Byron's Babbles

Spreading The Wealth

Over the weekend a teacher leader asked me how her principal should be deciding which teachers should get development opportunities and be empowered. I said, “That’s easy; all of them should be getting those opportunities.” As I learned from Kim Scott, author of Radical Candor, everyone has potential. Everyone should have empowerment and opportunities for development. Really, our teacher leaders should all have individualized development plans. Therefore, everyone should be in development mode and be empowered to lead from where they are. Everyone is a leader, so leadership should happen whenever and from wherever it is needed. We need to be very careful to not fall in the trap of “earned empowerment.” In other words only empowering the chosen ones who someone thinks has earned it. This might yield empowering and developing 10% at best. I blogged about this in Earned Empowerment is Dangerous.

Then tonight I was reminded how important it is to have the whole team empowered and ready for action. In the first quarter of the New Orleans Saints big 38-3 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, quarterback Drew Brees had thrown completed passes to nine different receivers. At the end of the first half he had thrown completions to 12 different receivers. That is a big deal. Think about how much more successful the Saints are with that many empowered targets.

So, we probably better take a page from the Saints playbook and empower and develop everyone. Think about it; if we are able to empower all of our people with projects and responsibilities, aren’t we really expanding the capacity of our organization. Really, mass empowerment equals capacity building. This in turn means leadership development of our teams. It also allows us to tap into all of our resources and expertise, which can lead to achieving amazing results.

Great leadership is shifting from telling everyone what to do, to empowering and developing everyone to be ready to come up with the best and brightest ideas and solutions that have ever been thought of before. This will give you a receiver core for big wins like Drew Brees and the Saints.

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?

Leaders Crashing & Flying Higher

IMG_9434So what traits do great leaders have? That’s such a loaded question – different great leaders demonstrate different traits. If you ask a group of teacher leaders to select the top traits they think are important in a leader, you’ll find as many answers as you have teacher leaders. No one has ever been able to come up with a definitive list of leadership traits that everyone – or even a majority of people contemplating leadership – agrees on. This doesn’t stop me from trying however. During our August 3D Leadership gatherings I always do a discussion/activity called “Good Leader/Bad Leader: Crashing & Flying Higher.” This involves an activity where participants fly paper airplanes to each other with good leadership traits on the left wing and bad leadership traits on the right wing. They then keep adding to the lists as we fly the planes. This is really fun virtually on Zoom. Yes, you can fly paper airplanes virtually! Ultimately, their task is to develop a top five good leadership trait list and a top five bad leadership trait list,

Screen Shot 2020-09-01 at 9.29.10 AMThe exercise enables a great discussion and thought provoking debate. What we find is that each person’s list of good and bad traits is heavily dependent on her or his experience with different leaders. I get to do this activity 9 or 10 groups per year and every group’s lists are always at least a little different, but many times are very different. Things like who is leading the school, turnover of leaders, style of leadership of leaders, culture of the school, et cetera. This activity somewhat reinforces the idea that the trait theory of leadership is not the end all be all. “The trait theory of leadership focuses on identifying different personality traits and characteristics that are linked to successful leadership across a variety of situations. This line of research emerged as one of the earliest types of investigations into the nature of effective leadership and is tied to the “great man” theory of leadership first proposed by Thomas Carlyle in the mid-1800s. The idea with trait theory is that if you can identify the personality traits or characteristics a great leader has, you can look for those same traits in other leaders, or even develop those traits in people who want to be leaders.

Screen Shot 2020-09-01 at 9.29.48 AMThe differences that I see when doing the “Good Leader/Bad Leader: Crashing & Flying Higher” activity suggest that this may due to situational variables in which different leadership skills emerge when opportunities for leadership arise. These situations might include turnaround work, poor leaders in place, war, a political crisis, or in the absence of leadership. As a believer that everyone in an organization is leader, I believe that there must be adaptive leadership for many situations.

Screen Shot 2020-09-01 at 7.20.28 PMI just finished reading Robert Gates’ great new book, Exercise of Power: American Failures, Successes, and a New Path Forward in the Post-Cold War World. Having served for eight Presidents of the United States, he certainly saw different leadership styles and traits. He explained that most want to put Presidents into ascribing to idealism, realism, or transactional. As he stated, great leaders must be all three. He gives examples of Presidents being all three. In other words, to be effective, leaders must be able to adapt. When I reflect on the top five “good leader” traits that our 3D Leadership group from Tennessee came up with this past Saturday, I believe they are traits that would serve all leaders well. Here is there top five list:

  1. Listening to understand
  2. Authentic
  3. Being consistent
  4. Straight forward
  5. Relationship builder

Here of the top five “bad leader” traits causing leaders to crash, from our Tennessee teacher leaders if you are interested:

  1. Insecure
  2. Belittling
  3. Negative
  4. Leads by intimidation
  5. Doesn’t walk the talk

 

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!

Angry Teachers 2

Today we started the second part to a great professional development webinar that I am calling Angry Teachers. The title of this webinar is “Angry Teachers 2: Interactive Lessons and Engaging Tools.” The through-line of the webinar is the game Angry Birds. At the beginning of the webinar I always say, “Everything you need to know about teaching you can learn from Angry Birds.” In Angry Teachers 2 we pondered the question, “Many people believe that learning should feel like work.” We then discussed the Finnish model of education where learning looks like play.

During the gathering, we actually play the game and we do a “design the solution” activity where the participants actually design a lesson while playing Angry Birds. At completion the groups had to answer the following:

  1. Explain your lesson’s objective(s) and standard(s) covered.
  2. Explain what teaching strategies will be used.
  3. Explain why you chose what you chose.

With over 25 groups in some of these webinars time does not allow for all groups to share out. So, I offered to the groups that if they would send me their designs I would post them in a blog. Since I’m facilitating six sessions of Angry Teachers 2, I will add to this after each session. So keep coming back to check it out for the next week or so. Here is what has been sent in as of 04/28/2020:

Group 7 (04/28/2020

7th Grade Geometry

Essential Question: What is the right angle and trajectory to hit the correct structure(pig)
Standard- MAFS.7.G.2.5- Facts about angles multi step problems…
With this play the students could feel the difference among some angles, acute obtuse, right, straight and their effect on the game and which angle will be most appropriate.

Group 4 (04/23/2020)

  • Small groups based off of levels (scaffolding of groups with high, medium, low in reading and math)
  • Social and Emotional (ok to make mistakes, but we have to learn from them our next chance and how to recover from failure)
  • Rewards chart (every so many levels gained, trip to treasure box on Friday’s)
  • Balance of wanting to play, but must get work done first
  • I Do (model on board, discuss elements), You Do (choose children to go to board and take 1 turn), We Do (small group break up)
  • Respect (each bird is a different shape and size, but have their personal strengths, so they work together as a team for best practice of the task ahead of them)
  • Build on lessons taught (can go back and retry lessons to practice a skill needed in level)
  • Feedback (given as an OREO method (GLOW, GROW, GLOW))
  • Include cross curricular ideas
  • Rigor (levels get harder the further you get, so have to use critical thinking skills)
  • Incorporate the 4 C’s (collaboration with group, critical thinking of what to do next, creativity to beat the level with what birds are given, and communication amongst group members to help those struggling succeed)

Group 5 (04/23/2020)

This group made a great Doodly® of what their lesson would be. Check this out:↓

Doodly® created by Dawn Eibel of Manatee Charter School in Bradenton, FL

Group 11(04/23/2020)

Objectives/Standards:
  • characterization
  • social-emotional: anger/empathy/hidden feelings, etc
  • compare/contrast video game with movie segments
  • mapping/sequencing/ordering (steps to get most boxes, etc)
  • groupings of characters by traits
  • writing a backstory event for a character – a childhood moment, embarrassing situation, etc
  • LOTS of writing: setting, events, characters, develop themes or moral of story
Strategies:
Include groups/partners, sharing out, gallery walks, art representation, comic/storyboard, etc
We chose these objectives and strategies because they
were an EASY, NATURAL fit!  🙂
Group 16 (04/23/2020)

Our objective had to do with a 3rd grade standard of sequencing order of events.  The objective specifically stated that SWBAT provide a sequence of events in order for each level of the Angry Birds game that they have gotten through.

This quickly turned into what we said could eventually be a “strategy guide” of sorts that the students could collaborate on because we don’t do work just for ourselves but we are creating for the world to see and consume.  An extension activity that we thought would be beneficial is if the students could do a STEAM ativity to where, over time, they create a real world Angry Birds level to test out different scientific principles.

On a personal and professional note I have enjoyed your PD’s so much because I’ve been a proponent of looking at different mediums to promote  and incorporate into education.  I actually started a You Tube Channel for parents that covers different pop culture references and relates it back to education.  If you have any amount of time please check it out.  www.youtube.com/c/jeremywhiteeducation (It’s called LIFT Tutoring)

I hope your blog post for this specific idea of incorporating Angry Birds into the classroom is beneficial to a lot of educators as we continue to rethink what education is, especially during this time of remote learning.

Let’s Talk Student Engagement: Part 1

IMG_8490This morning I started a new iteration in supporting teachers and administrators during this time of remote learning due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. We are now doing 30 minute small group supports. I made two different types of support and one of them is called, “Let’s Talk Student Engagement.” The idea is to have groups of five teachers working together, coming up with solutions to increase student engagement and share expertise. I have to say I really enjoyed my first session. We had a great discussion around how to do better at engaging students.

One teacher stated that she has done away with worksheets and switched totally to projects. She is giving the students three to four choices of what project he/she wants to do. I am a huge proponent of student choice and agency when it comes to education. We also discussed the value in staying a little more general or broader in topic. In other words, don’t get to specific. Also, chunking content into smaller pieces is a best practice. Learning online can be physically, mentally, and emotionally taxing. Use of long reading passages or big projects is not advisable, unless chunked very intentionally. I philosophically believe in the Self-Determination Theory,  which holds that we are most deeply engaged, and that we do our most creative work, when we feel that we are acting according to our own will on behalf of goals we find meaningful.

From a pedagogical standpoint it is very import to remember it is very important to allow for:

  • in-depth discussions
  • group work/projects
  • both watching and creating video/audio clips
  • hands-on projects
  • individual time to work

“In the midst of every crisis, lies great opportunity.” ~ Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein is credited with saying, “In the midst of every crisis, lies great opportunity.” We should not forget to look at the opportunity in front of us. One of the great advantages right now, teaching virtually, is the ability to individualize and personalize like never before. There must still be the opportunity for students to have peer/group interactions and very clear expectations.  We must enable our students to work autonomously, but yet develop and enjoy learning relationships with others, and feel they are competent to achieve their own objectives.

Gaps In Our Consistency

Screen Shot 2020-04-21 at 11.44.58 AMAt one of our most recent gatherings of 3D Leadership, a topic came up that the participants were calling “gaps in our consistency.” When I asked about these gaps they said they were the things that really kept them from being great teachers and the schools which they taught from being as great as they could be. One of the most important tools in effective schools is consistency. Research and practice have proved that school leaders and teachers must be consistent every day in carrying out their duties if they want to improve student performance and conduct. Here is what the teacher leaders said the gaps were:

 

  • Being Reactionary
  • Everything done short term/constant change
  • Lack of training to make sure initiatives/processes could be implemented
  • Relationships must be in place for there to be the trust for everything to be going well
  • Besides the why, there needs to be the what and the how
  • Teachers need to teach and not be auditors

Really, what any teacher wants is to be able to get to work and feel like what he/she is doing are the right things to be doing. What teachers don’t need are things constantly changing or different expectations or directions. These result in confusion. It is really about being on the same page and staying on the same page. Consistency really can be the protagonist or the villain of great accomplishment. There is a difference between being agile and continually changing focus, priorities, and behavior patterns.

One of the biggest problems that inconsistency brings on an organizational and personal level is a loss of trust. Judgement becomes not trusted, follow through on initiatives is not trusted, and trust that what is being implemented today will even be important as soon as tomorrow. The administration and staff must operate like a single coherent unit. If we are able to build this consistency in any organization we can build what researchers have called a “culture of consistency.” We need to recognize our gaps in consistency; delivering consistently can have a profound impact on our effectiveness.

My Revolving Rushmore

IMG_8286One of my favorite sessions that I do for 3D Leadership is called Setting Your Leadership Style. I start off by playing the awesome music video of the song by Alter Bridge, Show Me A Leader. Since we are having to do these on Zoom™ instead of in person here are some takeaways from the chat box and discussion:

  • Do not compromise values
  • Don’t compromise on beliefs
  • We need great leaders so hope never dies
  • There needs to be one clear message (clarity)
  • The only thing to do is next right thing
  • Can’t survive without strong leadership
  • #FarmKidsRockToo (couldn’t leave this off – it was added for my benefit)

Screen Shot 2020-04-06 at 10.45.46 AMThen comes one of my favorite activities that I call Rushmorean Leadership which was then followed up by an activity called Extending the Influence. The activity calls for teacher leaders to bring pictures to identify four great leaders to put on their own personal Mount Rushmore. Then they bring six additional pictures to extend the influence. Part of the share out was in small groups (the ability to do this on Zoom™ is incredibly intuitive and has lots of options to customize for the facilitator’s needs) and part was done by FlipGrid™.

One of the questions I always like to ask is if the participants’ Mount Rushmore would look the same a year from now or would have looked the same a year ago. There were varied answers to this ranging from yes to no and then everything in between, like maybe one or two different. Then a triad of things were said by participants that really struck me:

  • We never know when we will meet the next person that will go on our Mount Rushmore.
  • Who will be the next to influence us?
  • My revolving Rushmore

This reminded me of the beginning monologue phrase in William Shakespeare’s As You Like It, “All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts, His acts being seven ages.” To me, this means that people come into our lives and we enter other peoples lives for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. When we treat every encounter as a chance to impact, influence, or inspire we bring purpose to our lives. Most people that enter our lives are seasonal and they’re with us for a reason. Once that reason is fulfilled life has a way of moving them on. We also need to remember, the influence the great impact that others that we have never met influence us. Think about the influence of the four Presidents on Mount Rushmore and the impact they have on us. Remember, you also are influencing someone you haven’t even met. Thus, we really do have a revolving Rushmore.

IMG_8163So, why use Mount Rushmore as the through line for this activity? Mount Rushmore is not just big; it is about the ultimate bigness – a monument to monumentalism. Think about the bigness of the role that individuals that you would place on your personal Mount Rushmore have had. Borglum, the sculptor, was obsessed with the bigness of America: the heroic story of a handful of tiny East Coast colonies growing to becoming an entire continent. Think about the four Presidents that were chosen with that bigness and growth in mind. Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence and expanded the country’s size with the Louisiana Purchase. Teddy Roosevelt made sure the Panama Canal happened, thus connecting the United States globally.

When I think about the idea of our own revolving Rushmores, I remember the rush of emotions that I felt when seeing Mount Rushmore in person for the first time. That rush contained thoughts of patriotism as well as awe. The awe was about the scope of the project as well as the awe in our ability to create and our human weirdness. Why had we done this? Why does this monument that the sculpting began on in 1927, with a dedication by Calvin Coolidge exist? I believe it is because of the great value we place on those who have had influence on us. Think about the work on Mount Rushmore that spanned some 14 years. A lot happened in our country during that 14 years. Leaders came and went and world/country history changing events happened.  There was the Great Depression, World War II, and three different Presidents. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was there for the Jefferson dedication (there was a separate dedication as each face was finished). And, Mount Rushmore was finished one month and one week before the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Is that a lot of history, or what? The sculpting alone is a monument to our tenacity. The hardness of the granite is a monument to the very strong foundation built by the founders of our country. The granite is so strong and hard it is said to only erode one inch per 10,000 years. When you think about it, our country has had a revolving Rushmore of those that have been on our “stage” and made a huge difference. This is no different than our own lives and the people who have been major players, making entrances and exits, playing many parts. Those great people who enter our “stage” make us who we are and make up our own revolving Rushmore.

Being Perfectly Imperfect

IMG_8246I am always amazed at the twists and turns our 3D Leadership gathering discussions take. It is amazing because there is always so much learning that takes place. Last week’s gathering which was virtual with individuals from Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, South Carolina, and North Carolina was no exception. I already blogged about one twist in learning we took in Leading Like Yoda. We also spent a great deal of time discussing how leaders are built by learning from their imperfections.

“Leaders are built by learning from their imperfections.” ~ 3D Leadership Participants on April 2, 2020

IMG_8266

My Andrew Jackson Bronze

The question that prompted the discussion was about whether those leaders that most influenced us were perfect or did they have imperfections? The group immediately started responding with the fact that the leaders were imperfect and that recognizing those imperfections was the ultimate in transparency and authenticity. I even held up my bronze of Andrew Jackson and talked about all the great things he was and did as a leader, but there were so many things he did that were very wrong. He serves as a reminder of how we need to be humble and remember that all humans are imperfect and flawed creatures. I was moved that our discussion led us to talk about how it was those imperfections that attracted us to leaders. Particularly if those Rushmorean leaders were working hard to improve their imperfections.

“The long road to character begins with understanding that all humans are flawed creatures.” ~ David Brooks in The Road to Character

Screen Shot 2020-04-05 at 12.16.18 PMToday we are even faced with the bigger issue that David Brooks argued in his great book The Road to Character: society has made a shift, from a focus on humility and reservedness to a focus on individual desire. I call this desire “ambition.” Many times ambition begins to rule our purpose. This becomes very dangerous and takes us from a moralistic world view to one of being self-centered. We must check our moral compass, according to Brooks, and strive to become/stay virtuous. The core of what makes a human “human” are displaying the traits of kindness, bravery, honesty, and devotion. Brooks argued that people, and I would argue our children/students, are beginning to obsess over themselves and live only for their own desires.

IMG_8245One thing that we discussed in our 3D Leadership gathering that Brooks also discussed in The Road to Character was how many of us have shifted our lives to revolve around how we achieve, and no longer why. The effect is profound. Again, we can see well documented cases of this ambition taking over our purpose. I have blogged about a couple of such cases in When Purpose & Passion Turn Into Ambition and Passion At Ambition’s Command. But how do we change this? By embracing the flaws inherent in all of us. One of our participants called us “Perfectly Imperfect.” I loved that, and if we work off of that to learn from and correct or mistakes and failures every day, it would be a great start.

Doing things like being honest about our flaws can help us overcome self-centeredness  and embrace deeper social values, like love and connection to others. As Yoda said, “Much to learn you still have.” If we are going to thrive and maybe be that next person on someone else’s personal Mount Rushmore then we must free ourselves from pride. We must embrace the assistance of others admit our own flaws. Through that we will become more authentic and transparent, thus being a better inspiration and role model for others; while being happier, more fulfilled, and worthy.

Leading Like Yoda

Last night we created personal Mount Rushmores in our 3D Leadership gathering. I was surprised to have a new leader added to the list – Yoda. Of all the years I’ve been doing this, this is the first time a participant has put Yoda on their personal Mount Rushmore. Moreover, last night there were two people out of the group of 48 that picked Yoda to be on their personal Mount Rushmore.

So of course I had to dig into Yoda as a leader. In the Star Wars universe, Yoda might be the single most important hero. Yoda is wise and insightful and brings many leadership lessons to the forefront to help us all become better at serving those we lead. Of course, several Yoda quotes were thrown out in the course of the gathering, like:

  • “Do or do not. There is no try.”
  • “[Luke]: I can’t believe it. [Yoda]: That is why you fail.”
  • “You must unlearn what you’ve learned.”
  • “Much to learn you still have.”
  • “Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”

One of the things I took away from some really great discussions was that we need to remember that thinking about the future is really important for finding direction, but don’t do it at the expense of what we are currently doing. We need to focus on the task at hand. Spend time in the moment. Be present. It will make us more efficient, and we’ll notice more.

Yoda often taught his pupils through action. We decided last night that leaders are built by learning from their imperfections. Yoda gives us an example of what one participant said she would like to be: “Fair, compassionate, and motivational.” Challenges will push and motivate us. In this time of uncertainty we must focus on continuing to learn so we can help the world triumph. As the group taught me last night, the only thing to do is the next right thing.