Friday, September 28, 2012

What is your students' mission?

I recently published a post about the role of students as producers of educated work (as opposed to receivers of an education) which has been well received.  Some feedback I have received has been for some guidance on how to help students begin thinking of themselves in terms of being "Student CEOs."  One way you can engage with your students is to ask about their mission.

Student CEOs think about learning as their business.  Every business needs a mission - a reason to exist.  Missions consist of two basic parts.

1.  A purpose statement
2.  An action statement

The purpose statement answers the question, "What is your purpose?"  The answer should be short; one sentence is ideal.  For example:

"(Fill in the name of the student), inc. produces high quality, growth oriented educated work."

The action statement answers the question, "What do I do to accomplish this purpose?"  As with the purpose statement, the action statement should be short.

"(Fill in the name of the student), inc. engages in class discussions, turns in work on time, incorporates feedback into future assignments, and seeks to help others become better students."

Now, when the two statements are combined, they make up a mission statement.

"(Fill in the name of the student), inc. produces high quality, growth oriented educated work by engaging in class discussions, turning in work on time, incorporating feedback into future assignments, and seeking to help others become better students."

Mission is only one foundation of the student CEO mindset.  You can also open a conversation up about the student's vision of success, beliefs about education, and philosophy of education.

Self promotion warning !

These are the topics of my book, Foundations: Examining Vision, Beliefs, Mission, and Philosophy (only $0.99 US for Kindle).

Thank you.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

A letter to visitors about leaving a comment on The Art of Education

Greetings visitors to The Art of Education,

I am honored that you have chosen to spend a few moments of your busy day here at The Art of Education.  Over the past few years, I have operated this blog with the intentional purpose of keeping comment writing, for you, open and free of my moderation.  It was my hope that by doing so, you may feel more welcomed to express your opinions and join me in conversation.  For many of you, that s exactly what has happened and I am a better blogger because of your input.

Unfortunately, over the past few weeks, I have been receiving spam-like comments left on my posts.  As such, I was left with a dilemma, should I moderate comments and risk loosing some of your feedback, or leave things as is and hope the spam-like comments do not drive you away.

I have decided that I care too much about the potential for you to accidentally become spammed by visiting that I have changed my settings to moderate all comments.  Therefore, before your comment appears I will receive an email and have the option to not post it.  Rest assured that my only intention is to prevent spam from finding its way into the comments on this blog; not to prevent you from contributing to the conversation.

I trust that you will understand and continue to visit often.  You may also take advantage of the SpeakPipe gadget on the right and leave me a voice message.

Thank you very much,


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Art of Student Success

Yesterday, I started something new at the school I serve.
The Art of Student Success session notes

Beginning yesterday and lasting for seven more Tuesday afternoons from 4-5PM EST, I am leading a group of Middle School students in a series of sessions called, The Art of Student Success.

The Art of Student Success is "professional development for students."  The sessions are designed around basic, proven principles of success.  These principles are discussed and filtered into language and action steps that students can understand and apply.  Just as you may seek a financial planner to help with your long term financial goals, I am working with students to help them achieve their long term academic goals.
Keep in mind that when you work with students at this age, "long term" may not mean years as much as months or weeks.

The Art of Student Success is built upon a few basic principles:

  • Proper goal setting, action planning, and follow ups
  • Formation of good and/or replacement of bad habits
  • Rethinking the role of the student from consumer of education to producer of educated work
  • Six essential questions for each assignment

In addition to these principles, I anticipate tapping into the 10 standards of Thrivapy.
  1. The standard of satisfaction is not perfection.
  2. You don't need to win them all.  Win more than you lose (and win the most important ones).
  3. Understand how goals work for you and how you work for goals.
  4. Find the joy.
  5. Opportunities are abundant.
  6. You always have choices.  However, they may not always be the choices you want.
  7. Do the best with the choices you have and work to create more of the choices you want.
  8. The best get better.
  9. To err is human, but so is to learn.
  10. Adopt an "Open House" philosophy (Friendly, Responsive, Interactive, Trustworthy, Reliable). 
Our first session was mostly an overview of the basic principles and an explanation of how each week's meetings will be held.  Specifically, we discussed how each week will begin with a check-in exercise which students are encouraged to participate, but not required.  These weekly check-ins involve answering a few discussion questions.
The Art of Student Success session notes

  1. What accomplishments or highlights have happened since our last meeting?
  2. Has anything changed for you since our last meeting  that would require a possible goal adjustment?
  3. Has there been any notable progress since the last meeting?
  4. What have you done to be a better student?
  5. What have you done to help someone else be a better student?
As the weeks go by, I will gather feedback from students about how The Art of Student Success is helping and share any insights gleaned from those discussions.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

6 essential questions for each assignment

Here are 6 questions that students should answer about each school assignment.  The answers place the student in a great position to be most successful on that assignment.

1.  What am I supposed to do?

2.  How long should it take me to do it?

3.  When is it due?

4.  Where will I do this assignment?

5.  When will I do this assignment?

6.  Do I need to turn it in?

The Purpose of a High School Education?

On Sunday (9/23/2012), I was loosely observing the NBC News Education Nation postings on Facebook.  In the course of the day, a poll was posted that asked about the purpose of high school education.  Specifically, the question was:

What is the primary focus of your high school education?

A.  To learn how to learn
B.  To get into college
C.  To prepare for a job
D.  To learn how to be a citizen

Yesterday (9/24/2012) morning, I checked Education Nation's Facebook page for the results.  The screen shot below is what I saw (6:00 am, EST).

As stated in the post, the answers were provided by the Student Town Hall audience.  So, I am left to assume the respondents were all students (hopefully all high school students, given the question).  However, given the choices, I am not shocked at the results.

Now, I want to avoid reading too far into the results, for no other reason than the poll itself is so unscientific that it cannot be used to generalize the feelings of all high school students, but it does present a possible nugget of insight.

If you look at the results, 77% of the respondents associated their high school experience with either learning or going to college (which can be viewed as more learning).  While getting a job and being a good citizen may be related to learning, they are less "immediate" in the minds of most students.  Therefore, while important, students may not see the connection between learning in school and being an employed citizen.

If I had a chance to amend this poll, I would start by adding another choice - E.  All of the above - or changing the multiple choice format to a "Check All That Apply" type of question.  The results of THAT poll to the student audience would be more interesting to me.  When asked to choose one item, I can't argue that one is better than the other.  Therefore, since I can't argue in favor of one choice over the others, having to choose one doesn't make much sense.

Maybe the primary focus of high school education (or just about any education) is to learn how to learn in a manner that builds a passion and appreciation for developing the skills and knowledge essential for success in college and/or the work force while preparing you to ethically contribute to the greater good of society.

I would choose E.  All of the above.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Students as CEOs

Here are two ways students can see their role in school.

1.  As the recipient of an education.
2.  As the producer of educated work.

The first ,one may argue, is the most common way of thinking.  Simply put, students show up to class and receive an education through the work of the teacher.

The second view has much more powerful implications.  As producers of educated work, students now take on a different role - one that I like to refer to as being the President and CEO of (fill in the name), inc. (or .com, etc.)

As CEOs of their own learning "company" students view their role in school under the following conditions.

  • Students are no longer the customer.  Now students SERVE customers.
  • The customers are the teachers.
  • For payment, customers will not use cash, check, or charge.  They will use feedback and grades.
  • Teachers place orders with assignments and expectations.
  • As CEO, the student is responsible for filling those orders.
  • The student is also responsible for listening to customer (teacher) feedback about how well the business is serving the customer's needs.
Empowering students is an important factor in their sense of academic independence.  Helping them adopt a more active view of their role in school is a good part of that empowerment.  So, if you hear students referring to themselves as only recipients of education, try talking to them with this point of view ans see if they begin to take a more active role in their learning.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

My new book for educators and two requests

Recently, I updated you on my newest book-in-progress, Thrivapy.  While Thrivapy is marching along quite nicely, I also am excited to announce that another book-in-progress, Digging Deep: Nuggets of Wisdom for Educators, is close to being finished.

Digging Deep is a compilation of a few dozen thoughts, ideas, reflections, etc. gleaned from The Art of Education.  Frequent, and very loyal, visitors might recognize the content, but much has been updated and rearranged to enhance the flow of the book as opposed to shotgun style blog posts.

For newer visitors to The Art of Education, Digging Deep is a nice way to catch up on what I have been thinking about over the past few years.

So, for you my favorite blog readers, I have two requests.

1.  I need a cover for Digging Deep.  So, I would like to invite you to submit an ORIGINAL cover idea for consideration.  The winner will be notified via email and announced here at The Art of Education.  In return for being chosen, I will give you credit in the book for your submission and include, with your permission, a page in the book "About the Cover Artist" (or photographer, etc.).

In addition, everyone who submits a cover for consideration will be included in a special "Thank you" page AND will receive a FREE .pdf version of the final draft of Digging Deep.

Digging Deep will be published as a Kindle book, so there are specific cover requirements.

Here are the requirements for a cover submission:
  • a .jpg file
  • at least 1000 pixels on the longest side
  • ideal height/width ratio is 1.6 (i.e. 1000 x 1600)
  • Title of the book (Digging Deep: Nuggets of Wisdom for Educators)
  • Author's name (Troy P. Roddy, Ph.D.)
Email your submission to me at with the subject, Digging Deep cover submission.

2.  I am looking for volunteers to pre-read Digging Deep.  Pre-readers will get an electronic version of Digging Deep and are asked to provide helpful feedback, including any copy errors, suggestions for improving the flow of content, and general comments on the value of the book.

The pre-reader version will, obviously, not be a final draft.

As with cover submissions, I am happy to include the names of any pre-readers in the "Thank you" section AND, once finalized, each pre-reader will receive a FREE .pdf version of the final version.

If you would like to be a pre-reader, please fill out this form.

The deadline for submitting a cover design and/or requesting to be a pre-reader is Monday, October 1, 2012.  I will not be able to accept for consideration late cover designs or requests to pre-read.

Thank you very much for your consideration and for sharing your time with me.  

Friday, September 14, 2012

Is success about a formula or ingredients?

There is no one formula for success because formulas require exact amounts of ingredients.  While the ingredients for success are somewhat consistent, the amounts of each needed for any one individual may depend greatly on the situation in which that individual finds herself.  This is true for practically anyone: students, teachers, administrators, etc.

So, what ingredients are part of any formula for success?

I suggest these.  Feel free to suggest others.

  • Effort
  • Vision
  • Grit
  • Luck
  • Help
  • Prudence
  • Fortitude
  • Willingness to share
  • Willingness to listen
  • Courage
  • Passion
  • Reliable
  • Trustworthy
  • Learn from mistakes
  • Focus on getting better

Thursday, September 13, 2012


This is my 400th published post for The Art of Education.  When I began this exercise on July 21, 2010, I wasn't sure where this would go or who would possibly visit.  What I did know was that I was going to use this platform to share my ideas, thoughts, reflections, and suggestions about education and leadership.

Looking back over my earlier posts, I clearly see myself trying to find a voice.  I am proud of those earlier posts, not because they were particularly well written, but because they are a record that at one time, I summoned up the courage to ignore my lizard brain and pressed "publish."

Writing The Art of Education continues to be one of my most enjoyable exercises.  Without it, I wouldn't have connected with so many generous people who care deeply about education and leadership.  I would not have written any of my books.  I would not have the confidence that comes with realizing your voice matters. 

I'm not sure where The Art of Education is going.  Looking back over the first 400 posts, I assume it will go where my attention, interests, and experiences take it.  What I do know is that I have no plans to shut down any time soon.

Therefore, thank you for listening during my 2+ year/400 post reflection.  I hope your time here has been time well spent and that you will continue to visit often.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

THRIVAPY: To Err Is Human, But So Is To Learn

No matter what you choose to do, one thing is for certain.  You are probably going to make mistakes along the way.  Making the mistakes is not the problem.  Making them is human.

Refusing to learn from your mistakes is a problem.  Learning is human also.

Fear is a significant reason why many people do not aspire, plan for, take action, or see through to the finish the ideas or opportunities that could help them find a greater level of satisfaction and achievement in their lives.  If in making mistakes, we are faced with the opportunity to learn, then to consciously dismiss that opportunity can be seen as giving in to the fear that keeps you from taking another step towards greater satisfaction and achievement.

In other words, fear can prevent us from learning.  Fear can prevent us from sharing.  Since sharing what we know is how we create knowledge, fear can also suppress knowledge creation.

There are two basic fears that seem to come up as the major players in this discussion: fear of failure and fear of success.

Fear of Failure

For the fixed minded among us, fear of failure is an enormous burden.  Once we identify self-worth mostly with the accumulation of awards, accolades, or status, the thought of change, doing something differently, or learning a new method can seem as a threat to who you are at your core.  Failure is a real thing and, unfortunately, is virtually impossible to avoid because we are a flawed being.  Even the best of us fall short once in a while.    

Fear of Success

Fear of success is just as real a threat to identity as fear of failure.  For some, the idea of living up to a new, higher expectation of success is a source of anxiety.  Also, trying something new and succeeding can cause some to wonder about who they were and how the "new" fits into a life that was already established.  This is not to say that success is not wanted (or that failure is desired).  Rather, fear of success can call into question  whether or not one wants to take on the self-imposed ideals of the newly successful version of oneself.

While we are talking about learning from mistakes, it is important to point out that we learn from our mistakes AND from others' mistakes.  Personal experience is certainly authentic, but I don't need to get into an accident while texting and driving to learn that I shouldn't do it.  There are enough tragic examples of the dangers of doing it for me to learn that lesson (and you too, I hope).

Mistakes keep us in check.  It is nature's way of reminding us that we must continue to learn from our experiences in order to continue to be a productive, happy, developing, contributor to our community.  On the other hand, few things in life are as rewarding and self-affirming as going through the process (often difficult) of becoming a more enlightened and knowledgeable citizen.  This path is often littered with the lessons we learned "the hard way" or from lessons learned by others who are brave enough to share.

The more you know, the valuable you are to those around you.  The more you learn, the more you can share.  In a world that is placing much more value on creating knowledge through a sharing economy, those with more to share are those who are in the best position to achieve their goals and find greater satisfaction with themselves and with their place in society as a whole.

To err IS human, but so IS to learn.     

Friday, September 7, 2012

The exercise of homework at the beginning of the year

Pop quiz time.

What do exercising, the new school year, and doing homework have in common?

For those of you who exercise regularly, probably not too much.  However, for those of us (like me) who take “regular and extended” breaks from exercising, I think there is much in common.

1.  Soreness

When you begin a new exercise routine or try to get started on an old one again, the first few days are the worst.  It is those days that your body screams, “Why are you doing this to me?” with every move you make.  You are reminded with each still joint and sore muscle that you have been inactive, and are now paying the price.  The payoff is that if you stick to a good plan, the soreness goes away and you begin to be much more efficient in your workouts.

The start of school and homework can bring on a similar response.  After a few months of summer relaxation, trips around the country (or world), hours of TV and video games, students’ brains and work habits are seriously out of shape.  Beginning the new school routine is going to bring some soreness.  Homework may take longer to complete as the academic “muscles” are put through their exercises.  The payoff is the same.  Have a good plan and stick to it.  The soreness will go away and students will begin to work more efficiently.  Soon, that assignment that took 30 minutes in week one or two will only take 20 minutes to complete once students get back into school year condition.

2.  Record keeping

One of the best ways to effectively exercise is to keep a record of what you are doing and track progress.  Homework benefits from this also.  Keeping a good record of what students are doing in an assignment book or journal will not only help them figure out area in which they may need some extra help, but also help them track progress.  

Research also suggests that people who know what to do AND when and where they are going to do it are more likely to actually do the task on time and with better quality.  Keeping good records in an assignment book will help students do this.  

3.  Take breaks

When exercising, frequent breaks allow you to put forth your best effort.  Sure, you are supposed to get tired, but if you want to to do your best, mixing up the routines and including some breaks works better than trying to work straight through for hours.

With homework, the same principle applies.  Students need breaks to recharge their mental batteries and help focus on the task at hand.  Working diligently for 15-20 minutes and then taking a short break is usually better than trying to go the full steam without a rest because the quality of work done while tired could be less than their best.  A distraction free place and a kitchen timer are great tools to help with this.

4.  Adjust as needed

Just as a coach keeps an eye on the effort of the team and makes adjustments, teachers should keep an eye (and ear) open to how students are responding to their work.  Feedback from students and parents is an important part of this process.  If you, as a teacher, realize something may be off track, look for ways to make necessary adjustments while keeping students moving forward. Coaches sometimes give lighter workouts to help players recover from a particularly intense period. Teachers should be prepared to do the same.

5.   Celebrate milestones

Finally, reaching your goals and celebrating milestones is a critical piece to any exercise program.  Your reward may be as simple as a cookie or as complex as a new wardrobe.  Either way, working through the pain to meet (or exceed) your goal deserves a little recognition.

Sure, doing your homework will help students’ grades and those grades, as well as the intrinsic reward of learning, are important.  However, if a goal is to complete the homework (completely and with satisfactory quality) in 90 minutes and the student finishes in 70, then a reward may be in order.  Also, if a student finishes a long term project or assignment, congratulate them.  When it is finally done, they have reached a milestone.  Recognize their hard work and congratulate them on their efforts.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Guest Contributor Neven Jurkovic: Strengthening a Classroom Community with Technology

The following post was submitted by Neven Jurkovic. Neven is the creator of Algebrator, a math tutoring software. Currently, he lives in San Antonio, TX and is the CEO of Softmath: .

Several advantages to having 1:1 technology in a classroom (such as a class set of laptops or iPads) are obvious.  For example, student work in 1:1 classrooms can be more effectively differentiated to meet a wide variety of learning abilities, students can publish their written pieces and multimedia projects for a potentially global audience, and students can become technologically fluent at a time when technology plays a critical role in almost every workplace.

I would argue that educational technology, when implemented well, can play another important role in the classroom: it can serve to strengthen a classroom’s sense of community.  This assertion flies in the face of the common notion that technology, despite its amazing power as a communication tool, actually serves to hinder the social development of those who use it most frequently.

So how can it be done?  How can technology serve to strengthen, rather than weaken, a classroom community?  Here are three key ways to do just that:

1.  No more “sage on the stage”:  With Internet-connected technology at the students’ fingertips, the teacher no longer needs to be the primary source of information in the classroom.  Whether your students are studying the causes of World War II or the stages of mitosis, teacher-directed lectures can be replaced with collaborative tasks that allow students to take a more active role in learning about a topic and then producing content (such as through a class wiki) designed to teach those understandings to others.  Content can be “jigsawed,” with various groups of students researching different aspects of a certain topic, then presenting their findings to each other.  

2.  Students as tech experts:  Just as the students can be empowered to take on the role of collaborative researchers (and even instructors) when it comes to the subject matter at hand, so too can students be empowered to help each other to learn new technology skills.  Whether it’s a 3rd grader who wants to post a photo on her blog for the first time or a 7th grader who needs help editing his time-lapse video, other classmates who know how to help should be called upon to do so whenever possible.

3.  Drawing everyone into the conversation:  A common problem with traditional in-class discussions is that a few certain voices tend to dominate the conversation.  Technology can serve as an outstanding equalizer, allowing more introverted students an avenue through which their voices can be heard.  Whereas a whole-class conversation typically requires students to speak one at a time, an online backchannel also has the benefit of dramatically expanding the conversation space to allow all students’ thoughts to be recorded (and commented upon) simultaneously.

When utilized well, technology has the potential to not only serve as a differentiation and publishing tool; it can also dramatically strengthen a classroom’s sense of community.

About the Author:
Neven Jurkovic’s interest in teaching with technology developed while pursuing a Master of Science degree at Southwest Texas State University. Apart from publishing a number of papers on the application of artificial intelligence in elementary mathematics problem solving, Neven is the creator of Algebrator, a math tutoring software. Currently, he lives in San Antonio, TX and is the CEO of Softmath:

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Implications about "Potential" for educators

In a recent piece titled, The Surprising Secret to Selling You, Dr. Heidi Grant Halvorson summarizes a hand full of research projects that suggest most "people are much more impressed, whether they realize it or not, by your potential than by your track record."  After reading it, I couldn't help but think about the implications this research has for educators. 

Here are four.

1.  New students

Every year, schools enroll new students.  Each of whom went through some sort of process to apply (mostly private schools) and/or register.  Each student has a file with records of past work, recommendations from teachers, etc.  All of this is a record of the past.  It is the facts that make up the student's academic story.  It is NOT, however, a measure of who you will be.

Your new student file might suggest potential, but it doesn't determine it.

2.  Honor Roll

Making the Honor Roll is a wonderful achievement.  In most cases, it is the result of hard work and dedication.  On the other hand, it doesn't guarantee any future achievement.  Getting to the top is hard.  Staying there is harder.  Now that you have shown us what you can do, show us where you are going (and take us along for the ride).

3.  Growth mindset

You cannot believe in greater potential unless you believe that there is room for growth.  A fixed mindset cannot function in a world of potential because the fixed mindset doesn't value the search for better.  Much like Steven Johnson uses the concept of the adjacent possible to explain innovation in Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation, potential includes the achievements just beyond what a student has already done.  However, to truly work towards attaining that next best level of growth, you need to value getting to the next level more than you value the one you already attained.

4.  Effort

From a recent address I gave (and a recent blog post):
Discovering your potential is an exercise in finding and pushing your limits.  Success is found in a similar way.  It takes effort, willpower, resilience, perseverance, and grit.  Notice I said nothing about grades, honor rolls, test scores, or IQ.  Those are important and have their place, but alone cannot consistently find success nor discover potential.

Tomorrow, we get another chance to discover more about our own potential and to inspire others to do the same.  How do you plan to do that in your class?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Taking and making advantage

Once in awhile, we all need a boost, something a little extra to get us out of a stall and into the next level of achievement and satisfaction.  Sometimes, we need an advantage.  Taking advantage of an opportunity presented by someone else to create more art, do more great things, or raise our awareness of our next possibility is not a solo exercise.  Chances are, someone needed to make the advantage you are now taking.

The advantage you take today was probably made possible by someone else.  It most likely didn't just appear out of thin air.

So, in your pursuit of excellence, satisfaction, art, etc. it is important to spot the advantages to take.

It is also important to make a few for others.
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