Thursday, June 23, 2016


Not too soft, and not too hard...but, just right.
Not too hot, and not too cold...but, just right.
Goldilocks knew how she wanted things.

It seems like that is how everybody wants things these days.  Just right.   It is also how everybody wants to do things.   I'm not just talking about your sleep number bed or the temperature of your porridge, I'm talking about pretty much everything that gets done.  People want things to meet their expectations...exactly.  Just right.

At a restaurant, it is not unreasonable to have certain expectations for your food.  Your hot food should be hot and your cold food should be cold.  The nicer the restaurant, the higher the expectations.  At a fast food joint, I simply want my order to be pretty close to correct and the food to be close to the correct temperature.  At a 4-star steak place, I want that expensive chunk of beef to be cooked just right!

My wife and I bought a new mattress a couple of months ago.  We spent hours and hours and hours laying on mattresses in different stores.  We showed up at one store so often, one clerk thought we just needed a place to nap!  We finally narrowed it down to two beds, then drove back and forth between the two stores until we made a decision.  The bigger the purchase, the more picky we all become!

Lots of folks are becoming more and more like Goldilocks with every expectation.  We all know that is is much more common to hear negative feedback than positive.  Something rubs people the wrong way and they let you know about.  It isn't just right.  Happily, I will say that I have felt a definite upswing in the amount of positive feedback over the last several years.  There has been a recent realization that it is worth a few minutes of time to give positive feedback too.

For example, several parents have applauded our efforts to provide more communication this year.  We sent home 16-18 campus newsletters in English and Spanish this year.  Folks have told me that this school sent home three or four during the year prior to my arrival.  My goal is weekly communication and I think I am off to a good start after one year!  Nevertheless, a few folks have complained that it wasn't enough or that it wasn't good enough.  In some ways, they are right, but I am rarely satisfied and our efforts were strong!

I didn't meet my goal and I am quite sure that there were pieces of information that should have made it into the newsletters that weren't written.  We tried to provide quality information each time!  But I also know that a weekly, ten-page newsletter would be mostly ignored.  We try to Goldilocks the newsletters so that most of our families get what they need.   Not too much and not too little, but just right.  But our families have different expectations about what is just right so it is a moving target!

Generally speaking, when people plan things, they usually try to make those things happen in a manner that will be good for everyone.  More importantly, they try to plan things so that they fulfill the purpose.  Trying to please everyone rarely works but that goal seems to be quite pervasive these days.

Thinking about Goldilocks and thinking like Goldilocks has its advantages.  Please as many folks as you can.  Design a process or an experience that will touch everyone in some way.  Find the "just right" amount of professional development.  Expect a small amount of improvement from everyone.  Aim for medium success.  Whatever you do, don't overwhelm folks!  This does not sound awesome to me.  It sounds like serving only vanilla ice cream, then adding chocolate syrup and calling it awesome.  Goldilocks thinking doesn't make people wonder, "What in the world were they thinking!!!!"  It is the easy path.  Minimal improvements may occur.

The problem with thinking about Goldilocks and thinking like Goldilocks can get you in trouble too.  Trying to get it "just right" often means making sure that the feet-draggers are not completely turned off.  It oftentimes means that getting everyone to do a little bit is better than bravely clearing the path for a few to take the improvement effort as far as possible.  In other words, Goldilocks can slow improvement to a snail's pace.  When Goldilocks is on your brain, innovation and improvement move at glacial speeds.

What if we throw Goldilocks out the door?  What if we focus on our strongest folks and celebrate the progress and efforts that truly transform education?  What if we aim higher than, "just right!"  What if we shoot for awesome instead of perfect?  Whether you are an awesome failure or an awesome success, you are still awesome!

Banish Goldilocks and be awesome!

Thursday, June 9, 2016

The top ten reasons not to think

We don't like to think any more.  We just want to know.  Why discuss the beauty of the art in the museum...just give me the list of the top ten exhibits and I'll go see them.  What are the Top Ten Instagram photos of the year?  Click this link to see the list of the WORST soccer fails of all time!

I see a list, I read it, and it occasionally entertains me.  I know that so many of these lists won't make me think, yet I am drawn to them anyways.  Maybe because I want to see if I disagree with the list or not.  Usually, I find out that I don't care enough to agree or disagree.  Or, I don't have anyone else who checks out the same list and wants to talk about it.  People like lists!

Facebook is filled with ad-driven lists that draw us in!

The 12 best 80's songs.  

The 36 funniest auto-corrects EVER!

88 BEST reasons to drink cold lemon water!

I enjoyed David Letterman's lists for years and years.  In my middle school years, I owned a book called, "The Book of Lists," and it was quite entertaining!  My parents made it disappear for a few years due to one little list that was not quite middle-school appropriate!

Do lists like these cause you to think more or less?  How can we use Top Ten lists to increase the dialogue and expand perspective?

Sports shows do a great job of making a Top Ten list, then arguing about it.  Who is the best basketball player of all time, Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan, or LeBron James?  I'm sure somebody would argue that I am actually leaving out the real #1!

What about creating a Top Ten list and asking folks to defend their rationale?  That would get people thinking and talking!  What are your top ten ways to use a Top Ten list?

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

I wonder...then I write!

Alan November says that most questions that we ask our students in schools can be answered fairly easily with  a quick internet search.  He goes on to say that in this country, we essentially see education as the lining up of facts.  He wants us to teach kids to ask questions.

He is not the only guy to say this.  Warren Berger loves great questions.  His book, "A More Beautiful Question," is excellent!  He discusses the importance of questions.  Especially the ones that do not have easy answers.

Earlier today, I was interviewed by a great teacher who is beginning her grad school experience.  She is in the first week of her first class and she was asked to conduct three interviews with folks from our school district.  The questions all dealt with leadership.

For so many of the questions, I found myself quoting Covey, or thinking Covey, or trying to channel my inner Covey!  It was an excellent opportunity to think about myself and my beliefs.

The last question asked me to offer one or two pieces of advice to her.  For that question, I wish that I had been given lots of time to think about it.  Just two???  Interesting!

I immediately thought of the things I do to drive my own improvement.  First, I try to always have a question that drives my thinking.  I am always investigating a question of some sort.  I told her to always have a question.  Always be curious.  Second, I told her to write about that question every day.  It doesn't take long.  Five minutes.  Putting your thoughts into written words puts them in order.

What is your question right now?  What makes you think?  Write about it!

Friday, June 3, 2016

They made fun of me today

The talent show was today.  It was incredible!  The talent that our kids shared was amazing!  The production effort of the staff was equally amazing!  Singers turned to comedy routines turned to drummers turned back to singers with the designed precision of a Broadway show!  Wow!

They followed it up with a quick act by the staff to celebrate the end of a great year and to have a little fun.  Several of the teachers acted out snippets of what teachers act like at the end of the year.  They showed a stereotypical teacher who might be too tired to get out the door on time during the month of May.  The next teacher was from our school, and could not WAIT to get to school to see our shiny, happy kids!  OK, so my last morning announcement of the year said that we simply could not WAIT to see the kids next year and we were sad that the school year had to end.

Then I walked on stage.  It looked kinda like me anyway.  He painted on a beard and covered just enough hair to look bald like me.  He also had his radio on his belt and his phone in his hand.  He spoke in an animated, overly-optimistic tone and gave the kids my usual "sign-off" for morning announcements, speedily saying, "Make it a supergreatwonderfulfantasticexcellentfaboulous day!"  He added about 22 more similar words, including a few that have never before been heard!  As he walked off stage, he pulled up his britches.  I guess I might do that too.

They made fun of me.

And it was funny!  And I was flattered!  And it really made my day and made me feel like a more included part of the campus!  I loved it!  If they had not included this little part of the show, the show still would have been awesome!  But by including it, they included me!  And I am thrilled to be a part of such a great group of folks!

Jeff is a lifelong friend of mine.  He is a genius, and an engineer, with multiple patents.  For as long as I have known him, he has lived by a simply motto, "I don't care whether you are laughing with me or at me, as long as you are laughing."

It was awesome to have so many folks laughing at me with me today!

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The MOST important thing about collaboration

During a Twitter chat last month, one of the questions asked participants to note the important aspects of collaboration.  I quickly responded with:
A5: The MOST important thing for successful collaboration is to treat collaboration like it is the most important thing!!!
This Tweet received nine favorites and a few retweets.  More importantly to me, several folks came to me and said that they agreed and they appreciated my words!  All reiterated the statement in their own words too.
If we want our collaborative time to be meaningful, we must prioritize two things.  First, your group needs to meet together regularly.  Pretty much nothing should get in the way of your meeting time.
Second, your time together must be purpose-driven.  What will your team accomplish during your time together?  If you know the answer to that question before you meet, there is a much better chance you will walk away from your meeting with a feeling of accomplishment.
Together, we are better!