Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Many of you are familiar with Ken Robinson's TED Talk on creativity.  He talks about how we are all born with creativity and that we unlearn it in school.  Mostly because school focuses on developing the rational part of the brain, and ignores the creative side.  We talk about creativity coming from the right side of the brain.  In this Harvard Business Review blog post, Tony Schwartz talks about how we need to use the right AND left sides of the brain to be creative.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Just because you have a PLC doesn'y mean you are effective

Many school districts have adopted professional learning communities, and with good reason.  If we are going to transform our schools, the people most responsible for accomplishing that task need time to work together to make sense of your vision.

Professional learning communities offer an opportunity for teams of teachers to do just that.  However, just because you pull a team together, doesn't mean that it is going to be effective.  Vivian Troen and Katherine C Boles outline Five Conditions of Good Teams in this Harvard Education Letter.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Fit or Fish?

In this Harvard Business Review Blog Network article A Non-profit Board of a Group of Dead Fish lists three qualities of effective board members.  Doesn't seem like too much to ask.  What do you think?  Are you a fit board member?  Or, are your smelling up the room?  Pointed question, yes.  Big stakes for your board if you are a fish.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Everywhere I look, I see the need for trust!

Okay, so the research project I have been working on has brought trust to the forefront for me, and I am looking for it everywhere I go.  Only because every person interviewed, all 35 of them, indicated that it was a factor in evaluating information from the school district's administrative team.  AND, in another area of life that is close to my heart, turns out trust is important in baseball as well.  

For those of you who do not know, Carlos Zambrano has pitched for the Chicago Cubs for the last ten years. The last few have not been memorable, at least not in the winning sense. Instead, Carlos has been known for his temper tantrums, and ultimately walking out on the team last August.  So, Carlos has been less then a team player.  This week, the Cubs traded him, citing players concerns about whether or not they could trust Big Z to change his ways.  A quote from Theo Epstein, Cubs President,

"But Epstein, who took over as president of baseball operations in late October, discovered a recurring theme in conversations with players and front-office executives regarding Zambrano. None of them trusted the mercurial pitcher to change his ways. Epstein had outlined steps Zambrano needed to take to earn his way back with the Cubs, but he said he was skeptical it could happen."

Do other members of your team, the school board, trust that you are a team player?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Focusing on Relationships

I have been thinking a lot about relationships lately as I have been digging into data from a research project that I have been involved in over the last two years.  The big question of the project examined how school board members used research in their deliberation and decision-making.  Turns out they only use research that is presented from a trusted source.  This might be the superintendent or some other district staff member.  It might be an external source that the board member finds on his or her own. The big point is that whether board members consider research in their decision making depends less on the quality of the research and more on the credibility of the person or organization presenting or conducting the research.

What is evident to me from looking at the data, is that the technical stuff cannot give us the answers.  We have spent decades and millions of dollars pursuing change in public education, and we have not made much progress.  In many ways, we are always changing and never changing.  We are focused on the wrong things.  Until we focus on supporting the people, we will not successfully transform public education.  We can only be successful when we focus on relationships.  The Dalai Lama offers these tips:  20 Ways to Get Good Karma.