Thursday, June 20, 2013

Invoke Behavior

When it comes to change, which happens first…… a change in behavior or a change in belief?  This is an important question if you’re on a quest to see new ideas become reality in every classroom. In my experience, those who believe a change in belief comes first, end up talking about the same ideas year after year. On the contrary, those leaders who work to change behaviors end up opening the minds of their teachers resulting in a culture that sparkles with innovation, creativity, and a passion for learning.

Recently during a twitter chat, the following question came about: If you’ve been a part of an innovative school, what caused it to be innovative?

I responded:

You see, the leader within this particular building created a culture of innovation by answering the relevant question… why?  For instance: Why technology integration is important.  Why failure must be viewed as a success in learning. Why it's important for educators to take responsibility for their own learning. You get the idea.  The leader put specific, timely action plans or SMART goals in place that resulted in all teachers engaging in new behaviors.  After experiencing the effectiveness of such behaviors, we soon changed our belief.  Before long, we were all closing the gap between what we knew and what we actually did.

For some reason, almost intuitively, it seems like belief is a precondition to action.  Instead, let’s invoke a change in behavior.  Learning is useless if it isn't applied. Reading a recipe book is not the same as picking up a utensil and cooking.  Let’s work to get others cooking something new.  Who knows.... they just might like it!  
Are you the two boys talking about it or are you a Mikey and willing to take risks and try something new?  Something to think about.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Learning Is A Consequence of Thinking

How do YOU take responsibility for your own learning?  How do YOU continuously grow the gap between what you know and what you do?  How often do YOU think about your own art of teaching? What do YOU do as a result of those thoughts?  These are questions that I ask when interviewing and searching for the best of the best.  Many candidates respond with a blank stare and struggle with recalling the last educational article, book, or video they’ve read or watched.

Great teachers take responsibility for their own learning and do not wait for their district to tell them when and what to learn.  Most school districts are limited to five professional development days throughout the school year and I believe to be the very best, critical, creative, and reflective thinking must happen daily.  If learning is a consequence of thinking, then think.  Our students are depending on you.

How would YOU respond to such questions?  If you find it difficult, then it’s time to change the wayYOU learn.

“Change how you learn first. Once you change, you won’t be able to go back to teaching the same old way.” ~ Stephen Downes

Please comment and list those connected educators who not only cause you to think daily, but many times differently.  As summer approaches, it’s time we fortify and strengthen our own PLN.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Fostering A Continuous Gap Between What We Know and What We Do

As we already know, a gap exists between what we know and what we do.  Successful educators work to narrow this gap between new ideas and implementation.  However, I believe the size of this gap does not necessarily indicate one’s success.  Some educators are terrific at executing what all they know how.   The problem is, their pedagogy is out-of-date, irrelevant, and this gap has been stagnant for many years.  On the other hand, there are educators who engage in twitter, who subscribe to RSS readers such as Google Reader and Bloglines, who create personalized online magazines through tools such as Zite and Flipboard, and who curate content through platforms such as and  These educators have an enormous amount of growing knowledge. 

As leaders, which educator do you desire for your building?  The answer is easy but fostering such a gap takes intentional purpose on the part of the leader.

Fostering Knowledge
  • Recognize what your teacher wants to learn, as well as, what they need to learn.  Then, spark their curiosity.
  • Assist teachers in developing a strong PLN by introducing content specific educators who are both like-minded as well as those with differing viewpoints.
  • Assist teachers in curating content by creating an RSS reader and/or personalized magazine.
  • Assist teachers in subscribing to publications such as Education Week, Edutopia, Teaching Channel, E-School News, etc…

Fostering Doing
  • Embed time for teachers to develop new knowledge and on the job learning opportunities.
  • Urge teachers to take the time to practice what they learn. Knowledge is power only when we use it.
  • Commend good mistakes when risks are taken and lessons are learned.
  • Invite regular reflection. Encouraging teachers to establish a personal learning blog that documents what they learn is one of the simplest but most rewarding and valuable approaches.

As leaders, it is important to grow and maintain our own gap between what we know and what we do.  Otherwise, it will be difficult to assist teachers and be the lead learner within your school.

This is a working document.  Please share other strategies to fostering this important gap to remaining relevant in the classroom.  

Cross-posted at Connected Principals