Byron's Babbles

Learning From KISStory

As they have since the band began it’s journey when I was 10 years old, the greatest rock band ever, KISS, continues to influence my life. I attended the KISS 2020 Goodbye New Year’s Eve concert held in the United Arab Emirates last week at Atlantis, The Palm and have been processing it in my mind ever since. Live music was silent and as of the the day of the show, on New Year’s Eve, KISS had not been on stage in 296 days. I even used it as the theme/throughline for a professional development program I did yesterday for teachers entitled “Student-Student Interaction.” KISS, in conjunction with Landmarks Live, is the ultimate example of fan-fan and band-fan interaction. I took three pages of notes during the three hour event put together by KISS. There were leadership lessons from KISS on how to deal with COVID-19 lessons; how to engage a huge global audience virtually; how to engage in person and virtual fans individually; how to bring together an international team; how to change what working as a team looks like during a pandemic; how to keep over 400 team members safe (they had no COVID cases) and have them working in-sync; and, triple the physical size of the show.

Director of the show, Daniel E. Catullo, put it this way: “We are attempting to pull off the biggest show of 2020 at the height of the pandemic.” Let me tell you what, they did! I remember when I saw the first announcement of this back in November, I said, “Leave it to KISS to figure out how to make big things happen during a pandemic, and do it safely.” They spent extensive time explaining how they dealt with COVID protocols during the first part of the three hour event. Everyone should watch that introduction documentary – they did it right, they did it well, and are a model as to how, in my opinion, we should be doing it. I said out loud during the event, “why are we not doing it this way in our schools. This is the right way to do it!” They had contact tracing protocols using colored bands identifying work groups, bracelets that kept track of every person coming within two meters of each other, daily testing, strict mask wearing, et cetera, et cetera. And, let me repeat what I said earlier, the day of the concert they were reporting no COVID cases. Well done!

“It’s KISS! Anything worth doing is worth overdoing as far as they’re concerned. I hope this inspires other’s to want to do shows.” ~ Robert Long, Production Designer

The shows Production Designer, Robert Long said it best, “It’s KISS! Anything worth doing is worth overdoing as far as they’re concerned. I hope this inspires others to want to do shows.” With all the gimmicks, stunts, and theatrics that we are used to with KISS times 1000, they lived up to Long’s expectations of overdoing it. Setting world records for things like tallest flame thrown in a concert to over 1.5 million dollars in pyrotechnics, the show was over the top. After opening with “Detroit Rock City” and “Shout It Out Loud” we heard from Paul Stanley for the first time when he said, “Hello Dubai! Hello World!” He was drawing all of us at home in. Then after “Deuce” he drew all of us at home in the rest of the way saying, “If you’re here that’s cool. If you’re at home, we’re talking to ya. You count!…This is your show!” And, let me tell you it felt like they were singing every song, shooting off every firework, and making every gesture just for me. I reminded teachers yesterday how important it was whether teaching students in person or virtually that we make each one feel like we are speaking to them personally. I appreciated how Gene Simmons would point to and look right into one of the more that 50 cameras being used for the show and speak just to me. In fact we had a little fun yesterday during my professional development with Gene’s best practice. Every time someone spoke, reported out from small group discussions, or addressed someone virtually (we had a group in person with me, a group that was virtual, and some individuals who were virtual), we would point and look directly into the camera or Owl to draw everyone in.

“If you’re here that’s cool. If you’re at home, we’re talking to ya. You count!…This is your show!” ~ Paul Stanley

Using best practices, that we in education need to emulate, KISS did a phenomenal job of acknowledging those fortunate enough to be on the individual room balconies of the hotel while intentionally involving and engaging all of us around the world at home screaming, yelling, playing air guitar, and singing along. This was one of the most spectacular rock shows in history. What they achieved is what we need to work hard to achieve in anything we have to do virtually or in a blend of virtual and in person right now: recreate the visceral energy of being live. KISS pulled this off brilliantly and, as Paul Stanley described it: “Bombastically!” with the KISS 2020 Goodbye New Year’s Eve concert. As KISS’ music manager, Doc McGee said, “Why, because people need it.” We’ll bring it to the people. We have to have a tipping point, and I think this is the tipping point.” Let’s all strive to be like KISS and be a tipping point for all great things as we continue to do all the things we need to do to keep life going during the rest of the pandemic. Happy New Year!

Learning Together Apart

As I walked back to the house from the barn this morning I noticed the unmistakable sound of fresh snow squeaking and crunching under my boots with every step. For anyone who has ever lived in a climate with snow, this sound is immediately recognizable. These sounds reminded me that in the midst of a pandemic, we have watched the transformation from winter, to spring, to summer, to fall, and now, back to winter. But other transformations are upon us everywhere without such clear cut and defined definition. These other transformations are of a global perspective and are personal, health related, economic, political, and economic. When you add all this together it is very complex change.

All those areas listed above are constantly evolving, but as we know a single virus has taken over how the game is played right now. Think about it, change has come in much the same way you draw a card in a board game – “You are now in the middle of a pandemic; go back 10 spaces.” Or something like that. Change is here, and has been here. There are changes in my house, in my body, in my family, in my community, culture, economy, and in the whole wide world of ecological systems. In some ways things are falling apart, but maybe that has to happen to put things back together.

I guess it is only appropriate that one of my last posts of the year, on New Year’s Eve, would be entitled with the hashtag I coined back in March as we began our, now 294 day, journey together dealing with the global pandemic – #LearningTogetherApart. As a person who believes so deeply in the power of community, it is about “showing up.” Just like when Major League Baseball gave us the opportunity to show up, albeit in the form of cutouts. Nevertheless, in our case, my family was in attendance for every Cincinnati Reds game in Great American Ballpark in Section 136, Row P, Seats 6-8.

You might say this is a trivial example in the face of a pandemic, but I would argue it’s the perfect example of being invited to be a part of a community. Being invited is fundamental to showing up and be part of a community. By being invited by the Reds and the Reds Community Fund we were able to, as a family, show up to help the Reds Community Fund continue the creation of programming that connects underserved children with baseball and softball, and connecting baseball with the community.

So, in the case of my field of education where right now via Zoom we are expected to give our students a sense of “home” when some children have never experienced or have any perceived notion of what “home” is, I must continue to show up and support environments for learning together apart. The issue just described is very complex with no one direct solution as some might naïvely think. Education, religion, poverty, economics, technology, generational cultures, and community are all woven together as part of this issue. No single directive will solve this. I hope to take the opportunity each and every day to shift the tone.

Even though things are confusing, terrifying, infuriating, heartbreaking, and completely out of control right now, we all need to keep showing up. We must continue “learning together apart.” We still do not know what all will be required, but whatever it is we must, with all we can offer, be there, learning, in integrity and generosity.

The Books That Opened My Eyes In The Fourth Quarter of 2020

Well here they are; the collection of blog posts inspired by great authors and great books in the last quarter of 2020. There has been so much great learning from books this year. So many times it might be just a sentence or paragraph that makes me pause and reflect, make me want to study something a little (or a lot deeper), or make me want to read another book. That’s why I always seem to have three to four books started at the same time. I know, that would drive many of you crazy, but it is how my mind works. Everything we read fills our mind with new information. We never know when those new bits of information might come in handy. The more knowledge we have, the better-equipped we are to tackle challenge we may face. You might want to consider allowing yourself some time to read each day. Because of all the distractions available to us now we don’t spend much time on any one thing. When you read a book, if you’re like me, all of your attention is focused on the story, I get lost in the content and the rest of the world just falls away, and you can immerse yourself in every fine detail you’re absorbing.

I’m sure I am going to need to update this post as it is just the 28th and I know of two or three posts I am formulated that are inspired by great books I am reading right now, but I wanted to go ahead and get this out there and will update before the end of the year. I’ve already posted about the posts inspired by books from the first three quarters of the year in these three posts:

The First Quarter Of An Incredible Year Of Reading

Second Quarter 2020 Book Inspired Posts

2020 Third Quarter Book Inspired Posts

Here are the posts inspired by great books for the fourth quarter of 2020:

October, 2020

Do Not Look Outside Yourself

Shine Brighter

Take Off The Mask & Cut Out Those Frustrations

Safety Nets Instead of Safety Barriers

Approaching The World With A Sense Of Childlike Wonder

November, 2020

Becoming The First Me

Getting Wound Around The Axle

What Are Your Filters

Catch Me And Prop Me Up!

Leading With Artisanship

Building A Community

Beyond COVID-19

The Education Catapult

Do Ideas Cause Change Or Does Change Cause Ideas?

Spreading The Wealth

December, 2020

Do You Feel Like I Do On Christmas 2020?

Building The Cocoon

The Language To Open Our World

Adding Fiction To The Reading Diet

Going Platinum

If Only We Would Just Ask

A Great Unknown

A Penguin Inspired Quest


Waves Of Change

“Sometimes in the waves of change, we find our true direction”

Unknown
🌊 Destin, Florida 🌊

As I read this quote I thought about how very relevant this is to us all in 2020. Changes from the global pandemic continue to hit us hard. Sometimes things are unexpected and we have to adjust on the fly to changing circumstances. As we ride the waves, the unrecognizable becomes clear, and finding new direction becomesJust as the tide changes, other things in our life can change too, and this can push us towards the path that we were destined to follow.

Change is something we cannot keep from experiencing, but the way we get over the hurdles is where the difference stands. We all have extra obstacles put in the way right now during the global pandemic. The question becomes what are you learning, what are you doing with that learning, and how are you sharing the learning? We must be a community. How are you breaking through and finding the right path?

The World At Our Fingertips

Posted in Community, Coronavirus, COVID-19, Global Leadership, Global Pandemic, Leadership by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on November 27, 2020

Pierre Bourdieu posited that as human beings, we don’t just passively experience the social world around us. Instead, we actively construct that world ourselves through our actions and the ideas that guide them (Bourdieu, 1987). It is interesting to think about his views in today’s context where we literally have the world at our fingertips. In many ways our, now 261 day, journey of the global pandemic has allowed us to learn ways and become more proficient at connecting globally and becoming more geo-neutral.

Bourdieu believed society to be complex, multifaceted, and dynamic. In other words people are in a constant state of flux within the social classes. He argued there are four main classes: the working class, middle class, upper class, and cultural elite. I can’t help but wonder what effect the global pandemic will have on social structure. New ways of working, job loss, new business, education system in flux, and needed changes to the health care industry are all going to have an affect on society and our social structure.

People’s social trajectories under normal circumstances change, but now are really changing due to the pandemic. The social and economic forces are playing a big role right now in how we act. Bourdieu called this ‘habitus’ or socialized norms or tendencies that guide behavior and thinking. Habitus is neither a result of free will, nor determined by structures, but created by a kind of interplay between the two over time: dispositions that are both shaped by past events and structures, and that shape current practices and structures and also, importantly, that condition our very perceptions of these (Bourdieu, 1984, p. 170). Understanding the social structure helps us to consider the social setting and the differential access to various forms of capital that create and reinforce inequality.

Right now as the world continues to shrink we have much more pressing issues to worry about than who has the newest or latest model of the latest vanity vehicle. As Bourdieu taught us, we have some power in how we position ourselves in the social structure. Today we have the advantage of every country and every continent being connected constantly. This allows for collaboration among nations and countries around the world. We need to continue to work on being a community. It’s right at our fingertips.

Bourdieu, P. (1984). Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste. London, Routledge.

Bourdieu, P. (1987). Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press.

Building A Community

As I reflected on the post I wrote yesterday, Imagining The Unimaginable, my mind went to just how powerful a community can be. In the case of an FFA Chapter, the students coming together to figure out how to hold events virtually during the pandemic; or in the case of agriculture teachers, coming together to discuss ideas for engaging students. It could also be a school community coming together to decide how to best educate children during a pandemic. It has been interesting to me to witness just how powerful a close knit community can be.

As I watch the classrooms that have continued to thrive during the fluid changes of going back and forth from virtual to in person to blended and then back to virtual, it has been the classrooms where the teacher had a clear community developed with her students. I have also witnessed a strong community of virtual students in a school come together to help each other learn how to become effective virtual teachers. Positive experiences with communities allow individuals to feel more connected to their environment and the people in it. Further, the connection that comes with being in a community can act as a support system for members when they require encouragement or help.

I have been fascinated with the power a community can bring for a long time. Check out what I wrote about community in Community: Aggregating for Innovation. Humans are made to live and work with others in a community where we can thrive. We are social beings that have evolved to exist within communities. In the great book Humanocracy, authors Gary Hamel and Michele Zanini told us that success depends on local improvisation. Try and tell me we are not seeing that during the pandemic. Hamel and Zanini said, “When interdependencies are varied, multidisciplinary, and difficult to specify in advance, you need a community” (p. 210). Is that a description of education, or what? A community gives us the opportunity for mining the wisdom of several people and helping each other out along the way.

“To solve unprecedented problems, individuals have to surmount unforeseen obstacles and extend the frontiers of human knowledge. That’s best accomplished by a community—a band of physically proximate compatriots who trust one another, are unmindful of rank and unencumbered by petty rules, and are mutually accountable and knit together by a common goal.”

Hamel & Zanini, 2020, Humanocracy, p. 210.

Organizations which emphasize community create a sense of belonging and foster transparency while reducing feelings of isolation. Having a strong community is so important right now as people and students alike are working and studying remotely. Hamel and Zanini also taught us that “At crunch times, silos and titles disappear” (p. 223). So, if we already have a strong community, void of bureaucracy, we are that much more prepared for a crisis. Overall, educational entities and workplaces who have a strong community have one major thing in common: they’re people centered. If the events of the last 255 days have shown us anything, it’s that the ever-changing work world and culture at large are ready for a more human-centered approach to the way we live, work, and relate to one another.

Imagining The Unimaginable

Last night I had the pleasure of recording a professional growth video focused on student engagement with five National FFA Teacher Ambassadors from Missouri, Nevada, Tennessee, and West Virginia. The goal of our recording was to provide teachers from around the country with ideas on how to keep students engaged right now whether it be in the classroom or in FFA activities. The recording turned out awesome and I really got to thinking about how the teachers were excited about the fixes their FFA chapters had developed for keeping students/members engaged during the global pandemic. We are on day 254, by the way. And, I loved the fact that several times it was the students who came up with the solution or idea for engagement. Make no mistake, though, they are still looking for ideas for upping their engagement game.

We also discussed things that we want to continue post-pandemic, like having members who can’t attend an event in person, for whatever reason, be able to join virtually. We weren’t thinking in that mindset 254 days ago. Things like pandemics, wars, and other social crises often create new attitudes, needs, and behaviors, which need nurturing. I believe in the power of imagination and creativity. Right now there are very few things that are absolute and for sure. We live in a very complex and ever changing environment right now – the future never releases hard data.

What we were really saying in the video was that we must keep imagining every possible scenario. In other words, letting our imaginations go wild. We must be imagining the unimaginable. Think about it; what is happening right now during the pandemic to our society has no precedent, or data behind it. No matter what industry we are in right now we need to continue to be creative and use our imaginations to open the path forward.

There is a silver lining, however. As I pointed out, these five teachers gave us numerous ideas and opportunities the pandemic have made imaginable. All kinds of new ways of staying engaged and connected have been implemented that will continue after this pandemic has passed. Because we will probably never return to our familiar pre-pandemic realities, we need to keep imagining an even better future.

Beyond COVID-19

Posted in COVID-19, Global Leadership, Global Pandemic, Leadership by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on November 18, 2020

Beyond the COVID-19 Pandemic: Envisioning a Better World by Transforming the Future of Healthcare by Amb. Pradeep K. Kapur

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This book could not have come at a better time. I finished reading it on Day 250 of the COVID-19 Global Pandemic. No part of our lives has been untouched by the pandemic. As an education policymaker I am always amazed at the parallels between the medical/healthcare field and education. Figuring out how to move forward as the pandemic rages on and in, hopefully soon, a post-pandemic world will be critical. While this book serves as a guide for us to improve healthcare and create a new paradigm, educational leaders need to read this book because so many of the ideas and recommendations are applicable. It reminds us how important it is to take time and learn from what we have experienced and contemplate, very thoughtfully, the path forward.



View all my reviews

Leapfrogging To New Paradigms In Education

I am going guess most of us played the game of ‘leapfrog’ at some point in our childhood. You know, the game where a number of children bend down and another child jumps over them one at a time, moving the line forward. If you are still playing this game – no judgement here. I refuse to grow up, too. This is, however, a great metaphor for where we are right now as a country. You all know how I love a good metaphor and Susan Patrick, President and CEO of Aurora Institute, knocked it out of the park (note the baseball metaphor) during her opening remarks and call to action at Aurora’s 2020 National Policy Forum saying, “We are at a ‘leapfrog’ moment in education.” This is so true!

Besides the definition of ‘leapfrog’ as a child’s game I did not really like the other definitions because phrases like “moving past others quickly” or “missing stages” were used. I did kind of like Cambridge Dictionary’s definition of “to improve your position by moving quickly past or over something that blocks your way.” To Susan’s point, we have an obligation in education right now to do this for ALL students.

I had the opportunity to speak on a global platform to over 40 countries back in the spring and I presented the following list of what I believe to be our Global Education Policy Considerations:

  • Connectivity and Technology Access
  • Remote Learning – I followed the first bullet with this because remote learning is so much bigger than just devices and broadband access. We also need to be thinking about the support students need in coaching, mentoring, tutoring, social emotional learning, nutrition, and basic care/safety needs
  • Personalized/Self Directed Learning/Mastery-Based Learning
  • Equity In Learning
  • Educating Students with Physical and Learning Disabilities
  • Mental Health Counseling / Physical Health Support
  • Flexibility
  • Support for Teachers

A pretty daunting list, I know, but we must get our focus just right on these issues and now is the time to ‘leapfrog’ to that focus. And, maybe, just maybe, the bullet point of ‘flexibility’ is one way to get us there. If we put on our equity lens and take all the points into consideration can we create space, remove obstacles (I like thinking obstacles better than barriers because obstacles can be ‘leapfrogged’ and removed; barriers not so much) so we can address all these issues. The COVID-19 Global Pandemic has also highlighted how in need of attention areas of our education system truly are, with concerns of equity and quality leading the lists.

I would like to submit the following question for us all to consider as we contemplate the future of education for ALL: Can we have new paradigms for education? I certainly believe we can.

We truly are at a ‘leapfrog’ moment in education. I believe the Aurora Institute has the Strategic Pillars in place to be a catalyst for bringing about this ‘leapfrog moment’ and bringing about new paradigms in education. Here they are:

Policy & Advocacy

Removing barriers and creating space for education innovations by advancing enabling policies and providing technical assistance, expertise, briefings, and support to policymakers at all levels.

Field-Building & Knowledge Creation

Building the field across networks, creating new knowledge, analyzing field data and sharing the latest research to produce and communicate insights to move the field forward.

Convening & Connecting

Providing unparalleled networking and learning to professionals designing new learning models, our events connect the field’s leading experts and practitioners with the trends, promising practices, and research to shape the future of education.

I so appreciate Susan Patrick inspiring us to leapfrog forward. As Abraham Lincoln taught us, “You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.” Let’s not forget that excellence is our best equity proposition. By leading collectively we can create an educational ecosystem that is best for all students.

Out of Kilter

We had a gathering of our Carolina’s 3D Leadership Program today and, as is always the case, I was inspired and learned a lot from the group. Last week I blogged about the activity where I showed the group the picture of a spider web that I had taken in the barn that morning to the group to prompt a discussion. You can read about Leaders Weaving The Web here. Today I switched up the prompt just a little. Here it is: On Day 247 of the Global Pandemic, relate the  journey you are on to the picture. The picture was the photo featured in this post minus the target and dart. After having some time to discuss in small breakout groups, they came back with some very insightful points for discussion. This post includes all of their points except one: the picture looks as though we are looking through a filter. I will address that point in a separate post.

Looks Like a Target

It was commented that the web looks like a target. I loved a comment that was made that even though the world has been thrown “out of kilter” (this, from one of our participants, is so much better than saying unprecedented times), we still have much to accomplish for our students. We must still be meeting our educational targets for our students and developing them as a whole person. In other words we need to be very careful about what things we have paused that turn into permanent pauses. Some pauses need to be made permanent, but we really need to match what decisions we make to the targets that need to be achieved for our students.

Looks Like Broken Glass

One group of participants said the web looked like broken glass. This was a reminder that we must keep going. This reminded us that there has been a great deal of positive innovation brought by the pandemic. Also, we discussed that the pandemic cannot be used as an excuse to lower expectations. Our kids deserve effective instruction and like was said earlier we must continue to lead them to their learning targets.

Looks Fragile

The group pointed out that everyone is very fragile right now, but there is strength in the web. We need to make sure we are serving like the silk of the spider web connecting all the small, important pieces together for our students, families, and those we serve. We need to continue connecting ideas, which in-turn creates the beautiful masterpiece. Even though the web looks fragile, we need to remember that much of the strength of the spider web comes from its elasticity.

It turns out that a key property of the silk in the spider web that helps make it so robust is something previously considered a weakness: the way it can stretch and soften at first when pulled, and then stiffen again as the force of the pulling increases. Now that is a great metaphor for during this time of being out of kilter. We are being pulled and we need to soften and allow for being stretched, which will then allow us to stiffen and become strong for those we serve. Markus Buehler, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering (CEE) at MIT, has done extensive research on spider webs says this about the web: “It’s a very flaw-tolerant system.” We need to also assume this “flaw-tolerant” position when dealing with students or those be serve.

Hopefully this being out of kilter is preparing us for a new phase of greatness in education, business, and our lives. With each day of the pandemic my hope is that we are assuming an attitude of preparation. I know I am very different today that I was 247 days ago. I’d like to think that most of those differences land in the positive column. Let’s keep moving forward – onward and upward!