The Two BIG Questions for Educators.

So here we are in the 2nd week of July, 2017.  Summer time.  Teachers are learning in our board room right now.  Learning strategies to help ELL kids.  Other teachers have just returned from ISTE.  Other teachers are preparing to go to a national AVID conference. Teachers are reading.  Teachers are tweeting and blogging.  And teachers are resting up and thinking about September.


Some people still hold on to the crazy notion that teachers stop working the minute school gets out.  Nope.  Certainly not the vast majority.  They are professional educators who take advantage of the summer to continue learning and growing.  And they’re learning and growing for one simple, critical reason.  To be a better teacher for more and more kids. Period.

As July turns to August and September starts to appear…my two questions for myself, our TLI team, and our educators are,

“When was the last time you did
something for the first time?”


“Would you want to be a learner
in your own classroom?”

I’m sure I’ve mentioned both of these ideas before.  That happens when ideas become so profound and impactful, they change your thinking forever.  I believe both of these statements came from George Couros.  I also know I write a lot about George. Well…speaking of profound and impactful.  It’s safe to say his thinking has changed my thinking and giving me a new sense of energy, focus, and purpose in my career.

So educators, I’d encourage you to consider doing something for the first time in your classrooms in September.  Affirm for yourself that you would want to be a learner in your own classroom.  Experience the thrill of dancing on the edge as you try something for the first time.  Fail spectacularly and in full view of your students.  Bring them into the conversation about what you’re trying to do and enlist them to help you make it work. They’ll remember.  They’ll feel safe with you.  They’ll trust you.  And they’ll grow with and learn from you.  They’ll want to be learners in your classroom.

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Top 10 Learning Quotes from this year!

Year 33 as an educator is now in the books!  What could such an old guy still have to learn?  Well…basically everything.  Our cool profession is always evolving, growing, changing.  If we’re doing it correctly anyway.  Because kids are always evolving, growing, and changing.  Their needs and futures are always evolving, growing, and changing.

So should we.  Evolve.  Grow.  Change.

Earlier this year, I put out my Ten Must Read Books for Educators.  Well…following up on that idea, here are my Top Ten Quotes for/from Educators from this year’s learning! Thank you to these wonderful thinkers for pushing my learning!

  1.  “A questioner is driven by wonder, but a doubter is blinded by limits.” – Aaron Hogan, from his new book Shattering the Perfect Teacher Myth: 6 Truths That Will Help You THRIVE as an Educator.
  2. “Would I want to be a learner in my own classroom?”George Couros.  Innovator’s Mindset.  Best book I have ever read around education, learning, professional learning, kids, teachers, administrators, parents.
  3. Every day, I find myself turning more and more of my experiences into opportunities that I can take to class tomorrow and turn into meaningful lessons for my students.”Instant Relevance: Using Today’s Experiences to Teach Tomorrow’s Lessons.  –Denis Sheeran
  4. “Amazing things happen when a school staff shares the belief that they are able to achieve collective goals and overcome challenges to impact student achievement.” Collective Efficacy: How Educators’ Beliefs Impact Student Learning – Jenni Anne Marie Donohoo
  5. “Teaching with technology is about the learning first and the tool second.”Liz Kolb Learning First, Technology Second: The Educator s Guide to Designing Authentic Lessons.
  6. We do our students a disservice when we prepare them for a world that no longer exists and fail to empower them with the skills and abilities they will need to navigate rough and shifting seas. We don’t need students who can fill in bubbles on a multiple-choice test; we need students who can create, innovate, connect, and collaborate. We need students who can identify and solve complex, real-world problems. Changing the way we educate students is not only necessary…it’s a moral imperative.” Don Wettrick,  Pure Genius: Building a Culture of Innovation and Taking 20% Time to the Next Level
  7. “We educators no longer live in a time when our job is to help students memorize a few things they might need someday. A smartphone and quick Google search are better suited to that task. Our job is to prepare students for the future by helping them learn to access and use information in ways that are meaningful to them.”Kevin Brookhouser and Ria Megnin.  The 20Time Project: How educators and parents can launch Google’s formula for future-ready innovation.
  8. “So here’s the message we need to internalize both for our students and ourselves: Failure shouldn’t be feared. In fact, it’s integral to growth and improvement. Improvements are seldom won without risk. Changes come rarely without courage. So as educators, we need to call forth that courage to appreciate the inevitability of failure and the fortitude to overcome it.” -Jennie Magiera Courageous Edventures: Navigating Obstacles to Discover Classroom Innovation.
  9. “As we innovate, we have to make sure we aren’t just automating education or simply making it more efficient. It is critical that we keep our focus on learning, not on technology. Turning a textbook into an e-textbook or moving from delivering a lecture in a class to delivering a lecture on video are not examples of transformative education. To truly prepare our students for their futures, we must embrace pedagogy that gives students responsibility, leads them through inquiry, and allows them to create based on their own ideas.”Diana Neebe and Jen Roberts, Power Up
  10. “Another question that is as common now as it was in 1999 is, “How can I find time to differentiate instruction? It’s hard, and I’m so busy already!” Time and experience have reinforced the only answer I know to give: “Build a career. Plan to be better tomorrow than today, but don’t ever plan to be finished or to be ‘good enough.’” As I once heard a teacher say to a student in her classroom, “Of course it’s hard. That’s why it’s worth your time. And you can do hard things.” Teaching is about learning, learning is about becoming, and making a history is about taking up a profession and making a life.”Carol Ann Tomlinson, The Differentiated Classroom: Responding to the Needs of All Learners, 2nd Edition

I can’t wait to see what I learn next year!

Our kids are creating their futures.

Rereading  Collective Efficacy: How Educators’ Beliefs Impact Student Learning by Jenni Anne Marie Donohoo. I hit the quote below from John Schaar.  It sure sounds a lot like the world ahead for our students, which then impacts our roles as educators.  We can’t predict the future for our students.  We can recognize the pace of change. Evidence is all around us and in front of us.  We are not doing our jobs if we do not choose to acknowledge these changes.  Of course we can’t possibly distribute all the necessary information to our students.  We need to build opportunities for discovery.  We need to build opportunities to learn how to learn, communicate widely, collaborate broadly, and create new knowledge.

These are good skills with which to arm our students as they create their futures.

Adobe Spark

Hey! 1:1 Schools….check out this book!

In an interview with a couple that had been married for 70 years, the husband was asked what the secret to a long marriage might be. He said that in their marriage he made all of the big decisions.  And so far, there hadn’t been any big decisions.

Recently my wife, a Teacher on Special Assignment in a neighboring district, mentioned a book about which all of her TOSA colleagues were raving.  The book is Learning First, Technology Second: The Educator’s Guide to Designing Authentic Lessons by Liz Kolb

I take from the above successful marriage insight that a smart fellow listens to his wife. So I bought the book and started reading.

Holy cow.


If you are a district implementing a 1:1 program…do yourself a favor.  Have your leaders read this book.  Research based, common sense, practical, and instantly useful.

Here’s an early quote from the book;

“Over the past decade of the digital technology boom in schools, teachers and administrators have witnessed technology being used in superficial ways often enough to know that access to technology in and of itself is not a magic potion. Furthermore, empirical research has also shown that just putting technology into the hands of students does not guarantee improved comprehension of content or learning goals (Conoley, Moore, Croom, & Flowers, 2006; Schackow et al., 2004; Stein, Challman, & Brueckner, 2006, as cited in Filer, 2010). I don’t think educators would argue that technology is a tool that should help students reach their learning goals. In life, we don’t select a tool and then create a problem just so that we can use the tool; rather we select a tool to meet the needs of the problem.”

Intuitively we knew that just putting a device in a kid’s or teacher’s hand might raise the ‘engagement’ level.  It’s absolutely crucial to remember that good teaching practices don’t flee the building just because a kid or teacher has a device.  Good teaching practices are still the most important aspect of the teacher/kid interaction.

Two other strong quotes;

“Authentic engagement is not about using a specific technology tool; rather it puts the learning outcomes first and the technology choices second.”


“Teaching with technology is about the

learning first and the tool second.”





Oh man. Duh.

Ever had a thought come to you that just makes you say, “Oh man.  Duh.”  Just had that happen thanks to Denis Sheeran.

He wrote an fantastic blogpost about Fidget Spinners.  Basically, he was seeing tweets and comments about how these must be banned.  Well….that wasn’t flying for Denis, so he set out to share how they could be utilized by kids and teachers in math.  Brilliant!


Here comes my, “Oh man.  Duh.” moment.

Is our first response to something that grabs kids’ utter attention to say NO to it?

Anyone who has been around education for any length of time has seen this before. Some weird thing pops up that kids just go nuts about.  And lots of schools immediately shut it down, ban it, make it a discipline issue.

Why?  It’s easy?  The thing is dangerous?  The thing will distract from other learning? Maybe.

Might we change our first thought to, “Boy howdy.  Kids really are digging this thing. Can we figure out how to capture that level of engagement and tie it to some authentic learning?”

Like Denis did with math and Fidget Spinners.  I bet we can.  I know we can.

We just need to take a breath, pause, and have a different first thought.

Oh man.  Duh.

A moral imperative.

Started reading Pure Genius: Building a Culture of Innovation by Don Wettrick. Right off the bat hit this quote, 

“We do our students a disservice when we prepare them for a world that no longer exists and fail to empower them with the skills and abilities they will need to navigate rough and shifting seas. We don’t need students who can fill in bubbles on a multiple-choice test; we need students who can create, innovate, connect, and collaborate. We need students who can identify and solve complex, real-world problems. Changing the way we educate students is not only necessary…it’s a moral imperative.”

A couple days before, I came upon this video.  What is 21st Century Education?

Well pretty obviously, these two ideas feed each other.

Here’s the rub.  Our schools, administrators, and teachers still have to operate in the world of ‘filling in bubbles.’  Through no fault of their own.  It’s our present system. They know that kids need opportunities to create, innovate, connect, and collaborate. These words include 3 of the famous 4 Cs.  The missing C is ‘critically think’.  The ‘fill in the bubbles’ schools are still schools of distribution.  Information is handed out and then retrieved.  Questions are asked to which there are already known answers. Absolutely zero opportunity, nor in fact, need to create, innovate, connect, and collaborate.  The opposite of this idea is schools of discovery.  Giving kids the opportunities to create new answers to problems.  Innovate.  Collaborate.

I didn’t list the entire title of Wettrick’s great book.  Here’s the entire title.

Pure Genius: Building a Culture of Innovation and Taking 20% Time to the Next Level

The ‘20%’ part is an idea that talks about giving kids time to do all of the things in a school of discovery. Create, innovate, connect, critically think, and collaborate. Obviously one can’t turn the entire school day or year over to this notion.  But lots of places have made the decision to let kids explore and grow, aside from the demands of the bubbles.

This website is a good place to start.

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Kind of a cool idea.



Yes. A secondary school guy can learn.

Our Teaching-Learning-Innovation department will be doing a book study with our primary school teachers, at their request.  Teachers of PK1 students.  We’re reading Conscious Discipline by Dr. Becky A. Bailey.  I enjoyed 31 years in schools before moving to our district office.  Grades 6-12.  No clue about PK1 kids other than my own children.

So I was thinking, “What can I possibly learn from this book study?” With the I being the emphasis. How could I possibly relate to a book about little kids, having spent all my career with older kids and teachers of older kids.

What a knucklehead.  The emphasis in my thinking should have been on the word LEARN.  Of course I can LEARN from this book.  And it took about a half page to bang that into my head.

Here are a couple pictures of the book as I began my assault.  I learned a whole bunch about Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES).  I’m learning about Emotional States, STAR, Pausing, Survival, Emotional, Executive.  All of which apply to older kids.  All of which apply to adults.


The point was driven home when I watched this video.  About a kid who was a gang leader and a senior in high school.  And I was reminded that, “Relationships are the most important thing in education, they were 50 years ago and they will be 50 years from now. ” .

We start our book study next Monday.  We can’t wait.  In our district, our book studies and professional learning are driven by teacher needs, input, and requests.  Note I said we were invited to lead this book study.  We didn’t decide that this school needed this learning.  They did.  We’re not experts at Conscious Discipline, but we can run great professional learning sessions.  We get to learn right along with the teachers.  The principal and assistant principal get to learn along with their teachers.

This group of educators noticed that the number of kids coming to them were coming with an increased number of ACES.  And they want to learn more about how to better support them, their families, and their learning.

Reminds me of this great quote, “We can’t change who we serve but we can change how we serve them.” @KatieMTLC,  @gcouros

We are changing how we learn.  We are changing how we determine what we learn.

We are changing how we serve them.