Tuning In

Sometimes I forget how much I love music. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it?

My husband has been working from home most Fridays. While I sit in the quiet living room so I can see our backyard growing in green leaves and tall grasses, he settles in  at the dining room table. But he also clicks on Pandora early in the morning, and I hear soft songs drifting into my space. It’s nice.

I breathe differently on Fridays. Like my yoga class, when I am being much more mindful about my movements and breath, the music calms and centers me. Why I don’t think to listen when he’s not here is beyond me.

Just like my Alexander session yesterday that makes me focus on how I sit and hold my head, music makes me feel at peace with the world.

One more habit to start.


image credit:By eloctre

Thinking About How We Think

Finding wisdom to live and learn.

Isn’t that the most important skill we can teach our children? Then why don’t we do it?

Columnist David Brooks said in his book, The Social Animal, “Children are coached on how to jump through a thousand scholastic hoops.  Yet by far the most important decisions they will make are about whom to marry and whom to befriend, what to love and what to despise, and how to control impulses.  On these matters they are amost entirely on their own.  We are good at talking about material incentives, but bad about talking about emotions and intuitions.  We are good about teaching technical skills, but when it comes to the most important things, like character, we have almost nothing to say.”

Imagine a world where we all have healthy ideas of how our conscious and unconscious works, a world where children are helped to know who they are and why they act in certain ways. Carol Dweck in her book Mindset says mindset is the view we adopt for ourselves. But how can we adopt a healthy view without fully knowing ourselves? And how does resiliency play into this?

Dweck points out that “mindsets frame the running account that’s taking place in people’s heads. They guide the whole interpretation process.” And, the good news is, mindsets can be changed. Hard work, but possible.

Most people say that is it is the intellect which makes a great scientist. They are wrong: it is character.
Albert Einstein


What’s On Your List?

Changing the culture of anything (businesses, institutions, families) means taking a hard look at what works and what doesn’t. We can’t just wave a magic wand and say “change.” We also must consider our communication skills, our interpersonal skills, and often years of patterns of behavior.

So when we talk about shifting our schools and classrooms to a more open, collaborative environment, we need to consider that it’s often easier said than done. Maria Ogneva, head of community at Yammer, wrote this solid piece on changing culture (which I learned of from Jane Hart’s community).

She says, “as we all know, every time you attempt to change behavior, you run into resistance. The better you can anticipate resistance and channel it into positive energy, the higher the chances of success.”

How do we anticipate and channel? For many of us, it means taking a look at our goals, our vision. Even as a teacher, I needed to know why I wanted to move from the front of the room to being an active participant in my class. Why? What was my purpose? So for a school, we must ask the same questions: How will this move us to a better place? How will this help us learn? As Maria says, do we know what our mission really is?

But where she really caught my attention was in her list of barriers. Though she is speaking about business, look how we can apply this to education:

  • Command and control mindset
  • Functional silos
  • Rigid hierarchies
  • Wrong things measured

Bingo. Can’t you picture your school or school division right now?

In part two, Maria suggests ways to shift culture, offering tips such as starting small and making change relevant and personal. Don’t try to do everything at once, and for goodness sake, use available tools to help discussions happen.

As an example of a company that gets it, she  uses one of my favorites, Zappos. I often wonder what we in education could use from that model.

Zappos leadership believes ” if you get the culture right, most of the other stuff — like great customer service, or building a great long-term brand, or passionate employees and customers — will happen naturally on its own.”

Do you know what your school culture is? Do you know what you want it to be? I love the way Zappos identifies its culture in 10 key points:

  1. Deliver WOW Through Service
  2. Embrace and Drive Change
  3. Create Fun and A Little Weirdness
  4. Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded
  5. Pursue Growth and Learning
  6. Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication
  7. Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
  8. Do More With Less
  9. Be Passionate and Determined
  10. Be Humble

I wonder how different (or alike) our lists would look if each of us in a school tried this. What’s on your list?




Part of my quest to be more “in the moment” is to take time to watch, listen, or read something unrelated to schools, education, leadership, or community. Sometimes that means heading out the door with the dog. More often than not, I stumble upon something in my Reader or in a link on someone’s blog.

And yet, what I often find, is that moment connects me to what I do each day anyway. And I realize those connections are are not separate from but essential to helping us shift schools into places of community and shared learning.

In my email today, I received the weekly update from Karma Tube, self-described as “a collection of short, “do something” videos coupled with simple actions that every viewer can take. Our mission is to spread the good.”

Recently I watched this one, and the message reminded me of how moments in our lives will determine the full picture, the life itself. Kind of puts things in perspective for the classroom, doesn’t it? Simple, yet easily forgotten in this busy, crazy world of ours.

Cynics among us will say, “duh.” But I need this gentle reminder today.