Monthly Archives: August 2012

Thank school employees for ‘orchestrating’ each school day!!!!!

When it comes to everything that makes the school day work – it is easy to take a lot for granted.

In a sense, each day is the something like a symphony being played out by an orchestra.  And because ‘the music of the day’ flows so smoothly many people are not even aware of the many ‘orchestra members’ making the music.  Those orchesrta members are all of the people that work at and for the school.

Let’s start with the obvious.  Its 7:47 AM and you know that the bus is going to pick up your children at 7:51 AM.  So you step out with your children to the bus stop and wait.  The bus arrives at 7:51 AM the children enter and are off on that day’s learning adventure.  You go on about your day knowing that the children’s day will fall together according to a planned and predictable schedule.

When the bus arrives at your child’s school the children are greeted by staff members in the hallways, by their lockers and the classrooms.  At precisely the correct time, the school day begins.  Teachers are in their classroom and students are ready for the new day to unfold.  The day continues to unfold as planned.  Whether it’s changing classes, going out for recess, moving to and from the lunch room and/or any of the many other activities that can occur during the school day – your child is going to be greeted by people that are ready and prepared to make today a positive learning experience for for him or her.  Moreover, when it’s time to go back home, the bus is at school ready to pick up the children and transport them to their home – arriving at the time designated.

None of this happens by accident.  It happens because a lot of people know how important each day is for each student.  People work together to make schools function effectively.

I am thinking about this because earlier this week I was waiting for a service person to come to our home and check one of our major appliances.  The scheduled time of arrival was 830 AM.  By 8:45 AM the person had not arrived and we called the place of business.  We were informed that, they had “had a staff meeting that morning and were running a little late”.

If your children walks to and from school and had to cross a busy road to get there – I am guessing that you would not accept that the crossing guard was 20 minutes late.  Moreover, I’m sure you expect the teachers, support staff, food service staffs, playgrounds supervisors and anyone else connected with the school – to on time for their duties during the school day.

As we start this new school year, thank a school employee for all they do to make the ‘orchestrated school” day turn out to be such a smooth and well implemented event.  All of the people that make schools go smoothly are people I appreciate.


The bus dirvers, principal, adminstive assistants, hall monitors, teachers, social workers, cooks, coaches, house keepinng staff, crossing guards, and everybody else connected to making the school day unfold in a safe and focused way – they are all champions for children!!!!

May the year ahead for full of learning and growth for each and every student!  Enjoy the new school year!


High-tech way to communicate with students


Influential leaders are effective communicators!  Knowing your audience is a basic pillar for successful communicators. When a superintendent wants to connect directly with students – it may be time to be creative.

Anthony Habra is a superintendent of Rudyard Area Schools in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.  Rudyard is a district of 900 students.  Tony wanted to make a difference.  He wants students, parents or community members to be able to have a way to text an anonymous message to him that then the school can look into and follow up on.  He believes that by opening lines of communications the community may be able to reduce bullying, violence or other suspicious activities.

Tony decided to use technology to get his message out.  He chose to make a short video to announce and explain his plan.

He used Xtranormal at to create the video. Anyone can make videos on Xtranormal.   It takes a little time, and even if you have very little expertise or prior knowledge with the web you will likely to be able to create an xtranormal video yourself.

If you wanted to explore making videos and you wanted to use Xtranormal you would go to the web site, explore it a bit, choose to sign up (and choose which package to sign-up for – I choose the free one), experiment by making a video and if you want to – publish it.  Depending on the options you choose to put in your video – you can publish one for free.   Tony’s cost about $2.00 to create, because he choose some extras.   You purchase points to publish when there is an extra fee and $10.00 is the lowest quantity of points you can buy and you likely won’t spend that much on one video.

Xtranormal allows you to choose your character(s) setting, voice, and totally control the content.

Watch Tony’s video:

Other options for producing your own video:

Effective communication may include new ways of getting your message out!


The ‘culture’ of conflict must be changed!

When I think about conflict that tends to festers in disagreement I also think about the possibility.  I think about the potential opportunity of working together and finding a way to discover an agreed upon common good.  I know that that many might find my thinking “soft” and “wishful thinking”.  I know that the whole idea of focusing on the potential good that can come from people working   together is often considered futile and unrealistic.

William Ury in his book, The Third Side tackles the whole concept of what it means to try to make the world a safer place for differences.  What follows are his words from the pages viii & ix of The Third Side: Why We Fight and How We Can Stop published in 2000.

Over the last two decades, I have served as a third party and its disputes ranging from family feuds to wildcat strikes in the Kentucky coal mine and from corporate turf battles to ethnic wars in the former Yugoslavia and the Middle East.  I’ve also worked on the problem of how to prevent nuclear war, both as a researcher and as a consultant to the White House Crisis Management Center.

As long as I could remember, I’ve always wondered about the question of how we can all get along despite our deep differences.

I am an anthropologist, a concerned anthropologist.  I am concerned it because the tribe I study is in danger.  While it is not at all unusual for an anthropologist to study an endangered tribe, this tribe is not foreign.  It is my own.  It is not a small band of people.  It is the human tribe.  The danger comes not from the outside world.  It comes from the inside – from the human habit of falling into and destructive, often deadly conflict whenever a serious difference arises between two people, two groups, or two nations.

The situations vary, but the underlying question remained the same: Are we humanly capable of living together without constantly falling into destructive conflict?  Is peace a possibility –or a pipe dream?

Our present challenge is to change the culture of conflict itself within our families, our workplaces, our communities, in our world.  It is to create a culture were even the most serious disputes are handled on a basis not of force and coercion but of mutual interest and coexistence.  Far from eliminating differences, our challenge is to make the world safe for differences.

I believe that we all need to find ways to: listen to each other deeply, to understand the point of view of the other person and to work respectfully and productively together.  It is essential for mankind to tackle our problems of communication and develop common understandings.  When we do this – all our grandchildren will benefit.


Thinking together, we can accomplish much!

I have been thinking alot about what is takes to help adults develop the skills, dispositions and knowledge to intentionally think interdependently.  Below, you will find some of my thoughts.

Qualities of Effective Collaborators                 Actions to Positively Impact your skills 
Appreciate the nature of adult learning   Learn from or revisit the work of Malcolm Knowles and others
Embrace the uniqueness of each adult  and interact in ways that sincerely appreciate and connect with the individual   Be willing to develop honest and sincere relationships with the individuals you are helping
Celebrate the fact that your work requires effectively listening to and understanding the individuals you serve so that you can help them identify and connect with their specific growth   Learn or revisit the skills of active listening and practice these skills regularly in sincere relationships and become intentional about framing your efforts in response to each individual and his or her unique needs
Respect the complexity individuals face as they explore and address their own growth related to thinking interdependently   Call upon and/or increasing your ability to accept the ‘messiness’ and complexity of adult learning while learning about and appreciating the uniqueness of each adult you serve
Accept that while individuals are learning about and becoming engaged in thinking interdependently  this might lead to a real sense of disequilibrium   Support and encourage the individual by carefully listening to and suggesting that they think about the developmental nature of this new learning
Reframe and embrace the challenges that present themselves as learning opportunities for those you serve   Develop your ability to reframe  “problems” into a potentially favorable situation
Establish an appreciation for and understanding of the adaptive and developmental nature of becoming more comfortable and able to initiate and/or engage in interdependent thinking   Develop routines for checking in with the adults you are working with to reinforce, support and stretch their thinking and actions related to initiating and/or engaging in interdependent thinking
Acknowledge and remind adults that the transition from mostly thinking independently to often thinking interdependently will take time and will require letting go of old ways and for a time, being unsure of new ways to interact   Study the work of William Bridges, both Managing Transitions and Transitions – with the understandings you gain from Bridges – support the individual transitions adults will experience during this growth and development
Support the adult and invite him/her to revisit their motivation (both personal and for the common good) for entering into this potential major change in their approach to interacting, engaging and thinking with others   Study the work of the Patterson and others in the Influencer with a special focus on the concepts of personal motivation and ability and then use this knowledge to guide your support of the adults you serve
Maintain a core focus on the individual continuing to increasing his or her ability to listen for understanding – this is a major behavior for those engaged in improving their ability to think together   Study the many sources of information and skill building regarding Active Listening and specifically the work of Covey  in relation to the basic concept of ‘seeking first to understand’
Articulately and with sensitivity point out your impression (if you hold the perception) that the adult(s) you are assisting seem to be engaging in polite parallel thinking as opposed to the engaging in thinking interdependently   Remind the adults you are working with of how the common good can be advanced by moving beyond polite parallel thinking
While thinking interdependently individuals must be welcoming, friendly, and sincere   Block asks the question: “How are we going to be when we gather together?” This is a question you’ll want to frame and reframe as you help adults decide ‘how they are going to be’ when they are thinking together
Celebrate the growth of those you serve   Sincere and regular positive acknowledgement of progress and growth you observe in those you work with or serve as a facilitator

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1)            Block, Peter. Community: The Structure of Belonging. San Francisco, California: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2008  


2)            Patterson, Kerry, Grenny, Joseph, Maxfield, David, McMillan, Ron and Switzler, Al.  Influencer: The Power to Change Anything. New York, New York: McGraw Hill, 2008


3)            Knowles, Malcolm S., Holton III, Elwood F. and Swanson, Richard A. The Adult Learner, Sixth edition.  Burlington, Massachusetts: Elsevier Butterworth Heineman, 2005


4)            Bridges, William. Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change. Second edition. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Da Cap Press, 2003


      5)  Bridges, William. Transitions: Making sense of Life’s Changes. Second edition. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Da Cap Press, 2004



Here are three points to consider from a very good book: Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance by Atul Gawande (Henry Holt & Company, 2007)

• Diligence – This means, he says, “giving sufficient attention to detail to avoid error and prevail against obstacles. Diligence seems an easy and minor virtue. (You just pay attention, right?) But it is neither. Diligence is both central to performance and fiendishly hard…”

• Doing right – “Medicine is a fundamentally human profession,” says Gawande. “It is therefore forever troubled by human failings, failings like avarice, arrogance, insecurity, misunderstanding.”

• Ingenuity – This is about “thinking anew,” he believes. “Ingenuity is often misunderstood. It is not a matter of superior intelligence but of character. It demands more than anything a willingness to recognize failure, to not paper over the cracks, and to change. It arises from deliberate, even obsessive, reflection on failure and a constant searching for new solutions. These are difficult traits to foster – but they are far from impossible ones.”

And here are three of my past blogs that might connect to thoughts from Gawande.