Archive for the 'Changing Habits' Category

Growth is optional

Dennis

A simple but profound truth: Change is mandatory.

Buddhists would say the cause is “impermanence,” and they would add that human suffering is caused by resisting it.

Scientists might say the reason is entropy, which my dictionary defines as “the degradation of the matter and energy in the universe.”

While change is inevitable, learning and growth are optional.

I am thinking about the kind of learning and growth that takes us to the edge of our comfort zone and a step or two beyond.

Some people seem to lean into such learning as if it is a part of their DNA.

Others may grow because a significant change in their personal or professional lives pushes them into it, even late in their careers or lives.

But for every person who steps up to the challenge of significant change there are others whose default settings seem to be denial and resistance.

Which begs the question: What are the internal or external conditions under which people stay the same or grow?

Commonly-cited reasons are “grit” or “resilience” or a “sense of efficacy” or a “growth orientation.”

But that doesn’t explain why some people have those qualities and others don’t.

What is your experience—what nudges you toward meaningful growth rather than entropy?

Minimizing the negative effects of social media

Dennis

I don’t have social media on my phone. The more time you spend in the stream of other people’s thoughts, the more impossible it is for you to have your own. You need space for yourself. – Yancey Strickler, Head of Community, Kickstarter

I recently saw a news item about a U.S. cinema chain that is considering allowing texting at some of its showings because some of its patrons find it difficult to refrain from texting during movies.

Digital media can be a powerful tool for communicating, creating, and learning. It can connect us to important ideas and to people who add value to our lives and work although we may never meet them face to face.

But digital media can also distract us from more important tasks and cause our brains to lose their ability to focus and to do demanding cognitive tasks that require sustained attention.

And it can also distract others who have the misfortune of being nearby, say, while attending a movie.

What do you do to maximize the benefits of social media while minimizing the negative effects of these tools on your brain and on your personal and professional lives?

Intentionality and habits

Dennis

People do things because they want to (intentions). Their motivation comes from a desire to create something that does not now exist.

People do things because they believe they have to (obligations). Their motivation often comes from guilt.

And people do things because they have always done them that way (habits). Often those habits are long standing and were not consciously chosen, which means they may not support current intentions.

The world would be a better place, I believe, if

  • people did more things that were motivated by intention rather than obligation,
  • and if antiquated habits were replaced by those that were consciously chosen to serve intentions.

What do you think—are intentions and consciously-chosen habits trustworthy sources of guidance and energy?

Conversations for learning

Dennis

Some of our most important learning occurs in conversations. And because learning is a prerequisite to sound decision making, good decisions are often preceded by good conversations.

Conversations for learning matter so much that virtually all meetings and even one-to-one discussions with colleagues, parents, and students within the school community should be designed to maximize learning.

Unfortunately, some leaders believe that effective leaders make decisions independently. Such decision making, they think, is a sign of decisiveness and strength.

For these leaders the purpose of meetings is to tell others about their decisions.

Their subordinates are so accustomed to a passive role in which they simply receive what their bosses tell them to think, say, and do that it may be hard for them to even imagine participating in conversations for learning and decision making.

But not all conversations are created equal.

Conversations for learning require: 

• Intentionality;

• Deeply-attentive listening;

• A willingness to go beneath the surface of conventional assumptions and understandings;

• Slowness that provides space for thinking and elaboration (think “wait time”);

• An openness to learning based on a deep respect for the experiences and perspectives of others; and

• A belief that everyone has something worthwhile to contribute….

How is it in your setting— are conversations for learning an essential part of professional learning and decision making, or are “conversations” more often monologues that communicate what has already been decided?

You already know enough…

Dennis

You already know enough about good health to be healthier.

You already know enough about successful relationships to have more satisfying relationships in all parts of your life.

You already know enough about being a good teacher to be a better one.

You already know enough about being a good leader to be a better one.

There are, of course, important things for us to learn and a time for us to learn them.

Sometimes we know what is important for us to learn—we know what we don’t know. At other times we don’t know what we don’t know, which means it is essential that we place ourselves in uncomfortable situations that reveal those things to us (peer feedback, for instance).

But for the moment I encourage you to more consistently apply what you already know rather than continuously searching for new understandings that are not likely to be implemented.

Our lives and the lives of others will be better as a result.

Do you agree or disagree?

Happy Holidays, and my best wishes for a happy and healthy 2016!

“I had Madeline Hunter”

Dennis

In the 1980s when Madeline Hunter was a prominent “presenter” of effective teaching workshops I heard so many people say “I had Madeline Hunter” that I used to joke that I felt obligated to call her husband.

It remains common for participants in workshops to say that they “had” whatever the presenter or content happened to be.

But they would say far less often what they had learned from that person or content and how it changed what they did.

Unfortunately, too many leaders continue to believe that the core learning process of teaching and professional development is the “delivery” of information, and that once the information has been transmitted, the teaching or the professional development is complete.

Those leaders are likely to believe that their professional development responsibilities are discharged when they have provided an activity — that is, provided a speaker or offered a workshop.

Professional development, in their view, is simply a box to be checked, a responsibility to be discharged.

At a minimum participants in any learning event should be able to say:

• I had (or did)…

• From that I learned…

• Because of that learning I changed the habit of…

• Because I changed that habit I saw the following results…

However, just as teaching is not complete until student learning has occurred, professional learning has not occurred until educators have deepened their understanding, honed their professional judgment, and/or altered their practice in ways that benefit students.

Administrators and teacher leaders play a major role in eliminating bad professional development by ensuring professional learning that truly benefits students.

But they are not alone in that responsibility.

Therefore, I propose that consultants or presenters or speakers “JUST SAY NO” when invited to do things they know will not make a difference.

One way to address this problem, from the perspective of both school leaders and consultants, is to pay consultants based on results, not time. 

What would be the benefits?

• Conversations preceding consultants’ work would be deeper and more concrete.

• Absolute clarity would be required about measurable outcomes on the part of consultants and school leaders, which is seldom the case now.

• Vague statements of purpose such as “inspire teachers” or “motivate participants to try new things” or “introduce participants to new ideas” would no longer be acceptable. (If such purposes are deemed essential because of the local context, I recommend that no more than 5% of professional development time be given to such activities.)

Once clear outcomes were agreed upon school leaders and consultants would have to determine if the learning processes they intended to use were sufficiently robust to achieve those outcomes.

Vague or modest goals and weak learning methods would alert school leaders and consultants that their plans were flawed and that precious professional development resources were being squandered. 

What do you think about paying consultants for results? Is it an idea whose time has come?

Paying attention to what matters

Dennis

Giving our full attention to what’s in front of us rather than succumbing to unrelenting interruptions is one of the biggest challenges many of us face in our professional and personal lives.

Multi-tasking interferes with productivity and undermines relationships, both at work and at home.

It is impossible to do deep, engaging work and to establish satisfying relationships with colleagues or family members if we are not paying attention to the task or to the people who are in front of us.

For most of us digital devices lead the list of disruptors.

In this post Henrik Edberg offers “10 habits that help me to keep my attention on what truly matters – both at work and in my private life – and at the same time minimize stress and overwhelm.”

I particularly appreciate #10: “Remember the 5 little words for sanity: One thing at a time.”

What would you add to Edberg’s list?


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