Friday, December 18, 2015

Educational Branding.....Leaving Your Mark

You ever had one of those days where you just thought it went exceptionally well? Everything was right with the world. Friday was one of those days. Not because I taught an amazing lesson or had every student pass a test. As a matter of fact, I didn't teach one lesson. I didn't give a test or assign homework.  Friday  was a day of impact. Our Academy EDU students were fortunate enough to have two amazing individuals pour into their lives. Actually, it was more like drinking from a fire hose. As educators we can get consumed with content. We feel there is a need to justify how every activity in class ties into the standards. I personally see this as a secondary action in teaching. Our primary action is to get students passionately connected to a purpose. If we do that, they become more engaged and intrinsically motivated when we hit the content.

During the month of December we have been working on a Compassion Project called #ILCcares. At the end of the month our final week is devoted to the #HandItForward Campaign. I first heard about #HandItForward from a mutual connection I made through social media. Scott Grant is a Professor in the College of Business at the University of Findlay, a friend, and a mentor for us at the ILC. He had posted some quotes by Coyte Cooper, a professor at UNC. The #HandItForward campaign was a project that Dr. Cooper and students created to spread acts of gratitude. Check out the image for more detail. Simply put we have challenged our staff and students to generate on gratitude letter a day during this week to help impact the lives of those that have already impacted us. So, before we kicked off the week I thought it would be a great idea to get the dynamic duo to speak to our class and the ILC staff.

This was no ordinary Friday. Our students and staff were in for a treat. First, we had a visiting school touring the ILC. They joined our class for the Skype session. You see, this is the culture of the ILC. Open to the unplanned and open to being a bit #UNCOMFORTABLE. We do what's best for kids even if that means involving staff from outside your own space to impact kids that aren't even tied to your school. Second, our guest speakers for the day were PHENOMENAL! Scott Grant introduced Coyte Cooper to discuss his passion about leaving your mark on the world. Coyte is high energy. He is all about making a difference and leaving a lasting impression. During his Skype session he ended with what he calls his Top 10 tips to making a difference:
  1. Pursue your Passion
  2. Be Intentional About What You Want Out of Life
  3. Invest in Yourself Every Single Day'
  4. Value Happiness Over Success
  5. Be Kind to People: Lift Them Up and Not Tear Them Down
  6. Set a Remarkable Standard of Excellence
  7. Embrace Being Uncomfortable
  8. Learn to Fail Forward Quickly and Repetition
  9. Love Your Life
  10. Do Your Part to Make the World a Better Place

Checkout the Doodle Notes from one of our students:

Here are some reflective thoughts from my students:
  • I think I was most shocked by the idea that I spend 80% of my day thinking negative thoughts.  I really hate that idea (oh no negative!) so I'm going to try really hard to ONLY THINK POSITIVE!! I think it's awesome that he stressed relationships so much... I love building relationships so much. 
  • "Look forward to the opportunity to learn." I can't remember if he was talking about school, but I think it's very relevant to life too- look forward to learning new things about other people, ourselves, and the world.
  •  The two points that were interesting to me were the one 'Value happiness over success' and 'set a remarkable standard for excellence'

Prof. Scott Grant talked to us about the importance of branding. Not from a marketing standpoint but from an Educational perspective. Since EDU students are the future of education it is important to understand the power of your voice. In today's society our voice is extended from us and into our social media feeds. Grant asked our students a simple question and I am going to ask the same of you....if you looked at your last 20 posts on social media what three words would people use to describe you? Amazon's CEO, Jeff Bezos, states, "Your brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room." What are people saying about you because of your digital footprint? He used a simple Hand analogy to drive home the point. If you were to trace your hand on a piece of paper your palm would represent your "Brand" and the tips of your fingers your social media accounts. The stems of your fingers represent the "how" you communicate your true "Brand" to others. How well are you making an impression on others? Educational Branding is something we as educators should be aware of. What are students saying when they leave your classroom? Are they eager to return or filled with dread? When someone leaves your building what are they saying about the culture of your school? Hopefully, they want to return and leave with an impression that it was more than just a building teaching content. 

I leave you with one final image because most importantly, I believe that relationships matter. If we do our best to impact others and make each moment count than we truly can make a difference in the world!


Thursday, October 15, 2015

One Way Ticket

I'm tired of playing it safe! Have you ever felt this way? In Education, we always seem to play it safe or take the easy road. When is the last time you truly challenged yourself and your learners? I have a friend that loves life and enjoys traveling. He lives by the philosophy...." never book round trip tickets!" He enjoys the ride and if he lands somewhere he loves, then he stays a little longer. When's the last time you acted on a crazy idea? The one where you don't return to comfort. You take a chance and you don't have the return flight in your pocket if things don't workout. You make the best of it and embrace the struggle. What if you approached your building, your classroom, or simply your planning like this? Where would it lead you? What kind of success or failures would you face?

If you really want to make a difference in Education then you have to be willing to step away from what you have always done. How do we buy those one-way tickets?

1. Quit thinking or saying..." we've always done it this way?" 

Don't let others say it and if they do, make them aware of what they are stating. Holding yourself and each other accountable is a key process in change.

2. Embrace the Struggle

It's OK not to know what is going to happen. It's OK to feel uncomfortable in the process. It's OK to just have the big idea, act on it first and then fill in the details as you go. Maintain a Growth Mindset!

3. Have people on your team that think differently

We can't all be "Yes" men or early adopters. You need to surround yourself with others that question what you are doing. A difference in perspective can lead to breakthroughs or at least make you refine your process.

4. Celebrate Early

Here is the one constant I know about Change, it's not easy and sometimes it can be hard when reality or failure steps in your way. Celebrate early victories and acknowledge that what you're doing is not the same as yesterday. One of my favorite quotes from Zig Ziglar, "the only person you should be better than, is the person you were yesterday." Not only is this fitting for us but also a great lesson for our students.

5. Attitude is Everything

It's no secret that Culture Matters. Be sure to develop this in your surroundings. The attitude you have during this process should be contagious. Stay positive and open. Learn to TRUST the process and to TRUST others on your team. Listen to others and LEARN from what they are saying. If you go in negative your results will be average at best. Go in POSITIVE and don't let setbacks ruin your day. The energy you create can transform and impact the change you seek.

This is by no means a blueprint to success but merely observations I have seen over the last couple years from my experience in education. I have had my one-way ticket for about two years now and the journey has been life changing. The question is....when will you purchase your ticket?



Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Future of Teaching

During the last two mornings, Cathy Gongwer and I sat in a classroom with the future of teaching. Thirty plus eager minds ready to dive into the world of education.  We are excited to partner with them and construct an experience that prepares them for their future. Our Academy EDU class is oriented in a way that we hope to fuel their passion to teach. The students were attentive, engaged, curious, and most importantly, eager.  They choose to be in this class.  They choose to give up two of their class periods a day to learn about education. Let's face it, teachers get a bad wrap. We live in a time when Presidential candidates are bashing teachers for votes. When all we hear on the news is the bad that takes place in our schools. In our classroom lies the hope and future of teaching. Individuals that will no doubt make an impact on the lives of their future students. They will change the perception of teaching and create lasting relationships with all stakeholders. Our motto in Academy EDU:

Empowering, embracing, and inspiring students to 
become future educators by using innovative
learning styles. We are Academy EDU!

The time for change is now! The promise we see in each of these students is inspiring and motivating. Brent Wise, Master Chief of the ILC, challenged the staff to make a SPLASH this year. We focused on the following areas during our staff development day: Breakthrough, Student, Big, Personal, Program, and Partnership. We then narrowed these down to what we felt most important. It truly was one of the most impactful PD sessions I have been a part of in my 14 years of teaching. As a staff and building, big things are sure to come! We are sharing this and Jon Gordon's One Word idea with our students and challenging them to make a SPLASH in their lives this year.  

In the last two days here is what we have discovered and we think these are lessons/ ideas for every educator:


  1. It all starts with relationships. Remember.... "Students don't care how much you know until the know how much you care!" (Unknown)We shared the Rita Pierson video to stress this point. 
  2. Never start out with the syllabus and rules speech on day one. Immediately draw students in with an engaging activity. Make them get creative and collaborate with others. No need for- long introductions just yet. They already know your name because it's printed on their schedule. We started with how to tie a tie. This activity allows you to see who the leaders are in the class. It also stresses the fact that modeling and demonstrating are better than simply "telling". 
  3. We then conducted the Marshmallow Challenge.If you haven't seen this it's a great activity to build up teamwork, stress the importance of prototyping, trial and error, and most importantly failure. In Academy EDU, we believe in Fail First....Fail Fast....Fail Daily. Failure is part of the process and not the end result.
  4. The blank syllabus activity! We start with a blank piece of paper and hand it out to all the students. Informing them that everything they need to know for this course is on the paper.
    A few blank stares and looks of confusion follow. Then give a series of instructions and tell them they are not allowed to ask any questions. Fold the paper in half, fold it in half again, turn it to the left and tear the corner off, turn it right one time and tear the bottom corner off, place a rip in the middle of it, fold tin half again and tear a piece out of the middle. In the end, we all open up our syllabus to discover that no one syllabus looks alike even though they all heard the same instructions. We stress that each one of them will get out of this course what they put in. Since they are all individuals it's ok if they all have different experiences. That's what it means to individualize and personalize their education. No carbon copy experiences. How boring!
As current educators, it's up to us to inspire the next generation. We are losing great teachers at an alarming rate and schools are having difficulties filling positions. Inspire one another to take chances and leave an impact on the lives of your students. So, what are you going to do to make tomorrow a better experience for your students? How do you plan on showing them you care? I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas. Your comments could inspire others.



Monday, August 17, 2015

Experience Matters

From the first day of committing yourself to be a teacher you learn about lesson plans and we tend to develop a negative association with them. Dare I say, that most of us have probably not done something because it wasn't in the lesson plan. So, it's time to shift your mind set on what a lesson plan actually is. Before you write your next one think of this, what experience do I want my students to have? It's that simple. Every teacher should be focused on the experience. The activities that kids can't get out of their heads for years to come. I remember my high school Biology teacher and all of his crazy activities with Scat or the time he arranged a hiking trip and took us to the edge of a cliff....literally. Those are the lessons in which we learn the most. Students learn best from engaging experiences. Not pointless worksheets or activities where they are stuck in their seats. It's really simple to plan this way. In one of my summer courses I read this, "Design backwards. Deliver forward." Decide what's really important to learn in your class. Yes, the state will give you a book of standards you must teach. It's our job as educators to turn them into experiences or take the experience and relate it to the standards.

Take this picture of my daughter Ava. Looks like a picture of a typical ten year old sitting on the computer. If you look close enough you will see that she is wearing a white lab coat. She has a high tech piece of equipment out on the table, a map. She is using google as she conducts her research. Now, this is not part of one of her classes. This is happening in the middle of the summer. We just returned from a family trip to Lake Erie where we visited the Marblehead Lighthouse. Ava spent a few hours experiencing history. She heard the waves crashing onto the rocks and felt the water rush over her feet. She watched as boats went by and looked up at the lighthouse with a curious mind. As we visited the museum, in the former keepers house, she discovered the history of shipwrecks in Lake Erie. She was hooked! A ten year old didn't ask to buy candy or souvenir cups. She wanted to buy a map of all the shipwrecks that have occurred on the Lake. For the rest of our vacation she studied the map and asked me questions that I had no answers for. When we returned home she unpacked and immediately made her way to the computer. She put on her Private Investigator outfit and got to work. I was later informed that she wanted to solve the mystery of the two missing ships that she had discovered. She spent hours researching and discovering the history of as many ships as she could. She wants to go to the library to find more resources. None of this was for a grade. She wasn't completing any worksheets or trying to meet a deadline. She took an experience that fired up all her senses and actively engaged her curiosity. 

This is how we should be teaching. Students learn from the experiences we create and from reflecting on what they experienced. 

“We do not learn from experience... we learn from reflecting on experience.” 

― John Dewey

Better yet, involve them in the creating and planning process. According to Professor Jerome Bump, at UT Austin, there are ten reasons why experiential learning is more meaningful:

  1. While you are participating, you are paying more attention.
  2. It can be dynamic, engaging, and fun. 
  3. It allows students to practice roles unfamiliar to them and fully immerse themselves in experiences that generate authentic knowledge.
  4. It activates both sides of your brain:  the heart as well as the head, emotion as well as reason, nonverbal as well as verbal knowing, the visual as well as the verbal, intuition as well as logic, holistic as well as linear thinking, synthesis as well as analysis, metaphor as well as abstraction, the personal as well as the impersonal, creative imagination as well as academic thinking, and the playful as well as the serious.
  5. It appeals to multiple intelligences: not just the abstract verbal and the mathematic-logical, but, depending on  the circumstances, also the spatial; the kinesthetic; the musical; the interpersonal; etc.
  6. Because both sides of the brain and many intelligences are engaged, active involvement results in processing of information deeper than mere memorization; it results in "episodic memory," a deeper kind of memory specific to an event so that if you cannot at first remember the idea or technique you can reconstruct it from the event.
  7. It makes use of your own personal associations as a basis for remembering and understanding vs. parroting back the instructor's version of a concept.
  8. It can be more motivating, incorporating the pleasures of creating your own environment.
  9. It can force you to confront your current ideas about the subject, many of which may be misconceptions, and reconcile them with what you now observe to be the case.
  10. It can make the value of education more obvious because you begin connecting  information to the "real world."

The Experiential Learning model is simple to incorporate. Click here to see a sample of an experiential lesson plan.  When using this model to plan you will want to focus on five phases:

  1. Experience- This is the "Do" phase and is the exploring phase for the student. 
  2. Share- "What happened"-students reflect on what they experienced and share it with others.
  3. Process- "What's important"-breakdown and analyze the experience. Critique and reflect on what was important.
  4. Generalize- "So What"-this is where students will draw connection to the "real world"
  5. Apply-"NowWhat"- Students take what they gained from the experience and put it action. They can now apply it ti future situations. 
It's time to bring back curiosity and engagement to the classroom. Don't over plan each day and be willing to stray from the plan when the opportunity arises. Just let students experience learning through a different framework. Let them struggle as they try to make sense of the world around them. Don't hold it against them if they fail at first. It's part of the process and a huge step in learning.



Extra Resources to check out:

Monday, August 3, 2015

The Big 6

If you're in education I am sure that by now you know titles don't matter. We are all leaders! Whether it be in the classroom, at the building level, or in central office. Your title should not define you. What should define you is your passion and purpose for the position you're in.
How do some of the greats define leadership?

"If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader." John Quincy Adams
"Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other." John F. Kennedy

"A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way." John Maxwell

"What you do has far greater impact than what you say." Stephen Covey

This summer I took a course that made me reflect on what educational leadership truly is. For one of our assignments we had to create what we considered to be the main principles in leadership. So, here are my Big 6 In Educational Leadership:

Principle #1:Leaders Learn

Leaders “prepare organizations for change and help them cope as they struggle through it” (Kotter, 1990).
As an Ed Leader you are the lead learner in implementing new technology and instructional strategies for your organization. Stay up to date on cutting edge tools and strategies. Be there for others as they start to embrace new ideas. Understand your organization's vision and mission ensuring that your efforts help keep them in the forefront. Grow yourself and help grow others.

Principle #2:Leaders BTE

Leaders Bring the Energy. Leaders need to be contagious with their energy. You must inspire through framing. “Effective framing of an organizational mission will ensure emotional impact particularly in terms of building a sense of confidence and excitement about the future” (Conger, 1991).
Leaders motivate their people by using analogies and stories that connect them emotionally to the mission of the organization. "Keep your message simple and focused and repeat it consistently" (Conger, 1991).

Principle #3:Leaders Take Action

John Maxwell states that "leadership is influence." Leaders understand their position in the organization. They pour everything they have into their job and their people/students with passion and purpose.Leaders can "do this by very clearly and explicitly seeking contributions, challenges, and collaboration from the people who report to them, using their positional power not to dominate but rather to drive the decision-making process" (Hamm, 2006). Leaders understand that doing is more powerful than saying.

Principle #4:Leaders Develop

A leader empowers others to grow and get uncomfortable
Leaders trust first and develop structure within their organization. Bolman & Deal state that, “at any given moment, an organization’s structure represents its best effort to align internal workings with outside concerns” (2008).
Leaders develop strategies to respond to problems or be proactive before problems occur. Leaders must develop their problem solving skills so they can be sound in their discretion and choice (Zaccaro& Klimoski, 2001).

 Principle #5:Leaders Evolve

"Leadership, by contrast, is about coping with change. More changes always demands more leadership" (Kotter, 2001).
Leaders must adjust and influence strategies based on the situation. You can't always rely on just one strategy to work for every occasion (Grenny, Maxfield, & Shimberg, 2008). Leaders should be open to change and adapt when needed. Leaders will guide their organization to evolve because of the rapid pace in which technology is evolving.

Principle #6:Leaders Build Relationships

A leader must understand the importance of buidling positive relationships with others. Here is something to think about, “the fact that people always respond to you in a certain way may say more about you than about them” (Bolman & Deal 2008).  Leaders "often fail to get things done because they rely too much on reason and too little on relationships” (Bolman & Deal, 2008). A good quote to remember, “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Theodore Roosevelt. Leaders play a  role in developing a culture where individuals can thrive, discover their talents and have an opportunity to use their best selves daily" (Buckingham, 2011).

I believe that by focusing on the Big 6 we can lead from anywhere! We can help implement change or cause change ourselves. We have to be willing to do what is best for kids and not best for policy. If you had to create your own what would they be? If you had to create and Ed Leadership vision what would it say? 

Would love to hear your feedback on these because they are still a work in progress.



Big 6 Prezi 


Bolman, L., & Deal, T. (2008). Reframing organizations: Artistry, choice, and leadership. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Buckingham, M. (2011). Strong leadership. Leadership Excellence, 28(1), 5.

Conger, J. A. (1991). Inspiring others: The language of leadership. Academy of ManagementExecutive, 5(1), 31-­45.

Grenny, J., Maxfield, D., & Shimberg, A. (2008). How to have influence. MIT Sloan Management Review, 50(1), 47-­52.

Hamm, J. (2006). The five messages leaders must manage. Harvard Business Review, 84, 114-­123.

Kotter, J. (2001, December 1). What leaders really do. Best of Harvard Business Review, 85-96. 

Zaccaro, S. J., & Klimoski, R. (2001). The nature of organizational leadership: An introduction. In S. J.Zaccaro & R. Klimoski (Eds.), The nature of organizational leadership: Understanding the performance imperatives confronting today's leaders (pp. 3-­41). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Future Learning...

Currently the staff at the ILC is reading through the book "Teach Like a Pirate" by Dave Burgess. A must read if you have forgotten about your passion and purpose in education. 

During yesterdays book talk after school our Director (Brent Wise...who kind of resembles Jake form the Neverland Pirates animation) shared with us an amazing video that challenges what the future of education holds. It was titled Future Learning:


This video brings to light many concepts that are outdated with the current state of education. It brings together numerous thoughts from some of today's most innovative thinkers and pushes you to think about where we are going as educators. Sal Khan, founder of Khan Academy, in summary states that education today has only taught students how to sit, be quiet, and take it for 45 minutes while not being engaged in the learning process. My Co-teacher (Cathy Gongwer @cathygongwer) and I decided to take some time to show the video to our Academy EDU class. After all, who better to bounce ideas off of than future teachers themselves. We then held a brief Q & A session to get their perspective on the Future of Education. To the best of my ability here is a list of some ideas and thoughts they generated:

  • Core Schedule dictates too much- High Schools are too rigid with core academic classes and scheduling. Students are missing out on electives that they want to take because their schedule does not allow them the flexibility to do so. Some express the redundancy from one year to the next and the need to fast track some core classes. 
  • Flip it- Lectures are good but not while sitting in class for 45 minutes. Flip the classroom....videotape or record lectures so students can watch them for homework. Then use class time to practice concepts while teachers are able to interact and move about the class. Building the student teacher relationship and strengthing student owneership in the class. 
  • Voice-n-choice- Students should have choice in what they want to learn daily. Example given: If a student is solid in Math and only needs it 2-3 times a week to master it then let that student work on other subjects or passion projects the other days. Why make them sit through class daily if they could do it in less time? Give them the choice and allow teachers to act more as guides and mentors.
  • Hybrid-High School- This one really caught my attention. Students should have the flexibility to take some-part-or all of their classes online and work at their own pace. Students can then set benchmarks/checkpoints with their teachers as they progress through the year. During the school day half of their day would be spent working online or with selected core teachers on concepts they are having trouble with. If they can prove mastery on certain subjects then great! The other half of their day becomes project/ elective based. Students could choose to work on projects that make a difference in their community or on a bigger scale....the world. They could then have more time to take elective courses that they truly want to be in and possibly explore their passions. 
  • School Environment- Students want the ability to move about while learning. Why should they be isolated to a certain room every period? Create a culture in schools where students have the ability to work independently in quiet rooms, collaboratively in functional collaborative spaces, in unique labs for hands on experiences, etc. No bells are needed to herd them around like cattle. Have a designated wing where teachers specialize in core curriculum classes and students can seek help as they need it. 
I am sure I did not do all of their thoughts and ideas justice but these were a few that really stood out. Yes, I know logistically some are thinking this is impossible or are you thinking (as I am) why aren't we doing this! Understand that these ideas came from students. The ones that are sitting in your classrooms daily and they are screaming out they want change! They verbally admit that the current state of education is squashing their creativity and the way they process information. We can not continue to go down the same tracks expecting our destinaitons to change. How can we as current educators pave the way for Future Learning?

Please share this with others that want to make our system more meaningful and engaging for the future. Leave a comment with your own ideas about the future of learning or give some new perspective to think about.



Saturday, January 10, 2015

Living Under the Influence

With it being the start of a new year many of us have made resolutions. My colleagues and I all enjoy the One Word challenge and have shared them with one another. My family is on board this year and we spent one evening creating our One Words together. Mine for 2015 is STRONG. My wife JOY. My daughter MOTIVATION. My son CHALLENGE. I could not think of a better way to spend an evening with my family. I personally find it more effective than creating a long list of wordy resolution statements. After all, only 8% of the 45% of people that make resolutions actually keep them. How sad is that? Many stop within the 1st week. Just look at your local YMCA. The first Monday back after New Years is insane. You can't find a piece of cardio equipment open and the workout area is full. Yes, there is a benefit to working out early in the morning....beating the resolution crowd.  If you are a regular in the gym you see the trend every year but you know that by February the crowds will be back to normal. Teachers are no different. We make resolutions to stay on top of our grading, contact more parents, prepare lessons plans in advance and so on. Why is it that we fall short? I believe it all goes back to INFLUENCE.

I recently heard a story about Carrie Underwood's new hit "Something in the Water." As I listened to the radio (Yes.. the radio was on country in my car and I did not turn Carrie off) on New Years day the DJ told the story about how the song was literally written and recorded in one day. Carrie and her team came into the studio with an idea and out of excitement the entire process unfolded instantaneously. They had no clue they were recording a hit. All they knew was that they loved the meaning of the song and felt they were all connected for a single purpose in that moment. I call that living under the influence. Pastor Brad Kochis of Lifepoint Church in Hilliard, Ohio recently shared about this in one of his sermons. He stated that when we are able to approach each moment driven by a purpose greater than ourselves we are living under the influence. Most of the time when we hear this phrase we tend to give it a negative association. We don't recognize that influence can be positive and play a significant role in the way we approach our day to day. We all allow things to eat up our time and influence us to make decisions good or bad. Let's face it, time is valuable but we can't control it. The clock keeps ticking no matter what we do. However, what we can control are the influences in our lives and the activities we allow to consume our time. I, more than anyone, need to work on my activity management skills.....just ask my wife she will confirm this.

Influence is defined as the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone, something, or the effect itself (thanks Google). As educators we constantly allow outside influences to impact our world. In turn these impact the way we teach and interact with students. We place more value on things like standards, lesson plans, and evaluation systems. All while devaluing the student experience, relationships, and culture. Influence is a multiplier. It has a ripple effect when properly used. Let's break down that definition; Effect on Character...Effect on Development....Effect on Behavior of SOMEONE.....SOMETHING....or the EFFECT itself. As an educator think about your influence on SOMEONE-Students-Peers-Parents-Community. Your Influence on SOMETHING-Culture-Professional Development-Policy Making. Your Influence on EFFECT-Change-Positive-Negative. We have way more power than we think. We build the CHARACTER of our students. We shape the DEVELOPMENT of our peers by sharing ideas. We affect the BEHAVIOR (perception) of our communities by being a positive force. Now, think about this, what are you UNDER the INFLUENCE of? If we truly can be change agents and influence is a multiplier than we must be aware of what influences us.

“No matter what your goals are in life, you can achieve them faster, you can be more effective, and the contribution you make can be longer lasting if you learn to develop your influence.”
- John Maxwell

Four ways to harness the power of influence in education and elsewhere:

  1. Have Faith! I am firm believer. You may not believe in what I believe but you put stock into something that guides your daily efforts. Understand your WHY! Just last week I was asked what my gift is....without hesitation I said to TEACH. We each have a gift that we are meant to share. Don't be selfish with it. Do I have to be in a classroom to teach? No. Any moment provides an opportunity to use your gift. Share your passion and purpose with others. 
  2. Build relationships-Developing integrity and trust is the foundation of healthy relationships. Want to increase your influence....develop trust in your relationships. Be open and honest with those you come in contact with.  Connect with others, empower others, LISTEN to others, hurt when others hurt and take advice when it is given. Start with your family first. These are the most important relationships. Then build on your friends, peers, students, and so on.  
  3. Admit your faults- We all make mistakes. We all fail. Admit it when it is your fault and identify what you can do to change it next time. Nobody is perfect and others will connect with you when they see how you react to struggle and opposition. Stay positive!
  4.  Be Social- I don't mean increase your followers on Twitter or LinkedIN. You may have hundreds or thousands of connections on social media. Great! But in reality you only pay attention to a few; those who share the same values as you or provide unique perspectives. What I am referring to is the face to face conversations that occur daily. The moments at the water cooler, the after class conversation with a student, when your child needs your attention,when a friend is in need or asks for advice, and the unplanned off the cuff conversations. Just be in the moment. Be open to social interactions that help lead to influence.
I finish with a quick story from class yesterday. I teach in a different district than I reside in. My kids were out of school for a snow day and my family decided to come by and visit for lunch. I love having them drop by the building to see what I do. My son (2nd Grade) decided it was best to dress up because, in his words, he wanted to "walk in school like a Boss!" He shows up in a shirt and tie while I am wearing a sweatshirt and jeans. Truly showing me up. After lunch he asked if he could stay. He joined me in the classroom and became my assistant for the rest of the day. My students loved him and commented on how he was dressed up more than me. He had a blast pretending to be a teacher and leading the class. When we got home my wife asked him what he thought. He gave the basic answer of he thought the girls were cute. But then hit us with the....I think I want to be a teacher when I grow up! He stated he enjoyed watching Dad teach and helping his students in class. Influence! 

Always be under the influence! Let it ripple throughout your life, your classroom and throughout your building!