Byron's Babbles

Leading Like Santa

It would be no picnic having to be Santa every day, especially wearing the same itchy red wool suit every day. Try it sometime. I have, as I make a pretty good Santa if I do say so myself. Yet Santa Claus pulls it off, year after year.

Santa has set some great examples of sound leadership for us to follow. Here are some Santa leadership traits that I have reflected on after encountering Santa Claus during a recent visit with him at Conner Prairie Interactive History Park. We’d all do well to emulate these skills in our everyday lives as leaders.
Here’s a list of dispositions I witnessed first hand while both watching him interact with the children and my own experience sitting on his lap. Yes, that’s right, I talked to the big guy myself – and asked for Legos (there is a picture in this post to prove it). There is just no warmer feeling than getting a hug from Santa while sitting on his lap. 

  • Santa takes time to connect and get to know every child, young and old.
  • Santa cared about what my wants and needs were. 
  • Santa communicates well with everyone. By communicating well, I mean he practices deep listening. Those sitting on his lap do most of the talking and he asks questions instead of offering up solutions.
  • Santa clearly loves what he does and let’s it show.
  • Santa is believable. Over time, millions of people have put their faith in Santa — even Virginia. Good leaders do the right things consistently. Do your team members believe in you?
  • Santa is sensitive to others. Santa is aware of customs and cultures around the world and makes sure that he addresses those cultures and customs. Do you do the same thing?
  • Santa never forgets his impact. Santa has the ability to change peoples’ lives. I’ve never forgotten the wonder at coming home from church as a youngster and seeing presents from Santa under our tree. I’ve never forgotten those leaders in my life who took time from their schedules to coach and mentor me. Know that you have the ability to impact others – positively or negatively – it’s your choice.
  • Santa asks for feedback. Santa could never get it right if he didn’t ask others for feedback.
  • Santa doesn’t make promises he can’t keep. Have you noticed, he doesn’t comit to anything that is not for sure going to happen. He is even so honest that he tells us there will be surprises – and we are always excited about it. Unlike leaders who make ludicrous comments/commitments like “I’m 99% sure this or that will happen.” What does that even mean? How do these leaders calculate 99%? Why do leaders want to have to backtrack when the so called 1% chance happens? Bottom line: Santa does not do that.
  • Santa is accessible to everyone. Think about it, Santa Claus spends weeks sitting in shopping centers and appearing in parades in the month leading up to Christmas. Wouldn’t this, in reality, be when Santa is at his busiest getting things done in the North Pole? Santa understands the value of spending time with those that he serves. Getting to know them and putting them first with his time helps Santa to understand people’s needs and serve them better.
  • Santa is clearly a giver not a taker. Santa lives to serve others. Rumor has it that Santa does enjoy a tall glass of Jersey (just had to throw that in) milk and sugar cookie, but essentially we all know Santa as the person who gives and gives. We love Santa because somehow he knows exactly what we would like and very often provides it for us. Clearly, Santa does not exist for his own sake, but for the sake of the millions of children that will benefit from his giving. Boy, can we learn something from that. I 

No matter how old you are, Santa Claus can put a sparkle in your eyes too. He has some amazing leadership traits that we should all pay attention to.  What would you add to this list? Please leave me a comment and let me know what to have observed.


Instant Relevance

Posted in Education, Education Reform, Educational Leadership, Global Education, science education, Teacher Evaluation by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on December 19, 2016

fileInstant Relevance: Using Today’s Experiences to Teach Tomorrow’s Lessons by Denis Sheeran

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The first thing that struck me about this book was Denis’ use of Thinking Questions at the end of every chapter to guide the reader through the learning. As we know, questions open the door to the future and are more powerful than answers in that they demand engagement. I couldn’t help but be engaged as I read this book. As a believer in the fact that context and relevance matters, this book hits the mark.file1

Denis shows you how he brings his life into the classroom. Whether we like it or not, our students want to get to know us – and why not? Or, why would we not want to form that relationship? As Denis said, “We have no choice but to make learning more relevant to our students, or they will learn without us.” If you want to make school work relevant and learn along with your students, you need to read this book.

~Dr. Byron L. Ernest

View all my reviews

Leadership Ink

Regardless of your position on this topic, “inking” is in. What I’m talking about is tattooing. The interest of young and old in getting a tattoo is increasing. Many of our heroes have ink and we maybe want one too. Amazingly, 25% of those getting tattoos regret it within the first month of getting the tattoo. Now, to be clear, I don’t really think I want a tattoo right now, but I do have a temporary tattoo that won’t seem to go away. Let me tell you the story.

This past weekend we used Emojis as a “through line” for our Focused Leader Academy (FLA) December retreat. The first activity we did had participants pick an Emoji temporary tattoo and put it somewhere on their body. Check out the picture of the sheet of available tattoos. The catch was, you needed to explain why you picked the tattoo you did and the significance of where you placed the ink on your body. Needless to say, we had a lot of fun with this.

This was an exciting and inspiring activity. The explanations were very well thought out. Some were comical, while at the same time being very meaningful and heartfelt. I am hoping our Cohort #2 FLA members will reply to this post with their stories. Here’s mine:

“I chose to put the two pink hearts Emoji on the inside of my right wrist. I explained this was because I love FLA and love facilitating the learning of our teacher leaders. In the words of Cohort # 1 graduate, Jill Landers, these weekend retreats are Byron’s “leadership heroine.” She’s right; I’m addicted. Furthermore, I placed the tattoo on the inside of my wrist because by personally working with our teacher leaders it helps me keep a pulse on what is going on with our teachers.” ~ Byron

Now, here we are almost a week later and my temporary tattoo looks just as good as on the day I applied it. At first I got a little concerned, but I have gotten used to it and actually really like it. I keep getting questions about it. Questions like the one at the state board of education meeting this week, “Byron, do you really have a tattoo of two pink hearts on your wrist?” These questions give me the chance to say “Why yes. Let me tell you why and about the journey our teacher leaders are taking through our Focused Leader Academy.”

So, if you were going to get some first time, or new, leadership ink; what would your tattoo be and why?

Emojis…Creative or Lazy?

fileHere is the sixth and final guest post in this series on Emojis from our top teacher leaders. It has been exciting to bring you a new post every day this week from these talented individuals. The goal was for this cohort of our Focused Leader Academy to experience the thrill of putting content out there for anyone and everyone to read in the form of a blog post. They explained that it was a little scary and intimidating to put thoughts out there for others to critique. The biggest question our reluctant bloggers were asking was “Will I be clever?” While, yes, there is a certain amount of vulnerability, blogs can enable self growth, serve as a journal, and most importantly to me – serve as a library of personal thoughts, research, and lessons learned. I go to the archive of my posts often to get information from the past that I have documented in my blog. Blogs are an incredible leadership tool for your organization’s to know about you as the leader, but I believe blogs are most valuable as a personal tool.screen-shot-2016-12-15-at-9-29-49-am

Check out this awesome post by Ann Semon and Aimee Campbell:

Emojis…Creative or Lazy?

“People who use emojis are too stupid to communicate with actual vocabulary.” This was a quote we saw on the internet, which sparked controversy. Are emojis stupid? Do people use them as a cop-out for thinking OR as an alternate way of communication? The way people communicate in 2016 come in various forms of email, text, tweets, etc. Does this mean we are dumbed down or actually more innovative and creative? It’s your choice.


Courtney Seiter says, “Scientists have discovered that when we look at smiley faces online, the same parts of the brain are activated as when we look at a real human face.” She goes on to say that emojis replace the tone of voice you would hear in typical conversation, thus creating an online version of empathy. When you communicate with emojis, are you using them as a tool to express emotions or as a symbol to replace real vocabulary? Right brained people tend to take a more artistic approach to communication, and like to be shown rather than told. Right brained people also prefer to draw rather than write which may lead us to believe, if you use emojis, you might have right brained tendencies.

Symbolism is often used in things like poetry and art. Emojis are essentially a picture that represent words…so could be considered an art form. For example, silent movies can be enjoyable because you get to interpret the story being told. Pictures books are another simpler form of using symbolism for story-telling purposes…could emojis be the same?


Left brained people tend to be more detailed and use words rather than pictures. They often find it easier to read things that are straight forward rather than vague. With this being said, a left brained person may find it inappropriate to use these vague pictures to represent specific information, especially if it a message that should not be up for interpretation.

In an online environment, sometimes emojis can be misinterpreted. The simple mistake of a winking emoji in place of the regular smiling emoji may lead people to think you know something they don’t. This could lead to over-analyzing and misinterpreting a simple statement. Emotions are complex things and people can have a differing view on what an emoji could symbolize. General Motors actually introduced a publication in all emojis which caused confusion and intrigue. Some people may interpret this as a positive or a negative public relations move. It can also cause a gap of communication between generations. For example, in my personal life, an older family member used the “laugh so hard you cry” emoji with a post on Facebook about a death in the family. They assumed the tears were sad tears, thus causing major confusion and miscommunication.

In conclusion, do you find yourself relating more to the benefits or hindrances? If you associate more with benefits…you might just be a right brained person. If you tend to agree more with hindrances, you might be a left brained person. Maybe you’re in the middle, and find it depends on the situation. In the end, it’s all about the audience and getting across the message you’re trying to convey. However you choose to communicate, make sure it’s effective.

Emoji: To Use or Not to Use?

fileSo, here is the fifth of six guest posts from our Focused Leader Academy teacher leaders. If you take a look at the parts of a good blog post we created I believe you will see that Brenda Culbertson and Amanda Case have connected with readers by finding a great hook, have included visuals, and told a story that you, as the reader, can use. Take a minute and check our their view on Emojis.


Mike Fleisch Graph

Emoji: To Use or Not to Use?

Let’s eat, Grandma.

Let’s eat Grandma!


Just like punctuation, Emojis can change the meaning of a sentence. The meaning can be changed for the better or the worse. There is a strong benefit and hindrance to using emojis in written language. The hindrance is that emojis can be misinterpreted and the benefit is that emojis can aid in the tone of the intended message.


Emojis can be misinterpreted when something as simple as 😉 is used. This can be a symbol of an inside joke or a flirtation. The problem is the person on the receiving may take it the opposite way you wanted them to…creating a “pinch”. Should you have used the emoji in the first place?


The most evident benefit is that the symbol can add to the tone of your message so that the receiver reads the message as you meant. For example, in a message that seems flat, a smiley face can add a tone of happiness. Can the emoji add an emphasis to your tone?

Emojis are here to stay regardless of whether you think they are a benefit or hindrance in your communication. You need to ask yourself, does the emoji help or hurt my message?

Brenda and Amanda

Emoji Exploji

So pumped to be bringing you the fourth of six guest posts from teacher leader participants in our Focused Leader Academy. These posts are a result of a session on blogging. No powerpoints or lists of to-dos, just co-creation of a blog post by pairs of our teacher leaders. They even created the stickers pictured at the beginning of the posts with an Emoji maker. Remember, our essential question always is “What can we create together?” Enjoy this post from Kris Phillips and Berry Wells:

Emoji Exploji

Before, you had to worry about students dropping an “F bomb”. Just wait until you get an “Emoji Exploji” in your classroom! For better or for worse, emojis have exploded in our culture. Now we must choose to embrace or reject them.  

😀What are the benefits of emojis in the classroom?

• Engage students

• Popular

• Expressive

• Fast & Fun

• Easy pulse check

😕What are the drawbacks of emojis in the classroom?

• Overused

• Can be distracting

• Discourages language use

• Can be misinterpreted

• Can be inappropriate

• Can be offensive

Regardless of your personal opinion, emojis are a form of communication, and they are here to stay. The question is will you embrace society’s infatuation with this trend, or will you reject the idiocracy of the emoji exploji? The choice is yours. 😜

Top 7 Benefits of Emojis in the Classroom

Here is the third of six guest posts submitted by our teacher leaders as part of our Focused Leader Academy this past weekend. Jena Davis and Liz Breeden decided to take the angle of how to use Emojis in the classroom. Blogging certainly takes some individuals outside of their comfort zone, including Jena and Liz. But, by working together and doing a fast creation using the “through line” of Emojis that we had been working with all day, they were able to author a great post. Here is Jena and Liz’s creation:

Smiley face! Frowny face! Heart! Emojis are everywhere. Do they help or hinder in the classroom? Used correctly, emojis can be beneficial in education. Emojis offer another method of communication between students and teachers.

1. Communication feeling or emotion: emojis can communicate feelings or emotions of students to teachers. Students who may not know the words to associate with their feelings may be able to communicate those feelings through the use of an emoji instead.

2. Visual: emojis are a graphic and visual representation of thoughts and feelings. Students are often visual learners and drawn to such representations.

3. Engaging: emojis are a way for students to engage with one another, or even with the teacher, in the classroom. Students can share thoughts and feelings with one another.

4. Check for Understanding: teachers can use an emoji to check for understanding or a student’s feeling or attitude about a particular topic.

5. Quick and Easy: emojis are a quick check and easy to use for both students and teachers.

6. Variety: there are a variety of emojis to choose from when making a selection. Students may be able to find and communicate something for which they don’t have the vocabulary to communicate.

7. Icebreaker: emojis can be used to ease the awkwardness of an uncomfortable moment or message.

How can YOU use emojis to communicate with YOUR students in a positive way?

How Do You Emoji?

fileThis is the second of six great guest blog posts from the teacher leaders in our Focused Leader Academy. These guest posts are a result of a session yesterday on blogging as a leadership tool. We had been using the “through line” (a theme or idea that runs from the beginning to the end of one of our design sprints that has a connecting theme or plot) of Emojis, so it made sense to have the prompt of: Emojis: Benefit or Hindrance? Participants paired up and proceeded to write a blog post kowing I would be posting it as a guest post. screen-shot-2016-12-11-at-7-12-22-am


Graphic by Mike Fleisch

I am really hoping that these teacher leaders will open themselves up to be vulnerable and discover the self growth that can take place from using a blog as a personal journal. As a leadership tool this gives the blogger a way to communicate as a leader. Additionally, the blog also gives us an eventual library of prior thoughts and materials, always at our fingertips. The guest post here was written by Kristen Bauer and Lisa Schneider.

Enjoy Kristen and Lisa’s post:

Pick up your phone and take a look at the last emoji you used. What is it and what could it mean? My last emoji was 😬 in a tweet that reads “Don’t let perfection get in the way of a good blog 😬.”

An emoji can be beneficial or can be a hindrance. Here are our top 5 pluses and deltas of using an emoji:

  1. Supportive/Inspirational-Whether it be 😘 or a 👍 these simple gestures can provide support to a friend in need.
  2. Clarifying- An emoji can quickly add to and create the tone of the conversation.
  3. Telling-Did you know that Siri reads emoji’s as exactly what they are? Take for example when your teenage daughter says to Siri “Call Caleb.” And Siri responds with “Calling Caleb fire, beating heart, face blowing kiss.” 🔥, 💕, 😘. That real life situation was very telling for my husband when he overheard our teenage daughter calling her boyfriend.
  4. Misinterpreted-Could your emoji actually be a pinch to your reader? Have you ever gotten an unexplained winky face? 😜
  5. Unprofessional/inappropriate-There is a time and a place for an emoji and its probably not in the work place.

So choose your emojis wisely. ☺

Emojis: The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

fileI am super excited to post the first of six guest posts from participants of the current cohort of our Focused Leader Academy. The other five will come each day for the next five days. The authors of this first guest post are Carlie Coblentz and Brandon Johnson. Today, at our monthly Design Sprint (what others call professional development) we used Emojis to facilitate our learning. Part of our time was spent on how to create a great blog post. I really wanted to stress the use of blogging as a leadership tool. As is our custom in our design sprints, we split into pods and the question of “What can we create together?” was answered by the creation of six blog posts about the use of emojis. The prompt for this creation was: Emojis: Benefit or Hindrance. The pods of two then worked to create a guest blog post for me to post. screen-shot-2016-12-10-at-9-08-22-pm

Of course we couldn’t just stop there. Participants also used our Emoji Maker kits to create Emoji stickers that represented their blog post. A picture of Carlie and Brandon’s sticker is at the beginning of this post. I am very proud of the posts that were written today and am excited to share them with you over the next six days. I have also included the graphic created by Mike Fleisch during our blogging session. Take a look at the graphic. Hopefully you will find some useful tips for your blog posts as well.

Here is Carlie’s and Brandon guest post:

The 👍, the 👎, and the 👺 of Emojis

Take a moment and think about the last time you used an emoji. These silly little characters have become very popular in the past couple of years. They can be used to quickly express many different types of emotions with friends and family. But, there are times that they can be a hindrance. Here’s a list of pros and cons of Emojis:


  • Fun 🎉
  • Engaging 👀
  • Unique way of expression🦄
  • Quick ⚡️

We could probably agree that Emojis can be a very fun and engaging way to communicate. You’re able to express your feelings with people without the usual long, drawn out stories.


  • Takes away reading and writing skills 📝
  • Limits communication🗣
  • Misinterpretation 🤔
  • Not appropriate in some situations 🤐

On the contrary, Emojis are very similar to what would be considered “text-talk.” They do not always communicate exactly what you’re trying to say, and sometimes, they could be misunderstood by the recipient, causing confusion and frustration.

What would you consider to be the 👍, the 👎, and the 👺 of Emojis?

What Can We Create Together?

Whether you are the president of a company or the janitor, the moment you step from independence into interdependence in any capacity, you step into a leadership role. You are in a position of influencing other people. And the habit of effective interpersonal leadership is to develop a win-win mindset. Creating a community where win-win attitudes and behaviors is important work of leaders. So we need to focus on producing personal and organizational excellence by developing information and reward systems which reinforce the value of cooperation. We can develop this community by asking the question “What can we create together?” Remember, I now call the organizations, schools, or businesses we lead, the places we live, or even our families communities.

Unfortunately, most of us have been deeply scripted in the win-lose mentality since birth. Certainly there is a place for win-lose thinking in truly competitive and low-trust situations. But most of life is not a competition. We don’t have to live each day competing with our spouse, our children, our co-workers, our neighbors, and our friends. In Lesson #38, “Only One Winner,” in 52 Leadership Lessons: Timeless Stories For The Modern Leader, author John Parker Stewart points out we should “Replace internal competition with mutually beneficial and encouraging cooperation.” Most of life is an interdependent, not an independent, reality. Most results you want depend on cooperation between you and others. And the win-lose mentality is dysfunctional and detrimental to that cooperation and development of community. Community offers the promise of belonging and calls for us to acknowledge our interdependence.

The challenge for building a win-win community is this: While visions, plans, and committed top leadership are important, even essential, no clear vision, nor detailed plan, nor committed group leaders have the power to bring this image of the future into existence without the continued engagement and involvement of citizens. To do this I challenge you to as a leader help your community answer the question “What do we want to create together?”