Wednesday, May 29, 2013

When Waiting Until Tomorrow Might Be Better

Trying to stay organized or "in front" of the many demands on your time can be quite challenging. Because of this, it is easy to understand the wisdom behind never leaving until tomorrow things you can do today. However, there are times when waiting is probably your best course of action.

Here are a few examples.

Responding to an emotionally charged email

We all get them. An email from someone that elicits an immediate negative emotional response. Your reading of the message makes you feel under attack and defensive. Your natural response is to fire back a similar message defending your position and pointing out how the other person is wrong.

In almost every situation, writing and sending your emotionally motivated email will not only NOT help, but also make the situation worse.

Instead, draft your response to allow yourself to vent. The emphasis here is on DRAFT. Do not send it. Wait a day or so to allow your initial feelings to subside and read your draft. Measure your draft against your goals and the role your relationship with the sender plays in accomplishing your goals. Edit your response accordingly. If after two or three emails, the issue isn't resolved,  it may be time to invite the person for a face to face meeting.

Checking messages late in the evening

One habit with which I struggle is checking messages late in the evening. I have never received a message later in the day that I could effectively address before going to bed. On the other hand, I have read plenty of messages (either good news or bad) that have kept me most of the night. The result: lack of sleep and diminished ability to focus the next day - when I actually need to address the message!

Sure, technology makes staying communication easier and we are essentially connected 24/7. However, that doesn't mean you need to be immediately available and "on" 24/7. There is tremendous value in "unplugging" and taking time for yourself and your family. If it is an emergency, someone will call you. Emails are rarely, if ever, true emergencies.

Finishing a project for the sake of finishing it

Establishing your minimum level of satisfaction is a piece of advice I often give. This means that with any work you do, establish your personal minimum acceptable standard for satisfaction for that project - and hold yourself to that standard. Following this path helps build independence, responsibility, and ownership. You may be tempted to "set the bar" low, but remember that in a connected society your work is most valuable when you are able to share it for the benefit of others. Poor quality that is accepted because you simply want to move will get poor feedback. This can either be in the form of grades on a test or comments by customers. Either way, a connected world values those who have quality to share.

If you cannot put in the effort today to meet your standard of satisfaction, it is probably better to wait until tomorrow.  Of course, this does not exempt you from meeting deadlines. Part of your acceptable level of satisfaction needs to include proper planning and time management. My advice is, when given a task, knowing when and where you are going to do it is as important as knowing how. Having all three of those pieces in place provides a great foundation to get quality work done on time.

Having a goal is only part of the equation. You also need to take action. Depending on what you are ultimately trying to accomplish, the best action today may be to take no action at all.

A version of this article was originally published on The Thrivapy Blog on May 2, 2013.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

"Better" Thinking for Greater Student Ownership

Anyone who reads either this blog or The Thrivapy Blog, knows I am a big advocate of growth mindsets and the potential impact "get better" thinking has on student achievement. This is one reason why having a growth mindset is one of the seven principles of Thrivapy. One of the many reasons why I encourage "better" thinking over "be the best" thinking is how well "better" relates to developing ownership and responsibility (taking ownership is also one of the seven Thrivapy principles).

"Be the best" thinking depends on comparing one's performance against another group or another individual. As a former athlete and coach, I have no problem keeping score to measure wins and losses, but when it comes to personal development, which is what school is supposed to support, measuring against others to determine gains presents an obvious problem - you have no control over how well someone else performs. You only can control your own efforts. Measuring against someone else not only can make a great effort on your part seem less important than it really is, but having another person in the equation provides a student with an easy excuse for their performance, especially if it was less than satisfying.

Excuses are "anti-ownership missiles"!

If you want to build ownership and responsibility, try "better" thinking. Using this mindset, there is only the student and her efforts to evaluate progress. Progress is measured purely against one's own results over time. If things go well and progress is seen, it is easier to highlight that progress without another's "score" visible. If things do not go as well as expected, there is no built in excuse to deflect responsibility.

Learn from the experience and try again with a new lesson learned and a better ideas of how to be more successful next time.

A version of this article was originally published at The Thrivapy Blog on April 23, 2013.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Strengthen Parent-Teacher Relationships by Asking These 3 Questions

Parents play a significant role in the success of a student. As a important member of the student's learning team, parents should be informed and appropriately involved in their child's school experience. However, this role takes different forms as students mature and move through different developmental stages. As a result, the nature of parent involvement also changes, which can lead to misunderstanding and an unnecessary strain on the parent/teacher relationship.

Recently, a parent of a school aged child ask me about how to establish a better partnership with his child's teacher. I suggested that the parent engage in a conversation with the teacher using the questions below as a guide.

1. How can I, as a parent, best support your work as the teacher?

2. What should I expect in terms of development from my child this year?

3. What are your expectations of my child in terms of effort?

These questions not only allow the key developmental issues to emerge as the basis of the conversation, but also recognize and respect the fact that the parent is the expert on their child and the teacher is the expert on the instruction.

This article was originally published on The Thrivapy Blog (4/16/2013)

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Wealth of Knowledge

The wealth of knowledge does not have anything to do with having A wealth of knowledge.


Because knowledge kept to oneself serves little purpose and has virtually no value to anyone other than the holder of the information. The value (wealth) of knowledge is not based on having it. Rather, the value of knowledge is found in sharing it.

Value is created when someone is willing to give something in exchange for something else. The currency can be money, goods in kind, attention, time, etc. Having knowledge does not create value, making your knowledge available so others can improve their own understanding adds to the collective wisdom and, thus, has value - especially in a world where the long tail affects practically all markets (including knowledge).

In essence, the wealth of knowledge is directly linked to the sharing of knowledge, not the storage of knowledge. This act of sharing also creates knowledge for those who were previously less informed.

For those looking to assign value to their educational experience, this logic suggests that reflecting on the opportunities to share and create knowledge may be a good place to start.

Originally published on The Thrivapy Blog on April 11, 2013.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Starting Your Class With Clarity And Purpose

In the same amount of time it takes you to read this post, you can start each class with clarity and purpose which, in return, leads to better student engagement and focus.

The formula is simple.
  1. Recall what has happened.
  2. Explain the current situation.
  3. Provide a vision for the day.
  4. Give a reminder of what is yet to come.
Recall what has happened

Talk with students about what the class did in its most recent meeting. Give a brief progress report on the topic or project the class is currently discovering. Using a map analogy, this is when you show the group where you have already been and what you have done to get where you are.

Explain the current situation

Using the same map analogy, this is where you mark your current location. In class, a statement telling students where you believe the class is, in terms relative to the topic or project at hand, provides their current location.

Provide a vision for the day

The vision for the day is articulated in positive terms and describes the ideal progress you expect given the time you have in class that day. In other words, "Here is what we can accomplish today..."

Give a reminder of what is yet to come

This final suggestion gives the students a preview and/or reminder of what remains once class ends that day. This step helps put the day's vision in perspective and keeps students focused on the long term goal as well as the daily goal. This step is also useful at the end of class.

A strong start provides the foundation for a clear and purposeful class which is a key component to student engagement.

This post was originally published at The Thrivapy Blog.
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