Byron's Babbles

Leadership Lessons of Mt. St. Helens

Posted in Coaching, Leadership by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on August 28, 2011

Mt. St. Helens, often described by souvenir brochures as having a quiet beauty and unspoiled nature began to come alive in March of 1980.

On May 18, 1980, at 8:39 a.m., Mt. St. Helens erupted with the explosive force of 500 atomic bombs. Seventeen hundred feet were blown from the top of the mountain sending a cloud of ash and smoke for more than 60,000 feet into the atmosphere. The cloud gave those in its path a gritty taste of natures power. The Indians had most appropriately named this place “Fire Mountain.”

I have been blessed, because of meetings, to be at Mt. St. Helens twice in the last year. The second time, when I took the attached picture, I was able to take my family. While in the area, my wife bought me a beautiful ring with incredible green crystals. When I asked what the gems were she explained it was Mt. St. Helens Jewelry – Jewelry made from volcanic ash processed by heating at high temperatures and under tremendous pressure to cause the ash to turn to a crystallized state. These green (because of the copper) gems are then cut and polished to make the beautiful piece of jewelry shown below.

Then as I was reading Max De Pree’s Leadership is an Art and Leadership Jazz this week I realized De Pree‘s lessons were perfectly illustrated by this Mt. St. Helen Jewelry. Leadership is an art, that like the gems made from ash, is shaped and polished. But before the crystal is even formed the ash must undergo tremendous heat and pressure, just as a leader does. The leader must turn these challenges and problems into opportunities.

Then the leader, like the beautiful gem, must be shaped and polished. Polishing takes others help. Shaping takes us finding our voice and what we believe in. Polishing involves us studying and being involved in professional growth. Shaping involves us helping others – becoming servant leaders. Finally, polishing involves us reflecting.

So let’s not forget that we need to become artists and work hard at polishing and shaping the leadership gem that we are capable of becoming. Also, we must help to polish and shape the leadership crystals of others. Go out and use your artistic abilities to polish and shape someone today!


Haircuts for Leaders

Posted in Uncategorized by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on August 26, 2011

My son will be running for Student Council of his school next week. I’m writing about this now because whether he wins or loses next week is not relevant. The fact that he is, as John Maxwell says, focusing on the big picture is the important thing.

He came home from school with his Student Council applicant packet and said, “Dad, all my friends want me to run!” Notice, he gets it – It has nothing to do with winning, it’s all about running. His buddies want him to finish, and he is bound and determined to do just that.

Heath does not intend just to be in the race. He intends to be a finisher! In The Maxwell Daily Reader: 365 Days of Insight To Develop The Leader Within You and Influence Those Around You, John Maxwell stated, “As you make the success journey, keep in mind that your goal is to finish the race – to do the best you’re capable of doing.” (Kindle Location 3539)

So, what can we learn from Heath? He created the campaign poster that I have attached to this post. Pretty cleaver don’t you think? Also, he decided to get Heath Bars and wrap them in camouflage wrapping paper with a sticker that says vote for Heath. Speech writing is the next skill he is getting from this experience. He is on his 3rd draft of describing his leadership qualities, and is learning what it means to be a servant leader.

Now for the title, “Haircuts for Leaders.” This morning as we were driving to school, Heath said, “Dad, we’ve got to get our haircut on Tuesday after school.” When I asked why, he proceeded to tell me that he needed to look his best and he always felt confident on days after he has his hair cut. After he said this I remembered some advice a mentor early in my teaching career gave me. He said that before any contest, event, test, or anything where a student needs to do well, always give them some reason before hand to believe they have an edge. For example, I just gave a benchmark assessment to one of my classes – before they started I told them they had covered every standard yesterday in a lab they had done.

You can bet that Heath will get his haircut the night before he gives his speech. Let’s not forget the haircut and give those we coach an edge when they need it!

Baby Boomer Turned Digital Native

Posted in Uncategorized by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on August 22, 2011

Baby Boomer Turned Digital Native: One Teacher’s Journey into 21st Century Learning


Educational spaces need to be smart, technology rich, adaptable, and configurable in order to meet the needs of today’s students. If the desire is to put students first, it has to be more than just unloading crates of technology into a room for the teacher and saying, “Have at it!” At the same time educators must provide inspirational learning spaces on a limited budget. Technology is everywhere in today’s educational environment. This technology is important not only for engaging instruction, but also for creating a collaborative environment with other educators both inter-school and intra-school. This well planned environment allows the teacher to individualize both in manner of instruction and type of technology appropriate to the student. Solutions that address these needs are imperative to give educators the tools and facilities they need to assist learning, and students the tools necessary for engaging learning. When all these needs are met classrooms become collaborative student learning places.

Let the Journey Begin

As an agriculture educator who never used a computer (because they were not available) for his undergraduate and Master’s studies, or first two years of teaching for that matter, it seems an odd fit to be what I call a “digital adoptee” in my high school. Even though many the same age and older in my profession are apprehensive of technology, I have always been a believer in what it can do for the student. Experience has also taught me how important the physical lay-out of the room and furniture is to the educational experience. I recently had a graduate student visit me for a day, and she said, “Coming to your class is an event!” It is an event because students love coming to class and immersing themselves in the educational process through collaborative learning and use of technology.

When I started the agriculture science program at Lebanon Community School Corporation seven years ago the goal was to give our students the technology and environment they deserve for maximum learning. The environment, not the technology is what is most important. I was able to provide our students with one on one wireless laptop capability, but I also knew that the old five by six (five student desks in a column by six student desks in a row) model would not fit my pedagogy either. The ultimate goal must be that instruction and student learning drives the design, and that the classroom inspires learning (Demski, 2009). Therefore, we kept this in mind when designing our model learning lab which I call the SWELL (SMART Worldwide Effective Learning Lab) classroom. In my room it is tables with rollers and swivel chairs on rollers that give the students the flexibility to configure and reconfigure multiple times during our 87 minute block classes. Tables with four students each allow the teacher to pull up a chair and give assistance, monitor learning, and differentiate activities. This configuration also allows for readily forming important relationships with the students. Dr. James Comer said, “No significant learning occurs without a significant relationship” (quoted in Payne, 2005, p.9). When designing learning places we must remember that positive relationships between students and their teachers are crucial to learning.

Designing SWELL

Because of SMART Technology’s generous donation of SMART Board technology to me as 2010 Indiana Teacher of the Year (SMART donates these packages to all State Teachers of the Year each year), my school decided to use my room as a model for designing a learning lab, and for action research (Stringer, 2007) to help guide technology decisions for our school corporation. The decision was made to gut the room, which was formerly a science room, and start from scratch. The goal was to design an environment where students use the technology to carry out collaborative lessons not being taught by me, but being facilitated by me for student managed learning. What George Wood called, “Learning to learn” (Wood, 2005). The vision was to have an interactive agriculture science classroom equipped with SMART Board technology.

In order to investigate about the learning lab environment we formed a team and made many site visits. The visit that most intrigued the team was to Purdue University’s Krannert School of Management and Economics Library Interactive Learning Lab (Bush, 2009). Our team really liked the triangulated interactive boards, positioned to be visible from any angle in the room. This truly made the lab engaging as there was no front or back of the room. Another component that really fit my pedagogy was the Steelcase Huddleboard. These 32” X 42” portable white boards enabled collaborative group work. The instructor said, “huddle-up and discuss…” The groups then discussed their topic and wrote their thoughts and diagrams on the Huddleboards. After all groups had presented, the boards were placed on a rail and the Steelcase CopyCam took a picture which was sent to all the students via a website. The CopyCam also allowed pictures of the Huddleboards to be downloaded directly to a usb flashdrive or sent directly to a printer. Students were able to listen and be engaged in the discussion as opposed to taking dubious notes. The Huddleboards and CopyCam were a must for the SWELL Classroom.

Enhancing the Student Learning Experience with Technology

It cannot be stressed enough that the digital revolution is not about the teacher using technology, but enabling the student through their use of technology. Even though this author’s school district grapples with the same issues of funding and policies, we are still moving forward to put in place the technology that provides our students the digital content and open resources they need and deserve. Indiana has changed the definition of textbooks to include electronic materials (Fletcher, 2010). Digital resources can now be used to provide for curriculum enhancement (Fletcher, 2010).

In my SWELL classroom we are using Apple iPod Touches to provide reading resources. I am able to push books out to the entire classroom set of iPods at one time. This is a great tool for doing book reads utilizing Socratic seminars. Students are also using the iPods to record data from labs. When left to the students, they find appropriate apps that help engage them in the learning process. Students are allowed to download apps and then at the end of each week all apps not downloaded by me and pushed to all iPods are wiped off. Through our action research the iPod has been identified as a great way for students to access information quickly. Additionally, each class has developed an iTunes song list to play during work time. We are now in the process of testing a set of Apple iPads. The apps that are coming out for the iPad are very innovative and useful to students.

Now with the SPARKvue app, students in my Advanced Life Science courses are doing real-time measurement, data visualization, and analysis. Students can use the new PASPORT AirLink 2 Bluetooth interface to connect to over 70 PASCO sensors, measuring a wide range of phenomena, including pH, temperature, force, and carbon dioxide levels. SPARKvue is designed for scientific inquiry in biology, chemistry, earth science, environmental science, physics, and physical science. SPARKvue can record data from the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad.

By going to a Mac platform our students have been able to use FlipVideo to make movies using Apple iMovie. Students this past year were able to report real-time research done in conjunction with a partnership formed with AgReliant Genetics. This research was reported with the use of movies and wiki sites (a Web site where anyone can edit anything anytime they want). Wiki’s make perfect sense in this environment because the students work collaboratively, can edit each other’s work, and pages are easily added (Richardson,  2010). Additionally, the wiki can be shared with any audience, as in this case, researchers at AgReliant Genetics (Richardson, 2010). The key to using this technology is that the students are doing all of the work. Although formal written reports are useful in some contexts, these new and innovative uses of narrative texts, staged performances, and electronic productions made by the students enhance the learning even further (Stringer, 2007). They take great ownership in the process and have the desire to do outstanding work. Using technology in this manner pushes the students to do a greater share of the thinking (Lemov, 2010).

With SMART Response I am able to pretest, practice, and have useful reflection. Each student has their own response tool. This allows for quick feedback (assessment for learning) and allows the students to remain anonymous. All of these tools are really about increasing student engagement.

A Typical Day in the SWELL Classroom

            It is first period and time for Advanced Life Science – Plant and Soils. This is a dual credit course with Purdue University’s Botany 210. Students are met in the hallway with a handshake and then proceed to pick-up their Macbook and log-on to their wiki site where they find a link I have put on for their daily current event reading. This current event reading could have also been shared electronically with the students’ emails using the USA Today app on their iPods. Today’s article deals with resistant weeds due to chemicals developed through biotechnology. Students then journal the main points of the article onto their wiki site and do a summary paragraph relating the article to class work presently being done. Then students pick up their iPod Touches and proceed to the greenhouse to collect data on the 240 corn plants being grown to do actual Bacillus Thuringiensis bacterium (Bt) research for AgReliant Genetics. Data on rootworm damage is collected using the iPods. Students then return to the classroom and upload the data to their computers. Students are then asked to produce presentations on either Huddleboards or SMART Boards related to the following topics of economic impact of Bt corn, environmental impact of Bt, genetic markers, or corn rootworm lifecycle. Students then present, and the presentations are uploaded to their group’s wiki site.

Professional Development for Digital Learning is a TALL Order

Dialogue that always occurs when discussing the proper use of technology and the 21st Century learner is that of how should schools provide the necessary professional growth necessary for teachers to provide a rich digital learning environment? One of the major factors at play is the vast array of differences in where staff members are on the digital/technology learning curve. A one size fits all system of professional development will not work where technology is involved (or any other educational subject for that matter). Lebanon High School has developed a process that has proven very valuable to meet this need. In order to eliminate the traditional “one-shot” professional development time where information is thrown out to teachers and hopefully some of the material is caught, our school implemented TALL (Tiger Academy of Lessons Learned).

TALL was started in the spring of 2009. This process was a product of the studies of Garvin (2000) in the area of the learning organization. TALL is modeled after the U.S. Army’s Center for Army Lessons Learned (CALL). It is a process with no hierarchy which has teachers working in groups of like interest and knowledge to learn new techniques, study research, try new practices/technology, and book readings. Groups meet formally every week during time set aside in the morning, and have a reporting form on our shared network file that is used to report to the entire staff along with having Ning (internet social network) forums and we are now using our state’s new Learning Connection Network (Indiana Department of Education, 2009). Many groups meet outside the normal school day to work. Groups can start up and dissolve as necessary.

This strategy enables teachers to use the group genius created to improve teaching skills and gain best practices from each other thus improving student achievement. These self-directed professional development (Mohr, et al., 2004) groups provide for teacher-researcher-based discourse about teaching and learning (Weinbaum, et al., 2004).  TALL teacher inquiry groups allow for both knowledge production and sharing (Weinbaum, et al., 2004).

As of the writing of this article, Lebanon High School has TALL groups specifically relating to technology including, basic computer usage, Mimio use, web 2.0, and teacher blogs/websites. When it comes to technology, many of our more seasoned teachers who were having difficulty moving toward a more digital environment say that TALL has given them the confidence and skills to match the technology with their pedagogy.

A SWELL Vision for Providing Innovative Technology Solutions

            Through the SWELL Classroom and other duplications throughout the school, the Lebanon High School Agriculture Department is a leader in providing innovative networking and information technology solutions to student learning. By proceeding in stages, Lebanon will be able to develop staff, so first round teachers will be able provide support and training, and share lessons (Fishtrom, 2009). The SWELL Classroom allows for designing each lesson to meet the individual student’s needs, and then deliver that lesson in such a way that is effective for that particular child (American School Board Journal, 2009).

Students are always found coming to class enthusiastic and ready to connect to a global society brought together through technology. The plans are to add remote and self-guided learning through technology to further differentiate learning and offer an even wider range of classes. With SMART technology it will even be possible to do distance learning with other schools. The SWELL Classroom vision embraces the idea that one-size-fits-all schools do not work for all students. Because the same teaching techniques do not work equally for every student, SWELL Classroom technology can be matched with the appropriate pedagogy to meet the educational needs of all students.


Bush, J. (2009). Purdue libraries celebrate new interactive classroom, start second of three-phase renovation. University News Service. Retrieved on September 3, 2010 from:

Demski, J. (2009). Space craft: Innovative architecture is bringing form to the function of 21st– century learning. The Journal, 36(7), 34-38.

Fishtrom, R. (2009). Best in tech 2009. Scholastic Administrator, 9(3).

Flether, G.H. (2010). A revolution on hold. The Journal, 37(6), 21-23.

Garvin, D. A. (2000). Learning in action: A guide to putting the learning organization to work. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.

Indiana Department of Education (2009). Retrieved on August 13, 2010 from: http.//

Lemov, D. (2010). Teach like a champion: 49 techniques that put students on the path to college. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Murphy, C.U., & Lick, D.W. (2005). Whole-faculty study groups: Creating professional learning communities that target student learning (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: CorwinPress.

Moore, M.M., Rogers, C., Sanford, B., Nocerino, M.A., MacLean, M.S., & Clawson, S. (2004). Teacher research for better schools. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

Payne, R. K. (2005). A framework for understanding poverty. Highlands, TX: aha! Process, Inc.

Richardson, W. (2010). Blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other powerful web tools for classrooms. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Stringer, E.T. (2007). Action research (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.

Weinbaum, A., Allen, D., Blythe, T., Simon, K., Seidel, S., & Rubin, C. (2004). Teaching as inquiry: Asking hard questions to improve practice and student achievement. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

Wood, G.H. (2005). Time to learn: How to create high schools that serve all students. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Connecting, Extending, & Challenging

Posted in Coaching, Education by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on August 21, 2011

In education Connecting, Extending, and Challenging are so much more than just words. They are crucial to 24/7 learning and teaching students to learn to learn. I believe in 24/7 learning. We have to facilitate an environment where our students’ learning continues outside the school day – EXTENDING.

We must also challenge our students to learn and explore new concepts and take on new and exciting projects – CHALLENGING. Let me give you an example. My students just completed a project that I believe models Connecting, Extending, and Challenging – Operation Home Grown.

Following a series of soil chemistry and plant growth lessons n my Advanced Life Science Plant & Soils class, my students made a CONNECTION to organic and sustainable agriculture. They decided to extend their learning outside the classroom and proposed to use 2 acres of our Outdoor Agronomy Lab to grow organic sweet corn.

This CHALLENGED my students to learn how to grow organic sweet corn and come up with a plan for selling it. Not as easy as it sounds. They were challenged with a lack of rain.

Success was realized for this group of students this past weekend when they picked the first of the corn and sold out of 52 dozen ears of sweet corn in less than two hours. When we facilitate learning for ALL students of ALL ages we must remember to Connect, Extend, and Challenge them.

Autonomy – Professional Growth Must Be Personal

Posted in Education, Leadership, Learning Organization by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on August 16, 2011

For me to get two posts done in one week is unheard of but after some discussions related to my post: Autonomy – A TALL Order I was inspired to write this post. A great example of what I mean when I say professional growth must be personal was a great learning experience I had a couple of weeks ago.

I had the opportunity to be involved in a professional development in Washington, D.C. at the Smithsonian Postal Museum called, Mission Possible: Reimagining the 21st Century Classroom. This was a joint initiative of the Smithsonian Institution and Pearson Foundation. For one thing I was really intrigued by the title because I’m always amazed at how we tend to title everything to read that we are moving into the 21st Century. I hate to inform all those folks, but we are already into the 21st Century by 12 years. So, the title Reimagining the 21st Century really seemed appropriate – And, it was!

In reflecting on the workshop I tweeted several times that it was the best professional development I had ever been involved in. And, I stand by that claim. Why was it so great? Here’s a list: the great facilitators, the great teachers who attended with me, the best photographer/videographer ever, Postal Museum, the D.C. experience, and ME.

Here’s why I say ME. Any time I am asked to be a part of a workshop or professional growth opportunity I always try to put myself in the frame of mind that I am going to get as much out of the experience as possible. An example of this related to this week of learning for me was Twitter.

Before this workshop, I had not yet begun the Twitter adventure. Prior to the workshop I got an email stating that we should create a Twitter account that we would be using during the workshop. This was the nudge I needed – I am now addicted. I am learning so much from the people and organizations I am following. Also, I have grown so much professionally by, A. Needing to keep my posts under 140 characters (a tough project for me); and, B. Making the posts meaningful in the broader context that everyone who is following me reads them in – in other words, I want to make my posts meaningful. Notice the autonomy here; the workshop did not teach me about Twitter, but was the tipping point to get ME to grow professionally. Note, I am still the one ultimately responsible for my professional growth.

Here are some other major points that were developed during this wonderful event:

-The great part about using social media in education is a student’s work becomes important to others. Students love this.

– Students must be coached to critically review all sides of an issue.

– We must facilitate active learning where all students have a voice.

Reverse Mentoring

– Teachers approach lessons with a specific objective, but we must coach to allow learning to be iterative

– In education, its not about the tool/technology, but what you are going to have the students do with the tool/technology.

– The goal is to create 24/7 learning for our students.

– Effective teachers connect, extend, and challenge their students!

– The three C’s of education: Communicating, Collaborating, & Creating

– We must all learn to be Strategists

… – And many, many more!

I think you get the idea. Anyway, next time you go to a workshop remember that a large percentage of the success of your professional growth starts with you! We all need to put ourselves in the frame of mind that events happen every day that can be professional growth moments! So, make your professional growth personal!

Autonomy – A TALL Order

Posted in Education, Leadership, Learning Organization, Unstructured Collaboration by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on August 15, 2011

I’ve read two great books in the last week,Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us and The Modern Meeting Standard: Read This Before Our Next Meeting. These two books caused me to reflect on a process I had the opportunity to develop and champion at Lebanon High School called TALL – Tiger Academy of Lessons Learned. Allow me to share the process (it’s not a thing or initiative, it’s a process) in this week’s post.

In the last three years many changes have been made in the way our school-wide professional development activities are planned, organized, and presented. The primary concern was that teachers should have ownership of the professional development process – Autonomy.

The Lebanon High School staff meets two times per month for professional development in Tiger Academy of Lessons Learned (TALL) groups. TALL was started in the spring of 2009. TALL is modeled after the U.S. Army’s Center for Army Lessons Learned (CALL) (Garvin, 2000). It is a process with no hierarchy, which has teachers working in groups of like interest and knowledge to learn new techniques, study research, try new practices/technology, and discuss professional literature. Any teacher may propose a topic to be addressed and groups form according to the appeal of the topic. As Pink (2009) said, “As organizations flatten, companies need people who are self-motivated. That forces many organizations to become more like, er, Wikipedians. Nobody sits around trying to figure out how to “motivate” them. That’s why Wikipedia works. (Kindle Location 452).

Groups meet formally every other week during time set aside in the morning, and report in diary form to our common computer drive. Groups can form and dissolve as necessary. Members are also able to freely switch groups as the need arises. Many groups meet outside of the normal school day to work. All individuals and groups had total autonomy (Pink, 2009) to pick their topics and groups they work in.

TALL has enabled the development of communities of practice in our school.  One advantage of this process is that it provides a forum where teachers learn from each other.  Teachers, according to their needs, choose TALL groups. This strategy enables teachers to use the group genius created to improve teaching skills and acquire best practices from each other, thus improving student achievement. Another important facet of TALL is that it includes the entire staff. All principals, support staff, and teachers are involved as equal participants. The groups with principals have learned to discuss sensitive topics and share opinions without fear of repercussion. TALL has helped our school by moving our staff toward an environment of risk taking and trust.

Another important outcome of TALL has been the opportunity for cross-curricular collaboration (Dufour, 2008) or development of learning organizations (Garvin & Edmondson, & Gino, 2008; Garvin, 2000) between all teachers. Garvin (2000) defines the learning organization as, “an organization skilled at creating, acquiring, interpreting, transferring, and retaining knowledge, and at purposefully modifying its behavior to reflect new knowledge and insights” (p. 11). Becoming a learning organization is an important component of our school’s culture change toward improved student achievement and performance (Warnick & Thompson, 2007).


DuFour, R. D. (2008). Revisiting professional learning communities at work.

Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree.

Garvin, D.A., Edmondson, A.C., & Gino, F. (2008). Is yours a learning

organization? Harvard Business Review, 86(3), 109-116.

Garvin, D. A. (2000). Learning in action: A guide to putting the learning

organization to work. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.

Pink, D. H. (2009). Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us. New York,

NY: Riverhead Books.

Warnick, B.K. & Thompson, G.W. (2007). Barriers, support, and collaboration: A

comparison of science and agriculture teachers’ perceptions regarding integration of

science into the agricultural education curriculum. Journal of Agricultural Education,

48(1), 75-85.

Reverse Mentoring

Posted in Coaching, Education, Leadership, Learning Organization by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on August 7, 2011
2010 Wyoming Teacher of the Year

I realize that the buzz word has changed from mentoring to coaching, but I have been advocating reverse mentoring for quite a while now, so I am not changing terminology. In my field of teaching, it seems that everyone is hung up on the tradition that experience equals qualifications and effectiveness. Even though this might be true in some cases, I propose that mentoring goes both ways. In other words teachers with less experience may be more effective teachers and have knowledge/skills to share with those of us with more years experience.

In fact, I’ll be the first to tell you that I would not be where I am today without the learning that has occurred from those with less years experience, but with skills, knowledge, and abilities far exceeding my own. For example, I would not have near the skills using technology to enhance student learning if it were not for a former student, Matt Ladd, who served as our technology guy at my high school. Now, amazingly, I am looked to as a leader using technology. Make no mistake, there were many others, including my students who played a role in moving me into the 21st Century. Just one example of Reverse Mentoring at its best.

The picture I chose for this post is very special because it is of a teacher with nine years experience that I, with 27 years experience, learn from every time I am with. I was blessed to get to know Christina Mills, 2010 Wyoming Teacher of the Year, two years ago during my year as Teacher of the Year. She is amazingly talented and effective in the classroom, and I value every chance I get to be around her. I was thrilled last week when I was a part of the Smithsonian Institution and Pearson Foundation’s Mission Possible: Reimagining the 21st Century Classroom in Washington D.C. and through the door walked Christina. Neither one of us knew the other was going to be there. This four day conference provided plenty of opportunity for learning; much of which came from collaborating with Christina.

So if you are reading this with many years experience in your field, do not forget that those with less years experience may just have more experience in areas you need mentoring. Or, if you are reading this and have limited years experience do not forget you have valuable knowledge to share with those of us with more years. The goal should be to learn from each other. I guess I should call it Two Way Mentoring – learning from each other.

Teaching vs. Pouring Espresso

Posted in Education, Leadership by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on August 7, 2011












I was reading Onward during a time when our State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Dr Tony Bennett visited my classroom. He is very inspiring and has led so many great changes in Indiana Education. I shared this with him, and now I would like to share it with my blog readers. I believe you will find that this comparison of teaching to a successful business model fits right in with Dr. Bennett’s initiatives of “Putting Students First.”

Here is the excerpt adapted from Onward:

Pouring espresso (Teaching) is an art, one that requires the barista (teacher) to care about the quality of the beverage  (education). If the barista (teacher) only goes through the motions, if he or she does not care and produces an inferior espresso (student) that is too weak or too bitter (not ready to compete), then Starbucks (teaching) has lost the essence of what we set out to do 40 years ago (in 1635): inspire the human spirit. I realize this is a lofty mission for a cup of coffee (education), but this is what merchants (teachers) do. We take the ordinary – a shoe (boy), a knife (girl) – and give it (them) new life, believing that what we create has the potential to touch others’ lives because it (their lives) touched ours.

Adapted from Schultz, H. (2011). In Onward: How Starbucks fought for its life without losing its soul (p. 4). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.