When do you say good bye?



Common advice from knowledgeable horse trainers includes the adage, “If the horse you’re riding dies, get off.”

Seems simple enough, yet, in the education business, we don’t always follow that advice. Instead, we often choose from an array of other alternatives which include:

1. Buying a stronger whip.

2. Trying a new bit or bridle.

3. Switching riders.

4. Moving the horse to a new location.

5. Riding the horse for longer periods of time.

6. Saying things like this … “This is the way we’ve always ridden the horse.”

7. Appointing a committee to study the horse.

8. Arranging to visit other sites where they ride dead horses more efficiently.

9. Increasing the standards for riding dead horses.

10. Creating a test for measuring our riding ability.

11. Comparing how we’re riding now with how we did ten or twenty years ago.

12. Complaining about the state of horses.

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Nice synthesis! Without trying, you get no where. Mistakes give clues for improvement. Persistence allows you to get closer and closer to perfection. Perfection doesn’t really exist!

Linked 2 Leadership

Dare to Fail

Often times, we spend so much energy on trying to not fail, that we fail at everything.

Middle School Leadership Lesson

I was watching a basketball coach work with some 7th grade boys.  This team was brand new to the sport and lacked many of the needed skills to succeed at playing basketball.  On top of that, due to the awkward stages of their current development, risks and challenges were even more daunting.

As I watched the coach, his words of encouragement really struck me.  He watched one student particularly.  This student would shy away from the ball and would not attempt to make any type of rebound when he was near it.

The coach asked the young player why he was afraid of the ball.

The boy looked at the coach and simply stated:

“Coach, I am not afraid of the ball, I just don’t want to mess…

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The Importance of Persistence


Currently reading deeply into chapter three of How Children Succeed by Paul Tough.   “How to Think” is the name of this section.  It begins with a story of Sebastian Garcia, a young chess player at IS 318, a low-income public middle school  in Brooklyn.  One of the many messages made by Sebastian’s story is that error analysis, discussion and reflection lead to improved outcomes.

Many articles related to failure  have streamed past my eyes of late.  Of course, embracing failure is a strength; a character-building exercise for the warrior.  As an educator,  I’m not quite sure failure is the key to teaching and learning.  Vital yes, but there is something more to it.

I am thinking of many experiences:

  • A few years ago I shared the 10,000 Hours Rule with my son (above) who was deeply interested in music.  Something clicked and he immersed himself even deeper, spending hours and hours practicing multiple instruments and observing, listening and reading. He went from being someone who wished   to someone who could (and now he does).  Concentrated effort matters; practice makes “perfect”.
  • My dopey labra-pony-doodle , Jim, is unschooled in obedience training.  I am taking him on walks with a leash. Each time I go I learn something.  Each time he goes he learns something.  I have bought 4 different collars and leads.  The pinch collar is the one that has helped us both walk the streets without my arm being pulled out of socket while being dragged down across the pavement.  He is now gaining self-control without being pinched. 
  • I am on my sixth knitting project. Each one taught me about the changes I needed to make.  I am increasingly pleased by the outcome.

It isn’t just failure, but having the courage to keep at it, despite failure.  

Resiliency (and mastery) comes from persistence.  It takes time.  Reflection.  Practice.  Failure is part of that.  

We just need to demystify failure and make mastery and learning the  priority.  Warriors await.  

How Much Is Too Much?


Our youngest four: A little this; a little that.

The Atlantic is tossing around some ideas about introversion-extroversion continuum,popularized by Carl Jung, the Meyers-Briggs and more recently, Susan Cain in her book Quiet:  the Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.  I had written a brief blog post on this topic recently.

The first Atlantic article came this week:      Introverted Kids Need to Learn to Speak Up In School

The author, Jessica Lahey,  argues that class participation grades aren’t going away.   “When a parent tells me that his or her child is simply not capable of communicating educational and emotional needs, I see a child even more in need of mastering interpersonal communication. I’m not talking about the value of communication as it relates to grades here; I am talking about the value of communication as it relates to personal health, happiness, and safety. A student who is unwilling to stand up for herself and tell me that she does not understand the difference between an adverb and a verb is also less likely to stand up for herself if she is being harassed or pressured in other areas of her life.”

Seems fair and reasonable, but is she confusing social anxiety and/or shyness with introversion?  They aren’t one and the same.  George Couros elaborates on this concern in his blog with an entry entitled “Do Unto Students”.   Shy or introverted, we should first do no harm.

Not too long after, Atlantic posted this:  Caring for Your Introvert by Jonathan Rauch, a self-proclaimed introvert. The article was lovely and detailed.  Actually quite hilarious.  “How many people are introverts? I performed exhaustive research on this question, in the form of a quick Google search. The answer: About 25 percent. Or: Just under half. Or—my favorite—“a minority in the regular population but a majority in the gifted population.”

Jonathan has some tips for those mingling with introverts.

  •  Remember, someone you know, respect, and interact with every day is an introvert, and you are probably driving this person nuts. It pays to learn the warning signs.
  •  Some of us do go along with Sartre as far as to say “Hell is other people at breakfast. Still, most introverts are people who find other people tiring.
  • After an hour or two of being socially “on,” we introverts need to turn off and recharge. My own formula is roughly two hours alone for every hour of socializing. This isn’t antisocial. It isn’t a sign of depression. It does not call for medication. For introverts, to be alone with our thoughts is as restorative as sleeping, as nourishing as eating. Our motto: “I’m okay, you’re okay—in small doses.

After a few conversations with people I respect I had  a bit more insight.  Here is what I learned:

  • Introverts thrive when they have enough time to be alone to reflect and pursue areas of interest
  • This is core to who they are; they aren’t flawed, they aren’t afraid
  • They are bombarded with messages from everywhere that something about them is defective
  • We must give (our friends, children, students)  permission to be true to themselves

More than one of my children have this tendency.  I have learned to help create an environment that helped them grow.  Knowing who they are; knowing how much to encourage and when; knowing when they have had enough is simply about meeting them where they are and helping them to the next place.  Sometimes that is a social event; often it is not.  More often it is not. At family gatherings and other social events we have a code when it is time to slip out the back door.  I honor who my kid is because that is my job.  Same holds true for teaching:  help them grow but first do not harm.

 The world has a place for all of us.  

Snappy  Links

Go Where You Grow:  Voices for Introverts:  A 1:1 Success

Knowing Who you Have:

Royan Lee’s blog with a cadre of entries related to introverts.


Relevant Quotes
“It’s better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than to open it and remove all doubt.”     Mark Twain

“You will have many opportunities in life to keep your mouth shut:  You should take advantage of every one of them.”   Thomas Edison

“You talk too much.  You never shut up. I said you talk too much Homeboy you never shut up.  You talk about people, you don’t even know. And you talk about places, you NEVER go. You talk about your girl, from head to toe. I said your mouth’s moving fast, and your brain’s moving slow Run DMC

“That woman could talk the PAINT off the wall!”  My Husband

Great point. Synthesize the good stuff within a larger context.

Granted, and...

We had a delightful visit to The School of the Future in New York City the other day. Lots of engaged kids, a great blend of instruction and constructivist work, and an obvious intellectual culture. And as the picture illustrates, everywhere we went we also saw helpful visual reminders of the big ideas and essential questions framing the work we were watching: School of the Future staff have long been users of UbD tools and ideas.


But far too often over the years I have seen plenty of good stuff posted like this – but no deep embedding of the EQ into the unit design and lessons that make it up.  Merely posting the EQs and occasionally reminding kids of it is pointless: the aim is to use the question to frame specific activities, to provide perspective and focus, to prioritize the course, and to signal to students that, eventually…

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Fun “sticks”!


Learning is Fun

Remember when you were in elementary school (for some of us, that was a very long time ago) and you actually enjoyed school and looked forward to getting up everyday and going to school to learn.  Back then, learning was fun.  Somewhere along the way, though, something happened.  I can’t say what it actually was, but it was something.  School wasn’t fun anymore.  Whatever it was, it made learning not fun anymore.

I’m not here to say that every teacher in every school has made learning not fun.  I guarantee that everyone of us can think about that one special or not-so-special teacher.  What was it about him/her that comes to mind?  Also, I’m not here to place blame on anyone.

What I would like to do, however, is to challenge you to reflect.  Reflect on your own teaching practices.  Reflect on your classes from last year and the years…

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“I Used To Think…” with PBIS

Our second cohort of  school teams came today for Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) Intensive Training.   We changed it up a bit by having two superb administrators from a county middle school and elementary come to tell their PBIS “story” of implementation.    Much of our typical content delivery was woven into the message given by these two “pros” .  Nice change!

Our Work During The Day

Teams will be using PBIS Assessments and the Benchmarks of Quality  (BOQ) to progress monitor their school’s implementation.  After completing the BOQ electronically at their table, teams discussed their results.

They were given a bit of content covering the various components of PBIS implementation.  They had good conversations with their team to determine what they had in place and what they needed to add or “tweak”.  Action plans for every phase were documented.  This will be taken back to their school for input prior to our next session in one month.  They will end the three sessions with a detailed roll out plan that is unique to their building’s needs.

At the end of our first day, participants were asked for feedback about what did and didn’t work for them.  Additionally, we did the “I used to think” routine to help participants reflect upon how and why their thinking had changed after our first day.  Here are many of the responses:

used to


Teams were at variety of places in their implementation efforts thus far.   All teams were  experiencing many inconsistencies and “holes” in their current efforts.  Still, keeping the conversations rich and moving through the day was tricky considering everyone had different needs.  It was not always clear when to stop and start.  It seems someone’s experience would be jeopardized if we moved on; others needed to move on to maximize their day.  I suspect this is the teaching conundrum.  We will discuss ways to negotiate this in the future.

We will continue fine-tuning the context of their learning and  look forward to our next session in about one month!


Find a PBIS Assessment Coordinator

PBIS Assessment School Information Form

Thinking Routines