary model are succeeding in spite of it, not because of it.”

Yes, indeed! Let me be reminded of my leadership values:

  • Advocate on behalf of our students
  • Have an orientation toward continuous improvement
  • Be of service to others

All while maintaining, what Jim Collins describes in his book Good to Great, a paradoxical blend of professional will and personal humility.

Below is a video of Dustin Moskovitz speaking about…

  • transparency
  • accountability
  • reflection, learning mindfulness
  • leverage your talent

…Or the video below that where he’s interviewed about his notion to “Work less to be more productive”