Thursday, February 28, 2013

Two Options For Schools That Care

There are two basic methods to demonstrate your school cares about students.  Schools do both, but your school’s “story” probably leans towards one of these two areas more than the other.

The first way schools can show they care is to offer a breadth and depth of programs to make sure every student is being given the program they need to be satisfied and successful.  In other words, programs are added to fill voids in operations that become apparent.  The mindset behind this method is, “more is better.”  This is what we ask students to do.

This strategy can work, if you are able to support additional programs without creating a new challenge - which can be that the addition of programs changes who you are and whether or not you can support more and maintain an acceptable level of delivery on those programs.  More is only better if more is delivered better and the more more clearly defines who you are.  

The second way is through nurturing relationships and making the connections necessary for students to be satisfied and successful in school.  Connections require sharing.  This includes sharing time, ideas, and feedback.  Connections also require courage.  It is tough to put your work “out there” for an audience to see.  It is even tougher when you do not get the response you were hoping for.  At that point, the learning begins.  How do I improve? What is the next better version of this work?  What adjustments are now clear to me that were not when I tried this time?  

Fixed programs are not worried about connections because they are designed for “plug and play.”  Growth opportunities are dependent on connections because the interactions and changes that emerge from seeking connections are check points for learning.

There is nothing wrong with more, but do you reflect on what type of more you are seeking for your school experience?

Do you need to do more or connect more?

Friday, February 22, 2013

Finding A Place

Finding a place is difficult when your view is limited and the available "space" seems tough to squeeze into.

It can be equally difficult to find a place when the available space is so large that making a decision brings up doubts about the potential for a better space somewhere else.

In other words, if space is very limited, the challenge to finding a place is essentially about comfort.  When space is essentially unlimited, the challenge is "did I choose the best fit?"

I would argue that the latter challenge is becoming, for many of us, much more significant than the former.  We seldom lack "space", but I find that many people fail to act out of uncertainty due to the potential of a better option becoming available "around the next turn."

For students and teachers, the story of education as a foundation for limitless potential and possibility may actually be more true today than ever before because of our connected society.  However, with seemingly limitless opportunities, the fear to act can be more powerful than ever.  This is not to say that we should encourage reckless behavior.  What this does imply, I think, is the need to engage students with chances to take action, make a bold decision, and share their work/ideas with a larger audience than only the teacher.

By supporting students' need to explore the connected nature of the world, receive feedback, and adjust to create better work, teachers help students develop the skills to "find their place" among others who share their passions and interests.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

An Exciting Announcement, Opportunity, and Invitation

I am thrilled to announce that my THRIVAPY web site is in the final stages of completion.  Below is a screen  shot of part of the home page.

THRIVAPY Home Page Screen Shot 

In the meantime, THRIVAPY now has a Facebook Page and Twitter feed to help keep you informed about THRIVAPY news, make connections, and continue the essential conversations about how to support higher levels of satisfaction, purpose, and production in your educational experiences.

THRIVAPY is a service I created to support the needs of students, parents, teachers, and schools to find a better path to achievement.  THRIVAPY is based on 7 principles that are supported by both research and practice.
  1. Your personal foundations (mission, vision, beliefs, and philosophy)
  2. Goal setting
  3. Taking action
  4. Habits
  5. Growth mindsets
  6. Taking ownership
  7. Building relationships
I am happy to discuss how THRIVAPY can work for you.  Please email me at for more information and to make a connection. 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

One Story About Schools That Still Applies

The best selling story of school may be in the process of being mythologized, but there is another story we often tell that involves school that is still very much a reality.

Want better for our children (students).

Sometimes, that is expressed with statements like, "I want my child to have the best opportunities."  However, in today's connected and growth oriented world the "best" get better (see The Golden Apple Manifesto).

Better is not just about comparisons.  It is a frame of mind.  It is a commitment to growth and improvement.

Thinking "better" is better thinking.  It empowers the individual to take ownership of her work.  Striving to make a difference by committing to growth, constructively filtering feedback, and improving oneself is a valuable characteristic today and for the foreseeable future.  As a matter of fact, it may be THE most important quality.  However, in order to foster this type of "better" we must engage in practices that accept growth, change, and empowerment as critical pieces to the lessons learned in school

Story hasn't really changed because it is about change.

Teachers, students, and parents interested in developing "better" thinking can contact me for more information about how my THRIVAPY method of student success and satisfaction might work for them.  I am happy to set up a video conference to talk about the various principles of THRIVAPY.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Teaching: Love It Or Leave It?

Yesterday was Valentine's Day.  Without a doubt, the word of the day was, "Love".  This brings to mind a question.

When it comes to being a teacher, working at a particular school, or our opinions of our students, do we really "love it"?

We certainly say we do.  I can't count how many times I have heard a teachers say she "loves teaching", "loves his students", or "loves her school".  The same goes for social media.  How many blog posts, Facebook comments, Twitter messages, etc. speak of the "love" for school/students/teaching?

The problem is the distance between love and hate may not be as far as we would like.  One might even look at a "range of satisfaction" and see something like this:

Love....Like....Acceptable....No Opinion....Prefer Not....Dislike....Hate

Not far, is it?  As a matter of fact, it took only about 3 inches to go from "Love" to "Hate".

Joking aside, in the course of your work as an educator, you are going to feel that range from time to time.  Every day is not going to be one you "love" and every day is not going to one you "hate".  The key, I guess, is to look at your work and see where it falls when you examine it overall.  Do you generally feel on the love or hate side of the equation?  I might even go so far as to suggest that for teachers, the "no opinion" option falls on the "hate" side.

On the other hand, teaching is not easy.  In order to do it well, one often has to:
  • endure some pain
  • make sacrifices
  • put the needs of others above their own
  • accept that there will be good days and bad
  • all while expecting little, if any, reciprocation from our students

That sounds like love to me.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Connections, Classrooms, and Technology

Putting a tablet, laptop, or smart phone in the hands of students in a class does not make the class connected.  Sure, in the sense that you have a WiFi signal connected to the devices, sure there is a connection, but not the type of connection that matters, ultimately.

The connection we seek is the type that emerges from our work being shared with others to create knowledge and transform the experience of someone other than ourselves.  The connection we seek produces an emotional response and strengthens our relationships.  This connection can be with the teacher, a class mate, a parent, a child in a school in another country, etc.

These are the connections that will serve our students in their futures.  More than communication skills, connection skills are vital.  Not just in the future, but today.

Having available technological resources enhances connections, supports the production of more enchanting work, leverages communication mediums to widen the range of connections.  The goal of technology integration should be to build connections.

Here is a question about integrating technology in your class.

"Does the use of technology to ____ in class help my students learn how to build connections?"

Monday, February 11, 2013

Available now - The Golden Apple Manifesto For Kindle

It started as a Google presentation.  Then, it was made into a free .pdf eBook.  Now, for Kindle readers, The Golden Apple Manifesto is available on Amazon for only $0.99 US.

As an added bonus, for a limited time my two other Kindle books, Foundations: Examining Vision, Beliefs, Mission, and Philosophy and Paying Attention: Thoughts on Communication in Schools are also priced at $0.99 US.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Golden Apple Manifesto - the .pdf eBook Version

Recently, I put together a presentation called The Golden Apple Manifesto.  So far, the response to that post has been very good.  Therefore, I have put a free .pdf version of The Golden Apple Manifesto together.  You can access it by clicking here.

For Kindle readers, I am working on the Kindle version.  Once it is available, I will make an announcement here.

The Golden Apple Manifesto is a short book (approximately 25 pages) with a big message.  It is an invitation to embrace 10 beliefs about teaching that can transform how you approach instruction in the 21st century.  What may take you about 10 minutes to read could make a lasting influence on your philosophy of education.

The book is NOT a "How To" guide to teaching.  Instead, The Golden Apple Manifesto presents 10 beliefs about teaching along with supporting comments and reflections for you to consider.

Give it a read and let me know what you think.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Defining "Better"

When working through the Thrivapy process with students, one of the essential conversations is having the student define their "better" self.  Another way I describe this conversation is to help the student articulate what their next best version of themselves is like.  While every Thrivapy session is enjoyable, this one (which comes up multiple times as the student grows) is among my most enjoyable and insightful.

Defining "better" almost always begins with the student talking about grades.  During this part of the conversation, better is defined as better grades.  B's become A's.  C's become B's.  This is a natural part of the conversation and it almost always is the focus of my first "defining better" conversation.  However, as I guide the student to identify the actions, behaviors, and adjustments she may need to make in order to realize this "better" the conversation shifts to the factors that often result in better grades such as effort, communication, organization, learning teams, etc.

The second type of "better" then surrounds the behaviors identified near the end of the first conversation.  Reflecting on past success, the student then begins to gain a clearer understanding of the types of behaviors that lead to better results.  The challenge during this phase of defining "better" is to help the student identify roadblocks to employing those newly discovered behaviors and providing tips for how to trigger those behaviors when situations arise that call for them to emerge.  

It is usually around this time that I recognize the effort to define better results and better behaviors, but then ask about another critical area for "better" that most students are rarely asked.

What about better satisfaction?  How can your work make a better connection with those who come in contact with it (teachers, family, class mates, etc.)?

The challenge with this conversation is the lack of tangible rewards that often come from finding better satisfaction and connections.  This achievement comes with mostly intangible/emotional rewards such as happiness, less stress, or feelings of belonging.  Some students need time to understand the relationship between greater satisfaction and connections AND better results.

This is one area that Thrivapy is different than other methods of supporting students, families, and teachers.  The focus is not only on the tangible rewards of achievement, but also on the aspects of achievement that are becoming better known and more important in the 21st century.  With no lack of "stuff", "better" can no longer be viewed in terms of only fixed rewards.  While fixed rewards still hold value, the "more" in "better" includes a greater focus on the internal rewards of one's work.  Which, in turn, leads to better quality of work and thus, better fixed results.

I am proud to announce that I am taking Thrivapy to the world by offering personal advising and guidance using my Thrivapy approach.  If you are a student, parent, teacher, or administrator looking for a way to discover greater satisfaction and greater achievement in your educational experience, Thrivapy is designed to help you.

Thrivapy, the web site, is scheduled to launch soon.  However, if you want to discuss what I can do to help you or to find out more about Thrivapy, email me:

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

4 Qualities Of Successful Students

Student success is a more difficult term to define than it appears at first glance.  One may define success based on grades, honor roll lists, standardized test scores, or other similar results.  At the same time, someone else may define student success as finding satisfaction and joy in the learning process.  In other words, a successful student is one that loves being in school.

When I began thinking about this post, it was important for me to have a clear sense of what a successful student.  So, for the purposes of this post, I define a successful student as one that enjoys being in school, willingly engages in the process of learning, works to create knowledge, and consistently earns feedback (grades, comments, honors, etc.) that is both rewarding and useful.

Working off of that description of success, here are four qualities you will likely observe in a successful student.

1.  They know what success looks like.

Successful students have a clear understanding or vision of what success means to them.  In addition, they are also aware of the challenges they face when working to find that success.  They key to their vision is the degree of specificity involved.  The more specific, the better chance the student has to find the success she is looking for. 

2.  They are not satisfied with less than a satisfactory effort.

Successful students take ownership of their effort.  They are producers of educated body of work and have a clear sense of what degree of effort is unacceptable to them.  Having established a minimum standard of acceptable effort, this student commits himself to meeting or exceeding that level on every assignment.

3.  They want to do better.

Successful students are motivated by the desire to improve and grow.  They adopt a growth mindset and use feedback (test scores, comments, etc.) as a means to evaluate their effort and find areas to make adjustments for improvement.  It is important to mention that wanting to do better doesn't mean being perpetually dissatisfied with one's current work.  Wanting to do better is not as much as a state of being than it is a mindset designed to help one remember to value the "journey" as much (if not more) as the "destination".

4.  They use their team.

Successful students understand they are not alone.  There were many people who helped along the way.  Students, who know who they can go to for guidance AND who are comfortable with using those resources, are in a great position to effectively navigate any potentially challenging times.  Often what separates a successful experience with one that was less than satisfying was a small detail or a simple suggestion with which someone on a student's learning team could have helped the student.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Accuracy or Perfection

Accuracy requires attention, care, and thoroughness.

Perfection is flawless.  There is no possibility for improvement.  Striving for better cannot exist with perfection.

The bull's eye on the dart board is larger than the point of the dart.  You can get really close and still earn top points.  Accuracy pays off.

Perfection, on the other hand, provides no chance to learn or to improve.  In addition, perfection cannot share its space with anyone (or anything) else.  There is only room for one, so sharing is not possible.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Bestselling Story Of School Is Being Replaced

The schoolhouse on the hill
image found at
The story of school we used to tell (with great effectiveness) went something like this.
  • Go to school
  • Work really hard
  • Make good grades
  • Gain admission into a good college
  • Earn a degree
  • Get a good job
  • Live the dream
This was my story.  For some, this is still an effective story.  Like me, its effectiveness increases if your family does not have a history of college graduates.  If the outcome is attractive, then it can be a motivating tale.

However, the past few decades have seen a sizable increase in the percentage of the population with a college degree.  More recently, we see clear evidence suggesting that a college degree is no longer a golden ticket to a good job.  The "carrot" of a good college and a "guaranteed" job is quickly becoming a cultural myth.

This begs the questions, "What story is our school telling students now?" and, "Is our story aligned with the future in which our students are most likely to live?"

I think teachers, schools, school systems, and education in general struggle with these questions because the answer isn't static.  These questions require on-going, purposeful conversations as well as the willingness to adjust operations to align with the answers that emerge.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Connection vs. Communication

Communication is, essentially, delivering a message that is understood.  There is a communicator and an audience.  The communicator bears the burden of crafting a message that the intended audience understands.  The delivery of the message is all that matters.

Connection takes communication to the next level.  It is a message that evokes a response.  Connections require relationships, links, identity, and associations.

The present state of affairs is often referred to as the "connected society" or the "connected economy".  We need to help students succeed in the "connected world" not the "communicative world".

Here's the challenge.

Communication is for the masses.  The message is usually broadcast - meaning it is designed for a broad audience, who may or may not agree, listen, or follow.  There is no real intention to develop a relationship, strengthen a connection, or create a new identity.  The broadcast is simply to relate information.

Connection is much more personal.  The goal is the association, the tribe building, and the relationship strengthening.

The communicator articulates a clear message.

The connector delivers a message that becomes part of the audiences identity.

Communication is relatively easy.  There are numerous mediums available to help you deliver your message.

Connections are harder.  They require an investment of oneself and the courage to risk rejection (but the desire to learn and connect better next time).
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