Nine Lies About Work (and maybe school)

I’ve been using this quote fairly often in presentations because it’s a good reminder to myself and educators that embracing ideas, even ones that seem to contradict our beliefs or thinking can be joyful. As educators, modelling this might be one of the essential gifts we can share with students

I’ve been a fan of Marcus Buckingham and his work around strengths and the title of this book intrigued me. I’ve been told on a few occasions that I”m a bit of a s*&T disturber. Depending on the person or the context it’s unclear whether this is a compliment or not but under the guise of “strengths” that’s what I take it as. This book aligns well with that character trait.

The chapter titles alone might intrigue you:

The book is based on a large research sample of thousands of employees in hundreds of companies. Lie #1 hits you pretty hard. Swap out “company” for “school district” and you have a very interesting conversation. The message is pretty simple. People’s experience at work is not based on a companies values or mission but on the individual teams they work on. The role of a company’s culture is much less impactful … Read the rest

Stop Worry About the Achievement Gap

“Closing the Achievement Gap” is a term and movement that has been around for a while. Born out of good intentions, it’s essentially a recognition that we need to attend to students with lower grades. Fair enough. And yet I see this obsession flawed in a few ways and it once again is more about adults and accountability than caring for children.

The essence of the problem stems from the inherent flaws of our education system. We tend to focus mostly on students’ weaknesses and spend an exorbitant amount of time and money in attempting to remedy this.

When a student says, “school sucks” it might be for a number of factors but my intuition is that for the majority of them it’s because they spend time working on things they hate and an inverse proportion on things they enjoy.

Scott McLeod and I just release our new book on Different Schools for a Different World. Scott shares a graph from Gallup that offers some insight.

While all three of these results are troubling, it’s’ the last, the one in red that addresses the problem. How can we live with the idea that only 20% of students feel they spend … Read the rest

I’m not an Expert, But Neither are You Part 2

Yesterday’s post was intended to challenge teachers for the most not to be swayed by those who have either been given or taken the title of an expert. Anyone who spends any time working with children and helping them learn brings with them a reasonable level of expertise to be able to contribute to the conversation and question authority.

While my context was largely about online spaces I think it’s important to examine and apply this more locally. In particular, how do schools and districts work to either include teachers as experts or suggest teachers need to see those higher up on the org chart as having more expertise?

For as long as I’ve been in education, there were always those in leadership positions who were not respected and when they made suggestions or mandated policies they were met with eye rolls, furrowed brows, and heavy sighs usually behind their backs. Sometimes principals or Superintendents were the least knowledgeable people about teaching and learning. They may have had administration and management skills but didn’t couldn’t discuss pedagogy, let alone pronounce it.

In our best schools and districts, this isn’t the case. Leaders, specifically principals are asked to be instructional leaders. … Read the rest

A Survey on District Culture

On Friday I’m going to be offering a workshop at the Canadian School Boards Association’s National Conference entitled, “Getting Serious About Culture”:

“Culture is not the most important thing, it’s the only thing.”
– Jim Sinegal, Co-founder and former CEO, Costco

Is this true for schools and school districts? Having worked with districts across Canada, Dean Shareski has discovered some important ideas about building community and creating cultures where students, teachers and leaders feel empowered and work together for a better learning environment for students. This session will provide an opportunity for participants to share, gain insight and develop plans to create a powerful learning culture.

In preparation for this, I sent out an informal survey on Twitter to get a sense of people’s perception of their own district. I was pleasantly surprised. I defined culture as, “the beliefs, perceptions, relationships, attitudes, and written and unwritten rules that shape and influence every aspect of how a school functions.”

I received 146 responses and here are the results:

(these were the top answers)


I also ask for any additional thoughts, here are a few:

Empowered in my classroom, but not so much outside my classroom.

Wanted to answer yes and no.

Read the rest

When The Answer is Both

Should schools prepare students for college and careers or to be good citizens?

Do we want students to get good grades or love learning?

When it comes to teaching Math, should we focus on procedures or problem solving?

Should learning be fun or hard?

Do we want students to consume content or create content?

Should we be using ebooks or printed books?

All of these questions and dozens more are discussed pretty regularly and by many different folks. Our default answer to these is “both”. Often we add “it’s about balance”.

It’s hard to argue that and generally, I agree. But for me, it’s not so much about balance as it is about emphasis and what we lead with.

When Arnold Palmer was learning to play golf, his father told him “Learn to hit the ball as hard as you can and worry about accuracy later” If you know anything about golf you know you want to hit it long AND straight. But in this case, it was about what to focus on and in what order.

Should learning be fun or hard? While I personally question whether learning should be hard, this question is about what we emphasise. … Read the rest