Competence Precedes Confidence – Thoughts on Equity from the IDEAS Conference 2019

I was fortunate to attend the second annual Initiatives For Developing Equity and Achievement For Students (IDEAS) Conference at Bentley College on Saturday. The title of this year’s conference was New IDEAS for Developing an Equity Mindset. After the opening keynote by Zaretta Hammond, my notebook and my mind were full. Hammond, the author of Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain, gave those in attendance a great deal to think about.

While I could never do justice to Hammond’s Keynote, my biggest takeaway revolved around Hammond’s thoughts on the increased focus on social justice and equity in schools. She lamented the fact that conversations surrounding these topics have been going on for quite some time, yet the achievement gap for black students remains.

“Children leveling up needs to be the barometer,” Hammond noted. “All of the social justice talk we have been having and we still have the same data. Competence precedes confidence and social justice is focused on confidence when it should be focused on competence.”

While I could go on and share an endless number of inspirational words from Hammond, I want to dwell on the preceding quote in relation to myself. My own challenge is to become more competent in talking about matters of race from a position of knowledge and not settle for a sense of misguided confidence in the fact that having the best interest of all students in mind is sufficient.

“People are doing a lot of talk about equity, we need to have more doing.”

Zaretta Hammond

Letter From Celtics Coach to His 9-Year Old Daughter is a Must-Read

Brad Stevens recently wrote a letter to his nine-year old daughter titled Be A Great Teammate. As I read through the letter, I couldn’t help think that the qualities that Coach Stevens was encouraging his young daughter to adopt were also qualities should be adopted by anyone looking to be play a positive role within any group they interact with. In fact, he did point this out to his daughter in telling her the following:

“You’ll be on many teams throughout your life…The thoughts below apply to all of these scenarios.”

The other problem I had was trying to decide which part of this letter was the most significant. While I encourage people to take a minute to read the entire letter, the following lines from the concluding paragraph are the epitome of what I think of when reflecting on the great teammates I have had the good fortune of working with.

“When times are good, be the great teammate that others want to celebrate with. When times are tough, be the great teammate who offers a shoulder to be leaned on. When you get older, you’ll realize that it wasn’t about the good or bad times, it was about who you navigated those times with, the lessons that you learned and the relationships that you forged.”

Good to Great – A Resource That Keeps Giving

About 15 years ago, during my first year as a Principal, my superintendent had our administrative team read Good to Great by Jim Collins. I still recall some of the quotes from that book, especially the first sentence which hooked me in right away, “Good is the enemy of great.” Two sentences later, I was hooked when I read, “We don’t have great schools, principally because we have good schools.”

Jim Collins on the Tim Ferriss Podcast

I was thrilled last week to have the opportunity to listen to Jim Collins on the Tim Ferriss podcast. The discussion on how Collins tracks his creative time over the course of the year was very interesting. He strives to have a minimum of 1,000 creative hours and defines creative time as “any activity that has a reasonable direct link to a creation that is new or durable.”

There are so many great takeaways from this conversation, I encourage you to spend some time listening to it. There are some references to some other great leadership pieces, like Jim Collins’ foreword of one of Peter Drucker’s books – 10 lessons I learned from Peter Drucker. Collins also shared a challenge from Drucker that drives him: “How do you make our society more productive and more humane?”

A new release from Collins

Finally, I was thrilled to learn that Jim Collins had a new release coming out this week. Turning the Flywheel: A Monograph to Accompany Good to Great is now available. If you want a short taste of what this monograph is about, check out Collins’ short article The Flywheel Effect. 

For those of you who read Good to Great, this is a deeper dive into the Flywheel that was discussed in Chapter 8. “Sustainable transformations follow a predictable pattern of buildup and breakthrough. Like the pushing on a giant, heavy flywheel…with persistent pushing in a consistent direction…the flywheel builds momentum, eventually hitting a point of breakthrough.” Turning the Flywheel is being promoted as a guide to help organizations create their own flywheels.

I look forward to getting my copy of Turning the Flywheel today. Book study anyone?


Mindfulness Practices For More Productivity At Work

My last post talked about my intentions to be more mindful in 2019. While my efforts have been sporadic thus far, I am definitely sensing a difference in my overall focus and patience during the weeks where I am more consistent in my practice. The key for greater consistency will be locking in a particular time for my mindfulness practice so that it becomes a routine.

The latest edition of the 10-percent Happier podcast featured Rasmus Hougaard and Jacqueline Carter, co-authors of The Mind of the Leader and Co-Directors of Potential Project. Hougaard and Carter shared some mindful practices that would help people with their productivity in the workplace.

Mindful Practices for greater productivity at work

  • Don’t check email for the (at least) first hour at work – The thought here is that your first hours at work should be your most productive from a creative standpoint. Don’t let your creative juices be sucked up by the low-level task of answering emails.
  • Turn off distractions – If you really want to maximize your productivity, then you need to turn off all of the notifications on your laptop (and your phone), especially during tasks that call for higher-level thinking.
  • Ensure quality sleep – While it is no surprise that quality sleep will improve productivity at work (as well as your general health). Did you know that a few minutes of mindfulness exercises before bed can improve the length and quality of your sleep?

The One-Minute Reset

Hougaard and Carter also discussed the benefits of a one-minute reset before meetings. Because we tend to rush from one meeting to the next without much downtime, they cited the need to have participants shut their computers and put away phones and just sit silently for a minute to get mentally prepared for the next meeting. This allows participants to put aside whatever might be lingering from their previous meeting and get focused for the new meeting. I think this would also work with students as they rush from one class to the next.

Looking for more Mindfulness in 2019

screen shot 2019-01-06 at 8.38.43 pm
photo via pixabay.com

I have spent some time thinking about goals for the upcoming year. But we all know how that turns out. Studies say that 80-percent of people fail in their New Year’s Resolutions by February.  We deliver a proclamation about life-altering changes that we plan on making and then shortly into the New Year, we fail to keep up our promise to ourselves and devolve back to our old ways and maybe even add a little self-loathing for good measure.

Well, this year will be different thanks to the development of a more realistic resolution. Having been on the lookout for a way to build a little bit more mindfulness into my routine, I stumbled upon the work of Dan Harris and the folks at 10-percent happier. Dan has a can’t miss proposal for anyone who wants to give mindfulness a shot for 2019 with his creation of a guilt-free safety net when you miss a day.  The excerpt below from Dan’s article in this month’s edition of Men’s Health sums up the  nicely:

First, aiming to meditate most days, rather than every day, is a good goal. Consistency counts—the more often you meditate, the easier it gets and the deeper and more enduring the benefits—but if you miss a day, your inner critic won’t have a chance to call you a failure. I call this approach “daily-ish.” It has elasticity, or “psychological flexibility,” 

This sounds like a foolproof plan! Even better is the fact that 10-percent happier has a New Year’s challenge beginning this week and with three weeks of FREE access to support people who would like to add more mindfulness to their repertoire.

The 21st Century Resume – Sasha Dichter’s Blog

Sasha Dichter’s latest post, The 21st Century Resume, talks about what a 21st Century Resume should look like.  It is definitely something we need to spend a lot more time thinking about in regards to students and the types of learning experiences they are having in schools.  I love the following points from Dichter’s post as potential interview questions:

Tell me the latest skill you mastered and what you’re working on.

Describe a knowledge gap…and how you filled it.

Identify the networks you’re a part of or have created, and what you’ve done to strengthen them.

While we are at it, I think we could use these as personal reflection questions for ourselves to ensure that we are continuously learning.

Thankfulness + Giving = Thanksgiving

Screen Shot 2018-11-21 at 12.53.02 PM

As you approach Thanksgiving weekend and reflect on all that you have to be thankful for, I encourage you to consider a donation to the recovery efforts for the people who have been impacted by the California wildfires.  It is hard to understand the level of destruction just hearing about the wildfires on the news with over 11,000 homes lost and nearly 80 lives (so far).  A local weather outlet posted the picture below to show people how big the area would be if this had happened locally. As you can see, numerous towns would have been totally wiped out.  It is really incomprehensible when I look at it on relative terms.

Screen Shot 2018-11-21 at 12.59.36 PM.png

Personally, I was touched by the short podcast on the wildfires by the Better Human Project.  A quote from Josh Mantz during the podcast resonated with me:

“All of us experience suffering…as hard as that can be, healing is never a process that we have to take on alone.”

This quote coupled with the reminder that “Loneliness is toxic” from David Flood in his talk last week with Burlington High students has me hoping that a number of people will contribute and let our fellow humans on the west coast know they are not in this alone.  You can donate here

I hope everyone has much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving!