Sunday, July 31, 2011

5 Components of an Open House Culture

Open House Infographic (2)

Recently, I wrote a post defining what I call the Open House Culture.  Basically, an Open House Culture in your school does two things:

  1. Provides a guide to how you can be your best at all times.
  2. Creates a welcoming environment that causes others to take action to be a part of your school.

What I did not explore in the previous blog post are the various components to an Open House Culture.

The 5 components to an Open House Culture are represented in the graphic above.

  • Friendly
  • Trustworthy and Reliable
  • Responsive
  • Interactive
  • Presentations

Briefly defined…

Friendly:  If you genuinely like being an educator, let everyone know from the first impression (if you do not, find another line of work).  Smile.  Produce more “happy endorphins.”  Dress professionally and/or appropriately.  Greet everyone with an implied invitation to engage rather than to “get this over with.”

Trustworthy and Reliable:  Answer your emails and messages.  Keep your appointments with students and parents.  Have a reliable syllabus.  Students secretly want to cont on a consistent and reliable experience in your class, even if that experience is more rigorous than most.  Reliability is important.  Trust is vital.  Without trust, you cannot lead.  Teachers are leaders.  No leadership?  Your class will never have the impact students deserve. 

Responsive:  Be a great listener.  Empathize and create possibilities.  Guide people to accomplish their goals.  Be prepared for your lesson to succeed and to hit a roadblock.  Build up you “tool box of skills” so you can react quickly and appropriately.  Embrace change and engage in professional development.

Interactive:  Remember that scene in National Lampoon’s European Vacation when the Griswold family can’t get out of the roundabout in London?  “Look kids; Big Ben, Parliament.”  If your class or open house event feels like this, change it.  Interactive makes connections, connections strengthen relationships, strong relationships have documented evidence of being a major component to great teaching and learning.

Presentations:  Stop reading your slides!  Enchantment rule – 10 slides, 20 minutes, 30 point font.  Explore multimedia options.  Invite your audience to participate in the presentation.  Look for clues that you have them hooked (eyes wide, laughing, shaking head in agreement or disagreement, etc.) or losing them (gazing out the window, looking at watch, nodding off to sleep, blank stares, etc.).


These 5 components can guide either an individual teacher, a department, a division, or an entire school to developing an Open House Culture.  If you have any stories or experience with any of these components, I would love to hear from you.  Feel free to either send me an email at or leave a comment below.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Yahoo! video of Seth Godin

I really liked this video featuring Seth Godin.  There are some very interesting and valuable lessons about the present and future state of business, marketing, and the internet - many of which certainly apply to schools.




Link to video:

Friday, July 29, 2011

Why Some Resist Tech Integration in School

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 Leading change in schools is one of the more difficult tasks an educational leader faces.  It would seem that a population whose work is rooted in making a change in the lives of students would be the model for how to implement positive changes.  After all, what happened to modeling a lifetime love of learning?  Wouldn't that imply living a life of seeking and making positive changes?

So, why do teachers seem to resist change so much?  Let's use a popular topic to examine a possible answer - technology integration in the classroom.

In some ways, I think access to the volume of resources offered by technology integration prevents teachers from incorporating technology in the classroom.  This follows the concept of decision paralysis.  Decision paralysis is a concept that suggests that people who have too many options will delay or avoid making a choice.  Eventually, these people are more likely to stick with what they are doing already than change.

For example, try telling a teacher to use a math help resource off the Internet.  A Google search for "math help" produced about 183,000 results!  It is certainly within the realm of possibility that the sheer number of options produces what is perceived as resistance, but is actually decision paralysis.  What presents itself as fear of the Internet is actually fear of choosing the wrong resource (or the less effective resource).

Here is a non-school example.  There are 31 flavors of ice cream available at a Baskin-Robbins store.  No matter how many other flavors are available, there is always chocolate and vanilla.  Why?  Probably because after looking at the 29 other flavors for 20-30 minutes, many people simply give up trying to decide and pick an old favorite.

So, how do educational leaders help teachers get past decision paralysis?

One way to help defeat decision paralysis is to work towards being clearer in your guidance.  Telling teachers that better technology integration is a good way to engage students is not clear enough for many teachers.  Leaders need to use more specific language using concrete images.  Replacing "We should be integrating technology more." is not the same as, "Students should be using Google Docs to collaborate on class projects."  Specific direction eliminates options and helps get past decision paralysis.

Another remedy is to break down the change into smaller, manageable phases.  "More technology" becomes "Let's start with becoming adequate with our email system first, then we will move on into presentation tools."  Smaller chunks with faster feedback will help motivate people to continue with the change.

A final suggestion is to engage people in positive thinking.  Almost all teachers have SOME technology training and can navigate some basic functions.  A strategy to leading change is to have them visualize a time when they made a successful change.  Once they have that image, ask them about the actions taken or the support needed to make the change work.  Armed with that information, develop a plan to help lead the current change.  For example, "How did you learn to use email so well?  Use that same approach to learn how to incorporate video into your instruction."

Resistance to technology integration in classes may be the result of too many and not enough. 

Too many choices, not enough direction.

This post was prompted by my reading Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath.

 Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

What Does Your School Believe In?

In doing my part to help liquidate the Borders store in my town, I raided the business section for titles I have been wanting to read. (As a side note, I am quite sad to see the store close)

I decided, quite happily, to choose Ignore Everybody: and 39 Other Keys to Creativity by Hugh McLeodHugh, who is best known for his cartoons drawn on the backs of business cards, offers plenty of insight into embracing your creative self based on his own experiences.

There are numerous examples of his work in the book, but the one that stuck with me the most was this one.  

Generally, I find schools are good at providing examples of things to work towards.  Examples include deeper understanding of subjects, better grades, higher standardized test scores, and admission to a respected college.

There is nothing wrong with using concrete images to help provide a context for why the efforts in school are worthwhile.  These images are important and the ability to articulate that message in a way that sticks with your audience is a key element in successful schools.

On the other hand, concrete images of something(s) to believe in have been less plentiful.  As a result, I think many schools may be missing a key ingredient to establishing a culture of promise and growth.

Something to work towards is a future oriented concept.  It is something that may happen at some point.  It is something that could happen (if conditions align themselves).  Working towards something implies that it may not actually happen.

Something to believe in lives in the present.  It already exists.  If it didn't, you couldn't believe in it.  Because it already exists, it cannot NOT happen.

Having an image of what to work towards helps spark an effort to begin making a change.  Attaching something to believe in to that image makes the goal more attainable and credible.

For example - Imagining being accepted to a top college may help you accept why you are asked to do rigorous school work, but without a belief in the power hard work and dedication, the vision is incomplete.

What does your school want to work towards?  What does it believe in?  Are the answers to those two questions aligned?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Defining The Open House Culture

One of the standard practices for school admissions is open house. Similar to a real estate open house, these events invite new families to the school for a few hours to explore the facilities, ask questions, listen to presentations, and satisfy their curiosity about what the school has to offer.

From a school point of view, open house provides a forum to promote the school’s academic, arts, athletics, and enrichment programs on their home field. Teachers are present to talk about their classes, coaches about their teams, parents about their great experiences, etc. The campus is clean and wearing its “Sunday Best.” Students may even be present to give tours and perform.

It is all designed to capture enough of the visitor’s attention to prompt further action: schedule a private tour/meeting, inquire about the admissions process, or fill out an application – the equivalent of making an offer on a house.

For some schools, getting ready for open house is easy. Their natural state of being is closer to the open house condition on a regular basis. For others, getting ready for open house is quite challenging. To show their best, a difficult make over is needed. Using our real estate image, a house that is kept up with and reasonable well maintained is easier to prep for an open house than one in disarray.

Open house, the event, may take place multiple times each year. Open House Culture is constant. It is always present. The Open House Culture answers the question, “How can you be your best at all times?”

It is important to point out that “being YOUR best” is not the same as “being THE best.” There is certainly nothing wrong with wanting to be THE best.  As a former coach, I completely understand that sentiment.  The challenge with that thinking is that it requires some comparison of schools. 

How else can you evaluate if you are THE best?

But every ounce of energy spent comparing your work to others, is one ounce you cannot spend on doing your best to fulfill your school’s mission.

Being your best is simply defined as giving all you have at that moment. The only comparisons are those we place upon yourself.  This is easier said than done.

Life gets in the way sometimes. You have a life outside of school. As you get older stuff happens. Your children get sick. Your friends and relatives die. Your marriage may fail.  Your car breaks down.

Stuff happens.

Some days you can give 100%. Other days, you may only have 80% “in the tank.” If you only have 80% to give that day, then give 80%. That is what it means to be your best.

Being your best is how you being to develop an Open House Culture in your school.

This culture demands your school be at its best.  It transforms the school into a place that welcomes teachers, students, and families to participate in its present and future operations.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Intersection of Skills and Subjects

skills and subject2 (2)Skills need developing.

Skills need practice.

Skills help students learn.

Skills will help students do well in college.

Skills will help students succeed in life after school.

Collaboration, communication, creativity, and critical thinking are skills.

Reading, writing, synthesizing, thinking, presenting, and delivering on time are skills.

On the other hand, United States History (for example) is a topic, a subject, a focus, etc.  It is not a skill.

Schools help students develop skills through the introduction of diverse subjects.  Each subject is unique in its focus, thus requiring students to use diverse skills to learn the material.  Sometimes the skills developed in a course are as important to success in the next course as learning the material is.  For example, the research skills I learned in US History were more valuable to my success the following year in Ancient World History than the subject matter, which had nothing at all to do with Ancient World History.

Skills matter in school, but not in isolation of subject matter.

Subject matter is important.  Knowing stuff is important.  You don’t want to be the person I heard at Arlington National Cemetery telling their child that Ted Kennedy was a President who was assassinated in Florida while campaigning for re-election (Yes, I actually heard that).  You don’t want to be the person no one can hold a conversation with because you are so uninformed that trying to hold a stimulating conversation is nearly impossible.

The less you know, the more time you use looking up the answers.  Not a bad way to spend time.  I like learning new things.  But, the more you learn, the more you want to learn because as you get more informed, your questions get better and deeper.  The more you know, the more time you have to be creative, do something new, or help other people.

Teachers, students are in your room to learn, not to see how much you know.

  • Does that homework assignment give students an opportunity to practice valuable skills while reinforcing the important subject material?
  • Is that test a measurement of student understanding or just a grade in the grade book?
  • In addition to today’s topic, what skills are refined by your lecture?
  • Along with demonstrating understanding of the material, how much of your grading system considers demonstration of skills?

We learn more, we ask better questions.

We ask better questions, we understand deeper.

          We understand deeper, we become more involved.

                     We get involved, we find a passion..

Passions motivate.  Motivated students produce great work.

When skills and subjects intersect, motivated students who do great work emerge.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Paying Attention is Now Available for Your Kindle

Paying Attention: Thoughts on Communication in Schools
I am pleased to announce that my first ebook, Paying Attention: Thoughts on Communication in Schools, is finally available for Kindle via

Paying Attention - The Wordle!

You may also notice that I set up a new page on the blog for the book.  I hope to provide updates about Paying Attention and other book in progress on that page.

For those of you who read it, I hope you enjoy the book and find it useful.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Are You Worthy of Followers?

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Are you worthy of followers?

After all, you can't lead if you have no followers.  Therefore, it is perfectly reasonable to ask if you believe you are worthy of having any followers.  This applies to newly minted leaders and well seasoned veterans.  If you hold a formal leadership role, are you worthy of having followers?

Strange question?  Maybe, but a good one to use for reflection.

Most of you earned your position through, among other things; hard work, focus, attention to detail, respecting others, a willingness to accept responsibility, and a need to inspire others to be their best.

Are the traits that helped you earn your role still an obvious part of your leadership practice?  What qualities are evident in people who deserve followers?

Worthy educational leaders...
  • have a vision of excellence, articulate that vision in a way that invites and inspires others to share it, and provide the support necessary for others to work towards that vision.
  • understand that change is an unavoidable result of leadership.
  • work to structure the school to operate efficiently and effectively.
  • care about their followers' needs and work to align those needs with the goals of the school.
  • accept that resources are finite and often scarce, thus accepting the responsibility of making tough decisions.
  • actively seek to develop new leaders (create a leadership density).
  • are open minded and approachable, yet able to make choices and maintain a strategic focus.
  • encourage innovative thinking.
  • are trustworthy.
  • are visible.
  • seek opportunities to offer praise.
  • may not know all the answers, but is willing to ask good questions and find them out.
  • are valuable resources for instructional leadership.
  • infuse energy, enthusiasm, and optimism into their schools.
Your position gives you a platform to provide leadership.  It's up to you to actually lead.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Paying Attention: An Update on my Ebook about Communication in Schools

I am happy to announce that I have, for the most part, completed my first ebook.  The book is about communication in schools and is intended to be the first in a series of three ebooks concerning my 3 Pillars to Uphold a Student-Centered Culture blog post.

I am working on publishing the ebook, Paying Attention: Thoughts on Communication in Schools, through Amazon Kindle publishing.  I hope to have an update on that soon and will make an announcement once it is available via Amazon Kindle.

In the meantime, here is a sample from the ebook.  Enjoy.


At the time of writing this book, I am working as the Head of Middle School at a private Preschool (3 year olds) through 12th grade independent school in Northern Virginia. As the leader of a Middle School division, I am constantly faced with issues of communication. While I believe in always trying to improve, I also recognize that there are contextual challenges that are present in some situations more than others. In other words, what may work in one situation may not necessarily work in every situation, especially when we try to communicate with a diverse audience. This explains why some movies do better in some markets than they do in others.

Middle School presents a number of communication challenges.

Imagine this scenario.

You are teaching a coed 7th grade (12 and 13 year olds) class. Your class has 21 students. Within this group are 7 families that believe their children are still in 3rd grade, 7 families that fully understand and realize the changing nature of their children in school, and 7 families that think their children are already in high school. Throw into this mix the fact that a few students are an only child, a few that are the oldest, a few that are the youngest, and a few that are living in multiple homes with separated or divorced parents.

If understanding, connecting, and relating to your audience is a factor in good communication (and it is); then it is easy to see why communication is often reported as one of the factors parents believe the school needs to improve and the school believes it is doing very well.

Although I am not a communications expert, I do, however, believe that if one can navigate Middle School communications effectively, they must have something of value to share with others looking for tips about school communication. It is from this platform and from observing numerous teachers that I draw the suggestions in this book.

When it comes to communication, I believe we all can do better. I know for certain that I can.

This book is a gift to those needing a little push or support in the area of school communication. It certainly has been one for me and I hope it is for you.

The suggestions offered in this book are based on the concept of establishing clear, effective, and disciplined lines of communication. Some sections are more in-depth than others. Some sections are more self explanatory.

Either way, I try to provide enough information to help you reflect on your own communications and, when necessary, provide ideas for how to improve.

What you will not find are volumes of examples collected from various sources. While many nonfiction books are mostly small chunks of genuine wisdom filled with superfluous examples, I wanted to keep this book “lean and mean”; a resource you can read in one sitting and refer to often.

Pay Attention.

It’s time to begin.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Communication ebook for educators

By far, the most popular post I have written is 3 Pillars to Uphold a Student-Centered Culture.  That post was so well received that I made a Prezi for the it.

Now, I am writing a series of short ebooks that address each of these 3 pillars: Communication, Motivation, and a Growth mindset.

The first one concerns communication.

As a result, I am compiling a list of communication strategies and tips from other educators.  These should be as specific or generic as you like, but they must address effective communication in school.  These tips can be for student: teacher communication, teacher: parent communication, administrator: teacher communication, etc.

Here is where I am seeking your input.  This is a link to a Google Doc for you to share your communication tips.  Simply click the link and share.

I also have Google Docs to collect tips about motivation and growth mindsets.  If you wish to contribute tips about those topics, feel free to do so.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Find Your Core Objective and Keep It Simple

Schools are diverse and dynamic organizations.  These factors help contribute to the complexity of school leadership.  This complexity can cause confusion and distract teachers and administrators.

One way to make sure that the most important work is done or that the most important objective is addressed is to keep things simple.

By simple, I am not referring to easy.  I am referring to a simple as finding your core objective.

No lesson plan survives contact with students.  Therefore, keeping your core objective simple and being able to articulate how you will address that objective is powerful.

Finish these statements:
"If we do nothing else during tomorrow's class, we must ..."

"The single, most important thing we must do tomorrow is..."
While I have been a long time believer in the power of the "simple" thinking described above, I have struggled to articulate this concept clearly - until recently.

The ideas above (such as the two statements) are part of the early chapters in Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip Heath and Dan Heath.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Appreciate Your Instructional Linchpins

Photo taken by yours truly.
 Every faculty has at least one and every administrator needs at least one.

I'm talking about the rock steady, reliable, port in the storm, A+ teacher.  Not only are these instructional rock stars our best examples of our M.I.A.(mission in action NOT missing in action), but, when things are rough, they remind us that things are not as bad as they may seem.

These are the teachers who spark the collegial conversations in the faculty meetings and in the teachers' lounge.  These are the teachers that parents reference when telling their stories.  These are the teachers with whom students can't wait to be in class.

If we could give out a daily award for excellence, it would be named after these teachers.

Educational leaders, do not forget these instructional linchpins.  Value them.  Invest in their wisdom.  Find ways to get them in front of as many students, parents, and fellow teachers as often as possible.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Enchantment Infographic: A Follow Up to the "Enchanting" Schools Series

Following up on my "Enchanting" schools series, I found this infographic.  I found it here.


Enchantment Infographic

Motivating Teachers

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 By far, my most popular post is the one I wrote about the three pillars that uphold a student-centered culture.  In that post, and on my "3 pillars" Prezi, I explain how communication, a growth mindset, and motivation help keep your school focused on student achievement.

That post was mostly written with students in mind, but as educational leaders, we also need to apply those same concepts to teachers.  In this post, I explore the motivation "pillar" from administration/teacher point of view.  As with the "3 pillars" post, I am using Daniel Pink's Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us as the basis for these thoughts.

Let's start by examining a few observations about the "work" involved in teaching.
  1. Teaching, as a job, requires one to use a wide range of skills.  It is not a factory job at which you do one task over and over again.
  2. Some of the tasks teachers perform are routine and do not require much in the way of higher order thinking.
  3. The task at hand should determine your motivation strategy.
  4. Educators, for the most part, are underpaid.  That makes an impact on their lives, and therefore, performance over time.
  5. In the absence of cash, what other "currency" is valued and available to distribute?
Teaching, as a job, requires one to use a wide range of skills. It is not a factory job at which you do one task over and over again.

Teaching, at least the model needed today, cannot be effective in a factory model.  Teachers must also bring a more artful approach to education.  Content knowledge, which was once the key ingredient to great teaching, is only one factor among many.  Effective teachers are flexible, imaginative, innovative, empathetic, and passionate.  These are not the qualities needed on an assembly line where following a detailed procedure of manufacturing is necessary (and also cheaper overseas!).

Therefore, motivating teachers must include clarifying their purpose (cause) and providing them the autonomy (independence) to develop mastery.  If the work of teachers was simply low level thinking and routine manual work, then financial incentives (bonuses, rewards for finishing a textbook unit, etc.) would be another effective alternative. 

Some of the tasks teachers perform are routine and do not require much in the way of higher order thinking.

I find that I am trying to motivate teachers more directly when the work in question is very routine.  For example, getting grades and comments done on time for report card publication.  These less "teaching" tasks are often the ones that drive administrators crazy - much more than any real issues in the classroom.  The issue here is that these tasks are, admittedly, boring and take teachers away from what they do best - TEACH.

Because these tasks are routine, the strategies used to motivate results need to align with the task.  In other words, these tasks generally fall in the category for which some external motivation may be helpful.  Autonomy may not be an option because the reports, for example, must be completed in a standard format.  In these situations, finding the appropriate "currency" desired by teachers can provide the needed motivation to get the job done well and on time.

The task at hand should determine your motivation strategy.

As I suggest above, awareness of the type of task you need to address will guide which type of motivation strategies you should consider.  Routine tasks usually improve with external motivators.  Higher level tasks involving creativity and innovation are supported best by autonomy, purpose, and mastery.
Educators, for the most part, are underpaid.  That makes an impact on their lives, and therefore, performance over time.
Here is what I believe:
Teachers are greatly appreciated.  That appreciation take many forms.  Most educators do not get paid a salary that allows them to not need to worry about paying the bills.  For what teachers provide for their communities and our nation, a higher standard of living is deserved and, in my opinion, has been earned.  Of course, I am an educator and maybe a little biased :), but that is what I believe.
The issue with motivation strategies is that because money cannot and hasn't been "taken off the table" it is always a concern.  This concern has an impact on the innovation, imagination, willingness to try new methods, etc.  Autonomy, purpose, and mastery will always be fighting against safety, compliance, and security when teachers are facing the tax collector and bills are due.
I am not implying that teachers need an outrageous salary that makes them completely free of financial concern.  What I am suggesting is that if teachers are thinking, "I need this job to pay the bills" more than they are thinking, "I need this job to fulfill my desire to teach and serve this community," then adjustments to salaries may be a good strategy to motivate teachers to be better at teaching the way we need them to in the 21st century.
In the absence of cash, what other "currency" is valued and available to distribute?

This final point is one I like because often schools, administrators, and educational leaders only focus on money as the "currency" by which to engage educators.  Finding other valuable commodities hidden throughout your school may provide simple, effective, and cheap alternatives to help motivate teachers.
In my experience, outside of money, teachers value time and space.  Look for ways to use both.
Here are a few "currencies" I have used to help motivate teachers.
  • Providing food and drinks at faculty meetings.
  • Taking teachers to lunch (or paying for their lunch with colleagues).
  • "Thank you" notes and emails.
  • Substitute teaching for them to give them time to grade papers, write comments, or observe other teachers.
  • Find better space for them to work outside of class (reserve space in library, give up my office, reserve an off-campus site).
In conclusion, motivating teachers requires an artful approach and an awareness of the types of work being done.  Having motivational strategies that align with the work is important.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A New Take on Some Old Leadership Advice

art of ed favicon (2) One of my most offered pieces of advice is:

Identify your strengths, recognize your challenges, use your strengths to address your challenges.

The art of leadership, given this concept, is to remember that our espoused strengths and challenges may not actually align with what the people in your organization, or school, see as your strengths and challenges.  In a further twist, how others view our strengths and challenges is greatly a result of their own strengths and challenges.

For example, many teachers are perfectly capable, comfortable, and effective with less detailed instructions from their administrators.  For these teachers, a leader who is less specific about HOW to do things and more focused on WHERE the school needs to go.  Teachers in the, “Just tell me what to do and I’ll do it.” camp are going to be somewhat frustrated with a leader who is not inclined to “hold their hands.”

So, does this mean that leaders need to always be aware of how their teams are reacting and perceiving the leader’s strengths and challenges?  Yes, it does.  Therefore, leaders must be willing and able to make the effort to incorporate their team’s evaluations into the leader’s professional development.  This is more than having an open door policy and listening.  It involves taking proactive means to gather this information.  There are any number of surveys and questionnaires to send out, but one way that I like (which has worked very well) is to simply ask this question…and ask it often.

What can I do to support your efforts more effectively?

Ask this question and listen to the entire answer.  Take notes.  Then follow up.

You may affirm your self-view or you may discover something new about your leadership effectiveness.

Monday, July 11, 2011

"Pitching" Your Lesson

As much as some teachers hate to admit it, there are times when the teacher needs to present lessons to students.  The lecture or the presentation itself is not necessarily the problem as much as the ability of the teacher to do so in an engaging and meaningful way.

Here is a tip.  View the lesson as a sales pitch.

I'm not suggesting that you mislead or offer crazy incentives to learn.  I said a sales pitch, not an infomercial!  Rather, you (teacher) are pitching an idea to a venture capital group (students).  You are passionate, driven, and informed.  You just need their support and the idea takes shape.  If you use Power Point, Prezi, or some other tool - remember these rules:
  1. 10 slides
  2. 20 minutes long
  3. No less than 30 point font
Also, as you are presenting remember the two words that scared me to death when I presented my dissertation proposal:


You should always be prepared to answer this in your presentation because the students are asking it!  They may not say it, but assume they are thinking it.  Answering, "So what?" is a great middle step in having a powerful lecture or presentation.

Wait, did I say "middle step?"  Yes, I did.  There is one final part to prepare.  The last part is a brief completion of this opening:

"For instance, . . ."

It is the "For instance, . . ." part that brings the point home and real to the students.  You can even ask the students to suggest some examples of their own, but have some prepared just in case they miss the target.

For example:

Your point:
"The colonists objected to the Stamp Act."

So what?:
"Printed documents were very important.  They were a vital means to communicate and spread news throughout the colonies."

For instance, . . .:
". . . it would be similar to you having to pay the government for every email, Facebook post, Twitter update, blog article, etc. that you want to write or read."

This template for presentations and lectures helps the teacher make her point, reinforce it with detail, and make a connection between the concept and the students.

If you have any other ideas about how to present more engaging lectures, discussions, or presentations, feel free to offer them in the comments below.

This post was inspired by The Art of the Start by Guy Kawasaki - specifically, Chapter 3: The Art of Pitching.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Your class, your cause, your obligation – own it.

Salespeople sell.

Cooks cook.

Teachers teach.

Here’s the difference. 

Buying a new car is transactional, not transformative.

Eating a good meal satisfies, but is not sustainable.

Education transforms.  Education sustains.

We teach our students and raise our children not because we are given the opportunity, but because we are obligated to do so.

Your class is your cause.  You are obliged to promote it and advance it.

The Mantra of Great Schools

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 I just started reading The Art of the Start by Guy Kawasaki.  Though the book is subtitled, The Time-Tested, Battle-Hardened Guide for Anyone Starting Anything, I can see already that there are many lessons and suggestions discussed that apply to schools.

One of Guy's first steps is to make mantra.  By that, he means to write down, in a very short phrase, what you do and have that be the repeatable phrase you chant (either out loud or internally) over and over again.

For example, Guy illustrates his point by providing a few mantras from established companies.
  • Nike: Authentic athletic performance
  • Disney: Fun family entertainment
  • Starbucks: Rewarding everyday moments (pg. 7) 
Mantras should not be confused with tag lines.  As Guy points out, the mantra is for the EMPLOYEES (teachers, administrators, staff members); a guide for what they do.  Tag lines, on the other hand, are for the customers (students, families); a guide for how to use your service (education).  While Nike's mantra is "Authentic athletic performance." Its tag line is "Just do it" (pg. 8)

What would be the mantra of great schools?  What about tag lines?  Here are a few ideas.  Feel free to submit your own in the comments below.

  • Preserve democracy.
  • Create the future.
  • Encourage scholarship.
  • Lead growth.
Tag Lines:
  • Explore the world.
  • Discover new questions.
  • Create knowledge.
  • Get better.
These mantras and tag lines were written for schools and students, but the same exercise applies to any part of the school.  What is the Math department's mantra?  The soccer team?  The Service Club?  The lunch program?

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Enchanting Up and Enchanting Down: "Enchanting" Schools, Part Five


If you have been following this series of posts, you have made it to the end.  Congratulations are in order.  In addition,


Writing this series on enchanting schools has been a great learning exercise for me.  I hope you have also found some nuggets of wisdom to use.

This entire series was inspired by two sources.  One is the outstanding book, Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions by Guy Kawasaki.  The other is a blog post summary of Enchantment by David Deal.  If you haven't read either or both of them, I encourage you to check them out.

Enchanting Up and Enchanting Down

From David Deal:

Enchant up

Enchantment begins inside your own company. You can’t enchant others if you can’t enchant the people with whom you work. And the most critical person to enchant is your boss. If your boss asks you to do something, drop everything else and do it. Go to your boss with a prototype of your solution to her problem and get her feedback and buy-in. If you have bad news, deliver it early.

Enchant down

Achieving enchantment inside your own organization also means enchanting your work force. The single most important way to enchant your own people is to give them a road map for success. Show them how to succeed working for you. If you want to work for Guy, he’ll try to enchant you by helping you master new skills, giving you autonomy, and empowering you to change the world.

Schools are filled with layers of people.  There are formal roles and informal roles; all of which have either written or unwritten hierarchies.  The concept of enchanting up or down exists at every level.  You may not need to only enchant your principal or division head, but also your department chair and your more experienced colleagues.  There are also those who you need to follow your lead.  Those who you hope to motivate and encourage to join you.  This may be your students or less experienced teachers.

For enchanting up, educators should maintain an open line of communication in order to know what your "boss" expects.  The best way to earn the trust by enchanting up is to make good on the expected work and be dependable.  Your "boss" is more likely to join your cause if she believes you are capable of actually following through, which you demonstrate by doing the work needed.

Enchanting down, as Guy and David suggest, is a matter of articulating a vision of what is possible, supporting others in sharing that vision, and provide the resources needed for others to take action.  Enchanting down also speaks to nurturing internal motivation.  This motivation is thoroughly described by Daniel Pink in Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.  Enchanting down, essentially, is deciding to lead.  That is, having an inspiring cause to make something better and creating a way for you to communicate your cause to others while enabling others to not only participate in, but encourage others to join your tribe.

If you missed the other parts of this series, or if you want to go back and read them again, here are the links to them.

The prelude to this series - Responsibility or Cause

Part 1, Likability and Trustworthiness

Part 2, Getting Ready and Launching

Part 3, Overcoming Resistance and Enduring

Part 4, Presentations and Using Technology

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Presentations and Using Technology: "Enchanting" Schools, Part Four

For those of you who have been keeping up with this series, thanks for hanging around.  If you are new to this series of posts about "enchanting" schools, you may want to check out the following:
If there were two most practical items in this series for schools to address, I believe they are the two discussed in this post - presentations and using technology.

As I have done throughout this series, here is an excerpt from Davis Deal's excellent summary of Enchantment that addresses presentations and using technology to enchant others to your cause.

Enchanters learn the art of presentation. Present your ideas clearly and with graphics. And customize your discussion. Wherever Guy talks, he customizes content by capturing images of the place he’s visiting and includes the local color in his presentation.
Guy relates the story of how he spoke with executives at LG in Latin America. In preparing for the talk, he realized something obvious: he owns an LG washer/dryer but never thought to share this important fact in his presentation. It was so important that Guy customize his talk that before he went onstage, he texted one of his sons back home in the States and got an image of his LG product captured for his talk.

He also stresses the importance of selling your dream. Steve Jobs sells his dream when he discusses the iPhone. He does not discuss how iPhones work.
Guy also believes in his (frequently cited) golden rule of presenting: use 10 slides; finish up in 20 minutes; and pick 30-point font. Another approach: take the age of oldest person in the audience and divide by 2.

Use technology

Using technology means removing speed bumps to experiencing your brand in the digital world. Want to encourage people to use your website? Don’t use impossible-to-read spam blockers.

Sungevity, a provider of solar panels for homes, removes speed bumps using digital technology. The company mocks up a schema of your home using Bing search in order to create an estimate of the cost of installing solar panels. Sungevity makes it easy for a consumer to understand how its panels work and the cost for doing so.

Using social media technology is key as well. And the key to employing social media is doing what works for you, period. Guy is quite open that he has 20 people contributing content to his Twitter account to broadcast information, although he responds to Tweets by himself. He focuses on using his account to share great content often (as often as 75 times a day). So he allows people on his team to use his account to post useful links under his name.

And respond quickly – not just to famous people but also to the nobodies of the world.

My response to these for schools is fairly straightforward.

Whenever possible, use the advice above in your presentations and in how to use technology.

I am sure that I am not alone in saying that not much is worse than sitting through one boring presentation afte another.  Think of the torture you are putting your students through!  Here's some advice - your lesson is a presentation, make it engaging, interesting, and worth doing again. 

Stop reading your slides!

Better still, have your students or you use slides to make videos as part of the lesson.

As for technology use outside of classroom instruction and production, if your school does not have a plan to use social media and the internet to attract and retain students, publicize events and news, or communicate information, you need to begin making such a plan now.  Also, if your school website is not viewable (or awkwardly viewable) by mobile devices, fix it.  An increasing number of parents and students are using these devices to get information, make it easy for them.

Ok, only one part left in this series.  In it I will discuss the concepts of "enchanting up" and "enchanting down."  Until then, if you have any suggestions about how to create an "enchantment" workshop for schools, please feel free to contact me.  I appreciate your feedback.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Overcoming Resistance and Enduring: "Enchanting" Schools, Part Three

While vacationing at Walt Disney World about 10 years ago, my wife and I were on one of the boats that transport visitors to and from the Magic Kingdom.  It was late.  The parks had all closed.  There were only a handful of people on the boat.  One was an employee (cast member) of the park.

As we were sitting, my wife and I decided to strike up a conversation with the cast member.  During that conversation, we asked her about working at Disney. 

She replied,
"I love it.  It is great to bring so much happiness to people each day." 
When pressed about how hard it must be to maintain such a positive outlook, the cast member said,
"Well, some people do not last too long.  Early on, it is so exciting to be here, but once the 'pixie dust' wears off, only the truly committed endure.  Yes, it can be rough at times.  I had a visitor get upset and throw a drink at me once, but you smile your best smile, think happy thoughts, and wish the person's day gets better.  You can't let one bad experience ruin your day because the next visitor you see may be the one whose day you make the most memorable."
In my experience, of all the characteristics of great educators, overcoming resistance and enduring are at or near the top. Whether that resistance is from students, parents, administrators, government, the economy, or "the system", schools must find ways to overcome and endure in the face of various challenges - some preventable, some not.

When schools shift their focus from a responsibility to a cause mentality, a feeling of ownership begins to evolve which can unlock some hidden innovation and creativity.  Programs are viewed differently and new ideas emerge.  Schools that were once sterile and polarizing begin to become more likable and trustworthy.

As new ideas take shape, programs are refreshed, given a "new coat of paint", and prepared to be rolled out for the school community.  The school year begins.  Your programs are re-launched.  Everything is working great.  feedback is positive.  Everyone is happy.

Then.....Day 2!

The "pixie dust" starts to wear off.  Maybe not very noticeably, but wearing off all the same.  People are now immersed in your cause and, as is our nature, they begin to find pieces about which they feel the need to make "suggestions."

It is time to overcome resistance and endure.

Overcoming Resistance and Enduring

I have been drawing upon David Deal's post about Enchantment in this series.  Here is the excerpt from his post about these two topics.

Overcome resistance
Typical of Guy’s approach is confronting and overcoming potential problems. Accordingly, Guy suggests finding out why people might resist your product and overcoming those factors. One way to do so is to offer social proof that your product is popular.
If you struggle during your launch, one solution is to find the handful of bright spots where you can be successful. For instance, in the mid-1980s, Apple struggled to evangelize its products. Apple survived by finding the one bright spot: desktop publishing software like Pagemaker. Apple capitalized on that bright spot and survived.
Enchanting as many influencers as possible (not just the single most influential person) is important. Marketers are always worried about influencing the C-Suite, which is really too bad because by enchanting middle managers, you’re reaching more people (some of whom will become CEOs or CMOs).

Achieving endurance means empowering people to follow you, not giving them money.
The Grateful Dead has endured for decades. The band helped its own cause by empowering its fans to tape its concerts for free, even to the point of creating a special section at its concerts to record and share.
Invoking reciprocation is also crucial. Invoking reciprocation means actively supporting someone else so that the other party will support you. When someone thanks you, the right reply is, “I know you’ll do the same for me.” That way, you encourage reciprocation. You also have to enable people to pay you back by showing them what you want and how they can help.
In order for schools, teachers, and administrators to enchant followers to their cause, they must maintain an awareness of how well their efforts are being perceived by the students and families being served.  This requires an active presence and willingness to listen to feedback.  Some of what is heard will not be positive, but the enchanting leaders will use passion and innovation to highlight the positives while working to address challenges.  If you are "out front" people will gain confidence in your leadership and be more willing to work with you through these challenges - you have gathered followers to your cause!

In addition, being clear about how each follower can contribute to the cause is key to building endurance.  Have a specific plan or ideas to include students, parents, other teachers, etc. in your cause.  Make the effort to help others in their cause because "they would do the same for you."  Examples in schools may include mentoring a new teacher, observing a colleague's classes, or offering a new activity for students.

Here's a real example from a colleague of mine.  A student in my school is transferring away to a school closer to where his father works.  The new school has a Latin program that he is interested in, but he has not had Latin yet.  His mother approached a friend of mine (a Latin teacher) and asked about some summer Latin tutoring to prepare the boy for next year AT A DIFFERENT SCHOOL.
Not only did my friend agree to help, he did so FOR FREE.

That is an enchanting teacher.

Looking back and coming up

Click here for part 1 in this series (Likability and Trustworthiness).
Click here for part 2 in this series (Getting Ready and The Launch).

Next in this series, I will examine enchanting school presentations and uses of technology.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Getting Ready and The Launch: "Enchanting" Schools, Part Two

In part one of this series, I examined the need for enchanting schools to achieve both likability and trustworthiness.  In this post, I explore the next two ways that schools can become more enchanting: Getting ready to launch and the actual launch.

Launch is not a word that is used much in schools, but I believe it is one that is very appropriate.  One reason is that launching implies power, forward movement, and ascension.  At the same time, a launch has its share of danger, risks, and unknown outcomes.

Schools start new years every fall.  Classes are retaught with a new set of students.  Students leave.  Students arrive.  Every day presents a new opportunity to do something powerful and extraordinary.  Every day is an opportunity to launch (or relaunch) an outstanding learning experience.  Remember my prelude to this series.  When you view the work of the school less as a responsibility and more of a cause, the chance to launch or relaunch each day takes on a whole new meaning.

But before we can launch, we need to get ready.

Getting Ready

Here is a description of what getting ready means.  It is taken from a post by David Deal summarizing the 10 "Enchantment" methods described in Guy Kawasaki's Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions.

Launching a product or service means having a product that is deep, intelligent, complete, empowering, and elegant. Ford makes an intelligent product called My Key, which enables you to program the top speed of a Ford vehicle into its cars. This intelligent feature appeals to Guy as his son becomes a driver.

Successful launch planning also means creating a communications outreach that features short, punchy language. He suggests communicating via short headlines that people can remember, like “If you see something, say something.” Companies can do so by creating mantras. He suggests the mantra “Democratize design” for Target.

Part of getting ready also means having a team “premortem.” Before a product or service launches, enthusiasm on marketing teams runs high to the point that no one wants to discuss the possibility of failure. Guy suggests the team leader ask, “What would be the reasons why our product would fail?” List all the reasons and figure out how to eliminate those reasons so that the product won’t fail.
For schools, getting ready is part of our routine.  Starting a new school year, preparing your syllabus, tweaking lessons, and rolling out new initiatives are all common activities.  It is for this reason that we take getting ready for granted and possibly loose an opportunity to examine our efforts closer on the front end.  I have been a part of many school starts and have rolled out new initiatives.  Some go very well.  Others, not so well.  I believe that taking the time to evaluate a schools programs and check for their level of depth, intelligence, and completeness may provide additional information about how to make their yearly "launch" better ad more effective.

Here are some suggested questions to ask when checking your program and operations.

Depth:  How does this program (class, etc.) address the mission of the school?  What are the expected outcomes from using this program beyond the obvious?  Is this program inspiring students to "dig deeper" into the subject or topic?

Intelligence:  Is the class designed for students to learn more than what they can learn by doing Internet searches on the topic?  How much higher order thinking is involved?  Does having this program at our school help us project a forward thinking mentality about schools?  Have we designed this program to appeal to a larger audience?

Completeness:  Does our program or operation have any obvious holes that need filling before it can function best for our students and families?  Do we have the necessary staff to do what we want to do this year?  Have we provided the training and support to ensure a proper operation?
Many of the answers to these questions involve asking the right people and getting the proper feedback.  School leaders must have a method of getting their message out to all parts of the school community and then LISTEN to the feedback.  Parents' Clubs, Booster Clubs, Boards of Trustees, fauclty meetings, etc. are all good places to discuss operations and gather feedback from specific groups.

Another good idea to help get ready is during the pre-service meetings in the fall.  Have teachers break into small groups to discuss their syllabus, lessons, plans for the year, etc. and have them provide feedback to each other.  Teachers can also send quick meesages via email to students and families during the summer to begin to establish their relationship and provide a brief glimpse into what is coming for the new school year.

Though it appears as two seperate and different pieces, many of these ideas blend into the launch of your class or school year.

The Launch

Ok, you are satisified with your class or school offerings and are ready to launch.  Unlike other products, schools have a defined start date.  There can be no procrastination with starting school.  So, make sure you have prepared for day one, week one in advance (see getting ready!).

From Mr. Deal's post (see above):
The key to a successful launch is telling a great story, like, “We launched YouTube to make it easier for you to share great content on video.”
Using salient points is essential. Don’t talk about a car’s fuel efficiency in terms of miles/gallon but impact on your fuel bill. Don’t talk about your personal device in terms of how many gigabytes you can offer but how many songs a person can store using your device.
Planting many seeds is another essential component. How? Not by focusing on the industry pundits but by reaching out to everyday people who have 15 followers on Twitter. Doing so means you’ll have to work harder to find more brand ambassadors. Guy himself liberally sent copies of Enchantment to multiple bloggers regardless of their popularity.
Teachers do not spend enough time promoting their classes.  We often rely too much on what students say to communicate what we do.  When talking to teachers, I find myself saying, "You teach 11 year olds all day.  Do you really want them being the point people in communicating what you do in class?"  The answer is always, "No."  Each class, program, offering, etc. must tell its own story about what it does.  That story is the most important message about the class and it must become the story the teacher tells - and tells often!

For example:
"We write a class novel to collaborate on an immersive exercise to explain the complexitites and joy of producing a well written story."

"We hold the Science Fair as part of our effort to bring other students to our campus and to expand our lessons beyond the classroom walls."
"Character development is esential to promoting good decisions and a democratic society.  Therefore, we spend time discussing these essential topics."
Once you launch, you need ot be ready to talk about your cause.  That cause can be the class, the team, the division, or the school as a whole.  Being proactive in telling the stories of your program by using multiple methods is an important part of the launch.  While technology use is a topic discussed later in this series, school leaders and teachers have many options available through the Internet to not only get ready, but launch and tell their stories.


There is a saying I hear often in schools.

Failure to prepare is preparing to fail.

Failure shouldn't be feared.  We can learn much from it.  I do, however, believe in minimizing the chances of failure by gettign ready and having a great launch.  I have worked with teachers with whom it took years to overcome a bad beginning at a school.  All of that could have been avoided with some attention to how they launched their classes.  You only get one chance at a first impression.  The better your start, the better your chances of a successful cause

Coming soon:  Part 3 of this series - overcoming resistance and enduring.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Likable and Trustworthy: "Enchanting" Schools, Part One

In my recent post, a prelude to this series, I suggested a change in thinking about education from a responsibility to a cause.  In this post, part one of a five part series, I examine how schools can address the first two ways to make your cause more enchanting - being likable and trustworthy.

As a reminder, the 10 ways to make your cause more enchanting are taken from Guy Kawasaki's Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions.  If you want a quick reference of the 10 ways, I suggest this blog post by David Deal.


From Mr. Deal's post:
The cornerstone of enchantment is achieving likability.
You cannot enchant anyone without likability. Being likable means getting little fundamentals right, such as:
* Have a “Duchenne smile” — or a smile so strong it gives you crow’s feet.
* Dress for a tie. Don’t under dress for our audience. Don’t overdress. Dress for your peers.
* Develop a great handshake – not too long, not too short.
For schools

The physical condition of the school leaves the impression that is the equivalent of the 3 items above.  A well manicured, landscaped, clean, and organized campus is the school's smile, dress, and handshake.

In addition, communication between families and school personnel provides a means to extend likability beyond face to face interactions.  The more personal you can make the communication, the more enchanting it will be.

When you have opportunities to meet students and families in person, be prepared to establish the partnership desired with them by having a likable presentation.  Use positive, growth oriented language.  When writing, use as much active voice as possible and always spell check.  Have a sense of humor and know when to use it.

Being likable is very important because it is your way of building credit in your "relationship account" that you may need to make withdrawals from later.  A significant "balance" will allow you to get through some tough times and endure (more on endurance later).

Ultimately, if you are likable others will view interactions with you as a positive experience, not one to be avoided.  Likable people (and schools) have a great foundation from which to build support for their causes.


From Mr. Deal's post:
You have to show trust in others to get them to trust you. shows trust in you by giving you a week to return a Kindle if you don’t like it. Zappos and Nordstrom trust others with their liberal return policies and service.
You also achieve trustworthiness by being a “baker, not an eater” – someone who shares, not takes from others.
For schools

Building trust ultimately comes down to whether or not the school follows through on its claims.  The same general rule applies for teachers in their classes, administrators for their divisions, etc.

Many people are busy and rely heavily on organizing their family calendars.  Schools need to respect this and work to maintain a school calendar that, once published, has very few avoidable changes.  Teachers should take the same approach.

If you would like to read more about trust, I have 2 posts recently written about that topic.  One is about building trust.  The other is about the difference between building trust and earning trust

Sharing is another way to build trust and schools have begun to embrace this concept more fully in recent years.  The ease of sharing information through web sites, blogs, and social networks is a great way for schools, teachers, and administrators to share.  In addition, opening your campus to outside events shares your school with audiences that can help promote your cause.

Sharing implies some transparency, so be prepared to answer questions or talk more about your school once you begin sharing.  Also, sharing does not anticipate anything in return except the appreciation of the recipient.  Sharing, when done in an enchanting way, is free and is its own reward.

Conclusion and coming next...

At the core of becoming an enchanting school are being likable and trustworthy.  If your school or class is not both of these, then you will have a very difficult time attracting the supporters you need to promote your cause.

Present yourself and your school in a way that makes people want to be around you (or at least not run away!) and follow through on your claims and promises.

In part 2 of this series, I will explore getting ready and actually launching your cause.  In other words, how to prepare and begin your class/school year in a way that enchants your students and families to become a positive partner with you.
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