Setting up online classes and reading texts for assignments to students for fall semester, I escaped this weekend into a Mitch Albom book that I had not yet read. This allegory about belief in life after death was interesting as applied to belief in the power of education. The detractors are vocal, the supporters are fervant, and the use of technology to manipulate circumstances is profound. Yet, miracles happen in Albom's book just as they do in education. Believe in education as the only way to change lives. And, of course, the power of love.
After seeing so many electronic references to this book on Facebook and in emails, I felt a desire to see what the hype was about. Sam Intrator and Megan Scribner produced this as a sequel to Teaching with Fire: Poetry that Sustains the Courage to Teach. The English major in me was attracted to the reflection on poetry, and the story teller in me was attracted to the narrations from such a wide variety of educators.
Each of the 90 selected educators (teachers across the entire educational sprectrum) provided a "treasured poem and then wrote a brief personal reflection on how poetry helps them make sense of the challenges and possiblities in their work." Minnesota is represented with Hannah Cushing, currently teaching high school language arts to students with emotional and behavioral disorders at Minnetonka. She selected a Naomi Shihab Nye poem "Kindness" and showed how the passing of her grandfather provided a meaningful connection with her students at an inner-city Native American school. Her students taught her how showing her authentic self in suffering may make us kinder, more loving people. Julia Hill, a reading specialist from St. Paul, is the other Minnesota contributor using Gary Snyder's poem For the Children. She captures the initial moments of discovery that brought her into education and advises us to "go light and not let the weight of the system take our energy away from what we know is best -- for the children."
The one that most resonated with me was from Larry Rosenstock, founding principal of High Tech High in San Diego, CA. My own personal interest throughout my career of producing college AND career ready students, was echoed in what he had to say about "transforming where kids are going, not replicating where they've come from." The poem he used is the one by Lao-Tzu that I have hung in my office(s) for over a decade On Leadership. This is the one that ends with "When his work is done, His aim fulfilled,They will all say, "We did this ourselves."
Besides being a heart lifter on a bad day, this is also a great idea that can easily be done in your own school district. Ask your staff members to pick poems they like and simply give an explanation of why it resonates with them. Collect these and share in a spot where people can see them, electronically or physically or in some other medium, whatever works.
It might be a rewarding opportunity for MASA members to identify a poem that matters because it indicates how you think about your own identity as a teacher or your work in education. Then write a brief commentary (up to 250 words) that describes your personal relationship with and connection to the poem...a personal narrative that describes how this poem touched you and how it helps you make sense of your life and work as an eduator. Then provide an opportunity for a public exposition of the work...printed book, blog, reading. Could make for a really positive public relations effort in any community!
As a new science, "social physics" is an interesting study and Pentland is considered a presiding visionary in the Big Data revolution. "Social physics" is a quantitative social science that describes reliable, mathematical connections between information and idea flow on the one hand and people's behavior on the other. Studies of patterns of information exchange in a social network can predict with unexpected accuracy how effective that network is. Social physics can change the way we look at learning, networks, and data itself.
Although the text itself is not always an easy read, it does make the reader keep on task as to what is pertinent to our use. Pentland provides conclusions from a variety of research studies done by himself and his assistants. In addition, he provides his consideration of where ideas come from and how they turn into behaviors and then into habits.
In his Facebook example he shows that information itself is a rather weak motivator; however, seeing members of our peer groups adopting a new idea provides a very strong motivation to join in and cooperate with others. Some may ask what's the big deal? Is this simply a restatement of "birds of a feather flock together" or "when in Rome we do as the Romans do?" Well, the math geek in me was interested in the equations and the idea of using them to tune networks to perform better or predict the results of changing a network structure.
He lists his "Rules of Engagement" in which the ongoing network of exchanges between people changes their behavior:
1. Engagement requires interaction: Get all members talking. This is not a one way street.
2. Engagement requires cooperation: Make everyone feel part of the team and try to reach sufficient consensus so that everyone is willing to go along with new ideas.
3. Build trust: Expectation of future fair, cooperative exchanges is built from the history of exchanges between people. Both history and momentum are needed here.
The pattern of idea flow was more important than individual intelligence, personality, skill and everything else together in group performance. Think of times you have been involved in a proposed change where there were a large number of ideas (many short ones rather than a few long ones), dense interactions (often short responses), and diversity of ideas with everyone contributing ideas and reactions (where similar levels of return took place among participants). These were often times highly productive and had a lot of buy in from the stakeholders. A safe environment was needed for this to occur. Participants had to be respectful and respected. A group problem-solving ability is key for us in education. It is important for us to keep everyone in the loop and keep interactions high to keep creative abilities high. In Pentland's research from many different organizations, creative output depended strongly on two processes: idea discovery (exploration) and the integration of those ideas into new behaviors (engagement).
The relationship between civic engagement and the health of society had Pentland comment that "because idea flow creates culture, supports productivity, and enables creativity, we should place greater value on professions that enhance idea flow: teachers, nurses, ministers, policemen, along with doctors and lawyers who work for charities, as public defenders, or for inner-city hospitals. Better rewards for work that reinforces our social fabric would allow us to find a better, more sustainable blend between individual ambitions and the health of society."
His description of types of interventions that could influence the social network included social mobilization, tuning the social network, and leveraging social engagement. Social mobilization used a study where many were recruited to solve a problem in a very short period of time (e.g. searching for missing kids or finding critical supplies after a disaster). Tuning social networks involved tuning the network to provide sufficient idea diversity (tuning to reduce recirculation of rumors and spin could focus on making real progress). Leveraging social engagement was helpful by using social network incentives to increase engagement around the problems within the local community (providing gift points to participants' friends and using social incentives rather than standard economic ones were more effective in seeing larger changes than rewards to people to change their own behavior only.)
Maintaining protection of personal privacy and freedom is critical to the success of any society. If one begins to seek cautions for how Pentland is achieving his information and creating his studies, check out how his data is gathered. He proposes a New Deal on Data, which was proposed to the 2012 Consumer Data Bill of Right commission. In it he further delineates how personal data needs to be recognized as a valuable asset of the individual: You have the right to possess data about you. You have the right to full control over the use of your data. You have the right to dispose of or distribute your data. Although these have been parts of many agreements, they are still a work in progress.
He believes that the language of social physics -- exploration, engagement, social learning, and measurement of idea flows -- has the potential to be more useful than the old language of markets and classes. Cooperation is just as important and just as prevalent in human society as competition. Coordination and cooperation among peers are shaping forces that are very powerful. Makes me think that professional learning communities, cooperative groups for students, and civic engagement are more important than competitive scores comparing school districts in improving individual and collective cognitive skills. Ah, but when might this critical mass be reached to achieve the shift? That's the question we could work on together.
Gallup Senior Scientist, Shane Lopez shares volumes of research that show hope matters, hope is a choice, hope can be learned and hope is contagious. Hope relates to academic success, business outcomes, and well-being. How we think about the future is a key determinant of success in school, work. and life. Lopez includes Hope Scales for Youth and Adults in the back of the book to help you create your own study, should you be inspired.
Hope is more than optimism, more than wishing, and more than intelligence. The action element of hope is what sets it apart from other positive thought messages promoted to improve life and circumstances that are often found in many self-improvement books. The combination of history and hope adds up to predictions of success. Past performance alone does not adequately predict future performance. Future focus, can-do spirit, and positive relationships demonstrated by hopeful people are qualities leaders use to select best candidates for a posiiton.
Lopez includes triggers to be aware of that can interfere with hope, including examples of critiques and negative self-talk that can steal our self-determination. He also mentions canaries and gives an example of Van Halen and David Lee Roth's tour manager's contract with venues while at the height of their popularity and power. The entertainers would swing across the stage on a wire connected to waist harnesses and dangle upside down five feet above the stage. A clause in the fifty-three page contract specified under the heading of "munches" to have M&M's with a warning to absolutely include NO BROWN ONES. Rather than being an obvious prima donna excess, it was actually a sign to the manager that if the M&M's had a brown one, the entire stage would need to be rechecked for safety for the performers. An interesting reminder of looking at our critical collaborators, excuse makers, or slow responders to see how we are being supported or not.
Followers need hope. They want the people they serve to meet four psychological needs: compassion, stability, trust, and hope. In return, followers give their commitment, creativity, mutual trust, and engagement. By studying hopeful leaders and talking to their followers, Lopez found that people who want to spread hope and motivate followers need to practice these three tactics:
Create and sustain excitement about the future.
Kock down existing obstacles to goals and do not put up new ones.
Re-establish goals--regoal--when the circumstances demand it.
Lopez believes that it is the central challenge for our educational system today. We have to help students see that school is relevant to the future they want for themselves. We have to teach hope to our children, in and out of the home.
We need to link children's current thinking, effots, and learning to their future lives; teach children specific, multiple pathways to meaningful goals; and conduct community audits to preserve and recruit extra agency for children.
Kids do not care about our institutional goals. They are excited about personal goals that create a promising future for themselves. Lopez suggests mentoring for the future, new-style career days using people who LOVE their jobs (only 1 out of 5 actually do), project-based learning, bridging high school and college.
Go ahead and pick up the book and determine how you become a super-empowered, hopeful individual so that you can model and network with others to become contagious hopeful leaders. For some of you, that is not a super-powered leap but a definite aspect of yourself.
A little departure, but perhaps even more applicable than ever in our fast paced world of political, economic, and social conflicts surrounding public education, is a memoir of two brothers, each taking a very different path to success.After The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success by Deepok Chopra, this book by the Chopra brothers on CD helped eat up the miles on a trip to Warroad and back this week.
The American dream of coming to the United States and achieving success occurs for both Deepak and Sanjiv.Deepak, with a big break from Oprah Winfrey, breaks away from mainstream Western medicine and begins his own Center for Wellbeing in Carlsbad, California.Sanjiv is the Dean for Continuing Medical Education at Harvard Medical School with an emphasis in Hepatology.The book is set up with alternating chapters from each brother reading his own chapter framing different scenes from each of their perspectives.As siblings live in intersecting worlds, it reawakens the reflection of personal perspectives of shared experiences.
Not only does the book touch upon the lack of respect Western-trained doctors had for interns and residents trained elsewhere, but it also shows the initial resistance toward complementary and alternative medical practices.How personal decisions are arrived at for each brother in terms of dealing with a mother who refuses to move to America and yet does not want to die alone in India or how to assist their children and be available for their grandchildren as they determine what of their heritage they assimilate and what they maintain of their Hindu culture.
As education leaders considering how to educate Minnesota students to be global citizens, we might also find the parallels offered in Brotherhood an entertaining and informative reflection from two very successful and public figures an eye-opening awareness of the difficulties students who come from other countries may experience in our schools and our communities.If these incredibly educated and privileged men met up with the challenges described, our sensitivity to youth coming from different cultures into our schools can be heightened.
The miles from Duluth to Warroad and back offered an opportunity to consider mind, body, spirit connections as Deepak and Sanjiv compare and contrast their beliefs, culture and practices.Brotherhood was worth the time to reflect on my own beliefs in quantum physics, importance of family, and determination of changes occurring in education similar to medicine.I was encouraged to step out of my comfort zone to see where we might lead education into a potential future.
Do your staff members wake up inspired to go to work? Do they feel trusted and valued during the day? Do they return home feeling fulfilled? Some teams are able to trust each other so much they are able to put their careers on the line for each other. Other teams, no matter what incentives are offered, are doomed to infighting, fragmentation and failure. Why? It has to do with leadership.
We in education certainly feel the pain in knowing the people who will be laid off during financial reductions. They are not abstractions or simply numbers to us. And in many cases superintendents are the leaders who eat last…or take less of a percent or even a salary freeze rather than have one of our staff lose a job. But for leaders who do not put the people they work with first, this is a great wake up call. Listen up!
Our biology has not changed in fifty thousand years, but our environment certainly has. Today’s workplaces tend to be full of cynicism, paranoia and self-interest. But the best organizations foster trust and cooperation because their leaders build what Sinek calls a Circle of Safety that separates the security inside the team from the challenges outside.
Air traffic controllers who went out on strike were banned from ever working for the FAA again for the rest of their lives by Reagan on August 5, 1981. Sinek sees this as the day a message was sent to leaders across the nation that use of mass layoffs to guard against a short-term economic disruption was giving tacit approval to lay off people in mass numbers to balance the books. When the bottom line becomes more important than the people we work with, “innovation declines and pressure to compete on things like price, and other short-term strategies, goes up.” Sinek warns not to focus on numbers over people, whether in pay for performance or any measures that can be simply reduced to numbers.
Sinek uses a number of different settings in industry to underscore his message and relates our present day reactions using oxytocin and dopamine triggers as they relate to safety, community, and job satisfaction. Time and energy build more trust than money does. Responsibility is not doing what we are told, but doing what is right.
Although Sinek is an unshakeable optimist, he does deliver some fairly sobering statistics about the Baby Boomer generation. “Baby Boomers are killing themselves in greater numbers than ever before. According to a 2013 study by the Center for Disease Control, suicide rates among Baby Boomers rose nearly 30% during the past decade, making suicide one of the leading causes of death in that age group, behind cancer and heart disease. The biggest jump was among men in their 50’s—this age group experienced a 50% increase (p. 200).” This exceeds the number who die from car accidents. The Me Generation, addicted to performance, will need to open up to the fulfillment of service rather than being served. Those of us in education who practice service will recognize this as one of the reasons we entered the profession.
Simon Sinek’s TEDTalk based on Start with Why, his first book, is the second most popular video of all time on TED.com. Check out How Great Leaders Inspire Action at TEDTalk (14.2 million views), second to Ken Robinson’s How Schools Kill Creativity (23.5 million views). Jill Bolte Taylor My Stroke of Insight (14.3 million views), Brene Brown The Power of Vulnerability (12.7 million views), and Amy Cuddy Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are (12.6 million views) round out the top five TEDTalks viewed according to Bruno Giussani, European director of TED and curator of TED Global.
Heard Mark Scharenbroich at the recent MASSP Winter Conference held last month in Minneapolis and recalled when he was invited to speak to area National Honor Society representatives at Proctor High School back when I was an administrator there. Still motivating others, Mark has a new book out and it struck a chord with me so I bought it.
He speaks about driving a beige Ford Taurus rental car amidst thousands of Harley-Davidson bikers on the road to Milwaukee one week in August 2003 and "really wanting a Harley!" It was the 100-year anniversary celebration and Milwaukee is the home of Harley-Davidson. As a Harley owner at that event, two words from a passerby would make their weekend: "Nice Bike!" Scharenbroich's tenet for the book is that this phrase is more than a casual compliment, but actually takes on the energy to "acknowledge, honor, and connect with others."
Sharenbroich goes on to share many chapters of examples when "Nice Bike" is proffered to people and agencies as great examples when this has occurred. Dutch Cragun, St. Paul Tech teacher Mr. Gerads, a graduate of Orono High School Tim Cashin, Fresh Seasons grocery store owner Dale Riley, famous piano player Lori Line's husband Tim, his parents Aggie and Nubs, plus other people and places that Mark's journey intersects create short stories that exemplify three powerful actions that transform every day occurrences into positive, powerful events.
Acknowledge. Nice Bike helps to heighten awareness of others and fuels your passion to serve them.
Honor. Nice Bike honors people by recognizing what's important to them - which often differs from what's important to you.
Connect. Nice Bike connects you with others, creating a bond - large or small - that makes a difference in someone's life.
The fact that so many of the vignettes included are recognizable to this Minnesotan and so many include examples that occur in every school we ever worked for, makes this read truly touching. Hang 1,000 stars with every student's name exhibited, and not just the athletes going to the tournament this week. Answer the question "How are you?" with "Great!" and not just "Fine." Replace the words "No Problem" after someone thanks you with "My Pleasure." Work at being more interested than interesting. Say thanks more often and more authentically.
The book gives many ideas that can be put into action immediately to create a more cohesive team and a more connected climate in your place of work AND your family. Look for all the times you can acknowlege, honor, and connect at home, at work, and out in the community! See how many times you can say your equivalent of "Nice Bike!" and make someone else's day great as you become more fully engaged in your life.
"Nice Bike, Mark Scharenbroich, in helping to remind us to be making connections on the road of life, both personally and professionally!"
"Nice Bike, MASA staff and members, for your efforts to provide the best education for our kids in Minnesota. Keep up the great work!"
A young business teacher from Barnum in the UMD Education Administration program recommended this book for the blog. The Smartest Kids in the World follows three AFS exchange students who go from Minnetonka to Busan, South Korea; from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania to Wroclaw, Poland; and from Sallisaw, Oklahoma to Pietarsaari, Finland. Ripley, a Time magazine journalist, writes an easy to read and often entertaining description of her observations of schools, students, teachers and parents in these three countries.
Rigor, and the lack of it or the appearance of it, is her main focus. Use of the PISA scores could be dismissed as Rick Hess does in the Education Week blog of December 4, 2013. However, the anecdotal stories she uses bring descriptions to life of what education looks like in the classroom and the hagwons of Korea, as well as the cafeterias and coffee shops of Finland or the Bermuda Triangle of Poland.
Heikki Vuorinen, a sixth grade teacher in a diverse classroom in Tiistila, Finland, gave Ripley the following advice, "You should start to select your teachers more carefully and motivate them more. One motivation is money. Respect is another. Punishing is never a good way to deal with school." Autonomy matters as much to Vuorinen as cash. His principal supported him with her trust, her ability to work with the surge of families who could not speak Finnish, and her financial acumen. There was no imposition of curriculum nor teaching methods required from on high. Teachers are respected and trusted to create classrooms for learning.
Another insight provided a curious contrast of a Korean teacher who earns $4 million a year with the after school education system that is completely competitive and the stress placed on Korean children and their parents that have such a focus on test scores that there is no time for socializing much less sleep.
The young people have a solid way of cutting through details to provide their own observations. One found that Polish kids wasted time on Facebook just like kids back home. There were no sports at the school in Poland, although kids kicked a soccer ball around afterwards. However, football took greater print back home in Pennsylvania than academics and made for newspaper copy.
Read the book with some others and have a discussion on what makes each think education systems vary in different countries, much less different schools in one city. Assessments, choices, values, and consideration of rigor or independence or definitions of "success" are all a part of the conversation to be addressed. This book will be a great jumping off place for a very interesting dialogue. Try it.
Thanks to Patty Phillips for recommending this month’s featured selection.The North St. Paul superintendent recommended Brene' Brown’s Daring Greatly, as well as Brown’s TED Talks on YouTube.The rest of the title is How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. Leave it to Patty to find a comprehensive book about authenticity and vulnerability, two extremely important aspects of leadership which are very difficult to achieve when you are in the public spotlight so often as the individual leader of your district.
“Daring greatly” is a term made popular by Theodore Roosevelt in his 1910 speech “Citizenship in a Republic.”Roosevelt’s speech credits the individual who is actually in the arena striving valiantly and spending himself or herself in a worthy cause and who “at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”
Brown interviews men and women who felt they were not “enough” and compares their stories with those of people who embrace vulnerability to live a life filled with passion and purpose, not only their own but also with others.After twelve years of research, Brown finds that the associated emotions around shame, connection, and worthiness are actually what make vulnerability the epicenter of meaningful human experiences.Her TED Talk “The Power of Vulnerability” was so popular, it inspired this book.
Brown investigates what drives vulnerability, the pervasive defense mechanisms that guard against it, the price of disengagement and turning off, and how to embrace and use vulnerability to live, love, parent, and lead more fully and wholeheartedly.The pursuit of “enough” is linked to our “culture of scarcity.”This ties self-worth to achievement and provokes endless comparison to others—just like what happens in referendum issues of whose passed and whose did not and why gets tied to our own self esteem at times.We need to dispel the myth that vulnerability is a negative force synonymous with weakness.This must be addressed because TRUST is the tremendous connection that arises when people have the courage to put themselves “in the arena.”Shame -resilience allows courage to replace fear, and self-worth is no longer attached to accomplishment.
We have learned to create masks and armor like disengagement, perfectionism, numbing, cynicism and victim mentality.You could put a name to each one of these as we look around at our colleagues, unfortunately.Brown gives us directions on how to step out into the arena and take the risks.The education system uses shame on a daily basis, with 85 percent of interviewees reporting they had experienced an impending shame-based school experience.Creativity, innovation, and learning, at work and in schools, have been replaced by predictability and safety—two defenses against vulnerability.
Instill a shame-resilient culture that promotes and rewards respect and empathy, and holds creativity and risk in high regard.Provide honest feedback and cultivate engagementto create a “daring greatly culture.”
Brown leaves the reader with some applications of the concept:
· 1. Check in with yourself.(Is this what I really want?)
·2. Find your truth through trust.(Can I step into the arena and announce, “I am enough!”?)
·3.Start talking to yourself.(Remind myself that I am enough and what I have done is enough…or I wouldn’t even be in the arena.)
· 4.Kick the Joneses off the block.(Am I setting up a competition that will destroy the possibility for connection and whole hearted engagement?)
Thank you, Patty, for this suggestion.I also came across Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection:Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are.This too was a great read, especially for those of us who continue to be recovering perfectionists.
Send me a tweet like Patty did (@rauschenfels) or an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or a text (218-310-9550) and tell me what you are reading.I will share it with our colleagues.
Thankful to be associated with so many great, engaged, and vulnerable leaders in this time of grateful abundance,
This is the start of a new school year and a time to determine how best to reach our students and our staff. If what you have been doing is not working, perhaps a change is in order. Moravec has a series of slides on a website about his work, which includes one that says, "Education is particularly resistant to change because its whole purpose is to preserve the past. Anya Kamenetz." Another slide reads, "1.0 Schools cannot teach 3.0 kids."
When I looked at Moravec's definition of "Knowmad," I could definitely see the difference between "someone who can deal with fundamental uncertainty" being contradictory to someone who knows the single best answer to a multiple choice question.
Knowmads can be anybody, at any age. They leverage personal knowledge and contextually apply what they know. They are motivated to collaborate and purposively use new technologies and then share what they know. They learn, unlearn, and adopt new ideas as necessary and thrive in non-hierarchical organizations. They learn continuously and are not afraid of failure!
"The move from a philosophy of knowledge to purposive experience of meaning means letting go of the idea that the most important thing in school is learning theories and practices that later, in real life, have to be applied." Moravec is concerned about human capital development as society approaches an increasingly complex and ambiguous future. He believes that "technological change drives social change, and the impact of these changes is accelerating exponentially. Our schools, universities, and other knowledge-based institutions must leap ahead of this curve for all people in highly globalized, knowledge- and innovation-based societies."
Instead of the all-knowing instructor filling the brains of our students, he describes "learning choreographers" as guides "who tease out experiences, sources of inspiration, and energy that can be the building blocks for the quest." Thieu Besselink designed a leadership course called the Learning Lab which was offered to University of Amsterdam Honours students. (See the long or short version of a one hour film on this at http://www.thieubesselink.eu/?p=607.) Besselink offers an "aesthetic approach toward re-imagining teaching in Knowmad society, where teachers refocus from information delivery and measurements toward one, where, together with students, they aim to build something new and meaningful for themselves. Rather than worrying about top-down approaches to education, he offers a pathway for reinventing teachers."
The reinvented teacher is now a choreographer, one who does not get bogged down in details, but keeps the key purpose and the process in mind at all times. The choreographer has the "ability to observe the relationships that really matter and creates successful journeys of learning in which personal and group purpose lead to mainifest value."
The future is becoming more and more unpredictable, and old social structures have less value, especially those connected with education. Administrators need to create settings for learning to occur where teachers can become choreographers and conflicting roles are all wrapped up in one person. Allow your teachers to help students "unlearn" old modes. Allow your teachers to become "collective intelligence cultivators, Zeitgeist capturers, social capital connectors, meaning miners, and assessmentors."
Read a copy of Knowmad Society by Moravec and consider that "each of us is responsible for his or her own reality and initiative." How do we share that responsibility with our teachers and our staff and our students? Open our minds to not simply being a vehicle for preserving the past...but helping individuals to choreograph their own futures!
MASA Website What We Are Reading is a member service of the Minnesota Association of School Administrators. AS ADVOCATES FOR CHILDREN, MASA shapes and influences the State and Federal education agenda, serves as the preeminent voice for public education, and empowers all members through high quality services, support and professional development. We hope this blog supports our mission of leadership and service by inspiring reflective practice and collegial conversation among all leaders.
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