I feel blessed to be an educator. I have had the good fortune of working as an English teacher, an Assistant Principal, a Principal and an Assistant Superintendent. I currently serve as the Assistant Superintendent of Burlington Public Schools (MA).
Matthew Walker’s new TED Talk, Sleep is your superpower (below), is another in a long line of research-backed publications highlighting the life-altering benefits of sufficient sleep. It still seems strange to me that it has taken so long for the points outlined by Walker and other sleep experts to become embraced and supported in a widespread manner. Instead it seems that we still highlight the grit of someone who can burn the candle at both ends and still seemingly function at a high level. We still poke fun at the person who goes to bed early and can’t keep up with the latest on Game of Thrones or whatever the latest must-watch primetime series might be.
“The decimation of sleep throughout industrialized nations is having a catastrophic impact on our health, our wellness, even the safety and education of our children. It’s a silent sleep loss epidemic. It’s fast becoming one of the greatest challenges we face in the 21st century”
“…all the ways in which sleep deprivation hurts people: it makes you dumber, more forgetful, unable to learn new things, more vulnerable to dementia, more likely to die of a heart attack, less able to fend off sickness with a strong immune system, more likely to get cancer, and it makes your body literally hurt more. Lack of sleep distorts your genes, and increases your risk of death generally…”
“Don’t drink caffeine or alcohol. Go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning (even on the weekends). Sleep in a cool room.“
A new week provides a new opportunity to start on a course of constructive habits. Stringing together a few days gives us the opportunity to string together weeks… Stringing together weeks gives us the opportunity to string together months… Then you have a habit. There is no magic solution, recipe or guru that can do this for you. You just need to begin.
Pick an area to start a new habit this week
Get to the gym a certain number of days (schedule it now)
Get more sleep (7 hours or more)
Cut back on sugar
Cut back on your social media time
Show more gratitude
Spend more time on mobility
Drink more water
The choice is yours, so pick an area to work on and start making positive progress. The most important thing is that if you miss your goal then just begin again. Many people miss their mark and then allow the negative voice in their head to take control. Forget the negative self-talk and just start a new streak the next day. The truth is that you can clean the slate whenever you want. You are in control.
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 ofCulturally 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.”
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.”
About 15 years ago, during my first year as a Principal, my superintendent had our administrative team read Good to Greatby 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.”
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?
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.
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.
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,”