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…

Nurturing this Empathetic Habit – Take it from a Navy Seal #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 February upon us and a new habit, we embrace the the notion that empathetic people can keep their cool.  Helping children and ourselves learn ways to manage strong emotions, self regulate, and reduce personal distress to keep their empathy open, avoids what Michele Borba calls the “Empathy Gap” and allows them more likely to empathize and help others.  Below, I offer some strategies and a video for our young children from Borba and some strategies and a video from leadership coach John Baldoni for our older students and us adults.

In the below video (2:57), Borba suggests that we help children employ the strategies of a Navy Seal!

  1. Deep breaths as a relaxation response
  2. Mental rehearsals in advance of a potential stressful situation
  3. Chunk it – take it in small parts
  4. Positive self-talk – “I can do this!”

Not only will these four strategies reduce stress in our children, according to Borba, they will also keep their “empathy open.”

In the next video (2:36), John Baldoni “offers some techniques for leaders who want to keep their cool when the heat’s on.”  We need to maintain composure.  How?  Similar to Borba’s Navy Seal strategies, he suggests we invoke the strategies of battalion commanders.

  1. Breathe deeply
  2. Relax your facial muscles
  3. Keep your voice low
  4. Try a mindfulness exercise


In the final video (11:19), Katie Couric interviews Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger about his recollection of the final moments before he dramatically landed his U.S. Airways Flight 1549 in N.Y.’s Hudson River.  Notice how “Sully” stayed calm and maintained composure.  Notice the rehearsal, his breathing , keeping his voice low, the positive self-talk.  What else do you notice as he recounts the near tragedy?

Guess What Drives Creativity? #BCSLearns

Have your own kids ever said they’re bored? Has a parent ever told you as a teacher that their child is bored in your class? How have you responded to these questions in the past? I’m guessing you didn’t say, “you’re so lucky that you’re bored”? Or, “I’m just trying to nurture your child’s creativity.” Well, if you did, you’d be on the right track.

In the book Bored and Brilliant, author Manoush Zomorodi “shows the fascinating side of boredom. She investigates cutting-edge research as well as compelling real-life examples to demonstrate that boredom is actually a crucial tool for making our lives happier, more productive, and more creative. What’s more, the book is crammed with practical exercises for anyone who wants to reclaim the power of spacing out – deleting the Two Dots app, for instance, or having a photo-free day, or taking a ‘fakecation'” (Gretchen Rubin, author of #1 NYT Bestseller The Happiness Project).  Zomorodi explains how boredom and original thinking are intricately connect and she exploring how we can harness the power of boredom to become more productive and creative individuals. While the book is grounded in neuroscience and cognitive psychology Zomorodi also shared practical strategies each of us can take to slow down our busyness and enhance our ability to dream and wonder in both our work life and personal life.

Check out my previous blog posts on creativity:

In the end, Zomorodi shines a light on how boredom can lead to the most brilliant ideas.  Take a listen to her 16-minute TedTalk where she describes how “sometimes [you] have your most creative ideas while folding laundry, washing dishes or doing nothing in particular…because when your body goes on autopilot, your brain gets busy forming new neural connections that connect ideas and solve problems. Learn to love being bored as Manoush Zomorodi explains the connection between spacing out and creativity.” 

Equip yourself with a practical and research-based response to the age old comment from kids, “I’m bored,” and help them understand how lucky they should feel to have that moment of boredom, as well as the greatness they can achieve from it.