Byron's Babbles

Focused Perspective

Posted in core values, Global Leadership, Leadership, Pandemic, Teacher Leader, Teacher Leadership by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on September 30, 2020

Have you ever noticed a cat’s ability to focus like a laser on something that interests them? There is never a challenge to get them to focus, but they become oblivious to what others around them are focused on. This is one of the things I love about cats; they do not need constant attention. But, when they do, you better be prepared to give it to them because that will be their sole focus. If you’ve ever been around cats you know that when they want some affection, they will not notice that you may be focused on something else. I was watching one of our barn cats this morning sitting on a feed pan I had just moved and flipped upside down after a show heifer was done eating. He was hyper-focused on something and I could not take his attention away (see picture).

When working with developing leaders I always talk about the effective leader is focused on self, others, and the wider world. The art of being self-aware and self-managing is about being centered. This enables us to notice our thoughts and feelings, label them, reappraise things that do not serve the situation and lead forward. This centered perspective is important so that understand our own values and how those values fit in the big picture. This also determines what lens we are looking through to bring context to situations. Perspective enables a leader to clearly assess the reality of today while also envisioning what is possible for tomorrow.

We also need an empathetic perspective that has the heart to understand others and identify those who might be struggling and provided compassion. Remember, empathy plus action equals compassion. We need to give people space and permission to take care of themselves. Particularly right now, everyone is in just a little different place dealing with the pandemic. We must remember that their reality is just that, their reality. Asking those we serve what they need and then truly being prepared to help them is crucial. Just thinking through priorities and plans for action can many times do the trick. We don’t have to tell people how to do their job, but syncing frequently on priorities and plans of actions can be very supportive.

How about you? Are you so focused, like a cat, that you may be missing opportunities to focus on those around you and the wider world?

Boom! Hang On Tight! Oooooh So Close! Woohoo! Go Enjoy Your Time!

“Boom! Hang on tight! Oooooh so close! Woohoo! And… Go Enjoy your time!” were all descriptors I was receiving on my phone last night in Murray, Kentucky. We were at Mister B’s Pizza and Wings. Because of the need for physical distancing this great restaurant has an app that tells you where you are in the seating process. Once we gave them our number, a text was sent with a link to our personalized app. It gives you how many parties are ahead of you and an approximate time for seating. Genius, right? It also gave us the menu so we could be thinking about that.

I loved the descriptors along the way:

  • Boom! Let me know we were in the system and to click on the app
  • Hang On Tight! Meant we had one party ahead of us.
  • Ooh So Close! Meant we were next.
  • Woohoo! Was our text telling us they were ready for us.
  • Go Enjoy Your Time! The app’s message telling us they were ready to seat us.

Now, I know some of you are saying, “Big deal, Byron! Other restaurants do that too.” I get it. Others use QR codes to go to their menu, but I just thought the descriptors and the design of the app was cool. It may have also been the fact that we were eating at my son’s favorite go to place (data shows he can eat 15 Mister B’s famous buffalo wings in one minute – I guess there was a contest) in the home of Murray State University.

My point here really is just how far we’ve come during this, as of today, 155 day journey of the COVID-19 Global Pandemic. Business have adapted and created new ways, including our experience I described above, to enhance the customer experience; while at the same time doing their best to keep us safe. Those of us in the education world are constantly navigated the fluidity of school no longer being a place. And, individuals and families are making adjustments we never dreamed of.

I believe we need to take a moment and acknowledge and appreciate some of the great things that have been done during these 155 days, such as:

  • Telephone befriending services to keep communities together
  • Supermarkets, banks, and other businesses offering “elderly/senior only” times for shopping.
  • We’ve become comfortable having virtual gatherings where we can come together globally without the expense and fuss of travel (I had the opportunity to spend and hour and a half with neighbors from 42 different countries, recently). We wouldn’t have even thought of that a few years ago.
  • Finally, leaders are realizing working remotely can be effective. Let’s face it, big egos are the only reason for fancy buildings, offices, and “places” to work in many cases.
  • Our abilities to provide professional development have improved greatly – the way we time them out, delivery, access to more people, et cetera.
  • Creative money raising events
  • Creative virtual concerts with some of our favorite artists. Some great artists, like Mark Tremonti, send out regular clips of personal recorded music with a message. In some ways we can feel closer to these artists than ever before.
  • A chance to break routine and restructure our lives. We’ve gotten back to do some of the things we want to do, but never had the time to.
  • We have learned to access culture without having to travel.
  • Demand has made the internet providers make improvements; along with all technology providers.
  • Educators have been allowed to be, and have risen to the challenge I might add, creative.

I know we all want the Pandemic to be over, but I believe we need to take a moment and celebrate the accomplishments from around the world. This has given us a chance to grow and improve in so many ways as a global community. Let’s not ever fully go back to the way it was 155 days ago – let’s keep the improvement momentum going and strengthen our community. Let’s keep asking, “What can we create together?” Perhaps the biggest positive emerging from this crisis, though, is the realization that we humans are capable of global, collective action. If the stakes are high enough, we can take on these challenges together and, most importantly of all, rapidly abandon business as usual. I would love to hear about other positives you believe should be added to the list.

Day đź’Ż – Getting To Know People In A Different Way

Well, here we are; day đź’Ż 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?”

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?

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/

Easter Isn’t Canceled

Baseball was not canceled during the Pandemic of 1918-1920

Today, I chronicle thoughts, here in my blog, on a new page in the book that is the story of my life. I have been doing some personal growth studying, with the help of the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Museum, on the pandemic of 1918-1920. My motivation this morning is that I am always moved by the personal stories written by people experiencing an event first hand. The most interesting and compelling speak of what was happening, the mood of the country and those around them, and what he or she was feeling at the time. I’m going to attempt a little of that this morning. I also believe if we are not using this as an opportunity for our children and students to write an account of something that will be undoubtedly written about in textbooks, or whatever our kids’ grandchildren will be using, we have missed a chance to process and save the realness of our experiences real-time.

Queen Elizabeth II shared a video message yesterday that was quite moving. Click here to watch it. The genius of her message was how different parts of the message have and will inspire different people in different ways. For me it was when she said, “But Easter isn’t canceled; indeed, we need Easter as much as ever.” No doubt things will be different today for most of us. But, Easter isn’t canceled, and different doesn’t have to mean bad.

One of my fondest memories growing up was of our Easter morning Easter egg hunt. We’d get up and go find the eggs hidden all over our very large yard that included barn lots. Interestingly, the one thing that I remember most vividly is the blue egg, and it was always a blue egg, put on top of an electric box on the back side of the house. I need to point out that these were real boiled eggs, usually a few duck eggs mixed in because we raised ducks, and my mom and sister colored them – I wasn’t much into coloring Easter eggs (that involved being inside and standing still – some things don’t change with age). My dad was so proud of that hiding spot on the electric box (not sure why). That became a special spot, however, because the first Easter we lived in that house my dad, after I spotted and claimed the egg, had to lift me up to get the egg. The next year I could reach it and every year after that that egg was mine, and my dad would always laugh and say, “You need me to help you get that one?” I’d say, “No!” We’d make eye contact and now having a son of my own I think I know what was going through his mind.

Easter isn’t canceled because of the COVID-19 Pandemic and my son will have an Easter basket (yes even at age 19) this morning. We will go to church via Zoom and then have the traditional Easter brunch of “One Eyed Connelly’s (that is the family name for a piece of toasted bread with a hole cut in the center and an egg cooked in that hole), sausage links, and cinnamon rolls. I’m sure there will be Easter egg hunts with the nieces and nephews to be joined virtually on some electronic platform or another. And, how cool is it we have those platforms? We are connecting more, socially, than ever before. Physical distancing (as I am calling it because I hate the term social distancing) is not keeping us from socializing.

I went to my first virtual Happy Hour last week – very fun. Also, I popped into a teacher’s lunch bunch. She has all her students get their lunch and they all log into Zoom and eat together. Students get social time with their fellow students and teacher. Everyone turned their mic on and it sounded just like a traditional school lunchroom. I hope we use our pandemic experiences to get education in our country to a place where we could say, “School isn’t canceled.” I realize that is a tall order, but we need to contemplate what that would mean. We need to think about the fact school is no longer a place. We need to think about the why behind professional working parents being so frustrated with being adjunct teachers now. Continuing to educate, which I believe we need to be doing, cannot be about providing busy work and crappy worksheets. It needs to be about great content, accessible by all, and delivered in a way the student can easily access. Now becomes the time to decide what education will look like during the next pandemic, other crises, or just moving us into the next decade.

Today, however, Easter isn’t canceled. During the pandemic we are distanced, clouded by the threat of disease, but stubbornly persistent. Realizing this is usually a pastel colored and celebratory day, this might just be a season of clarity about what it means to be a person of faith.