Thursday, December 30, 2010

Staying Focused on Goals

Starting a group, even if only 2 people, that meets weekly can help us to stay focused on our goals. At these weekly meetings we can ask each other the following two questions:
  1. What will you do next?
  2. By when will you do it?


Hope is the thing with feathers
that perches in the soul
And sings the tune--without the words,
And never stops at all,
And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.
I've heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.
---Emily Dickinson
Hope is not only something we as educators always want to keep perched in our own souls but it is also something we want to help instill in our students. We want to help them see that it is hope that will help them overcome any adversity or obstacle that confronts them. In fact, hope sings its sweetest song during a "storm."
Note: There is a 2008 Newbery Honor Book, Feathers, by Jacqueline Woodson that uses this poem as its them.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

What To Do While Waiting

When things aren't happening as fast as we would like, it would be a good idea to write ponderings on the following questions:
  • What more do I have to learn?
  • What is the lesson here for me?
  • What is the waiting teaching me?
  • If not this, then what?
  • What else can I do to get the same results?

These thoughts come from the book Write It Down, Make It Happen by Henriette Anne Klauser.

Monday, December 27, 2010

A Treasure Is Found---Again!

I had heard about the famous little red book called It Works. The author of this little treasure requested that his name be omitted because he feels the greatest good comes from helping others without expecting anything in return. The book is only 28 pages long--28 pages filled with wisdom. I knew I had bought it at one time but thought I had lost it somewhere because it was so small. Then today I found it inside another book--A Message From Garcia--by Charles Patrick Garcia. Apparently I had tucked it inside this book because Charles Garcia had recommended it.

This anonymous author says there are 3 rules for accomplishing our goals (wants):
  1. Read the list of wants 3 times a day--morning, noon, and night
  2. Think of what you want as often as possible
  3. Do not talk to anyone about your plan except to the Great Power within you which will unfold to your Objective Mind the method of accomplishment

This little treasure can be found at Amazon.

Friday, December 24, 2010

A Lesson Learned From a Codfish and Catfish Story

Many years ago, fishing for codfish in the Northeast had become a lucrative commercial business. The fishing industry recognized that a great market for codfish existed all over America, but they had a major problem in the distribution. At first, they simply froze the fish as they did all other products, and shipped it out across the country. But for some reason, after the codfish was frozen, it lost its taste. So the owners decided to ship the fish in huge tanks filled with fresh seawater. They thought for sure that would solve the problem and keep the fish fresh. But to their dismay, this process only make matters worse. Because the fish were inactive in the tank, they became soft and mushy, and once again they lost their taste.
One day, somebody decided to put some catfish in the tank with the codfish. Catfish are a natural enemy of codfish, so as the tank traveled across the country, the codfish had to stay alert and active, and be on the lookout for the catfish. Amazingly, when the tank arrived at the destination, the codfish were as fresh and tasty as they were in the Northeast.

Just as with the codfish, adversity may be serving a great purpose in our lives.

Note: This story taken from Be Your Best Life Now Journal by Joel Osteen

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Read 15 Minutes a Day

"Setting aside just 15 minutes a day will enable you to read up to two dozen books in a year. Keep it up and you will have read 1,000 books in your lifetime. That's the equivalent of going through college five times." G. Gordan, American Library Assn.

According to Dr. Orison S. Marden it's important to not only be reading but to be reading those books that will elevate and refine you and raise your ideals and clarify your ambition. He goes onto suggest that one should read books of power, books that encourage one to have a purpose for being. Therefore, as Andrew Carnegie advised, "A man's reading program should be as carefully planned as his daily diet, for that too is food, without which he cannot grow mentally."

These ideas come from the book Books Are Tremendous by Charlie "Tremendous" Jones.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

It's All About Those They Serve

Pure leaders help those who follow them to do more and see more and become more than they could do on their own. In other words, it is all about those they serve and lifting them to excellence. Their motive is to see their followers progress. This is what drives them.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A "Holy of Holies"

All those who are intensely interested in education and children need a "Holy of Holies" to where they can retreat when all around them is falling apart. This place allows a person to remain calm in the face of storms. Knowing one has done the best he can at the moment gives comfort while leaving solutions to problems and results of one's efforts up to God. Even if all one's work has turned to ashes, he is able to say, "So let it be. I will build again."

One example of someone who had to build again was Thomas Carlyle, a 19th century Scot essayist. He shared his first draft of his history of the French Revolution with John Stuart Mill. The latter accidentally let his housemaid use the papers to kindle a fire. Carlyle had to reproduce the book from scratch.

Another example is Ernest Hemingway in 1922. Hemingway's first wife, Hadley, was traveling by train to Switzerland carrying a suitcase containing all that Ernest had written up to that point. The case was stolen. Legend has it that when Ernest started writing again, his writing was even better and made him into the author whose works we now cherish.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Have Haste Without Being In A Hurry

We are in too much of a hurry. We want what we want, and we want it right now. Fast food restaurants, FAX machines, and over night delivery are just three perfect examples of things that were instituted to meet this demand. Yet, everything that is great in life is a product of slow growth. Nature itself never hurries. It takes decades for an acorn to become an oak tree.

The undesirable fruits of hurry are impatience, fret, worry, and confusion. It uses up unfocused energy as a substitute for a clearly defined plan.

Hurry is a counterfeit of haste. Haste has an ideal, distinct aim that uses the most efficient and best methods to get there. It's course is determined with one compass to give direction. Hurry, on the other hand, is guided by all kinds of different compasses hoping that at least one will get to some kind of desired destination.

Resource: These thoughts were based on thoughts by William George Jordan in the book The Majesty of Calmness.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Writing Makes An Exact Man

According to Sir Francis Bacon, "Reading maketh a full man, conference a ready man, and writing an exact man." Writing about what one has read with attention adds meaning and clarity to one's work and one's life.

Therefore, it would behoove both principals and teachers to seek for ways to write, not only encourage their students to write. Some writing opportunities:
  • Handwritten letters and notes
  • Reflective journal
  • Dialogue journal
  • Articles for professional journals and/or newletters
  • Grants
  • Book (s)
  • Blogs
  • Letters to the Editor

Being an example of writing, educators can encourage students to write.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Lessons from Rafe Esquith

Another great mentor is Rafe Esquith who taught students in low-income areas. Some great lessons to learn from him:
  • Tell students that you aren't smarter than they are, just more experienced.
  • Show students every day how they have grown intellectually.
  • Have high standards and teach them how to reach those high standards.
  • Tell children when they are behind and develop a plan to help them catch up.
  • Be willing to work with students before school, after school, during school vacations to help them master their subjects.

Resource for these attributes of Rafe Esquith: Mindset by Dr. Carol S. Dweck

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Lessons Learned From Marva Collins

Associating with and learning from great educators helps us become great educators. Marva Collins is an excellent mentor. What we can learn from her--someone who taught Chicago children who had been judged and discarded:
  • She was fascinated with the process of learning and continues to learn along with the students.
  • On the first day of school she promised all her students that they would learn and she forged a contract with them.
  • She didn't blame the students for any lack of success they had experienced. She blamed the system for failing them.
  • She set extremely high standards for all the students and taught them words and concepts way beyond their grasp at first. She taught them how to reach the high standards.
  • She created an atmosphere of genuine acceptance and cared about every student.

These characteristics of Marva Collins come from the book: Mindset by Dr. Carol S. Dweck

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Four Things To Do To Keep On Growing

Four things we can do as educators to keep on growing professionally:
  1. Studying a topic for only ten minutes a day can make someone an expert on that topic. Ten minutes a day translates into 3560 minutes in a year--or 60 hours.
  2. Read 20 pgs. a day--not just professional material but also recreational books, including books written for the age group of the students you teach.
  3. Develop at least one new skill each year.
  4. Continually use one's attributes, characteristics, and talents. One of Charlie Jones's seven "tremendous" laws of leadership is Use or Lose. This includes attributes, characteristics, and talents.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

It Is Not Good For Man or Woman to Be Alone

Men and women have unique gifts that are particular to their gender. These gifts complement each other. It's the uniting of them that creates a whole. A school will only reach its full potential when the men and women within its walls work together in unity of purpose, respecting and relying upon each other's strengths.

These thoughts are built upon the thoughts of Sheri Dew in her book No One Can Take Your Place.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Trading Isn't Giving

"Give what you have. To someone, it may be better than you dare to think." Henry Wadworth Longfellow
Learning to give--without expecting anything in return--is a law of leadership, according to Charlie "Tremendous" Jones. This means even expecting to be thanked. If we stand around waiting to be thanked we will waste valuable time that could be used giving something else. If something is expected in return then that is trading and not giving.
The more one gives even if no one seems to notice or appreciate it all is not lost because one's capacity to give is growing as well as one's ability to be an effective leader.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

A Sense of Urgency

We must have a sense of urgency about the importance of the work we are doing. Those who don't have a sense of urgency tend to drift into complacency, mediocrity, and failure. Having a sense of urgency gives us the energy needed to do the important tasks at hand today. It's a DO IT NOW! attitude.

It would be helpful to pray that Heavenly Father would bless us with this sense of urgency in our work and then act as if we have been blessed with this gift.

Thanks to the words of Charlie "Tremendous" Jones for inspiring this

Friday, December 10, 2010

Counsel Instead of Advice

I didn't become acquainted with the work of Charlie "Tremendous" Jones until yesterday when I realized he was the author of one of my favorite quotes. Since yesterday's post I've taken some time to find out more about this man. He is an incredible person with lots of wisdom.

One bit of wisdom that I learned from him was that rather than asking people for advice about what we should do we should seek counsel instead. He defined counsel as something we do to gather information from different sources. After gathering this counsel we need to make our own decision--with the help of God.

When people ask for our advice Jones recommends that we encourage them to read books that will get them to think and share it.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Wisdom of Charlie "Tremendous" Jones

"You're the same person today as you'll be in five years except for two things: the people you meet and the books you read," declared Charlie "Tremendous" Jones. In other words, if we want to grow as an educator we need to meet new people and read. Reading is a great way to meet new people--not only the people in the books but the author, too. I've met many authors by contacting them after reading something they wrote that touched me.

Because people and books can have such an impact on who we become it would behoove us to seek out the best books and quality people. The best books can be fiction as well as nonfiction and self-help books. Biographies and autobiographies are great, too.

Charlie "Tremendous" Jones shared a great idea. He said that instead of giving people business cards which people usually throw away give people a book with your name and contact information inside.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Wise Counsel For Any Leader

Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints gave some suggestions on leadership that would be wise for any leader to follow:
  • Focus on people, not programs
  • Be innovative
  • Delegate responsibilities so others may grow--counsel and motivate but don't do the work that has been delegated to others
  • Dedicate the greatest attention to priorities which will be different at different times
  • Do the best you can


"¡Oh, sed prudentes!", Liahona, noviembre de 2006, págs. 18-20

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Value of Storytelling

I use to get very impatient with stories in books and presentations saying to myself, "Give me the facts and get to the bottom line." I changed my tune about stories once I realized that the stories is what I remembered best.

What is it about stories that causes us to remember them? They touch our emotions because we can see ourselves in the story wondering what we would do in a similar situation. Our students are no different. Fiction books are a great way to introduce students to stories. Biographies and autobiographies are great, too.

Sharing stories also creates a bond between the storyteller and the listeners. That may be one reason Abraham Lincoln is loved and revered so much--He was a terrific storyteller.

We can improve our storytelling skills by telling stories and learning from the best. Every summer there is the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival in Utah that would be great to attend.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Writing Letters

Last night on 60 Minutes Andy Rooney talked about the many letters he had received throughout the years that he kept in a special box. Many of these letters were from his colleagues as well as people in the political arena and entertainment field--very busy people who took time to write a handwritten note.

With all the many new technological ways to communicate--texting, email, Facebook, etc.--who still doesn't like to receive in the mail--amongst all the junk mail--a handwritten letter with a real stamp?

Writing letters is an authentic way to teach students about writing. Students can write all kinds of letters-- to each other, younger students, famous people, the editor of a newspaper, etc. It could be that some of those letters will be kept in someone else's treasured box and/or be a part of history some day.

Friday, December 3, 2010


Credibility is the foundation of leadership. People want to believe in their leaders. People who believe in their leaders because those leaders are credible show greater commitment and loyalty to the organization. This leads to more energy and more productivity within the organization.

How does a leader become credible? Do what you say you will do (DWYSYWD)--keep promises. This builds trustworthiness which is a key element of credibility. It's a good idea to underpromise and overdeliver. It's also important to "walk the talk" because people believe what you do more than what you say-- our actions more than our words tell who we really are. It's like the quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson, "What you are shouts so loudly in my ears I cannot hear what you say." A credible leader is also someone who stands for something and has the courage to stand by her convictions.

It bears repeating--credibility is the foundation of leadership.

The foundation for this post comes from:
Encouraging the Heart by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

"Unexamined Wallpaper"

Richard Elmore coined the phrase "unexamined wallpaper." In other words, certain ways of doing things have become such a part of the school or classroom culture that it is not questioned whether it helps to achieve important goals.

This reminds me of the story of the woman who always cut off part of the roast before putting it in the pan. Someone finally asked her why she did that. She said that she didn't know but her mother had always done it. The mother said she had only done it because her mother had. When the grandmother was asked why she did it she replied that the roast was too big for the pan she had.

An educator must continually ask himself what the ultimate goal is and if what he is doing--even if has become the way of doing things around here--helps to achieve that goal.