3 Keys to Continual Personal Development

Schools have been thrust into the fast lane of change. Teachers are working to make changes and adjustments on many of the things they do. This is necessary as there is a need for change and improvement on many levels in education.

Too often it’s seen as an end in and of itself. Change for the sake of change. If we can just reach this or that, then things will slow down or we’ll be better prepared or ….

but the pace never ceases with new change piling up on new change like ducks landing on a frozen pond.

What if, instead of looking for change destinations, the focus was on the journey?

There, just ahead, after that curve. Drive a little further, your destination is almost here.
Of course, that’s not how it works.
Not our careers, not our relationships, not our lives.
Done. You’ve arrived.
You’ve always arrived. You’ve never arrived. Seth Godin

As Seth Godin’s quote illustrates, life is a series of journeys interrupted along the way. The school needs to reflect the journey of learning, a progression of growth over time with different sojourns along the way.

Most schools are places with beginning and endings. Beginning of each school year, ending of the school year.
Often, these endings/beginnings are portrayed as “new starts” or “clean slates” or something similar. What if, instead of waiting for a new year, each day was a chance to start again or to build on yesterday, depending on the need.
Sometimes we are making great progress and each day builds upon the next. Other days, it’s better to start again tomorrow. We all need that, not next year, but tomorrow.

What if school was just part of the journey where the ending was just a shift of the learning continuum?

Can schools reflect this journey?

We Have the Ability …

Today, we have the ability to shift the culture of the school to reflect the learning journey as a continuum. We have tools for sharing, understanding about the neuroscience of learning, the ability of professionals to collaborate for student success, and if needed, the ability to gather data to determine areas of strength and those that need support. All these are available to schools and teachers.

But it requires a shift in the classroom and in schools – away from episodal reporting to continuous growth. Where assessment informs learning as much, or more than, it informs progress.

George Couros in his latest post discusses the need for teachers, administrators, and other school leaders to continue to grow and develop.

There are some organizations that are moving too fast for people, but there is also the opposite effect. A person’s growth can stagnate if the leadership is not able to push them forward.

This is not change for the sake of change, but learning and growing in order to improve the learning environment in the classroom. This is change built upon the needs of the person as part of the journey. It’s improving and growing as part of continuing to thrive as an individual.

Continuing to grow and develop is important for all of us. In Do Over: Rescue Monday, Reinvent Your Work, and Never Get Stuck, Jon Acuff says:

You know who we should fire, that guy who keeps learning how to do his job even better,” said no one ever.

Learning to become better is about consistently seeking to improve. We have the ability to use the tools to help students develop habits of learning which evolve as we develop and grow. This means that, as educators, pursuing our learning is important. As a teacher, it isn’t always easy to do this, especially if we try to do it alone.

Here are 3 strategies that might help.

1. Seek Out Other Learners

Often, as adults, learning can be an individual endeavour. Especially when teaching all day and a full schedule, learning something new or just continuing one’s learning is often fit in among the other things happening. Sometimes, it’s can seem unattainable. According to Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We do in Life and Business,

For a habit to stay changed, people must believe change is possible. And most often, that belief only emerges with the help of a group.

Learning is a habit. It’s part of our many habits and, like other habits, it can be developed over time. One key to this is to learn with others. Sometimes we need inspiration and support of others to help us along. Collaborative learning isn’t just for students.

The evidence is clear: If you want to chagne a habit, you must find an alternative routine, and your odds of success go up dramaticlly when you commit to changing as part of a group. Belief is essential, and it grow out of a communal experience, wven if that community is only as large as two people.

Whether it’s with the people in your school or with others you connect with online, seeking out others who are continuing their own learning provides social support, especially when just beginning. If you can, seek out a group of others with similar interests and start a learning group.

2. Eliminate the Non-Essential, Don’t add-on

“If you want something done, find a busy person” does have some reality to it – look around to see who is doing things and chances are they’re a very busy person. In some circles, being busy has become a sign you’ve somehow “arrived”. But such isn’t a recipe for life-long learning. Eventually, the busyness runs the person over. Instead of adding on ‘one more thing’ and search for some sort of balance among the many, shift to focus on those things that allow you to thrive in all aspects of life.

What if we stopped celebrating being busy as a measurement of importance? What if instead we celebrate how much time we had spent listening, pondering, meditating, and enjoying time with the most important people in our lives? Greg McKeown – Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

Learning is one of the key areas for continued growth and development. The 5-Hour Rule is one that many successful people abide by – doing 5 hours of deliberate learning. It can include reading or building, tinkering or experimenting. But it is different from work. It is time you devote to learning and part of this is setting time apart – one hour a day – for learning. To do this may require setting time apart in the morning or in the evening, rescheduling your time to build this into your lifestyle. It isn’t always easy, especially with the extracurricular demands of many teachers plus the demands of family. But, what if you eliminated some of the homework you give students which then would free you up from having to do marking. Could you use that time for your own learning? How about if you began to approach planning your school day, in the same way, looking for ways to help students to pursue some of their own learning, such as with Genius Hour or 20% Time? How can you make adjustments in what you presently do that will support your learning and development?

3. Try Something New

What’s something you’ve always wanted to learn about or try? Have a topic you’d really like to learn more about? Or looking for something but not sure what? You don’t have to do this from scratch. There are a number of online courses that you can take or if you are so inclined, courses at local colleges and universities. Online course sites include Skillshare, Udemy, Coursera, Lynda, Khan Academy, TedEd, Open Culture, edX, Alison, Standford Online, Codecademy, Code.org, Udacity, i Tunes Free Courses, FutureLearn. The growth of Massive Open Online Courses(MOOCs) allows anyone with a computer and internet access to take a course. They provide the opportunity to access courses, often at no charge, on a wide variety of subjects. You can take your learning to a new level, get access to experts in their fields, and try something you’ve always wanted to learn about. George Couros has an IMMOOC scheduled for October 2017 which focuses on his book Innovator’s Mindset if you are looking for something to get started.

Screenshot 2017-08-03 10.19.56

I wonder….

1. What is something that you want to learn about? Have you ever shared that with your own students?

2. Do you share your learning with other people? On a blog? Pictures on Instagram?

3. How might focusing on the essentials help to provide time for learning in your life?

4. What’s stopping you from continuing your learning?

As always I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments on this.
You can connect with me at @kwhobbes on Twitter or email me at kwhobbes@gmail.com.

Doing, Not Reading, Leads to Change

Each summer a new list of “must read” books crops up.

And, I must admit, I go through them checking to see what’s been added to the list. What should I add to my “Reading List” that continues to grow at a rate only slightly slower than my 16-year-old son.

About a year ago, I noticed that despite all the reading I was doing and had done, many things were pretty much unchanged. Sure, there were slight differences. I felt smarter and more capable, especially during Twitter chats and evening parties where I could offer a book suggestion for many topics.

But, still not the significant change I had expected. I mean, wasn’t something supposed to change? Isn’t that what the whole 5 hour rule is all about? What was I missing?

It was another great “AHA” moment! These people read in order to DO!

Doing Leads to Change!

See, in order for change to happen, you have to do.

Instead of consuming more, I had to create more.

Instead of planning more, I had to execute more.

Routines aren’t any good if all you do is write them out.

You need to set the alarm for5 AM and then get out of bed!

You need to develop a fitness plan and then execute it.

You need to organize an eating routine and then follow it.

In order to write better, well, you have to write.

I mean, really, look at what it did for my reading!

Doing to be Creative

So for the last year, I’ve been doing more, consuming less. I write more blog posts and journal more.

I develop routines that I don’t need to write down every day – they’re routines!

I was spending so much time looking for that “perfect” way to track time and workout and … I was spending more time consuming and not near enough time on doing.

George Couros, in The Innovators Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity, says

What you can do is create the conditions where change is more likely to happen.

To create these conditions, one has to do something. It is in the act of doing that something is created. But to do this, you have to begin to find your own voice.

Todd Henry, the author of Louder Than Words: Harness the Power of Your Authentic Voice, says

When you are pouring yourself into your work and bringing your unique perspective and skills to the table, then you are adding value that only you are capable of contributing.

As a teacher, this is so important. It is the act of creating, of bringing your unique voice to the classroom, that great things will happen. It may take time for you to find that voice, but until you spend more time creating and less time consuming, the voice will be lost, covered over by layers of other voices, one’s you’ve read.

What are your consumption habits? Do they keep you from being creative and doing more?

Are you spending time learning about being more creative or are you doing more to be more creative?

Are you always looking and reading about ways to find “balance” or are you making decisions and doing things to thrive?

I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas about this topic. Leave me a comment or send me a note on Twitter at @kwhobbes.

Until next Wednesday, seek what is vital, focus on the important; find your own creative voice.

The Lure of the Listical

When I began teaching, I struggled most with planning.
And classroom management.
And organization. Maybe time management.

I was often stressed and tired, spending hours planning only to have most of the plans end up being replanned.

The process would start all over again. Neverending it seemed.

Oh, then there was correcting. On weekends. Usually binge correcting — the predecessor of binge watching before Netflix was a thing.

I sometimes would borrow units from other teachers but this really didn’t cut down on the work time since I usually ended up retooling them, often only taking a few ideas from them. Often the units didn’t really work as new curricula were just coming out which was different and “resource-based”.

Ahead of its Time — Maybe too Much!

The curricula were ahead of their time. The idea of resource-based teaching meant that, well, there were no textbooks for each subject. Except math. There was a math textbook but one was suppose to supplement it with other resources.

And manipulatives. All sorts of manipulatives.

There was just one problem — it was hard to find resources besides, well, textbooks. The internet hadn’t yet become the firehydrant of information that it is today and accessing other resources was difficult.
Thus began my obsession with resource hoarding.

I Remember the “AHA”

I was in my 5th year of teaching and my third as a grade 7 homeroom teacher. I was struggling more than I had ever struggled. I was entertaining thoughts of quitting. Not only did I have a large class but I was struggling with implementing the new curricula. Actually, struggling doesn’t quite cover it. I was suffering. I was exhausted. I actually cried at my desk.

A few times.

Then it happened.

I remember the “AHA”. Clearly.

I was planning in my room. I had copied the Learning Objectives and cut them into strips — a suggestion from one of the amazing teachers I worked with at the time — matching them together as I was building units. It was a unit in ELA and one of the LO looked vaguely familiar. There was that little niggle at the back of my brain but it took a while to become clear.

It was similar to one of the Social Studies LO’s.

That night I took my first foray into cross-curricular planning as I found that the LO’s in different subjects fit together. I could cover different LO’s by developing units that were cross-curricular. The beginning of Inquiry was seeded.

I’d like to say that after that night things all fell together and shortly thereafter it was all better and I became an amazing teacher.

It didn’t.

See, that realization was just the beginning. What followed still required a great deal of work. A lot of work. Late nights. More binge correcting. I still had to plan the units, make connections and then figure out how to plan assessment. It was around this time that I came across Understanding by Design by Grant Wiggins & Jay McTighe which introduced me to backward planning. I did improve. I began to explore teaching in new ways. Classroom design became important. The effort began to pay off.

Need To Do The Work

In his book, The Dance of the Possible, Scott Berkun discusses how part of the creation process is actually having to do the work.

No matter how great your idea is, there will be energy you have to spend, often on relatively ordinary work, to deliver it to the world.

The “AHA” was only the beginning. In fact, it would take a few years before I would become what I considered “good” at planning and being able to make connections. It would take even more years before I was comfortable sharing what I was doing. It took hard work, spending time working with curricula, making plans that didn’t work in order to develop the skills to make plans that worked better. Trying them and making adjustments.

Pursuing the process was important. It meant never being satisfied with what I had done but always looking for ways to improve it.

This means a central skill any creative person needs is a mastery of time, which means a mastery of habits. There will always be easier things in our lives than creative work. There will always be demands on our time that are more logical and lucrative than chasing an idea. Scott Berkun

Indeed, there are easier ways to get plans and units and, given the present conditions that many teachers face at this time, this need is being filled in a number of ways.

I’m not against teachers paying teachers to use their creations.

Not in the least.

Teachers are looking for ideas and sites like Pinterest and Teachers Pay Teachersprovide a buffet of options. This is partly a result of a system that doesn’t always provide adequate resources and is geared toward efficiency and grades. The demands on teachers time have increased and teachers are looking for options that allow them to have some sort of life outside of school. Young teachers are not staying in the profession and one of the factors is the heavy demands on time.

Teachers are not being provided the time to have those “AHA” moments themselves. Instead of being able to struggle through the process which leads to an “aha”, many teachers are just getting through the day.

In his book, The Innovator’s Mindset: Empowering Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity George Corous suggests

If we want to do better things for students, we have to become the guinea pigs and immerse ourselves in new learning opportunities to understand how to create the necessary changes. We rarely create something different until we experience something different.

This is really how I ended up with my “AHA” moment — immersed in something new. But, in order to do that, there needs to be the conditions for that to happen. I would suggest this isn’t the present conditions in many schools where teachers are under extreme pressure to improve test scores and rankings. The focus is on data and documentation, making sure teachers are filling in the forms in the division-wide LMS.

There are teachers, outliers, who do things differently. They do things differently, often without great supports.

These outliers form pockets of innovation. Their results surprise us. Their students remember them as “great teachers,” not because of the test scores they received but because their lives were touched. George Couros

As an administrator, there were always teachers like this in each school where I worked. Part of my role was to provide them with time, to give them the opportunity to be creative, to try new things, to have “aha” moments.

But it wasn’t all teachers. Some weren’t ready or willing to chart new territory.

And we have to be okay with that.

We can’t expect everyone to be an outlier. In the past, I would suggest that often what these outliers were doing eventually found its way into many classrooms. There needs to be the opportunity for this to happen. It cannot be demanded of everyone.

It takes time.

And it’s hard work. Very hard.

To create means to make something new, at least for you, and to do something new is like going off of the map, or more precisely, deliberately choosing to go to a part of the map that is unknown. In this case it rarely matters where or how you start. Scott Berkun

Not all teachers work in an environment that supports creating. There are many students and parents that focus completely on grades. Constant accountability is stealing away time from the creative pursuit of learning in many jurisdictions.

But there’s something else happening.

The Draw of the Listicle

We are living at a time of information overload and struggling with managing the amount of information that is available. As teachers struggle with ever-increasing demands, the draw of the Listicle is powerful — 5 Easy Ways to …., 10 Innovative Ideas for …, 7 Creative Ways to…. — why struggle with your own when there are lists and books which provide the options.

Cut and paste.

Lesson done!

There are still teachers doing amazing things.
However, too often the product, what you see, the highlight reel lessons, overshadow the relationships and the process. The spectacle of learning replaces the wonder of learning. The process is the learning.

We always have more freedom than we think, we just forget. We spend so much time trying to be efficient that doing anything interesting feels like a waste of time. And in this tendency is another misconception: creativity is rarely efficient. It always involves taking chances and trying things that might work but might not. The question then is: are we willing to spend time to be interesting, to think interesting thoughts and make interesting things? We all have the power, but perhaps not the willingness. Scott Berkun

To be willing means to forgo what’s easy. It’s hard. We need to support teachers so they can find their creativity, to delve into the process that leads to “AHA”!

It requires hard work. It means doing and making, trying and retrying. All the while building relationships with students, parents, and colleagues.

It’s such an amazing experience. It fuels the wonder…

I Wonder ….

How often do we see the struggle as being an important part of the process?

How can teachers be supported to embrace an iterative process that, often, doesn’t end?

What is the impact on teachers of all the ‘Listicals’ and ‘How to’ offerings?

I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas about this topic. Leave me a comment or send my a note on Twitter at @kwhobbes.

Until next Wednesday, seek what is vital, focus on the important; find your own creative voice.

Classroom Design – Not everyone likes learning at Starbucks

Where do you go to work? Do you have a long commute? Is it in the cab of a truck or tractor? Is it in a restaurant? What does it look like? How does it feel? Are you excited to get there?What is the environment like?

Do you have a special place where you like to think and reflect? Write? Read? Share with someone else what you are doing/dreaming?

Is there a coffee shop where you like to go?

Do you like quiet or working in the midst conversations and people?

Sometimes one, sometimes the other?

What about doing creative work?

Does it matter where you go to do these things?

does it matter?

It does for me.

Some days I like the coffee shop, other days, the quiet of writing at my desk. It can change during the day.

What about a classroom?

I work at so many different places — kitchen table, living room, office, library, coffee shops. Some days I like the quiet while other days I listen to music or just like the sound of conversations around me. It really depends. Not all days are the same.

It really depends. Not all days are the same.

Not all days are the same.

I believe this applies to most people. For many people, there is very little choice in where they work. However, as I discussed in my previous post, this is changing as more people choose where they will work.

As a classroom teacher, I have undergone a series of shifts related to classroom design. Like many teachers, I began with the desks in rows which was more default than by any actual thought on my part. I did what knew — desks in a row. I was worried about planning, classroom management and organization without realizing how the physical classroom design affected students.

Over time this changed. Beginning about 17 years ago, I began to explore different classroom configurations including getting rid of desks for tables in groups and pairs, adding desks back but including beanbag chairs and wobble balls and allowing for different configurations depending on the students. I added plants and even put posters on the ceiling — you know you can tell when students aren’t listening when they begin to gaze upwards. I also tried a small tent in the classroom, a rocking chair, rugs and a variety of other non-tradtional items. Yet, through it all, I always felt there was something amiss.

Today, much classroom design still revolves around the idea of classroom-like-box — paying attention to different factors such as placement of materials, work centers, group learning areas, individual learning areas and a variety of other factors which can affect individual learners.

What if it was conceptualized differently?

A recent artcile in FastCompany about the office of the future has had me thinking about design for a while. The office of the future explores how offices will change to be less focused on sitting-in-a-chair and more focused on collaboration. According to the authors

The consensus is that workspaces generally will become more flexible (to accommodate different types of employees), more collaborative (this is the way work is going), and more natural.

As in business where such companies as Google, which is known to “take measures to ensure its employees work in extremely unique environments that are designed to foster creativity and out-of-the-box thinking”, push the boundaries of the work environment, there are schools that push the boundaries of design. However, a vast majority of public schools were constructed between 1950 and 2000 when school design was limited to the hallway/box version. This doesn’t mean that creative teachers aren’t reconceptualizing how they use this space in new and creative ways but it does mean that there are limitations. And, not all jurisdictions will allow for a Starbucks-type classroom — there are safety regulations that one must adhere to in whatever one does.

A recent publication by OCED — The Handbook for Innovative Learning Environments — outlines 7 Principles of learning to design learning environments.

Each of these principles focuses on a different parts of designing a learning environment with the first two related to the physical environment of the classroom.

Principle 1 — The learning environment recognises the learners as its core participants, encourages their active engagement and develops in them an understanding of their own activity as learners speaks to ensuring the main focus of the design is the learner and their learning needs. Such a focus requires that educators focus on designing a learning environment that has a multitude of options. However, as mentioned, many schools were built at a time when the prevailing ideas about schools focused on the direct teaching method. Teachers need to be creative when designing classrooms. One way to do this is to actively include students in arranging the room. This doesn’t mean letting students do whatever they want but it does mean having them use the room and provide suggestions for different areas of the room.

Principle 2 — The learning environment if founded on the social nature of learning and actively encourages well-organized co-operative learning. Learning is social but it also has an individual aspect to it that needs to be recognized. Organizing the learning space may require creative ways of meeting both these needs. Like my own learning, depending on a number of factors, being social or having more individual space really depends on what I am doing at the time. Attending to different learning needs sometimes is difficult in a classroom and requires creativity. One method I found worked well was walking-discussions — students were allowed to walk around the school or school grounds and have discussions related to the topic we were exploring.

Use What You Have — Then Be Creative

‘Learning environment refers to the diverse physical locations, contexts, and cultures in which students learn. Since students may learn in a wide variety of settings, such as outside-of-school locations and outdoor environments, the term is often used as a more accurate or preferred alternative to classroom, which has more limited and traditional connotations — a room with rows of desks and a chalkboard, for example.

The term also encompasses the culture of a school or class — its presiding ethos and characteristics, including how individuals interact with and treat one another — as well as the ways in which teachers may organize an educational setting to facilitate learning…..’ Glossary of Educational Reform — A.W. (Tony) Bates OpenTextbook

This definition comes closer to what I consider when thinking about design. I know that the traditional image of classroom does conjer up images of desks in rows with a board and other tradtional classroom fixtures but that is beginning to change. The more the discussion can move away from stressing ‘testing, marking, grades’ to include discussions of ‘learning environment, demonstrating understanding, portfolios, collaboration, feedback, learning continuum, learning ecosystem’ the greater the possibility to envision classrooms differently.

I Wonder….

What would you do differently if you could design your classroom differently?

What would your students do differently?

Why is efficiency one of the main factors of school design?

What if creativity was the main factor for school/classroom design?

I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas about this topic. Contact me at @kwhobbes on Twitter or get ahold of me at www.kwhobbes.wordpress.ca

Habits, Groups, and Growth Mindset

How often do you think about which hand to brush your teeth with? Or comb your hair? What about where the bowl for cereal is located? Or the spoons? How is your refrigerator is arranged? Or your clothes drawers? Why are they that way?

Habits build up over time, often being introduced to us when we are children and developing as we grow older. We don’t often even pay attention to what we are doing or wonder why we do things that way. They can be helpful, allowing us to focus on other details while we go about the day. They can be harmful and destructive, something that we struggle with for years.

But not all habits are created equally.

Keystone Habits

Keystone habits are habits that have a profound affect on other habits. They shape and influence other habits. They can be good habits which then affect other habits. For example, when I began a morning routine, it had an effect on the rest of my day. The routine had an influence the other habits I had around organization and productivity. These have slowly developed into routines – a series of habits that I use in the morning and in the evening. Over time, some become automatic, allowing me to focus more on moment that I’m in or what I am reading. It also works the other way, keystone habits that aren’t so good.

According to Charles Duhigg in The Power of Habit, keystone habits

say that success doesn’t depend on getting every single thing right, but instead relies on identifying a few key priorities and fashioning them into powerful levers. … The habits that matter most are the ones that, when they start to shift, dislodge and remake other patterns.

We all have habits that we rely on throughout the day. These habits affect all aspects of their lives. When we combine these habits into routines, the habits can help us to build even more habits. Now these habits can be good or bad. By knowing that some actions trigger other actions, we can begin to take action, either to reinforce the good habits or begin to change habits that aren’t so goof for us.
But individuals are’t the only one with habits.

Group Habits

So if individuals have habits, can groups also have habits?
According to Hudigg, when you have a group of people, these habits become routines. In the classroom, the routines are what influence individual habits. Everything from how the room is set up to the structure of the day influence what is taking place. Determining trigger points for students can help to determine where a particular habit or routine might need to be changed. By examining the behaviours and tracing what is happening to the trigger points, it is possible to begin to identify some of the reasons behind certain things that are happening in the classroom.

But how to determine what might create change or how to change the habits and routines? According to Hudigg, this requires what research calls “small wins”.

Small wins fuel transformative changes by leveraging tiny advantages into patterns that convince people that bigger achievements are within reach.

Too often in the classroom, we react to the actions of individuals without taking time to identify what is causing the actions or reactions. There are many systems that are used and implemented in classrooms that try to manage behaviours of students without taking the time to determine if there are habits that may be causing the behaviours.

Are there are specific triggers or cues that might can be identified? What is the routine that might be resulting in the behaviour?

Habits for a Growht Mindset

Carol Dweck, author of The Growth Mindset, outlines how the mindset people have influences their ability to make changes and continue to grow and learn. Recently, Dweck began discussing what she calls a “false growth mindset” in which people praise an action but don’t take the necessary steps to go deeper to understanding what needs to change in order to improve.

False growth mindset is saying you have growth mindset when you don’t really have it or you don’t really understand [what it is]. It’s also false in the sense that nobody has a growth mindset in everything all the time. Everyone is a mixture of fixed and growth mindsets. You could have a predominant growth mindset in an area but there can still be things that trigger you into a fixed mindset trait. Something really challenging and outside your comfort zone can trigger it, or, if you encounter someone who is much better than you at something you pride yourself on, you can think “Oh, that person has ability, not me.” So I think we all, students and adults, have to look for our fixed-mindset triggers and understand when we are falling into that mindset.

I think a lot of what happened [with false growth mindset among educators] is that instead of taking this long and difficult journey, where you work on understanding your triggers, working with them, and over time being able to stay in a growth mindset more and more, many educators just said, “Oh yeah, I have a growth mindset” because either they know it’s the right mindset to have or they understood it in a way that made it seem easy.

As Dweck suggests, identifying the triggers that keep us from growing and developing are important in order to make changes to what we are doing and they take time. If change and innovation is what schools are seeking, then starting at the source, with the habits and mindsets of the teacher and students is essential to creating lasting change and innovation.

How do we identify the triggers?

One way is to develop a journaling habit. As a full-time teaching administrator I fully get how busy teachers are in the classroom and, in recent years, this ‘busyness’ has increased. Yet, with all the tracking and record keeping, management systems and reporting systems, teachers are frustrated with what is happening in the classroom. In almost all instances, the systems don’t get to the root of the issues but are directed at recording the implementation of different systems of behaviour management.

In order to change the culture of any group, there needs to be a change of culture. Without examining the keystone habits of the group, making changes will run into the embedded habits which can be difficult to overcome. Unknowingly, old habits won’t be changed. So, despite people’s best efforts, change may begin but the cultural change needed will be hampered by systemic habits which may, ultimately, undermine even the best intentions, ideas, and plans.

Cultures grow out of the keytsone habits in every organization, whether leaders are awere of them or not. … Keystone habits transform us by creating cultures that make clear the values that, in the heat of a difficult decision or moment of uncertainty, we might otherwise forget. Charles Duhigg

In schools and classrooms, spending time examining the habits of people and the systems being used is essential to determine whether there are triggers and cues that will undermind the change efforts. In my experience working through change in a number of schools, a great deal of effort goes into explaining and laying out why change is necessary/important. Very little time is spent exploring what is currently happening and examining the existing routines and habits to determine the affect they have upon the current system. Trying to innovate or change will be very difficult if the current routines and habits are not explored.

This work takes great effort and isn’t very “flashy” or “innovative”. It take patience and some time to determine the current triggers and cues in place and, if possible, determining if there are any keystone habits that might be key resistors to change. Too often, change agents want to get the process underway. Innovators want to implement their innovations. But, like so many gym memberships that are purchased at New Year’s by coaches who extol the virtues of the gym and exercise, once they have your membership, it’s off to the next one.

I Wonder ….

What would happen if we started to innovate or change by asking “Why do things happen this way?”

How the change/innovation process would benefit from a deep exploration of the current systems and habits within the organization?

How teachers might use reflection in their classrooms to explore how behaviours are affected by the current routines and habits?

I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas about this. Leave a comment or you can connect with me on Twitter @kwhobbes

Living the Good Life

This week, the topic for Summer Blogging Exposé was happiness, joy and fun.

How to Live a Good Life is a book by Jonathan Fields that is filled with stories about people Jonathan interviewed about what they considered it meant to them to live a good life.

In the introduction Fields discusses where the experience of the book began. Fields explains that

it would be many more years until I gave myself permission to own the possibility that somewhere within me lay the ember of a rough-edged ability to affect others. Both the desire and the potential to create moments, experience, and things that might inspire a change in state and belief. To incite possibility.

This is similar to my own walk.

We’ve all been in that place of “fine” and “busy”, disconnected from the people, places, and activities that allow us to work through each day utterly alive. Disconnected from our best selves. We’ve all felt like a piece of us was dying a little bit every day and we just didn’t know how to flip the switch, how to turn our lives back on.

Yep. That was where I had been. I had spent many a night wondering “What is my calling? What am I here to do?” but hearing only silence. Filling each day with “busy” and “fine” but feeling like I wasn’t fulfilling my potential, deeply knowing that I had something to share that only I could share but being unable to figure it out. I grew miserable – and spread it to those around me.

Stepping Away – The Myth of Career

The hardest decision wasn’t stepping away from teaching. The hardest decision was accepting that this wasn’t where I was suppose to be. After more than 20 years, I knew I wasn’t suppose to be here. But if not here, where?

Accepting this fact has allowed me to shed so many embedded myths about life, career, learning and teaching. I began to rethink the habits in my life and how they shape who I am and what I do. In doing so, the Good Life Buckets that Fields explores in the book have provided me with a starting place for my own life transformations.

The Good Life Buckets

Fields outlines three buckets that each person needs to ensure they fill or their life becomes out of alignment.

  • Connection Bucket – all about relationships
  • Contribution Bucket – how you contribute to the world
  • Vitality Bucket – state of mind and body

Each of these has “levers’ that Fields discusses as “the little things that will fill your buckets most powerfully.”

The book has helped me to reflect on how I view the world around me, the relationships that I have, my habits, and how I percieve my contributions. I have my own 4th bucket, Spiritual Bucket. Although Field includes this with Connection Bucket, I separate the two. Regardless of how you view these areas of your life, choosing to nourish your mind/body/spirit and the connections you have with others and with the world itself are so important.

Really, I’ve just begun this road of discovery but it has changed a great deal of how I view the world around me and the other people who are on this journey.

So what are your buckets?
How do you describe happiness, joy, and fun? What does Living the Good Life mean for you?

I’d love to hear your thoughts and insights about this in the comments or you can contact me on Twitter @kwhobbes. I look forward to hearing from you.