Walk in Another Person’s Shoes #BCSLearns

Our BCS Moral Compass speaks to skills such as positive attitude, honesty & integrity, respect & kindness, and responsibility & accountability; all skills the help build empathy in each of us.  An article by Hunter Gehlbach in Phi Delta Kappan entitled Learning to Walk in Another’s Shoes the author outlines the importance of infusing perspective taking into our lesson as a way to build this core social-emotional skill in the students we serve.  This skill is directly aligned with our empathetic habit of the month:  empathetic people understand the needs of others.  In his article, Gehlbach contends that if we focus on “a single, teachable capacity that anchors almost all of our social interactions: social perspective-taking, or the capacity to make sense of others’ thoughts and feelings” the lasting effect in the growth and development of students can be profound. He suggests that perspective taking “allows us to interpret the motivations and behaviors of our friends and neighbors, or to see situations from the point of view of strangers, or to understand and appreciate values and beliefs that diverge from our own. Without it, we cannot empathize, engage in moral reasoning, love, or even hold a normal conversation.”  Gehlbach believes perspective-taking can be infused into anywhere in our schools and encourages us to consider these key points:

  • Make it a classroom expectation for students to talk about others’ perspectives.
  • Encourage students to be social detectives, not judges.
  • Provide low-stakes opportunities for practice.

“Once in the habit of trying to gauge other people’s ways of looking at the world,” Gehlbach concludes, “they will inevitably become more empathetic, more understanding, and more caring; they will become more thoughtful about how to navigate relationships; and they will become more likely to reach out across cultural groups rather than withdrawing into their own clique.”  Wow!  Behold the empathetic power of perspective taking in understanding the needs of others!

Check out Hunter Gehlbach in this 9-minute talk, “The Three Fundamentals of Social-Emotional Learning” presented as part of “Fast & Curious: ED Talks from UC Santa Barbara’s Gevirtz School”.





Catch Someone Else’s Drift? #BCSLearns

MoralCompassBCSdescription9 habits of empathy

I conjured up the title of this week’s post, “Catch My Drift”, as I thought about our theme of empathy and the empathetic habits, particularly our focus habit for this month.  To be sure, our BCS Moral Compass is our touchstone and always our main focus as a way of being within our community, and Empathy is our annual theme this year at BCS as we focus on a different empathetic habits each month.  As a reminder, our Moral Compass is a tool used to provide moral direction. Our 3 E’s that surround the compass (Education, Environment, Each Other) are the Values by which we live at BCS.  The words in the middle (Positive Attitude, Respect & Kindness, Honesty & Integrity, Responsibility & Accountability) are the action steps to accomplish living into our 3 E’s.  Ultimately, the compass, used as a metaphor, is set to a right angle to represent doing the right thing.  As it is an “old fashioned” tool, our Moral Compass shows timeless values!

With December upon us, our yearlong focus on Empathy moves into our December focus on one particular habit from Dr. Michele Borba’s 9 Habits of Empathetic Children. Since, Empathetic People Understand the Needs of Others, let’s focus this month on helping our students improve in “catching others’ drift”.  To instill this habit of understanding the needs of others, we want to stretch perspective taking abilities and Theory of Mind so children can step into others’ shoes to understand another person’s feelings, thoughts, and views.  Let’s check out some movie clips to see how characters do in showcasing this habit of “understanding the needs of others.”

Toy Story – Buzz Lightyear Arrives…Check out Buzz as he shares his perspective of this new world and how woody Woody shares his.  How might you rewrite this scene with either of the characters showing them better understanding the needs of the other?

The Big Bang Theory – Sheldon’s First Date…Check out how Amy tries to understand Sheldon’s perspective, albeit with a huge dose of sarcasm, “Please pass the butter”. How might you rewrite this scene with Amy understanding the needs of Sheldon?

The Incredibles – Check out “Edna’s Pep Talk”…How might you rewrite this scene with Edna understanding rather than lecturing?

The Incredibles – Edna’s Mode Ensemble (longer scene from the above video)… How is Edna understanding the needs of Jack and the suit she is making for him?

Enjoy having a little fun with these!

Culture Trumps Strategy #BCSLearns

Whether outlined in a book, an article, a slide presentation or oft-quoted, it is clear that “culture eats strategy for lunch” or as Peter Drucker first coined, “Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast.” In essence, the phrase simply means, no matter how much we focus on key, research-based strategies, it is the culture of an organization, business, school, that promotes its success.  So, how do we understand culture?  I share below, with my take on each, the “forces” that shape culture from Harvard’s Project Zero.  The project “is an intellectual wellspring, nourishing inquiry into the complexity of human potentials – intelligence, understanding, thinking, creativity, cross-disciplinary and cross-cultural thinking, ethics – and exploring sustainable ways to support them across multiple and diverse contexts.”  Out of their work, research and learning, most notably the principle investigator Ron Ritchhart, come their 8 Forces that Shape Group Culture.  I list them below and note a few of my own connections to my learning and our learning over the years as educators within our BCS culture:

Check out this brief video below tauting the importance of companies shifting from a Chief Strategist to a Chief Culture Officer.  Zappos and Google are the only two companies known to have a Chief Culture Office and they are two “wildly successful” companies. In fact, I shared about the Zappos culture, headed by Tony Hsieh, in a past post Happiness Matters (just as a reminder) and his company’s efforts to build a culture of inspiration.  How about school districts having a Chief Culture Office? Interesting…

Here is another video (5 min 39 sec) focusing on Drucker’s quote and giving examples of this concept at work: culture eats strategy for breakfast.  Culture is not something you tell people to do, it’s what people actually do!  Interesting, huh?

Empower a Positive Mindset #BCSLearns

In Lifehack, author, publisher and entrepreneur, David William’s shares in his article 15 Questions to Ask Your Kids to Help Them Have Good Mindsets.  Fixed vs. Growth Mindset research surged upon Carol Dweck’s book Mindset.  I have included the topic in several of my past posts including:

Now, here, in William’s post, he shares 15 questions that we can cue up for the students we serve, as well as our own children, that can nurture in them a positive mindset.

  1. What five words do you think best describe you?
  2. What do you love doing that makes you feel happiest?
  3. What do you know how to do that you can teach others?
  4. What is the most wonderful/worst thing that ever happened to you?
  5. What did you learn from the best/worst thing that’s happened to you?
  6. Of all the things you are learning, what do you think will be the most useful when you are an adult?
  7. If you could travel back in time three years and visit your younger self, what advice would you give yourself?
  8. What are you most grateful for?
  9. What do you think that person feels?
  10. What do you think your life will be like in the future?
  11. Which of your friends do you think I’d like the most? Why?
  12. If you could grow up to be famous, what would you want to be famous for?
  13. How would you change the world if you could?
  14. How can you help someone today?
  15. If you could make one rule that everyone in the world had to follow, what rule would you make? Why?

These questions help the individual reflecting upon and answering them to focus on the following:

  • The strengths I have – strength-based focus
  • What makes me happy – positive attitude
  • Both successes and mistakes are opportunities to learn – failing forward
  • Reflect on how much I have grown and learned – reflection
  • Gratitude
  • Empathy

These are all key ingredients in ensuring we lead our lives with a growth mindset.  Ready to test your mindset online at Dweck’s website – and even have the kids test theirs.  Give it a try, and then nurture your own and others’ mindset with the aforementioned questions.

I end this post with the below talk that was given at a relatively local TEDx event in Traverse City, produced independently of the TED Conferences. Dr. Alia Crum “says the biggest game changer is ‘YOU, by harnessing the power of your mind.’ She explores scientific results that show the influence of the mindset on the body, and how changing the subjective mindset produced different outcomes.”  We are not victims; we are empowered!

Empathy – Practice Makes Perfectly Permanent #BCSLearns


At BCS, our Moral Compass is our touchstone and with this year’s theme of EMPATHY helping us live into the direction our moral compass provides, we look forward to our November monthly focus that empathetic people have a MORAL IDENTITY.  Let us continue to lean in and lead with EMPATHY always embracing our BCS Moral Compass!

In Michelle Boba’s book Unselfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World, chapter 2 focuses on the concept that empathetic people have a moral identity.  Helping our children develop “an ethical code so [they] will adopt caring values that guide their integrity and activate empathy to help others.”

Here are the top 5 key points to know from this chapter:

  1. Moral Identity can inspire empathy, activate compassion, and motivate caring behavior
  2. To respond empathetically, kids must value other people’s thoughts and feelings
  3. Overpraising can make kids competitive, tear others down, and diminish empathy
  4. Entitling and “overvaluing” kids may increase narcissism and hamper moral identity
  5. If a child can imagine him/herself as a caring person, he/she is more likely to care about others

So, how can we strengthen our children’s Moral Identity?

Following are strategies our teachers will be employing and you can “practice” at home:

  • Take a reality check
    • Notice how children react to your encouragement and watch for signs you may be overpraising.
  • Align Praise w/ Character
    • Help them see themselves as “good people” by pointing out how their behavior matches their identity (“you’re the kind of person who always helps” or “you’re so caring” or “you’re thoughtful and you show it when you…”)
  • Use nouns, not verbs
    • Talk about kids “being helpers, not ‘helping’” – studies show kids are more likely to help when you use that type of language.
  • Focus on character, not behavior
    • Helps kids internalize altruism
    • Example of Character-focused praise: “You’re the kind of person who likes to help other people” or “you’re a considerate and helpful person”
    • Example of Behavior-focused praise: “It’s nice to see you sent some school supplies to orphans” or “sharing your toys was a considerate thing to do”
  • Model It
    • Kids follow our example

How Kids Can R.E.F.U.S.E. Temptations & Stick Up for Their Beliefs:

  • R–Review who you are
  • E–Express your belief
  • F–Firm voice
  • U–Use strong posture
  • S–Say no and don’t give in
  • E–Exit

Hey parents (and teachers too)!  While the below video is great for teachers as well, check out these parenting tips from Michele Borba.

How Can I be of Service? #BCSLearns

As we finalize our report cards communicating student progress to the students and the parents for the first quarter, I though I would highlight this article entitled 15 Customer Service Skills that Every Employee Needs written by Gregory Ciotti, a writer, marketing strategist and alum of Help Scout.  You can certainly read the descriptions of each in the article, though I wanted to relate these skills to how they will help us all as we share progress, celebrate, and goal set with our parents during our upcoming parent conferences.

  1. Patience – While you have a limited time with parents, show your patience with parents as they reach out to you for support, specific feedback on their child, and reassurance.
  2. Attentiveness – Give parents your full focus and listen to their perspective.  Strike the important balance of the conversation between how much you talk and how much you listen.
  3. Clear Communication Skills – Offer parents specific feedback on their child’s progress socially, emotionally, physically and academically, the whole child.  Give them specific examples of their progress in these areas.
  4. Knowledge of the Product – Be sure you know each of your students: socially, emotionally, physically and academically.  Your knowledge of your students will help parents know the efforts you have made to know their child.
  5. Ability to Use Positive Language – Whether you’re sharing strengths of the child or their goal areas/weaknesses, BE POSITIVE, and even with the weaknesses, these are goal areas in which we will work with the students to grow and progress.
  6. Acting Skills – To go along with being positive, if a parent begins to show frustration and/or challenge you, show them that you’re here to partner with them in support of their child’s growth and development.  “I’m here with and for you!”
  7. Time Management Skills – watch the clock, careful not to rush, and set a time for a follow up phone call of meeting if needed.
  8. Ability to Read Customers – See numbers 5 and 9!
  9. A Calming Presence – As Ciotti shares in the article, “be the ‘rock’ for a [parent] who thinks the world is falling down due to their current problem.”
  10. Goal Oriented Focus – Every child has relative areas of weakness.  These are goal areas, both academic and behavioral.  Work with the parent and the student to set an academic and behavioral goal with strategies to help achieve them turning weaknesses in to opportunities for growth and development.
  11. Ability to Handle Surprises – See number 9!  Also, for surprising situations be open to asking for others to support: a teammate, colleague, counselor, principal, etc. and set a follow up opportunity to plan with the students and parent.
  12. Persuasion Skills – You will be able to convince parents, even if they’re feeling hopeless with respect to their child, that you will work together with them to support their child’s growth and development.  Lean in and Lead with Empathy!
  13. Tenacity – You have shown parents this to-date and you will demonstrate it at conferences that you have “a great work ethic and a willingness to do what needs to be done (and not take shortcuts)…” in service and support of their child.
  14. Closing Ability – Ciotti states it best, “To be clear, this has nothing to do with ‘closing sales”‘ or other related terms. Being able to close with a [parent] means being able to end the conversation with confirmed satisfaction (or as close to it as you can achieve) and with the [parent] feeling that everything has been taken care of (or will be)” with necessary follow up as needed.
  15. Willingness to Learn – See number 2!  Listen and learn more about the student from their parent’s unique perspective.  Show them your undeniable thirst for learning more about their child, which, in turn, will undoubtedly help you better support him or her.

Or, if all else fails, have a laugh with the advice below from Gerry Brooks and the following video where he encourages you to get help with your conferences from “Pattie the Parent Teacher Conference Helper Doll.”  Enjoy!

It’s Time to Re-Inspire Yourself #BCSLearns

In the most recent ASCD Education Update, managing editor Sarah McKibben shares tips from the 2017 State and National Teachers of the Year on how to break out of the “October Slump”  in the article 10 Ways to Get Your Mojo Back.  Review these 10 ways to re-inspire yourself at this important time of the school year.  Above all else, try number 11 – Create Peak Moments!

  1. Find Strength in Your Students – commit to loving your students
  2. Learn Something New – “It could be as simple as picking up a book or watching a documentary about the topic you’re teaching.”
  3. Pull Out All the Instructional Stops – “Whatever the time of year, creating engaging and offbeat lessons can reinvigorate your students–and you.”
  4. Battle Your Boredom – use your instructional freedom and “play with timing…to learn, innovate, and experiment.”
  5. Find Your Tribe – Find that “colleague who can pick you up when you’re feeling overwhelmed–that person who sees the bright side in any situation, who listens, gives advice, or shares ideas for lessons…Just make sure it’s a positive source of comfort and support.”
  6. Hit Pause and Reflect – Celebrate what you have accomplished so far and the amazing relationships you have built with your students.
  7. Never Let Your Flame Go Out – “In Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, author Dan Pink suggests three things that create intrinsic motivation: autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Autonomy is our desire to be self-directed. Mastery is the urge to improve skills, while purpose is the desire to do meaningful and important work…teachers, like students, will be more productive and engaged if all three of these needs are met.”
  8. Take a Hike – literally, take a walk, breathe and reflect or use one of your favorite stress-reducing strategies.
  9. Have Coffee with a Mentor – meet regularly (weekly) as these types of meetings are “crucial to [our] mental health and professional development.”
  10. Resist the Isolation – “Reach out to people you trust…Invite them into your classroom and go into theirs–it can inspire you and [serve as a] reminder that you’re not doing this work alone.”  We are a community at BCS!

And my added Number 11 from the Heath Brothers – Create Peak Moments

One of our teachers shared the below video with me, which I, in turn, shared with our BCS Leaderhsip Team in September.  It fits rather nicely with this ASCD article on getting our mojo back.  In the video, Dan Heath suggests, in his book The Power of Moments and in the below video, that we “Build Peaks, Don’t Fix Potholes…When we look back on our experiences, we remember moments. Great experiences hinge on peak moments.” Let’s Create extraordinary moments in our classrooms as those are the learning experiences we all will remember – students and the teachers!