Quotes I love, thoughts, ideas, gratitude, etc.

Monday, September 24, 2012

GRIT and Character Education

Read a great book on a friend's recommendation. Paul Tough's, How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character 

He makes a great case that we need to be better about helping our students lower anxiety and stress, as well as help them employ habits of mind and spirit.  Educational success and, I believe, success in life (i.e. job success, marriage, raising children, etc.) requires the ability to stick to it, and not give up.

Two points really resonated.  One biological, one philosophical.  First, we need to help our young children lead as stress-free a life as possible.  Be present.  Show unconditional love.  Be okay with failure.  Practice being less grade-driven.  Second, schools need to embrace and energize the idea that we must educate our students about character.  Being resilient is crucial.  Taking risks is essential.  Expressing creativity is vital.

Our goal should not be to get kids into a four year college, but to graduate from the college they choose in four years, and have a successful life beyond.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Keeping a Winning Attitude

Having a winning attitude is something that is essential to be an effective leader.   Recently, I asked our student leaders to read a great little book written for teens:
If You're Not the Lead Dog, the View Never Changes

The first chapter is all about the importance of attitude.  Last Friday our leadership group of about 40 students talked and learned about ways to keep a winning attitude.  We made index cards with behaviors that were positive and likely to produce a positive attitude and behaviors that diminished attitude.  We listened to some Eminem as a way to pump us up and show the power of music to help our attitude and finally, we had a conversation about a half-full/empty beaker and how we are wholly responsible for how we see a situation.  I received the following email which made my day:

Hi Mr. Booker!

I hope this email finds you having/had a great labor day weekend! I wanted to express my thank you for your lecture in the leadership meeting on Friday afternoon.

Earlier that day I was extremely stressed, sleep deprived, and all week had been struggling with my sister being away at college. As a matter of fact, I was even venting with a great friend (who was equally venting back) as we walked in to Foundation Hall for the meeting. I had a negative energy that seemed to be taking over everything I did. Once you began your lecture about having a great attitude I thought it was ironic and a bit coincidental. So, in response my friend and I giggled because we knew that the lecture would seem to speak directly at us. And it did.
Mr. Booker your speech was so helpful. I let go of all the stress from the week and focused on every conversation, class, and assignment for the future being done as positively as possible. Although I did have a hard class and had to deal with a difficult friend issue, I kept your uplifting voice in my head and it got me home for this long weekend!

I want you to know how much your lecture spoke to me, and how great it really was!
Thank you so much for turning my day around!


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Leading Change

Great article here about the nature of relationships that seems to me to be imbedded at the gentic level of school culture. http://www.robevans.org/Pages/prodev/getting2no.htm

He makes an excellent point later in the article about the importance of leadership through change.  Essentially, leaders need to answer/explain three questions in any environment that the seek to bring about change:
1. Why do we need to change?
2. What do we need to change?
3. How do we bring about this change?

Why? What? How?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Vision as a Source of Inspiration

The question of motivation comes up frequently.  How do we expect teachers to turn in grades on time, report for lunch duty, supervise study hall, focus in faculty meetings, etc?  For me, one of the most important qualities a leader can possess is VISION.  I need to have a sense that we are headed in a certain direction.  I want to row the boat, but I also want to know that I'm not rowing south, while my teammate is rowing north.  I propose that a vision, coupled with a sense of what the team is doing is key to motivating.

Having said that, it is also essential that the vision be COMMUNICATED in a way that maximizes input from everyone involved. It would be a disaster to have a ship's captain who had a vision for a rowing expedition to the North Pole, while the rest of us had visions of warm Caribbean beaches.

We're back to a having the mindset and skill set to work with others to refine a vision, or having the ability to win other's over with fully-imagined and inspiring vision (even if it means colder waters).

Friday, May 6, 2011

Asking a Great Question

My best students (and best thinkers) have always been equipped to ask great questions.  I had one, Alex, who would email me a question each week, like: how is a peach's fuzz an evolutionary benefit?


Each day I send my daughter off to school and beg her to ask at least one question. 

I love asking questions.  It is an essential part trouble-shooting. When I'm building a cabinet or working through a disciplinary consequence,  that aspect of questioning plays a vital role.  What if I mount the screws this way?  Which side of this lumber is more pleasing to look at?  Does this student have a prior history?  How have we handled previous cases that are similar?  What are the parents going to think about this?  How can we support this teacher?

My friend and a source of great inspiration this past year, Sarah, sent me this blog post which speaks to me on many levels.  As a biologist, lover of innovation, Jefferson groupie, and political junkie.  The way we run school can be informed by the thinking that goes on here:

Enjoy: http://bit.ly/majjeZ

Monday, April 25, 2011


If you haven't seen this yet...it is worth the 11 minutes.  Dan Pink - RSA Animate

The book is pretty amazing.  Autonomy is one of the best reasons to teach at an independent school.  All of the standardizing that has taken place in the public schools has resulted in a great number of talented and self-motivated people leaving the profession to the detriment of our nation's children. 

I'm thinking that only the complete implosion of public schools will return us to a place where teachers love teaching and kids love learning.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


This has been a tough week.  Lots of things going on.  Senior week, discipline issues, a meeting with the Concord City Council, planning for a visit with Senator Richard Burr, and Representative Larry Kissel, and a nationally known motivational speaker.  Oh...and being a Dean of Students and a not-so-good AP Biology teacher.  Yesterday, I sent myself a voicemail that ordered me to be positive this week as I face the onslaught.  It is important to be upbeat, even if you feel beat up.  Frankly, it feels good to be positive when you are pushing your mental and physical limits.