Byron's Babbles

Making Things Work

At my son’s graduation from Murray State University yesterday, President Dr. Robert Jackson made the comment, “Many things work to make things work.” Very true! He was referring to the graduation ceremony as well as the process of a student coming to Murray State as a freshman and graduating four years later ready to take on the world. There are often multiple factors or elements that contribute to making something successful or effective. This also suggests that there is not just one single solution, but rather a combination of different components that work together to achieve the desired outcome. Great leaders focus on the key inputs of organizations and make sure they are delivered at the right quality and at the right time.

Effective organizations rely on a combination of different processes/components rather than a single solution to achieve success. Those organizations, like Murray State University, understand that complex problems require a holistic approach and they are able to leverage the strengths of their team and resources to achieve their goals.



An Adventure Of Our Own Making

It can be a motivational or empowering sentiment, suggesting that we have the freedom and agency to pursue our dreams and explore new possibilities. I also loved the phrase from Padraig Cavender to Megs and George Devonshire, “It’s an adventure of our own making” in Once Upon A Wardrobe, by Patti Callahan Henry. Padraig made this comment as they were visiting castle ruins in Ireland. George, who was eight years old and dying of a heart condition, wanted to see this as his only Christmas present request. Padraig showed up at George and Megs’ house on Christmas Eve Eve (I love that Patti gave Christmas Eve an Eve in this novel) and told them to get their stuff and get ready to leave. Megs left their parents, who were not home, a note and off they went – on an adventure of their own making. I am doing some work for the Smithsonian this week in Washington D.C. and I got to thinking about how great of places all the Smithsonian units are for allowing us to make our own adventures. Especially for our students, having all these archives is incredible. And, with thousands and thousands of the archives on line now, ALL students can have an adventure in learning. I love adventures and we need to encourage our young people be adventuresome.

The phrase “It’s an adventure of our own making” implies a few other things to me, such as:

  • that we have the power to create our own unique experiences in life.
  • that we have control over our own destiny.
  • that we can shape our lives through the choices we make and the actions we take.

We need to help young people to take healthy adventures by leading by example. We need to encourage others and ourselves to try new things. We can develop a sense of adventure while also prioritizing our well-being. We can navigate new experiences by setting goals, managing risks, and learning from any challenges we encounter.

Every Human Interaction Is Eternally Important

Hamilton Heights (Indiana) Teacher Leader Academy participants making leadership parfaits

I have spent this entire week working in schools with teacher leadership academies or facilitating strategic planning. Spending time with everyone in a school setting is incredible. I absolutely love the interactions I have now in the work I do, but I do miss the daily interaction with students I had in the classroom as a teacher. Yesterday, I was reminded of this by the phrase, “Megs, every human interaction Is eternally important.” This comment from C.S. Lewis to Megs Devonshire in the historical fiction novel, Once Upon A Wardrobe, by Patti Callahan Henry made me reflect on just how important every interaction really is; even if just a smile or simple hello. The word “every” is very important in this phrase. Those interactions can truly make or break someone. This phrase reminded me, and I hope it does you too, of the value and significance of human connection and the impact it can have on our lives and the lives of those around us.

When I was in the classroom as a teacher I would shake every scholar’s hand before they entered the classroom. This was an important ritual that was extremely important and meaningful to both my students and myself. This interaction allowed me to really know the student in the context of that moment. You can learn a lot about a person when you shake their hand. Particularly if you have a meaningful relationship with that person and interact with them every day. The phrase “every human interaction is eternally important” suggests that each interaction we have with others is significant and has a lasting impact. In Once Upon A Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis was emphasizing to Meg, the importance of our relationships and connections with others, and encourages us to approach each interaction with care and consideration. Focusing on building genuine connections and being present in the moment can lead to more fulfilling relationships and experiences.

Viewing Students Through An Asset Model Lens

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to facilitate a leadership retreat for Silver Creek School Corporation here in Indiana as they begin a year-long strategic planning process. It was a very inspiring day, and I was reminded of just how complex education is. Every child we serve comes with different experiences and different aspirations. It is our job to make sure each of personal journeys can be pursued and is successful. Each individual should be able to pursue their journey without interference or obstruction. We need to recognize and build upon the unique strengths and talents that each student possesses.

Our students are filled with aspirations, goals, dreams and desires – we should facilitate and learn from these. Our students are rich with experiences and should be viewed through the lens of an asset model instead of a deficit model. By using an asset model, educators can create a positive and empowering learning environment that encourages students to reach their full potential. This approach involves identifying and nurturing the skills, interests, and talents of each student and providing them with opportunities to develop and succeed. Viewing students through an asset model lens helps to create a more inclusive and equitable education system that values diversity and promotes success for all students.

Improving Our Time

I am reading the incredible book, A Man of Iron. The Turbulent Life and Improbable Presidency of Grover Cleveland by Troy Senik right now. I am confident there will be many blog posts prompted by this book. This post is about a comment Senik made early in the book as he was describing Cleveland’s journey as a child and young man. He wrote, “If we want to become great in our future lives we must improve our time in school.” He also said, “We must improve our time as children.” This observation that we must improve our time really jumped out at me. As father of a son who graduates from college this spring it has been awesome to watch him grow, develop, and improve. It has also been my job to not be a main character, that’s his role, but a side character in this journey. It has been such an honor to be a supporting actor in his journey. Funny, I hadn’t really thought of it, but my wife and I’s job has been to provide the experiences for him to improve. Additionally, my son has done a great job of improving his time.

Back to “We must improve our time as children.” Whether as parents or educators, we must improve time by helping children learn new skills, pursue their interests, and develop healthy habits, so that they can become well-rounded and successful individuals later on. Furthermore, we need to focus on our education, social skills, and emotional growth during the formative years so that children can face the challenges of adulthood with confidence and resilience. Bottom-line: the time spent during childhood has an important impact on our future. Every path matters – so we have an obligation to do everything we can to help our our children navigate, both with guidance and providing experiences as supporting actors.

Learning Vs Being Right

We live, work, and play in such complex institutional and cultural environments today. Therefore, we must be adaptive individual learners, as well as, learning organizations. Mary Catherine Bateson taught us that openness to learning and changing is more important than what one knows at any given point. Openness to learning and willingness to adjust are important qualities. Learning is more important and being right. Learning is a perspective as much as it is a practice. We need to be nurture and encourage an attitude of learning. We must seek out ideas, information, and approaches so we can learn from others, including those whose views diverge from ours.

There are really three pieces to great leadership:

  1. Curiosity
  2. Growth Mindset
  3. Openness

If we go back to the teaching of Bateson, we find openness as an essential trait. If we have an appreciation of diverse perspectives and a willingness to try new things, we can better navigate daily challenges and discover novel solutions. Openness allows ideas to merge and develop by valuing diversity of thinking. Unfortunately, school taught us (and is still doing this) that we need to always be right. But, that binary way of thinking keeps us from considering that there might be a right answer, especially when we are on uncharted ground.

Christmas Playfulness

How are you doing with your playfulness? On this Christmas morning I am thinking about how we learn through our bodies. The somatic side of learning if you will. Watching kids play with toys on Christmas is amazing. Wait a minute; watching adults play with their kid’s toys on Christmas is amazing. With play we get participation and full engagement. Play inspires curiosity. Curiosity in turn opens the door for exploration, experimentation, and more learning. What if we intentionally focused on learning, leading, and living through play? For adults and children alike, play makes use of all our different senses – visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. Our bodies store so much of our information and when we become active, our learning becomes sticky.

I love to use playing as a part of the leadership development work I do. Play fosters our curiosity and strengthens our childlike spirit to transform the way we show up as a conscious leader. Play reduces resistance and pushback because people are relaxed. When we let our guard down, all learning happens more easily. Playing also brings low-stress social interaction. Playing is how we connect. Play stimulates our imagination, helping us adapt and solve problems. Play gives us an opportunity to refresh, rejuvenate, and revitalize. When was the last time you played?

Leading With Impact

In his great book, This Is Day One: A Practical Guide To Leadership That Matters, Drew Dudley told us to create a pledge to create experiences that make others feel good about engaging with you. To do this he explained we need to pick a value. An example would be “impact.” You can define impact as “a commitment to creating experiences that make others feel better after interacting with me.” I love this value you and try really hard to practice it daily by asking myself a question like, “What have I done today to recognize someone else’s leadership?” Sometimes our light shines better by reflecting the light of others.

Last night I experienced this first hand by someone else’s living being impactful. Jason Ferreira sat down beside me last night at a dinner we were having for National FFA Teacher Ambassadors and said, “I have something I want to tell you. Not a day goes by that I do not use what I have learned about facilitating in my own classroom, facilitating for teachers, or helping others improve their facilitation.” He went on to say that he keeps many of the objects I use for facilitating on hand, like toys and Big Feelings Pineapples. Then, Jason said, “I wanted to tell you that I’m person because it makes me better to reflect on this and tell you thank you and how much you impact me every day.” I’ve got to tell you that this recognition of my leadership felt really good.

This wasn’t an ego thing. Quite the opposite. It was an affirmation that the teaching I am doing for National FFA Teacher Ambassadors is having a impact. It motivated and inspired me to want to work even harder serving the Ambassadors I love so much. Jason showed me a living example of having a daily “impact” – he made me a better person by his interaction with me and he recognized my leadership. I am grateful for Jason being an example and what he does to impact students lives and the lives of others every day.

Love Is A Practice

I talk a lot about needing to love those we serve. Love is a practice, it is not something you find or don’t find. You can practice love for the rest of your life. We need to take this very seriously. On this Thanksgiving Day 2022 I am reflecting on how we need to love. I know what your thinking. You’re saying to yourself, “Byron, love is something you should write about on Valentine’s Day.” No. That’s about romantic love. I’m talking about real love. The kind of love that emerges from a shared appreciation. This shared appreciation is why I write about this on Thanksgiving morning. If we truly appreciate those we serve, we need to love them.

So, what does that mean, you ask. It means both parties are made better by the relationship. This kind of love takes into consideration the passions, goals, core values, strengths, and weaknesses of one another and use those to set a direction of how to help each other be made better. I seem to interrogate the thought of love a lot. Love is the desire to improve the beloved’s life. When we love our students, we do everything in our power to improve their lives. When we love our teachers, we do everything we can to improve their lives. I love my wife and son, so I do everything I can to improve their lives. I’m sure you get my point by now.

Love is a very profound type of recognition. The best leaders I have know and respected have a keen ability to really see into another person’s normally hidden depths, and to realise how profound and important they are. Those great leaders understand that everyone, yes everyone, has potential. The great leaders will love you enough to pull, mold, develop, and help us hone that potential. Loving others is not something to be taken lightly. It’s about being thankful for those that cross our path and recognizing their greatness and what you can offer to bring about their full potential. Let’s hone our own practice of loving.

How Did You Learn Today?

What gets learned is very different than
“how” the learning happens. If we only focus
on the “what” we miss tremendous
opportunities for learning to occur. Think about when you were a kid or when you ask your own kids today, “What did you learn at school today?” Answer: “Nothing.”

But how about those days when some activity, project, or lab really tripped your trigger? Were you learning? Yes. What made it impactful was how you learned. We all learn differently whether we are adults or kids and there must be a variety of engagement strategies used. Even better is to give the student choice and agency in deciding the “how.”

Our scholars learn in a complex social environment and we have rapidly changing contexts. When teaching with relevance and how students learn, four important learning criteria are enhanced: core academics, stretch learning, learner engagement, and personal skill development. Students need to develop skills in information searching and researching, critical analysis, summarizing and synthesizing, inquiry, questioning and exploratory investigations, and design and problem solving.

While facilitating some student focus groups recently, the students pointed out that some teachers fail to provide a context through observations, inferences, and actions appropriate for students to make the connection to the real world. These connections help the students to understand higher-level science concepts. Students, now more than ever, want to understand how they will use what they are learning today in life or in a career. We adults are the same way, we want to learn things we can use immediately in what we do.

We need to remember to frame learning as a process rather than merely an outcome. Additionally, meaning making, is at the core of how we learn. Finally, how we learn includes the role of prior experience and interpretation of that experience. This is where we must help in providing experiences to give real world context. Thus, why I am such a proponent of work-based learning, apprenticeships, and internships. How we learn matters!