Byron's Babbles

Day 💯 – Getting To Know People In A Different Way

Well, here we are; day 💯 of the Covid-19 Global Pandemic. During this time of discovering a new normal, I feel more connected than ever before. I have met the children, spouses, pets, and even a grandmother of people I never would have thought possible. I’ve even introduced some of our Jersey dairy cows to others while connecting virtually. Additionally, I’ve witnessed parents attending school events virtually, while at work, that never would have been able to attend before. My point? There are things that we need to consider becoming normal. I’m not saying replace necessarily, but supplement.

Having said that, I now begin to think about what else do we need to be thinking about? How do we leverage technology? How do we stay human? How do we get the right tools in the hands of everyone? How do we decide what the right tools are?

It’s interesting to me that before the WHO (I thought that was a rock band) named this a Global Pandemic we were talking about sustainability and the environment, health care, education, and many other things. While in the education realm we have been focused on connectivity and providing meaningful virtual education, and in healthcare our actions have been around caring for Coronavirus patients and stopping the spread of the disease, we will get back to talking about the major issues in the way we were before the pandemic took over. For example, we will, no doubt, be rethinking health care and how it is delivered. In education, I continue to argue that our conversation needs to shift to the idea that school is no longer a place.

Even though I served as moderator for an awesome global event last month that was virtual with 47 countries represented, I also wonder if our assumptions about globalization have been challenged. We had been talking about distance no longer being a factor, but in some ways I’ve seen us become more isolationist and seeing us care more about the locality we operate in and what we can touch and feel. But, we’ve also seen that we can hire the best talent from anywhere and bring them onto teams. The only remaining question related to that is how to do remote working well.

I don’t think I am alone with all of this thinking and pondering. We are now entering a time of needing to decide which practices still make sense and which need to change. We need to come together as families, businesses, schools, communities, cities, states, and nations to answer the question, “What can we create together?”

Getting Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable

Screen Shot 2020-05-29 at 1.50.24 PMI first drew the illustration featured in this post for a webinar that I presented as a part of for the SMART Factory League back in April. Then I used it again this week for two webinars I did for teachers entitled “Embracing the Changes: Let’s Not Go Back to Status Quo.” The drawing represented how we are being nudged, pushed, or even shoved to make changes, given our current uncertain and unprecedented times. I hoped the drawing represented going from the massive, unorganized scribble that was the uncertainty and confusion we first experienced when dealing with the COVID-19 Pandemic to a very focused, straight line. On this, now day 80 of the pandemic, I would argue we are not at the focused, straight line yet, but are moving closer.

So, how do we get started? To borrow from our friend Goldilocks – we must get our focus just right. Focusing to narrowly on just one of our challenges will not work, but it also will not work to try to change everything at once, either. We need to change in a controlled fashion. But, what does that mean during this time of both the normal disruption of things and the ongoing pandemic? We are all trying to cope with unprecedented levels of uncertainty.

In fact, studies show that we are loss-averse and gain-seeking. We want the sure thing. We will accept less to lower the risk of failure. Sometimes we even give up success to not experience failure. We contemplate this a lot in athletics. Do we play to win, or play not to lose? Most teams who play not to lose, do just that – lose.

One thing I know for sure, we have done a lot of developing our “dealing with uncertainty capability.” One of the most important ways I believe that I have been able deal with the uncertainty has been to fully embrace the fact that every day was going to be a learning experience. I have literally asked myself, “What can I learn today?” These past 80 days have put the mantras of “lifelong learner” and “growth mindset” to the ultimate tests. You see, when something’s too easy or we’re not facing uncertainty, we’re not learning. Numerous scientific studies show that when we confront setbacks and we can adjust our view of these setbacks to see them as lessons, our brains literally begin to change.

None of us were trained on how to respond in a global pandemic and our immediate response to the challenges might have been “I can’t do this” or “We’ll figure it out.” As Nora Bateson (2016) so aptly put it in Small Arcs of Larger Circles: Framing Through Other Patterns, “No one is qualified to talk about uncertainty. You cannot get a degree in it yet, to the best of my knowledge.” Furthermore, she went on to say, “How, after all, can I pretend to offer you any kind of lesson on what I do not know?”

But, learn in adversity is what we did in education. While in the beginning it looked like the left had side of my scribble, we have been making our way across the page to the straight line. Wednesday and today we began to chronicle our learning by embracing the changes and discussing how to not go back to status quo. Here are two graphic recordings done by Amy Reynolds, Principal of Governors Charter Academy, during our session: “Embracing the Changes: Let’s Not Go Back To Status Quo.” Check them out:

The information in the graphics came from over 200 teachers working in breakout groups answering the following “What if?” questions:

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I learned to use “what if?” questions from the late Dr. Clayton Christen. These type of questions allow us to challenge assumptions, allow for innovation, and allow us to prepare. How about you? What have you been learning during these uncertain times?

Life Is A School As Well

img_8394Today, during our “best of week” of educator professional development, I repeated my webinar, “Angry Teacher 1: What Can We Learn from Angry Birds About Engaging Students?” During the webinar a teacher made the comment in one of the discussions that “Life Is A School As Well.” This comment really struck me as we were discussing student engagement and making sure we were teaching students to adapt and use concepts to solve real world challenges and issues. We really have this opportunity right now because of the COVID-19 Pandemic. We have a socio-scientific classroom at our fingertips right now that can be easily accessed virtually with our students. Our students are living this right along with us. Therefore we must consider the intersection of our students real life and education. Right now the lines are pretty blurred.

Living through this time has taught us the that “life is a school” and that “school is no longer a place.” We need to make sure and honor living as part of the educational process. Henry Adams taught us this when he said, “Your life’s journey is your education.” I blogged about this in Your Life’s Journey is Your Education. We need to remember we are preparing citizens. Part of the answer for improving education is improving the sense of calling and commitment of students to take ownership of their learning and development. Burdens can many times create blessings and we need to keep in mind that our students have lives outside of the traditional education “walls” that we see the kids. We are learning to deal with this now more than ever. We cannot take this learning lightly and must use what we have learned to guide our path forward while we are on this path with no footprints.

If we really use “life” as part of education then we need to begin to reverse engineer how we educate using fulfilled adult lives and careers in the here and now to help inform the education content and process. We are not really doing this if we are honest. Most curricula are not designed by people who have experienced world-wide success in the areas being taught. This is why I am such a believer in the need of involving business/industry as partners in education. We must break through the barriers of:

  • Teaching to deliver on, rather than change, expectations.
  • Teaching to redeploy old ideas rather than originate and ideate new ones.
  • Teaching about the dangers of originality.

These are the reasons why we get compliance instead of student engagement. Much of our education system teaches kids to be very good at being outwardly and entirely obedient. We need to provide an education where school work looks like real work and we have more than just very narrow parochial outcomes in mind. We need to be guiding students toward their largest, best, life-long interests; not just the narrow obstacle course we control. Life truly is a school as well.

The Day We Started Down The Path With No Footprints

IMG_8652As I write this post it is day 129 of the 366 days of 2020. With 237 days left in this leap year, I felt the need to go back and reflect on the 70th and 71st days of 2020. These two days marked the start of my life being very different. In fact I was reminded that my life is not really my own, apart from everyone else. My life is a part of an entire community and ecosystem. Our world, up to and including March 10th, was really built on the premise that our world and education works off of and teaches that we are individuals and act as individuals. But, overnight from March 10th to 11th we were taught that we are all part of a ecosystem and even our own health depends on others.

IMG_8614The 70th day of 2020 was March 10th. That day wasn’t much different that any other day, other than I had been invited to attend the Indiana Pacers vs. Boston Celtics game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana that evening with my Krannert School of Management friends from Purdue University. Other than the Pacers losing in a great and close game 114-111, it was a perfect evening of visiting with and networking. I do remember we had begun “elbow bumping” instead of shaking hands and there were extra bottles of hand sanitizer on the tables. Little did I know at the time I had seen the last NBA game of the season.

2020-03-10 19.21.22I do, however, vividly remember one comment I made toward the end of the evening: “I wonder what happens if one player on one of these teams has Coronavirus?” Well, the next day, Wednesday, March 11, the 71st day of 2020, I got my answer. Rudy Gobert of Utah Jazz was the first NBA player to be diagnosed with what, that day, we began calling “COVID-19.” That same day the NBA canceled the rest of the season and the NCAA said the college basketball tournament would be played without fans (a few days later the tournament was canceled completely). On Wall Street that day, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 1,465 points. Also, on that day I learned that my son would be coming home from Murray State University to take his classes online till at least April 6th (later, the rest of the Murray State University semester went to online). That day we started down a path with no footprints.

Additionally, on March 11th, we officially started calling it a Global Pandemic, as declared by the World Health Organization on that day. It was that day that I came to the realization that this was for real, and this was much bigger than all of us. I also realized that if I was going to survive the weeks ahead, I would need to think in terms of self reflection instead of self evaluation. Also, it was abundantly clear on March 11th that pre-COVID-19 life and what happened next was still a path with no footprints. My existence as an individual was forever altered to make me realize how dependent we are on each other. For example that very March 11th day, the hoarding began. It became a time when we couldn’t find a bottle of hand sanitizer because someone else had hoarded a truckload of it – literally. I realized we, as a people, think and act very individualistically. Even though we were being told that there was plenty of everything, people still hoarded. I saw with my own eyes the empty shelves. We weren’t thinking about ourselves as a part of a larger community that needed to think about the next person coming down the aisle looking for toilet paper – which for some reason became the most hoarded item early on.

“My health is not my own. My health is the whole community’s, it belongs to the elderly, the youth, and even to the biome of organisms that live in my body and in the soil. This, is the opposite of everything that the last centuries of manufacturing, education and politics have forged into societal infrastructure and even the making of identity. ~ Nora Bateson

When people begin to talk about going back to normal, I cringe. I’m not sure I want to go back. I get it. You all now think I am crazy, and you’re arguing that not getting back to normal will cause the economy to crash. But, just going back to normal without having learned and grown from the experience is a huge tragedy. If it really takes a month to build a habit then we are in great shape because we have had nearly two months of developing new habits of realizing that what we do affects others and so on. We have also had a chance to slow down and ponder things like “how do we take what we have learned and make our education system better?” We’ve realized that school is no longer a place, and so how do we as Nora Bateson asked us, “What is the measurable value of changing the education system so the next generations may be more proficient at complexity and systemic understanding than their parents?” improve our education system. We do need an education system focused on developing our children to be able to deal with the complexities of our world that most of their parents don’t even realize exist.

I can truly say I have grown in ways I never thought possible in the last two months. And, a big part of that learning is the realization that we are all a part of something bigger than ourselves. As I finish writing this on May 8th, we are beginning to reopen, but hopefully we take advantage of of the clean slate of the path with no footprints to make the world a better place.

 

 

 

 

 

Being Who We Want To Be

Posted in Education, Education Reform, Educational Leadership, Gig Economy, Global Education, Leadership, Pandemic by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on April 26, 2020

I just had another Lizzie West quote impact me. In this one, West said, “Freedom, to me, is imagination, the power of imagination to create what we want and be who we want to be.” This made me think about all our students, both high school and post secondary, coming out into the Gig Economy. We often talk about how our students will need to create their own job titles, create their own jobs, or adjust to jobs yet not out there, but this is more true today than ever. We must provide the environment for our students to imagine and then create who and what they want to be.

“Freedom, to me, is imagination, the power of imagination to create what we want and be who we want to be.” ~ Lizzie West

Our high school and college graduates of today are entering the workforce of the Gig Economy. The Gig Economy is made up of consultants, independent contractors, freelancers, side-giggers, and on-demand workers. Gig Economy workers make up approximately 30-40% (depending on what source you use) of the U.S. workforce right now. Alternative and flexible work arrangements have been increasing, but with the COVID-19 Pandemic these may become the norm.

Therefore, I get concerned that most high school and college graduates still receive a transcript instead of a portfolio. This plays to my belief we need to worry more about transferable skills and less about courses. Our students will need to be able to identify the skills they have acquired and then be able to market them. Developing portfolios begins to do this and gives them a usable product from their education.

Additionally, we need to be teaching the skills required of the Gig Economy. According to Fast Company there are four essential skills needed in the Gig Economy:

  1. Critical thinking and logic
  2. Human Resources
  3. Finance
  4. Marketing and communication

Gig Economy professionals must also be able to:

  • Match personal skills to problems that need solved.
  • Direct themselves.
  • Ask good questions before devising a solution.
  • Learn, learn, and learn some more.

Our students will need to develop a strong sense of self. They will also, now more than ever, need to be able to answer their own “why” of their learning. Understanding this “why” will help them imagine what and who she/he wants to be.

Whether It’s Spinning Plates or Juggling Balls, We Can’t Afford To Drop Either For Our Kids!

IMG_8488Remember, This Is a Marathon: We Want You To Still Be In The Race At The End Accept, Acknowledge, Ask, Adjunct Teaching, Advice

We need to take time to reflect on what it means to truly form a partnership between schools, teachers, and parents and consider how we can shift our practices in ways that will extend well beyond this crisis. I had the tremendous opportunity and honor to be a part of an event hosted by Kevin Eikenberry of The Kevin Eikenberry Group this past week. It was titled ‘Juggling Balls You Can’t Drop: How To Be Successful Parent, Employee, Teacher (And Spouse) Without Going Crazy. Kevin had asked me if this was an important and timely topic, and I very quickly responded with, “Absolutely!” Then it became important to pick a great teacher to be a part of the project that was doing an awesome job of supporting parents and students. Kevin left that job to me and I could not be prouder of who I picked. I had worked with Katty Pacheco, 2nd grade teacher at Renaissance Charter School at Boggy Creek in Florida, before on webinars for teachers and knew enough about the support she is providing parents right now in this time of remote learning to know she would be a great choice. And…she certainly proved me right. The parents on the Live With Kevin event really appreciated her comments and advice. It was such a great event. If you missed it, here is the link to watch the event and see materials provided from the event: Juggling Balls You Can’t Drop: How to be Successful Parent, Employee, Teacher (and Spouse) Without Going Crazy.

Juggling Balls You Cant Drop Sq-01I decided to do this post to share not only the link about, but to share out the thoughts I have developed prepping for the event. I’m coming up on a month of working from home and as long for many of the schools I work with being transitioned to remote learning. During these unprecedented times we all are doing the very best we can. I had the opportunity to present to the SMART Factory League global event last week too, and I will be posting my thoughts on things we need to be thinking about moving forward. One thing we need to keep in mind is what my friend and great author, Nora Bateson, said in Small Arcs of Larger Circles: Framing Through Other Patterns: “No one is qualified to talk about uncertainty. You cannot get a degree in it yet, to the best of my knowledge” (location 437/3376, Kindle Ed.). While learning virtually has incredible potential, the very piecemeal efforts are not a very good substitute for real classrooms, in most cases. The school closures across the country have real consequences for our students academically.

Schools are the cornerstones of most communities and play a role that goes far beyond academics. Our schools support the nutritional, social and emotional well-being, and other health considerations of our children. This situation has many parents overburdened trying to support their child’s education the best they can. There will be gaps in education and students behind as a result of this COVID-19 Pandemic, but we must work to learn from this experience and be ready when the call comes to re-enter our schools. All of our focus cannot just be on making sure every student has internet access, even though that is an important consideration.

Accept that you are our students’ most consistent teachers, and right now you are their only in-person teachers.

  • Remember to differentiate, just like your child’s teacher would. Students who tend to be independent self-starters will thrive in a more unstructured environment. Without “wasting” time on commuting to school and having recess or dead time between class periods, they will likely become increasingly productive. Other children may require more guidance and outside motivators to continue to thrive academically.

Don’t change everything that you are doing (bring old routines to your new normal)

  • Acknowledge that being a working parent from home is the most challenging
  • Do not reinvent your schedule (at least to the extent you don’t have to)
  • Create a daily and weekly calendar (include daily routines)
  • Set boundaries and even assign roles for everyone
    • This can include assigning childcare and “adjunct teaching” time for family members
  • Schedule breaks in and some time for unstructured fun
  • Virtual play-dates for kids and adults
    • As an adult have something to look forward to at the end of the day (eg. Virtual happy hour, cooking the evening meal, family movie night, go for a drive or walk)
  • Zoom (or whatever platform is being used) lunch for the kids. Suggest to your child’s teacher that students have a set lunch time and all the students sit down and eat with their cameras and mics open.

Don’t be afraid to ask

  • We need to lean on our village now, more that ever (eg. Parents, kids, teachers, community members)
  • Ask your teachers for resources, ask your teachers for a weekly schedule, ask your teachers for help
  • Ask your teachers for a weekly “office hours” for parents to explain what will be happening that week or the next week and anything parents need to know to be successful adjunct teachers.

 Your kids will give you good advice

  • This is a chance to give kids a chance to be leaders of their own learning
  • Ask what resources they like best
  • Let your children be a part of developing the daily and weekly schedule
  • Give your students agency and choice

Accept that things are not going to run 100% smoothly and we are not all going to be our 100% productive selves.

unnamedByron’s Book Recommendation:

The Power of Showing Up: How Parental Presence Shapes Who Our Kids Become and How Their Brains Get Wired by Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson

 

Resources:

Noble Education Initiative Learning Hub:https://www.nobleeducationinitiative.com/services/learning-hub

The Smithsonian Institution: https://www.si.edu/collections & https://www.si.edu/openaccess &

https://airandspace.si.edu/anywhere

Time For Kids: https://time.com/tfk-free/

Khan Academies Kids:https://learn.khanacademy.org/khan-academy-kids/

Educating Students To Improve The World

The book Educating Students to Improve the World, written by Harvard Professor Fernando M. Reimers, presents an inspiring and bold vision of how schools should be organized to cultivate a range of skills and dispositions that effectively educate students to make the world better. The book is unique in the breadth of the scholarship it integrates and in how it builds a sensible model to understand the process of educational change that honors the multidimensionality of the process. It is, at the same time, a very scholarly book, an erudite treaty of the field of global education, and a very practical book, a book that makes sense to those in the business of leading schools and school systems.

Professor Reimers

The idea that the book contains is simple, yet holds remarkable potential to transform education around the world. The big idea the book contains is that public education, as an institution of the Enlightenment, was meant to be global since its creation, but the obvious global nature of many of the challenges facing humanity requires that education becomes intentionally  global. Professor Reimers argues in the book that formal education should be aligned with audacious and hopeful visions for a more inclusive world, such as those contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights or in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Such alignment involves defining what kind of competencies would actually help students care about and have the skills to make a difference in advancing a more inclusive and sustainable world. With such clarity on the expected learning outcomes for students, the curriculum would then map backwards an instructional sequence to gradually support students in a rigorous process of development of such competencies.

But the merit of this book goes beyond articulating why education should help students develop a sense of purpose, aligned with ambitious purposes of building a better world, it then explains how structuring effective education programs requires that the process of change is advanced multidimensionally, reflecting a cultural, psychological, professional, institutional and political. 

The ambitions of the book are considerable, to bridge an evident schism between the scholarship and practice of global education. The book is an intellectual tour de force tracing the history of global education to the very creation of public education systems, and integrating research reflecting a variety of disciplinary perspectives in support of a conceptual framework in service of more coherent and effective educational practice. 

Enhancing the credibility of the ideas in the book is not just the fact that the book is well researched and crafted, but that it builds on a long practice of the author actually doing the very things this books recommends should be done to develop a relevant curriculum. Professor Reimers invented an approach to take bold goals, such as the United Nations Development Goals, and translate them into student learning outcomes, and then curriculum and pedagogy. It’s a simple and intuitive idea, but it had not been done before. 

It is the combination of the powerful idea that education should be aligned with ambitious goals for inclusion and sustainability with a theoretical model of how to structure efforts to translate that idea into changed educational practices that makes this book unique. It is not surprising that since it was published, as an Open Access resource by Springer, a week ago, the book has already been downloaded 24,000 times.

The book can be downloaded here https://www.springer.com/gp/book/9789811538865

❤️ Kids Having Ownership!

IMG_7814This past week I had the honor of doing a day long professional development for teachers from all schools corporations in Elkhart County, Indiana. I am representing Noble Education Initiative carrying out this customized professional development. This was part of an ongoing Project Based Learning partnership created by Horizon Education Alliance to bring business/industry and education together to best educate students. I love doing professional development workshops, particularly when they are on topics that I am passionate about. Project Based Learning (PBL) is one of those topics. It is also energizing to be with a group of educators who are very engaged. Groups like this always remind me and validate what Gallup® finds teachers value in question 12 of the Gallup Q12 Index©: “In the last year, have you had opportunities to learn and grow?” These teachers have been given this opportunity and very much value the opportunity, and are taking advantage of the opportunity to learn and grow.

The group last week was both passionate and engaged. We started the day with what I called “Level Setting.” I had them work in pairs to talk about their PBL experience now that we were half way through the school year. I wanted them to talk about what they had learned, “wow” moments, what they still had questions about, and what they still needed help with. They were to represent this on a tear sheet and put it up on the wall. Here are a few of the tear sheets that were put up:

Did you see the comment “❤️Kids Having Ownership”? That’s what this is all about. The next few paragraphs will dig into that a little deeper.

IMG_7813

Aubri Mosness with her students

We then had everyone individually do a gallery walk and pick one thing that stood out to them. This was an awesome discussion when the group came back together. There were questions like, “who wrote… I would like to know more,” or “I had that same experience because…,” or “I am so glad you wrote that because that same thing happened to us, and we are still trying to figure out…” You get the idea. One comment really stood out to me during this discussion; It was by Goshen High School Teacher, Aubri Mosness. She said, “I have felt the transition from me doing most of the work to the students doing most of the work. At first I was a little uncomfortable because I felt like I was doing much, but then I realized how much the students were getting out of it.” I was so excited by this. This is such a revelation in teaching. Great teaching should have the students doing most of the work. She was truly facilitating with a student managed classroom and the students have student agency and choice.

Then, at lunch Ms. Mosness’ students presented to the whole group and business/industry representatives that had joined us, on their project and I led a little Q&A. The students were incredible. During the presentation Ms. Mosness commented, “When I give my students too much, too much information, too much guidance, I am taking away opportunities for learning.” This was a drop the mic opportunity as far as I was concerned. The students all concurred. I then asked the students to give a thumbs up or thumbs down on the following question: “School work should look more like real work?” All six students gave me a thumbs up. Our students deserve to learn in an environment that is facilitated in a real world and relevant context.

61NlMeJ8eMLThese students were giving first hand testimony affirming the research I did for my book, The Hand In The Back Of The Room: Connecting School Work To Real Life.” In the book I talk about that the hand in the back of the room was mine, and probably yours too, that was raised wanting to know why I needed to learn what I was being taught. In other words school work must be connected to real life. This is why PBL is so great. Using PBL teaching principles will make school work look and feel like real work. In other words, the question from “the hand in the back of the room is answered as to why she needs to learn what she is being taught. When teachers are allowed to make student learning the ultimate test of facilitation of learning, then instruction improves to produce better learning. The results of my research showed improved achievement/performance in science when students are taught in a relevant context. For me that context was agriculture, but there many other real world contexts to be used. This is why the partnerships with business/industry is so important for our students. The challenge to all of us in education is to find ways to make learning visible by connecting school work and real life for the students we serve.

Success In Aspirational Terms

This past week I heard a person say that “success should be measured in aspirational terms.” The more I thought about it, the more I like it. In education I believe we need to think more aspirational in the way we prepare students. In other words looking beyond just credits and a diploma to the outcomes of what a student should be able to do now and be capable of learning to do later.

Let’s use an example that gets used a lot – welding. It is short-sided to think that having a student be in the single pathway of learning to fuse two pieces of metal together is enough. Don’t get me wrong, good careers await the student, but that’s not aspirational enough. This is why I believe in achieving multiple pathways. A student with aspirations for welding should also be studying computer science. Computers have become an indispensable part of welding processes. Computer, and even artificial intelligence, are required for the execution of many welding operations today. We can only imagine this need for knowledge of computer science will increase. Industry is telling us that welders will need knowledge of lasers, computer program, robotics, artificial intelligence, materials engineering, and systems integration to advance.

With the increased demand for highly skilled and technically sound workers, our students will need to shape their careers around multiple areas of expertise. This aspirational approach will enable their lifelong learning and ability to be agile to a ever-increasingly fast changing world.

We need to be deliberately aligning our student’s aspirations and abilities. The scene in the movie “The Martianwhere it doesn’t look like it will end well for astronaut Mark Watney he sends this message to be relayed to his parents:

“Tell them I love what I do and I’m really good at it. And that I’m dying for something big and beautiful and greater than me. Tell them I said I can live with that.” ~ Mark Watney, played by Matt Damon, in The Martian (2015)

Try and tell me that’s not aspirational. We all need to find what we love and what we are good at. It’s not either or, and we need to help students find that balance as well. Some would say that aspiration is magical thinking. I don’t believe it is a magic trick to strategize about the future, help students invent themselves and us reinvent ourselves, push upscale, and keep a growth mindset. Without deep thought and planning about measuring success in aspirational terms, it just becomes a vacuous platitude, or “thing,” as I like to say. But taken in the context of enabling the future, career/skill agility, and student outcomes, measuring success in aspirational terms becomes about being prepared for what we don’t know we need to be prepared for.

Leading With A Touch Of Quirkiness

IMG_6293I finished the awesome book Joyful: The Surprising Power Of Ordinary Things To Create Extraordinary Happiness by Ingrid Fetell Lee yesterday evening. It is such a great book that really opened my eyes as to the ways I am already creating joy and need to continue, and the external environments I need to be creating to give rise to inner joy for both myself and others. Two parts of the book had a big impact on me: the idea of playful design bringing joy and not being bound by convention brings joy. Those that know me very well at all know that these are two things that I put into practice almost every day.

IMG_6480Ingrid Fetell Lee taught us to not feel bound by convention; break the mold and bring joy to the world. I believe it is about being a divergent thinker; the ability to generate novel ideas and conjure up multiple solutions to a problem. This is about being creative and thinking outside the box. This celebrates creativity. I have watched this way of operating bring joy to groups doing the divergent thinking and have felt the joy myself when conjuring up new and exciting ways of doing things. I believe we are very guilty in education right now of promoting the idea of one correct answer. This is really promoting when using high stakes summative tests. I get that at some point there has to be convergence of ideas but I believe we take the joy out of learning by not allowing for enough divergence – both in our educational systems and in the workplace. We tend to reward the students who work hard, like learning, are rule followers, but are not going to break any molds or create anything wowful.

Interestingly, childhood creativity has been shown to have a higher correlation to adulthood success than IQ. So, maybe we should create systems in our organizations and schools that value creative, interesting, and innovative answers, rather than the “right” ones. I also believe this mold-breaking thinking allows us to better question ourselves. This gives us the opportunity to be more comfortable with the idea that what we thought we knew could be wrong. This kind of thinking can position us well in our learning, work, and personal lives.

IMG_6481We were also taught in Joyful that being a little quirky and even bring joy. I proved this yesterday when I emceed our Impact Georgia back to school event. I wore my white linen suite that is a little out of character for me. I must say I was looking pretty fly. The look was just enough different from my usual that I believe it brought joy to others which made me feel joyful as well. I also added to the quirkiness by asking a teacher to come up on stage, and I quote myself here, “Take a selfie of us. Make it look like I am holding the camera.” This was of the things I really learned from the book is that joyfulness can be found in some of the most obscure and little things.

IMG_6484I even think about a couple of weeks ago when we were in Alberta, Canada and went to see the worlds largest dinosaur in Drumheller, Alberta, Canada. It was super quirky, but the quirkiness made it so much fun and it brought so much joy that it keeps bringing joyfulness when we look at the two pictures included in this post.

Go ahead and embrace your quirkiness and celebrate creativity!