Looking Back…Finding Bright Spots

looking back

Photo credit: Egidijus Mika

As 2013 winds down, I want to take some time to look back and reflect on my journey over the past year. A year ago, I made a commitment to myself to take time to stop, reflect, and share my learning and thinking with others through my blog. I decided to shift from being primarily a consumer of the insights of other educators to being an active contributor to the conversation. Along the way, I struggled with the usual doubts — What would I have to say? Would anyone really care? Where do I find the time? And, I stuck with it. I wondered how I could apply what I learned in the process to other areas in my personal and professional life.

Anyone who has ever made a New Year’s resolution knows that sticking with it is the hardest the part. Yesterday, a timely e-mail newsletter arrived in my inbox from Chip and Dan Heath, authors of the book Switch. The subject line read simply: “4 Research-Backed Tips for Sticking to Your New Years Resolution.” I could not resist.

The Heath brothers started by pointing out our dismal record for keeping resolutions: “The research on resolutions is damning: A study of 3,000 people led by Richard Wiseman, of the University of Hertfordshire, found that 88% broke their resolutions. (Even people who resolved merely to “enjoy life more” failed 68% of the time.).”

So, how can we improve our odds of actually keeping our resolutions? One of their tips really stood out for me. They suggest shifting our focus from what is not working (“what is the problem and how do I fix it?”) to looking at our “bright spots” — “What’s working and how can I do more of it?” Continue reading

A gentle nudge…slowing down #SAVMP

slow downphoto credit: Loozrboy via photopin cc

Sometimes inspiration comes at just the right moment. Lately, I have been moving at warp speed.  At times, I get so caught up in the “doing” that it is difficult to slow down and reflect.

Earlier this school year, I signed up to participate in an innovative program launched by George Couros (@gcouros), the School Administrator Virtual Mentor Program (#SAVMP). I have been fortunate to connect and learn with committed educators who are sorting through how to lead the way forward to innovative learning in our schools and communities. And, I have had a tough time juggling the competing demands of doing the work and reflecting on the work. I tend to lean more in the direction of the “doing” part (the slowing down part, not so much).

So, this week when George provided a “gentle nudge” to program participants to take time to stop and reflect and share our learning through blogging and tweeting, I was inspired to take stock. In his blog post, You can Close the Door (Sometimes), George offers a timely reminder that it is “high priority work” for educational leaders to stop and reflect and share as a key component of creating an open culture of learning among educators.

At first his post struck me as an interesting counterpoint to my recent post on the power of connections by “opening our doors” by sharing our professional practices.  The juxtaposition of open and closed doors made me think — both are necessary to our continued growth and learning.

It is only by closing our door (sometimes) that we are able to truly reflect on not only what we’re doing, but why it is important to our larger purpose. Running on empty does not really promote deep thinking or learning. Without our best thinking, it is virtually impossible to focus our energy on taking the next right steps to move forward. Taking the time to reflect enhances our ability to engage more meaningfully with others. It seems to me that both are essential to building a collaborative culture that promotes deeper learning and purposeful action toward our common goal.

What are your thoughts on how to slow down and take time for deeper reflection?

Back to the Future?

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photo credit: AMERICANVIRUS via photopin cc

This morning I read a thought-provoking blog post by John Bernia, “The Landscape has Changed, the Skills are the Same.”

In his post, Bernia argues that what many refer to as “21st Century Skills” are really no different than the skills that successful people in the past have needed:

If Doc Brown and Marty McFly were here to fly you “Back to the Future,” and we arrived in 1955, the skills and habits of successful people would be identical to those which are now cited as 21st century skills. Leaders and innovators of the mid-20th century had to solve problems, communicate and work with others.

Bernia concludes that: “The skills are not new. The landscape, tools, pace and communication medium are.” He calls upon educators to change our strategies by embracing  “the new landscape and tools” and remembering “that the skills that learners will need to succeed in the future are no different today than they were 58 years ago.”

His post really got me thinking about the essential skills and habits of mind that our students will need for their success and how they compare with those of the past. Are the skills really the same? Continue reading