Byron's Babbles

Soaring Like A Malcontent Eagle

This past Saturday night I got caught up watching the documentary “The History Of The Eagles” on CNN. As a student of rock and roll bands and artists I became engrossed. Particularly when you think about all the artists that were members of the Eagles, like Glenn Frey, Don Henley, and Joe Walsh; or those who influenced and mentored the band, like Bob Seger, Jackson Browne, and Linda Ronstadt. There were so many things that I could blog about after watching this. I took a couple of pages of notes.

One of the things that caught my attention was when the Eagles manager said that Don Henley was a “malcontent.” Henley, however, just wanted the band to keep getting better. A malcontent is someone who is dissatisfied and rebellious. I believe many tines those of us who have a very defined purpose and are very passionate are viewed as, and rightly so, rebellious. I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing.

Isn’t a malcontent really someone who is not satisfied with the status quo? Couldn’t a malcontent be that person who sees a need and opportunity for change? Finally, couldn’t a malcontent be a catalyst for change? When all three of these questions get answered with “yes,” that constitutes a person being a productive malcontent.

This is the person who challenges what is being done, but always has an alternative to offer. This is healthy. It’s the person who just complains and fights change with no alternatives that is toxic to the organization or community. So let’s embrace the productive malcontent and be vulnerable to positive/constructive criticism/change for the betterment of our organizations, schools, businesses, communities, or even rock bands.

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My son Heath’s Pin Oak Tree

Fostering Innocence

Recently, in a meeting, someone made the comment that we need to create places where innocence is fostered for our children. This really got me thinking about how we do this both with our own children and the students we serve in our schools. The notion of innocence refers to children’s simplicity, their lack of knowledge, and their purity not yet spoiled by mundane affairs. Such innocence is taken as the promise of a renewal of the world by the children. One of the most delightful things about children is their sense of innocence and wonder, yet helping them maintain that sense of wonder can be challenging in our sophisticated, hurried society.

Knowledge Ruining Innocence

This rapid and early gain of knowledge by our children is quite the paradox. We all know that knowledge is powerful, but when children learn the wrong things to early it can really be detrimental. Vast amounts of knowledge and information is readily available to our children, and we, as parents, want our children to have this knowledge because we believe it will help them grow and compete. However, this same knowledge can ruin their innocence.

What Can We Do?

Have fun. Build time into your schedule to allow for silliness, downtime, and play.

Leverage nature. Children are instinctively attuned to the wonders of nature. We do not have to prompt students to enjoy playing in the mud, seeing the beauty of flowers, watching kittens play. I love the idea I heard one time of planting a family tree and then having family time at each season change to note changes in the tree. My family has a Pin Oak tree that my son brought home from school when he was in the fourth grade that we use for this. In fact, I blogged about this tree in Lesson Of A Pin Oak. Now, it is a beautiful iconic part of our yard (pictured in this post).

Reading together. This is so important and can still be done with high-schoolers. I chose to read the same books my son had to read for school. Wow, what great conversations this spurred for he and I. All I can say is, “try it.”

Use technology wisely and discreetly. Children should not be burdened with information that is too adult in nature. They have neither the cognitive nor social-emotional skills to process this information.

Family events. Or, family events where the children bring a friend. We do a lot of family activities and my son and I have always done Dad and Lad events/trips. The beauty of these is that we control the content.

This is way too complex an issue to solve with a blog post, but I believe we all need to be reflecting on creating places of innocence. Most importantly we need to be mindful of what our children are being exposed to and give them more age appropriate choices.

Do Others Like The Vibes You Give Off?

I pride myself in always having a great attitude. In fact if you were to ask those that know me they would tell you that one of my mantras would be my answer to the question of how I am doing: “I don’t know how I could be any better!” And, I really do believe this.

“The ‘secret’ of success is not very hard to figure out. The better you are at connecting with other people, the better the quality of your life.” ~ Nicholas Boothman

Amazingly this fits with my philosophy of having a great attitude all the time. This is affirmed in Nicholas Boothman’s great book that I am reading right now entitled How To Make People Like You In 90 Seconds. He talks about either having a “really useful attitude” or a “really useless attitude”. I have found, as Boothman also points out in the book, it always pays to have the useful attitude. In fact he provides a great table of both useful and useless attitudes.

From How To Make People Like You In 90 Seconds by Nicholas Boothman

Then, yesterday when flying into Orlando, Florida I had this affirmed when I picked up my rental car. When I went to my Preferred area, the agent told me that they were out of the vehicles in the selected size I always get. I said, “Okay, let’s just figure out what you’ve got; it will be okay.” I was in A garage and she said, you know if you want to go over to B garage they’ve got one. It’s a short walk, so said “No problem. Let’s do that.” Now could have got all huffy and holier than though, but really, what would that have gotten me – nothing.

As I was walking away the agent said, “Thanks for having a great attitude. I like your vibes you give off.” This made my day because I do try to always give off good vibes. Boothman would have been proud because I couldn’t help but take a moment and be the teacher I am and tell her about the book and what I had learned about useful and useless attitudes.

Then when I got to the other garage, I found that the first agent had called over and told them to take good care of me and give me an upgrade to a premium vehicle. So what did having a useful attitude get me? A premium ride. To be clear, however, I am not saying to just have the useful attitude to get stuff or be upgraded. I am saying, as my story proves, authentically having a useful attitude will be just that – useful. So, if we want to live a premium and top shelf life we need to always have useful attitude. What kind of vibes are you giving off?

What We Know, And Don’t Quite Know We Know

Posted in Adaptive Leadership, Growth Mindset, Leadership, Uncategorized by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on May 16, 2019

IMG_5683I finished a great book by David Brooks this past week entitled The Second Mountain: The Quest For A Moral Life. He used a phrase in the book that really intrigued me: “What we know, and what we don’t quite know we know.” I’ve written about not knowing what we don’t know before, but this idea there being things we don’t quite know we know is intriguing to me. At first I related it to being curious, but I believe it had more to do with our learned knowledge and experiences that give us knowledge and perspective about things yet to be learned.

“There are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don’t know we don’t know.” ~ Donald Rumsfeld, Former Secretary Of Defense

Case in point: this past week I was asked to research what we needed in terms of a website to market new professional development materials and services we have for schools to buy. At first I’m thinking, “I am so the wrong person for this!” I’m not a marketer, nor web development person. Then I started doing some research and got hooked up with a great resource at a web development company, who was happy to mentor me, fill in the gaps of my research, and help me develop the right questions to be asking back with the team.

What I found was, that while I did not have much (actually none) of the technical knowledge necessary for moving this project forward, I did have valuable user knowledge of what the website needed to be like. These were the things I didn’t know I knew, but by asking questions of the right people I was learning. I found I knew some vital things crucial to product success, such as:

  1. Making the website fast and easily navigated.
  2. Make it simple.
  3. Make the landing page in a way that hooks readers.
  4. Make it about solving problems.

Just understanding these things from my own experience using websites I was able to fill in the knowledge gap with the help of the website design gurus. No matter the scale, discovering your explanatory gaps is essential for innovation. An undiagnosed gap in knowledge means you might not fully understand a problem. That can hinder innovative solutions. To discover the things you can’t explain, take a lesson from teachers. When you instruct someone else, you have to fill the gaps in your own knowledge. A couple of tips would be to explain concepts to yourself as you learn them and engage others in collaborative learning.

Next time you take on something outside your current knowledge base, think about what you already know and what you don’t quite know you know. I’ll bet you know more than you think.

Angry Teachers

AngryTeachersIf you follow my blog you know that I am a fan of Angry Birds; both the game and the movies. I have blogged about Angry Birds on four different occasions: Teaching Like Angry Birds, Angry Birds University, The Angry Birds Effect, and “I’m Not A Leader!” ~ Red. Now I am adding a fifth post about this Rovio Entertainment created phenomenon that I love to use as a guide to great teaching and leadership.

This week I did a professional development for Mevers School of Excellence on student engagement. I have been working with this school’s teachers on professional development by customizing a series of professional development units using teacher walk through data and student data. These teachers are phenomenal and deserved a great finale to the year long work we have been doing. So, this professional development unit was titled “Angry Teachers.” Catchy, don’t you think? We certainly don’t want our teachers to be angry, but we do want them teaching using the principles employed by Rovio that have made this game such a phenomenon. The only homework prior to the evening’s professional development was to have the Angry Birds Classic game downloaded on one of their devices.

I led off with the statement, “Everything you need to know about teaching you can learn from Angry Birds.” I think some were skeptical, but I really do believe this statement. Then, of course, I had them play the game with the volume turned up and take notes about what they learned. Needless to say, they had so much fun. I had them take notes on what they were learning that could be applied to great facilitation of learning. Here is what we talked about:

  1. Make it easy to start the task.
  2. Show, don’t tell.
  3. Give useful and immediate feedback.
  4. Make it easy to recover from failure.
  5. Complicate the task gradually.

Think about it; if a teacher is getting just those five things done he or she is on the way to providing great facilitation of learning. Then after playing a little more I broke them into groups and had them develop the learning even further. Here are the graphic representations of their learning the 10 groups came up with:

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Pretty amazing work! Now, consider the following:
1. Angry Birds involves practice without penalty.
2. Angry Birds offers the opportunity to constant feedback.
3. Angry Birds inherently teaches that different tools have different purposes.
4. Angry Birds has a built in mechanism for knowledge transfer.
5. Angry Birds rewards perseverance.
6. Angry Birds gives no time limit.

No wonder we are all addicted to this game! Now if only we could ensure that our
classrooms are always safe spaces to practice new strategies, offer students a range of possibilities for how to succeed in their learning, give our students constant feedback, and support knowledge transfer within and among our courses. So, do you agree? “Everything you need to know about teaching you can learn from Angry Birds.” Our students deserve us to be “Angry Teachers!”

Durability of Expectations

IMG_5030In a meeting I was a part of this week we developed a phrase that has caused me to do a lot of thinking: “Durability of expectations.” Our work was in the context of thinking about student success, outcomes, and what the profile of an Indiana high school graduate should look like. I like to combine all of this and talk about student success outcomes. Success looks different for all students and some students have not really had an opportunity to have success modeled for them or even know what success can look like. I have often said that it is ludicrous, in some cases, to ask our students what they want to be or do in life because they have not had the opportunity learn what all is out there. That is why I believe it is so important to make sure we are doing a great job of career exposure, career exploration, and career navigation for all students. We need to career coach our kids.

Success: “Knowing what one wants in the world and knowing how to get it.” ~ Dr. Felice Kaufman

We must make sure we are giving our students the opportunity to innovate, be creative, and take risks. This will help them to persevere, adapt, and develop a growth mindset and begin to understand lifelong learning. We need to help our kids understand what is out there and that getting where they want to go will be a non-linear process in many cases. Most of the career paths those of us in the baby boomer age are characterized of having relative stability. The career paths for today’s students are now times of discovery, restlessness, and exploration. The last I read, boomers will switch jobs 11 times during our lifetime, but millenials and younger will not only switch careers but change entire career trajectories. Therefore, the modern career trajectory isn’t necessarily a climb to a destination, but rather a continuum.

illustration-playground-climber_superdomeWe will need to offer solutions to our students that help them understand and give them the opportunity to skill, re-skill, and up-skill as they embark on their non-linear career paths. This is why I am such a believer that we must begin to identify the transferable skills our students. These skills, according to employers, hold much more weight than the traditional way of looking at academic records or even work history. Life is not linear, it is more like a Jungle Jim, so we need to make sure we are facilitating learning for our students that gives them the transferable skills to have durable expectations of what they can do. In other words, our students can have a lasting expectation that they have the skills to start and understand how to stay skilled to make the desired career moves that become available. Even if our students take a non-linear path in life, if they have credentials and transferable skills they will have what is needed to provide the on and off ramps to whatever career moves come available. This will give durability to the expectations our students have as they move through life and professional careers.

The old adage that you can’t connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backwards is true, but we need to give our students the ability to zigzag. By preparing students through career coaching, exploration, work based learning, and transferable skills and credentials we will add durability to the expectations of our students and their parents. We have an obligation to make sure our students are prepared to see and be prepared to seize the opportunities no matter how unconventional or surprising.