Summer Renewal: The Exit Interview

The school year is winding down. Many of us are saying good-bye to our students, to our colleagues, and to another year in the classroom. For some, the year was long and difficult, for others it may have gone by in a blur. No matter what kind of experience we had during the year this is a perfect time for a reflective practice. Why not take a few minutes before you leave for the summer and do a personal exit interview

Here are some sample questions you might like to ask yourself:
On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the highest how would you rate your own performance for the year?

Purpose and Calling
Do you feel successful and proud, or just happy to have the year over?
Describe 3-5 of your most happy moments during the year.
What was it that made them stand out for you?
Did what you accomplished this year match your expectations?

Stress and Overwhelm
Describe 3-5 of the biggest challenges that you faced this year.
Describe how you responded to each of these challenges.
What kind of stress, if any, did these challenges create?
How did this stress manifest itself- professionally and/or personally?
Is the stress still with you?
Is there a more effective way to handle the stress and anxiety of these kinds of challenges?

Strengths and Gifts
Looking back on the school year, what would you say were your greatest personal characteristics and strengths?
If you were going to build on one these strengths for the next school year which would it be?
What practices can you create to help strengthen this area?

Areas for Growth
What were some of the personal characteristics/behaviors you think were holding you back from even greater levels of classroom effectiveness?
What practices can you create to help you address these characteristics?

Student Feedback
Think about your students for a moment.
Did they have anything to teach you this year?
If you think of them as a mirror, what did they reflect back to you about yourself and your teaching?
Was there a student that you particularly liked? What was it that drew you to them?
Was there a student that you particularly disliked? What was it about them that you disliked?
Is there anything about yourself that your feelings about these students reveal?
How would your students rate your performance on a scale of 1-10?
What would they list as your greatest personal strengths?
What would they say was the area in which you need to improve?

There’s no better time for professional (and personal) reflection then the waning days of a school year and no better place to do it than an empty classroom. The purpose of this reflection is not to beat yourself up. It’s not meant to be “I should have done this.” or “I shouldn’t have done that.” guilt trip. It’s simply meant to allow us to step back and look at the year and our performance with some perspective (a perspective that’s hard to maintain during the year). I suggest you write you answers in a journal. Come back to them over the summer and before the start of the new school year.

A few suggestions:
Look out for burnout. At some point we can let our purpose and calling drift into a job. It takes work to keep reminding ourselves of the special work we do with children.
Be on the look out for the effects of stress on our thinking, our health, and our family life.
Be specific about our strengths and weaknesses. We all have them. We can build on our strengths, we can learn to address our weaknesses.
Students offer us a wealth of information on our classroom effectiveness if we’re courageous enough to look at the cues and clues they provide.

The questions I’ve presented are just suggestions. Your heart knows what questions are right for you. If you’re quiet and allow your inner teacher to come forward, it’ll guide you in the right direction.

Good luck and have a great summer!

Pete

Leadership Presence

At some point in your career you may have experienced a leader who we say has ‘presence’. What is ‘presence’? Are some lucky people born with it? Can it be learned?

We gravitate naturally to leaders with ‘presence’. They seem to have some intangible quality that draws us to them. They engender trust much more quickly than we would expect. We give them the benefit of the doubt. We are willing to follow them; not blindly, but much more readily than with others we know who are in leadership positions.

What is it that creates this attractive ‘presence’ that serves them so well as leaders?

It’s not their intelligence. There are lots of intelligent people who we’d never follow.

It’s not their way with words because there are many glib tongued educators that we would never trust as leaders.

It’s not their sense of humor, or their good looks, or their emotional IQ.

All of these qualities may be found in a leader with ‘presence’; but there is another domain that figures in greatly and that is the domain of the body.

The tag line for my blog and web page is:

‘Learning is a journey of the body, mind. and the heart.”

So is leading.

Leadership books often talk about matters of the mind and heart; but rarely speak of the body, so let’s examine the importance of having the ‘body of a leader’.

A Superintendent of schools addresses his administrative leadership team at the beginning of the school year, his shoulders are tense, his voice high and tight, and his breath short. No matter what words he speaks, his listeners are unconsciously hearing another message…”I am not grounded. I am saying things that are not coming from my heart.” The Superintendent’s body is not building trust. It was working against him.

A leader avoids eye contact and thus communicates that he isn’t fully engaged. It seems like he is hiding something. Unconsciously, I might ask myself, why would I want to trust someone who isn’t fully engaged, someone who seems to be hiding something?

A leader stands with his shoulders rounded and bowed in a concave circle. He sends a message of timidity.

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A leader has a body that is stiff and inflexible. Unknowingly he is communicating stiffness and inflexibility to others.

A building principal is full of distracting winks, nods, and pats on the back. He creates a feeling in some that he isn’t really serious and grounded in his beliefs and actions.

CB009118

A longtime Assistant Superintendent  holds his chin out and high; giving off just a whiff of arrogance.

There are so many leaders who seem totally disconnected from their bodies, as if it were only a vehicle to carry their heads from place to place.

When a leader doesn’t face you straight on when they are talking; the message may be that I’m busy and I’m not really listening to you.

There are many, many other ways that our bodies communicate messages to others. Our bodies are windows to our hearts and minds. If we are truly grounded in our purpose, if we are authentic, present, open, and connected to others; our bodies will communicate this. When our bodies, hearts, and minds are aligned and in sync, then we are living from the ‘sweet spot’. We have leadership presence. We embody what we believe. Unconsciously, others feel it, and it helps to build trust more quickly.

I believe strongly that we can develop and build an effective leadership presence. It takes a deep commitment and quite a bit of practice. Often it takes the help of a leadership coach or a committed friend; but it can be done.

If we want to transform education, we will need leaders who not only know what changes need to be made; but embody their beliefs so that they are able to inspire and motivate others to take action and to make difficult changes.

pete

The Mirror

preilly_small

Our local PBS station is having its annual fund drive and recently ran a lecture by Deepak Chopra. The entire show was thought provoking; but one concept stood out for me. The idea went something like this; I paraphrase…

“Your life is a reflection of you.”

Now that seems innocuous enough; but there is more to it than meets the eye. What I believe he is saying is that if your life has lots of drama, conflict, frustration, and anger. It’s a reflection…not of others; but of you.

Wow! Now that hit a nerve!

For the last month or so, I have found myself with a bit of a negative outlook. I’ve been complaining about some of the folks in the consulting engagements I’m leading. I can feel myself getting increasingly frustrated with the dysfunction I am finding in so many schools and school districts. I’m discouraged with the pace of educational change, and I have been more easily drawn into non-productive conversations.

Is this all a reflection of me?

I think it is. I have been out of touch with my daily leadership practices, so I find myself more easily falling back to my old and familiar, automatic behaviors. These old habits of thought and action don’t work for me anymore. In fact, when just a tiny bit of my old self-righteousness or arrogance shows up, it creates a big mess.

In truth, I have been restless with the pace of my own personal change. I keep getting close to breaking through with a book I am writing and then I choose to let myself get distracted with lots of commitments and consulting. Weeks go by and the book slips out of sight, except that my inner voice won’t let it disappear completely. The more I ignore it, the more I am aware of it. Sounds crazy; but that’s the way it is for me.

So, it’s a vicious cycle. If I let it, my mood gets very self-critical.

Which leads me back to ‘life as a mirror’. Is it any wonder that, when I am frustrated with myself, that I would express frustration with others? And, if I feel negative and discouraged with my own pace of change, that my dealings with others would mirror that negativity and discouragement? Yes, I believe the conflicts and the drama I am experiencing in my life right now, are simply expressions of my own inner drama. It is my own inner ‘critic’ wreaking its familiar havoc.

I know better than to let this happen, I guess that is part of my frustration. It’s so easy to blame the folks that seem so dysfunctional, because in some cases, they ARE. It’s easy to blame the bureaucracy of schools because they ARE bureaucratic and slow to change. It’s easy to blame the administrators who manage rather than lead, because there are so many of them.

All these problems and issues are very real. They exist on their own; but how I choose to deal with them is MY choice. I can be critical, angry, negative and discouraged; which creates conflict and closes doors; or I can choose to deal with these issues with an open heart, with understanding, self-confidence, and gratitude… which opens doors.

Fortunately, I can choose to take a different path at any time. Yesterday, I began my leadership practices again. I believe it was the return to those practices that opened the way for me to write this reflection. Each new day, each moment, is an opportunity to make a different choice for myself. I think that that is extremely empowering and filled with hope.

It’s very easy to get lost on our journey. Sometimes all we need to do is look in the mirror, the mirror that Deepak Chopra talked about… the mirror that is our life, for clues to locate ourselves in our travels.

pete

Preparing for Meetings Using the Mind and the Heart

The Unseen Meeting

Years ago I used to prepare for important meetings by taking a few moments to write down the key points I wanted to convey. I’d try to anticipate what people’s responses would be and prepare for those as well. In a sense, I was trying to do as much as I could to ‘script’ the conversation. I did this whether I was planning for a ‘one on one’ or team meeting that I felt was particularly important, or potentially emotional. Preparing like this made me feel clearer and reduced the prospect of me being surprised. Being unprepared made me feel vulnerable.

The problem was that often the conversation or meeting would take an unusual turn. When that happened I was so locked into my agenda, that I was not effective at handling things extemporaneously. I was clumsy and stiff.

There was nothing wrong with preparing my agendas, or with being clear about what I wanted to achieve at meetings; but I completely ignored the deeper, more important part of the meeting; the part of the meeting that was not cognitive; but affective.

You see there are things going on at meetings…silent, under the radar things, that effect us whether we are conscious of them or not. Think back to a meeting that did not go well. What was it that made you feel that way?

The leader…

  • let the meeting drift and we off-topic too much
  • was so concerned with sticking to the agenda that he cut off some important discussion without resolution.
  • had an agenda and was clearly pushing it at us
  • wasn’t really listening to us
  • doesn’t follow through, so no one puts too much ‘skin’ into these meetings
  • seemed to be frustrated with us when he spoke
  • although stating that she wanted a dialogue and conversation on the topic, did most of the talking
  • is condescending
  • is unorganized.

The list is truly endless.

Whether we are conscious of these assessments, or not; they are there. We feel them even if we don’t verbalize them.

Today, I’ve learned to prepare for both parts of the meeting; but with much more emphasis on the silent dynamics.

When I list the outcomes that I would like to achieve at the meeting, I include things like:

  • I want the person or team to develop trust in me and/or the team itself.
  • I want to be open to what others have to say and not allow my personal agenda to
  • close off possibilities.
  • I want to be a good listener.
  • I don’t want to be judgmental.

Beyond listing my desired outcomes, I spend a few moments preparing myself.

For example, if I have negative judgments about the person with whom I am going to meet, let’s say I feel they are lazy, self-centered, unappreciative, or incompetent; then I have to rid myself of the negativity, frustration, and anger that accompany that judgment. If I don’t, no matter how much I try to disguise my negativity, the other party, or the team, feels it… either consciously or unconsciously.

There are many wonderful practices to help clear oneself of the emotions tied to negative judgments.

If I want to engender trust or be open to others, I prepare by spending a few moments letting go of all my thoughts and plans, and do a practice to open my heart. I reconnect with my life’s purpose, my beliefs, my values, and my commitments. I feel the goodness in my own core and in so doing feel the goodness of others.

Preparing for a meeting by creating an agenda using my mind to identify the content that needs to be explored; AND preparing an affective agenda by using my heart to see beyond the words…

…has made me a more effective leader.

pete

Bad Demo, Great Practice

I recently sat through one of the worst demonstrations I have ever seen. The presenter was nice enough, but was filling in for someone else, and was just a bit unfamiliar with the product. She didn’t have her own computer with her and had to borrow someone’s Mac, which was foreign territory for her. Finally, the topic that the presentation was supposed to cover was the third, and last item covered. In fact, the presentation which was supposed to be one hour in total, spent more than an hour on two items that no one was interested in, and was not advertised, and only 10 minutes on the topic we had all come to see

As the demo unfolded I began to feel restless, “C’mon, get to the point! Please focus on bullet point three! That’s why we’re here!”

As the presenter fumbled with the most basic features of the Mac, my body moved from restlessness to irritation. “I can’t believe you don’t know how to close a window on the Mac!”

A half hour in to the demo I began to feel outright anger. “How dare you waste my time like this! I was ready to explode. My mind was caught up in serious negativity, judgment, and criticism.

Suddenly, I remembered! This was the way I used to feel all the time…years ago, before I began focusing on developing my leadership skills.

I’d attend a statewide meeting and listen to the discussion and get frustrated with the group if we they didn’t make progress and I’d get angry when the conversation would go on in circles, or never reach a satisfying conclusion. I’d try to control my feelings but they would build and build throughout the meeting. Finally, full of emotion and anger, I would blurt out some statement of frustration.

Everyone would look at me quizzically. It didn’t matter what I had said. It could have been the most brilliant idea in the world. All anyone heard was the emotion in my voice. It was if a volcano had erupted out of nowhere. It put everyone off. There would be an uncomfortable silent pause and then the group would pick up where they left off, as if I had never spoken.

I had to learn to be less judgmental, more compassionate, and a better listener, if I was ever going to be an effective leader.

Which brings me back to the ‘Demo from Hell’.

As I sat there listening to my old judgmental, critical, angry self reappear, I had a thought. What if I used this situation to practice a few of my leadership skills? After all, this poor woman was filling in at the last moment for someone else. She was clearly doing her best. I could see her nervousness. When I looked at her a little closer I could see that was trying very hard to read her audience and make the presentation meaningful. I thought of times when I had used a strange computer to do a presentation. My anger left and in its place was compassion.

I began to focus on what she was saying. I listened. When my mind began to drift, I brought it back. I put my whole attention on her. When I dropped all of my judgmental nonsense, I actually began to hear some of what I had come to hear. I listened actively for the entire hour and half demo. I was not angry. I wasn’t frustrated. I was truly appreciative of the effort that this woman had made.

If she had asked me for advice on how to make the demo better I would have given it; but she didn’t, and I was happy to let her leave the room with her dignity intact.

I left feeling like I had seen the key elements of the product I had come to see AND I had a great chance to work on my listening and leadership skills.

The bad demo had made for good practice.

in appreciation,

pete

The Tips and Techniques Approach to Leadership

In seminar after seminar I encounter educators who are looking for a simple ‘tips and techniques’ approach to mastering the art of leadership. Talk is cheap. Advice is plentiful. Yet, effective leadership remains rare. For those of you looking for the secret shortcut to being a great leader, I took a few minutes to pull together the highlights from just a small number of the books, blogs, and other resources that are happily giving you the road map to success.

Seven Habits of Successful People -Stephen R. Covey
1. Be pro-active
2. Begin with the end in mind
3. Put first things first
4. Think Win/Win
5. Seek to understand, then to be understood
6. Synergize – collaboration
7. Sharpen the saw – balanced self-renewal

The Eighth Habit – Stephen R. Covey
Find your voice and inspire others to find theirs

The Six Secrets of Change – Michael Fullan
1. Love your employees & your customers
2. Connect peers with purpose
3. Capacity building trumps judgmentalism
4. Learning is the work
5. Transparency rules
6. Systems learn

The One Thing You Need to Know – Buckingham
Narrowing your focus is a fundamental element of success.

Do Schools Kill Creativity? – Sir Ken Robinson
“If you are not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.”

Turnaround Leader – Michael Fullan
Relentless instructional focus
Leadership depth
Capacity building
Non-Judgmental
Data Driven
Define closing the gap as the goal
Attend to the basics
Tap into people’s dignity
Be sure the best people are working on it
All successful strategies are socially based
Stay the course through continuity
Build internal accountability
Establish conditions for the evolution of positive pressure
Use the previous 9 strategies to build public confidence
Effective leaders are energizing – not just innovative
Recognize you are dealing with well-qualified and well-educated group of folks that deserve to be treated like mature adults
Don’t be afraid to compliment people for their efforts
Keep your ego in check
The term ‘principal’ used to mean ‘principal teacher’. Try remembering what it was like to be a classroom teacher.
Never use your authority to threaten, intimidate, or demean.
Lead the school with moral conviction.
Be humble.

If You Don’t Feed the Teachers They Eat Students – Neila Connors
1. Care and be concerned for others
2. Desire to be successful
3. Handle stress
4. Be in good health
5. Think logically

Leadertalk Blog
One can’t overemphasize the value of building relationships with colleagues
Taking notes makes a difference – simply ask to take notes during a conversation
If you don’t know something don’t try to fake it
Roles and value are not the same. We may have different roles but doesn’t mean we have different worth.

LeaderTalk Blogger’s Advice for New Administrators
I will do it. Volunteer to do just about anything
Tackle a major project
Get involved at the District/State level
Understand your School’s and District’s priorities
Model online collaboration and enabling others
“Staff your weaknesses” John Maxwell

National Ed Tech Plan
“For educators to get the most from the rapidly evolving development of information and communication technology, leaders at every level; must not only supervise, but provide informed, creative, and ultimately transformative leadership for systemic change.”

There isn’t much to argue with in all this advice. It’s like ‘mom and apple pie’.

The problem is, even if you memorized every one of these points, even if you discussed them for hours with other prospective leaders, even if you wrote essays about them and gained a deep understanding of their meaning; it would not make you a better leader.

Knowing the elements of leadership is not the same as embodying the elements of leadership.

There are no shortcuts.

For example, (and this applies to most of the items on the lists above) knowing that you should be ‘humble’ does not make you humble. If, in fact, you are not humble, you won’t become humble by just ‘wanting’ to be humble. The insight itself isn’t enough to change a lifetime of behaviors make up the person you are. Embodying what it is to be humble takes a serious commitment to personal change. Personal change comes through ongoing reflection and daily practices.

I’ll never forget the Principal who raised his hand during one of my sessions and proclaimed emphatically,

“I already know about leadership!”

I’m sure he could recite the “7 Habits” or the “6 Secrets”; but as the rest of the class looked at him, it was clear that his leadership journey was going to be a very long one.

pete

Constructivism – a simple explanation

I have asked for and received permission to reprint The Institute for Learning Centered Education’s weekly newsletter. Don Mesbibov, the Director of the Institute is a brilliant educator who works to develop teachers and administrators that will transform teaching and learning. Interestingly enough, Don comes at this through pedagogy, not technology. I find his newsletter informative and inspiring and a welcome reminder that the educational changes we hope for are primarily changes in pedagogy.

I hope you enjoy these posts from a pioneer in the field of constructivism.

pete

Newsletter Edition Volume 9 Issue 25

Whether you are a parent, teacher, administrator or staff developer, the following applies:

How do you know whether your approach to conveying information, teaching a concept or helping someone learn a skill is based on constructivist theory?

Which of these two categories best fits your approach:

  1. I think of ways I can get my points across. I know what I want people to learn from me and I try to come up with ways to get my knowledge from me to them.
  2. I try to create an activity, project or some kind of experience so that I can set people to work as soon as possible and then teach what I want them to know and understand by offering suggestions as they work.

Do you doubt that the second category is more effective for teaching? Think about your own children. Don’t you find dozens of opportunities a day to point out what you want them to know while they are actively engaged in something they either want to do or see the need for?

If you’ve ever said,

“I’ve told you a thousand times . . . .”

then you realize that what you say has little meaning except if it’s said while someone is struggling with something they are anxious to accomplish.

Because of the frequency and intensity of our relationship with our children, opportunities constantly arise for us to coach while they are engaged. In a classroom setting the teacher needs to create the activities that will motivate students to engage so that teachable moments can emerge like popcorn snapping to life in a popcorn machine.

You don’t get many teachable moments while you are talking and someone else is listening. Teachable moments abound when people are engaged in something they are not completely sure how to accomplish.

—————–

Please feel free to forward this message to a friend or colleague. If you know someone who would like to be put on the list, please send a message to Don Mesibov at dmesibov@twcny.rr.com. Requests to be dropped from this list will also be honored. Copyright (c) 2008, Institute for Learning Centered Education. All rights reserved.

The Institute is currently registering teams for the 2008 summer constructivist conference, July 21-25, at St. Lawrence University, Canton, New York. Don’t miss the opportunity for this unique conference that models the constructivist behaviors that teachers are using increasingly in the classroom. Check out the website of The Institute for Learning Centered Education: http://www.learnercentereded.org
or, e-mail a request for information.

I Don’t Want To Be the Bad Guy

I love the discussions that happen at holiday gatherings. This year I listened as a Dan, a teacher in our extended family, told me about his New Year’s resolution to speak to his HS students again about respecting each other, acceptable classroom behaviors, and the responsibilities involved in being a community of learners. He had spoken to them a several times already; but a small number of them were still “acting out” when they got to his class and they were disrupting learning for the whole group. Clearly, Dan was having a rough time with these kids.

Dan hoped that they would get the message that they should want to do the right thing if kept communicating it to them.

I asked, “What if they don’t?”

He answered, “I don’t know. I don’t want to be the “bad guy” or anything.”

What struck me immediately was that Dan’s classroom dilemma is no different than many of the dilemmas of educational administrators or the “captains of private industry”. Leaders want people to do the ‘right thing’ and go along with the direction in which they are leading (and most do go along); but sometimes one or more team members have their own ideas about where the organization or class should be heading and resist.

In Dan’s classroom the resistance was overt and “in your face” with students acting out in front of him. Outside of the classroom with adults this “acting out” is usually done covertly via corrosive conversations that take place near the water cooler and in lounges and cubicles.

It only takes one student in a class or a single individual on a corporate team to undermine the entire flow of progress. These individuals make up a miniscule percentage of the whole group or team; but consume most of our energy

….and the killer in all this? We choose to live with them.

Yes, WE Choose!

It is our choice to avoid the messy situation that inevitably emerges when we decide to uphold the standards of the team or the class; and things can and do get messy. It is our choice when we decide that it is better to “get along”… to be liked, than it is to be effective. And once again, it is we who choose to live in the “hope” that if we keep repeating the standards but not enforcing them that things will get better on their own.

It’s like being in an abusive relationship. We can blame the other person for all our problems, for the abuse they heap on us, and live in hope that the other person will change someday; but at some point we need to CHOOSE accountability for our own lives, deal with the mess, and move on.

None of this is easy and we may wish things were different. We may not understand why people “act out” the way they do; but unfortunately they do. We can choose to live with it; or deal with it.

The classroom is not much different than the Board room in this respect.

In Dan’s case, not only does he owe it to himself to deal with the disruptive element in his class; but he owes it to the other children who want to learn.

Choosing to be accountable and dealing with situations like this doesn’t make us “bad people”.

pete

For the Sake of What?

In my last post I introduced the concept of “embodiment” and outlined a process, that if followed, insures that our professional development initiatives “stick”.

“When we embody something we can take action without thinking about it. In order to get to a place where a new behavior or action is embodied, we must practice it. “

Once again, here are the basic steps necessary to have the new skills and behaviors we teach stick:

1. Recognize that attending professional development is only the first step in our learning.
2. The design of the PD session includes a set of specific daily practices for participants to engage in after the session.
3. The design of the PD session also includes the creation of Learning Teams that meet to discuss individual progress and to support each other as they engage in new practices and behaviors.
4. Require that the teacher of any PD course, monitor the Learning Teams and their practices.

Intuitively we know that for any serious and meaningful (embodied) change to take place, we have to anticipate a phase of learning that will be uncomfortable. In this phase of learning we are “beginners”. As beginners, everything feels new, strange, and odd. We feel enormous pressure to fall back to skills and behaviors that feel natural and comfortable to us. If we are to sustain our commitment to change, we need a deeply rooted and felt sense of purpose; a “for sake of what?”.

Why would we take on a new skill or behavior? Why would we put ourselves in the uncomfortable position of being “beginners”? Why would we undergo the rigor of practicing skills and behaviors that make us feel like total losers because we are so bad at them the first times we try them? What will compel us to go back to our practices, if we slip and drift back to our old ways for a while?

Each of us needs to answer the question “for the sake of what?” in our own way. It is completely personal; yet larger than ourselves.

What is your, “for the sake of what?”

pete

Embodiment

Educators are beginning to ask an important question in a number of ways:

1. “How do we make our best professional development efforts ‘stick’ and see that they are transferred to classroom practice?”

2. “How do we take what we learn in leadership classes and turn it into better leadership?”

It’s time for a fresh look at the ‘stickiness’ of our professional development efforts. I am a strong advocate of a new concept working its way into the conversation called “embodiment”. When we embody something we can take action without thinking about it. In order to get to a place where a new behavior or action is embodied, we must practice it.

A great example is learning to drive. We can read about driving and learn all the concepts involved in driving; but for it to be ‘embodied’ we must get behind the wheel and practice. At first, it feels scary. We may hit the gas pedal too hard and squeal the wheels, we may hid the brake too hard and stop short, we may drive too close to the shoulder of the road because oncoming traffic intimidates us. Everything we do when we begin to drive feels uncomfortable.

Fast forward, many, many hours of driving practice later; and we find ourselves driving, listening to the radio, talking on the phone, and sipping our coffee without any thought or effort, whatsoever. We embody our new driving behaviors. It is practice that makes things ‘sticky’.

How can we apply the driving analogy to our ed tech and leadership professional development?

1. Recognize that attending professional development is only the first step in our learning.
2. Create daily practices for participants in our professional development sessions.
3. Create learning teams that meet to discuss each individual’s progress and to support each other in their new practices and behaviors.
4. Require that the teacher of any PD course, monitor the Learning Teams and their practices.

Here is a concrete example:

Let’s say we do a professional development session on Leadership. In the session we present the material and content we feel is most important. Perhaps we feel that being an attentive listener is very important if we want to be effective leaders. Before we finish the PD session we assign the following practices to the class:

1. Every morning write your intention to be a more effective listener in a journal. Writing your intention each day brings your goal to the forefront of your attention. It helps it from being buried in an avalanche of operational tasks that can dominate your day.
2. Whenever you speak with someone, physically face up to them and give them your full attention.
3. Whenever your mind wanders or stops paying full attention to the speaker, bring it back to listening.
4. Don’t take notes.
5. At the end of the day write your reflection on how you did in practicing attentive listening during the day in your journal. Once again, writing this helps keep your attention on your practice.
6. Every few weeks meet with your Learning Team to discuss how you are doing and to support others in their practices.

The example above is just one example of using practice to make what we learn in PD ‘sticky’. Over time, like learning to drive, the practices will pay off; at some point we will automatically ‘embody’ attentive listening. It will feel natural to listen fully and deeply to others. People will begin noticing that we have changed.

Athletes, musicians, artists, actors, and many others that strive for excellence know the importance of practice. Educators are beginning to ask the right questions about ‘stickiness’. Are we ready to move from conversation… to action, practice, and embodiment?