Byron's Babbles

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?

“Easy To Say, Harder To Live By”

“What have I become during the pandemic?”

I had another Frank Reagan (Tom Selleck) Blue Bloods quote that made me do some reflecting. He said, “Easy to say, harder to live by.” We all have heard people say, or said things ourselves that are very easy to say, but much tougher to actually do. I wrote about another quote from Frank Reagan in “Life Isn’t Fair, But You Can Be.” It’s easy to set set ambitious goals or say you will do the right thing, but it is a much harder thing to do the work to achieve them.

We talked about this last night during 3D Leadership. The participants made Flat Stanley’s and Flat Sarah’s representing what they have become during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Almost everyone talked about new and exciting things they are doing or have started to do again. Many talked about how at first was easy to get down, but then once they started learning and doing it became exciting to be doing great new things.

Remember, it’s easy to say. Much harder to do. But, it’s the hard stuff that separates the ordinary from the extraordinary.

“Life Isn’t Fair, But You Can Be”

We need to develop dexterity when dealing with others and leading. One uniform way of doing things will not work in all contexts. We all have micro-behaviors we can use to be agile according to situation at hand. We have seen this first hand from many leaders during the COVID-19 Pandemic. During this time we have become, in some ways, more atomized and insular.

The is a great line by Frank Reagan, played by Tom Selleck, to his granddaughter, Nicky Reagan-Boyle (played by Sami Gayle), in the television series Blue Bloods where he says, “Life isn’t fair, but you can be.” It’s true, life is not fair. Life happens in the context of others. Our actions affect others and their actions affect us. However, the actions of others are not some cosmic judgement on your being. They’re just a byproduct of being alive.

As I stated earlier, there just isn’t a uniform style of leading or dealing with others that works for everyone, every situation, or every relationship all the time. When dealing with people, we must remember that most are just trying to do their best, under different circumstances than your own.

Therefore, we, ourselves, can be fair. But, the idea of life being fair isn’t obtainable. Nor would we want it to be. Life would be insane if it actually was fair to everyone. There would be no choosing of anything. There would be no failure to understand success. It’s actually mind-boggling to think about. Many times we get too hung up on our view of how the world should work that we can’t understand how it actually does work. Embrace that life is not fair, but that you absolutely can be.

More Smithsonian Exploration

As a former Smithsonian Teacher Ambassador, I am very excited to be partnering with the Smithsonian Science Education Center (SSEC) to provide a webinar in our series of Noble Education Initiative opportunities for learning. Back in April we partnered with the Smithsonian Learning Lab and had two fantastic webinars and were able to provide outstanding resources to educators. I blogged about these webinars in Bringing The Smithsonian To You. Since then, we have continued to be asked for more from the Smithsonian Institution.

Tomorrow, May 20th, we will do just that with More Smithsonian Exploration: A Journey To The Smithsonian Science Education Center. We want educators and caregivers to join us to learn to use the resources that provide tremendous opportunities to learn with their students. The SSEC offers curriculum and digital resources that support educators and caregivers in providing authentic STEM experiences. EVERYONE is welcome and can still register here: https://m.signupgenius.com/#!/showSignUp/60b0b44a5a92ca7fe3-more.

I am really proud of this partnership to bring make this free webinar possible because of the aim of the SSEC to transform and improve the learning of science for K-12 students. Click here to view the SSEC fact sheet to learn how the world’s largest museum, education and research complex is bringing an interdisciplinary approach to education using science, history, art, and culture.

The SSEC is also providing tremendous resources and support to teachers who work with newcomers from all over the globe and English Language Learners (ELLs). Our webinar will be engaging and inquiry-based to model the strategies that are effective for effective learning with our ELL students. We will also get a first hand experience with the SSEC’s real world and relevant featured curriculum dealing with COVID-19: COVID-19! How Can I Protect Myself and Others.

Join us tomorrow and see how the Smithsonian Science Education Center is transforming science education.

Good Enough: Five Positives For Every Negative

Posted in Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Growth Mindset, Leadership by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on May 17, 2020

IMG_5711I finished reading a great book, The Power of Bad: How the Negativity Effect Rules Us and How We Can Rule It by John Tierney and Roy Baumeister this morning. This was an interesting book to read during the COVID-19 Global Pandemic. It’s interesting to me that I interact daily with people who are very positive right now and those who are extremely negative. There does not seem to be much of an in between. Anecdotally, there seems to be more negativity than positivity. Tierney and Baumeister told us this is because negative experiences are more powerful than positive ones.

44902133The authors reminded me that the Gottman Ratio is a pretty good rule of thumb. The Gottman Ratio tells us that we are happiest when we have five positive interactions for every negative one. The authors posited this is a pretty good rule, but that we should aim for at least four positives for every negative. Kind of makes you think about who you want to be hanging out with, or Zooming with, whichever the case may be. Or, if others want to hang out with you.

“If one thing goes wrong, don’t interpret it as a harbinger of inevitable doom, whether you’re dealing with a personal setback or contemplating the state of the world.” ~ John Tierney & Roy Baumeister in The Power of Bad

If we want to keep things positive we must avoid the negative things. A Yale study really caught my attention described in the book where abusive parenting was found to have a statistically significant effect resulting in unhappy children. The opposite of very supportive and loving parenting did not lead to a larger number of happy children. Therefore, reducing negatives was more important than adding more positives. I found this to be encouraging because I believe it is easier to reduce negatives that increase positives. For one, I can do this by just having a positive attitude myself.

Furthermore, I was reminded of what Voltaire said, “Perfect is the enemy of good.” I would add that “Perfection is the enemy of done.” Progress, tweaks, checks, re-do’s, and reviews do not equal perfection. Good or effective work is about moving toward the destination than about getting things done with spilling or knocking something over in the process. Momentum matters! As Confucius said, “Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without.” For example, if I am needing to market an event for next week, would it be better to have already gone out with an advertisement made by me that will for sure not be perfect (a marketer, I am not) or on Sunday of the week of the event, still be waiting on the perfect advertisement? For me it is the former rather than the latter.

“Striving to better, oft we mar what’s well.” ~ William Shakespeare

In The Power of Bad we were taught that rather than always striving for perfect, we need to think in terms of being “good enough.” Make no mistake, this does not mean lowering standards. It means paying less attention to transcending expectations and paying more attention to getting the basics right. Being steady and reliable is much more effective that dramatic ups and downs. So, don’t forget, your mood and demeanor and the mood and demeanor of those around you will have a huge impact on your own and the feelings and effectiveness of those with you. Positivity will cause social support and negativity will cause social undermining. Get out there and be positive and “good enough.”

66 Days To A New Habit

First of all it is important to note that as I write this post we are in Day 66 of the COVID-19 global pandemic. I blogged about the day, March 11th, that I am considering our first day of these uncharted times in The Day We Started Down The Path With No Footprints. The other night in one of our 3D Leadership gatherings I had the participants make their own Flat Stanley or Flat Sarah that represented who they had become since March 11th when the WHO (I thought that was a rock band) declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. O.k., the WHO is the World Health Organization.

Participants could either make the their Flat Stanley or Sarah using materials in their homes or using an online resource we gave them. The group did a great job with these and they were very creative. I found it interesting that many of the participants discussed how they had picked up, developed new, or restarted old habits. One participant said, “It takes a month to build a new habit.” She was referring to now doing a better job of exercising. Of course, I had to check and see if there was any research that backed this claim of taking a month to develop a new habit up.

Here’s what I found: Phillippa Lally, a health psychology researcher at University College London, did a study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, Lally and her research team decided to figure out just how long it actually takes to form a habit. So, what was concluded from the study? On average, it takes more than 2 months before a new behavior becomes automatic — 66 days to be exact. And how long it takes a new habit to form can vary widely depending on the behavior, the person, and the circumstances. In Lally’s study, it took anywhere from 18 days to 254 days for people to form a new habit. But, as was stated, 66 days was the average. Thus, why I chose today to write this post. We are exactly 66 days into this pandemic.

So, why is the length of time it takes to form a habit important? During these challenging times, everyone in the world has been forced to change their routines, be creative, try new ideas, learn new ways of doing things, slow down focus on some of the most important things (in education-the most important content), and connect with people and in the case of education, students, in effective ways we never thought possible. The abrupt shift to remote instruction changed many aspects of our lives. In my case I continue to say I have grown in great and unimaginable ways during this time. In education, I continue to say that we have grown in the aspect of school no longer being a place.

Let me be clear; I realize there are those, and maybe even me still, that the crisis will be catastrophic. This post is not intended to minimize the seriousness of the consequences many people face, or may be facing. I believe that many of us have grown in our ability to be o.k. with feeling bad or being comfortable with uncertainty. Personally, I continue to see this crisis as a challenge to overcome and a conduit for personal growth. The 3D Leadership participant who talked about it having been a good time to use the month to develop new and better habits, I believe, had in mind that we can see the loss of our, pre-pandemic and regular life as a chance to focus on other aspects of your life that have been neglected because we’ve been too busy to address them. We have also identified areas we want to work on or improve in our lives and focus on developing those areas. We need to all use this break from “normal life” to seek balance in our life and pursue aspects of our lives that we did not have time for before the crisis.

We need to use our responses to the crisis as an opportunity to learn and grown and become more positive, adaptable, and resilient which will, no doubt, serve us well when the current crisis passes. We can all create new structures and routines in our lives around school, work, daily activities, and social life. Finally, and most importantly, we can take action. Keep in mind, we’ve already had the 66 average days it takes to make a new habit become automatic. Are you happy with your new habits?

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Bringing The Smithsonian to You!

During the COVID-19 Pandemic and the many webinars we have been doing to support teachers as they facilitate learning virtually, I keep commenting that the Smithsonian Institution is a tremendous resource. Or, should I say, plethoras of resources and services. Then I got to thinking that if I was going to keep saying that educators needed to check out the Smithsonian, we needed to do a little “show and experience” for them. As a former Smithsonian Teacher Ambassador, I really value all the resources available for educators. So, I decided to reach out to Ashley Naranjo, Manager of Educator Engagement at the Smithsonian Learning Lab, and ask if she would be interested in doing a webinar together. She was quick and enthusiastic to respond in the affirmative. Needless to say, I was excited.

Ashley and I had a great planning session where she had great ideas for engaging webinar participants in actually navigating and using resources. In fact, she and I will be modeling an activity at the beginning – I can’t wait! As I mentioned earlier in the post, I was a Smithsonian Teacher Ambassador back in 2010 and 2011. During that ambassadorship I was talking to groups of educators and organizations about the over 1,600 Smithsonian resources available. I told Ashley this asked how many there were now; she laughed and said, “Over 5,000,000.” Boy did I feel outdated.

Bottom-line: educators won’t want to miss this free webinar. This interactive and engaging webinar will include an overview of the Smithsonian Learning Lab and how teachers can curate their own digital collections of resources across subject areas and grade levels. The great part is that educators will learn, by doing, how to use Smithsonian Education museum resources in their own teaching and learning contexts. Please join us for this journey of bringing the Smithsonian to you!

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.

Who Thinks About Thinking?🤔💭

Posted in Appreciative Inquiry, Attitude, Contrarian Thinker, Leadership, Mindfulness, Thinking by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on April 26, 2020

I came across a Lizzie West quote recently that really got me thinking. The quote is, “If you don’t create your reality, your reality will create you.” So, can our thoughts become reality? We really need to think about what we are thinking. The way we think about ourselves turns into our reality. The way we think about ourselves either limits our potential or paves the way for the “sky’s the limit.”

“If you don’t create your reality, your reality will create you.” ~ Lizzie West

What we think directly influences how we feel and how we behave. Our future reality is a product of our experiences and what we think it will be and how we see ourselves in it. Those that think in terms of positive expectations experience positive results more often than those who have negative thoughts. Research has actually proven this.

When we think positively about our future reality we then see the evidence that supports these thoughts. Conversely, if think negatively or see ourselves as failures we will only see the evidence that supports this. Therefore, it is up to us to create our own reality. How you think of yourself and how you see your future will directly impact every subsequent thought you think, every decision you make, and every action you take throughout the day.