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3 Strategies to Help Us Through This Latest Round Of COVID Problems

The last two weeks have been incredibly challenging for learner-centered leaders...ok, I'll just lay it out on the line...the last few weeks have been crappy for a lot of us. Just when we thought there was going to be a lessening of COVID-related issues, it seems as though we are actually worse off now than we were even a year ago. I know that my stress level has been through the roof.

Without getting into the reasons why learner-centered leaders seem to be dealing with so many things outside of our control, let's try to SLOW DOWN and remember what we do have control over.

1. Our Own Emotions
Currently, our world is in a VUCA state (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous). If we allow the "VUCAness" to control our day, we will be reactive all day long. When we are reactive all of the time, our emotions get heightened. The average person makes up to 35,000 decisions a day. Learner-centered leaders cannot allow themselves to make decisions based on emotion. Reconnect with your purpose to keep an even keel. To keep a more balanced emotional state, I have included my 5 Day Learner-Centered Leader Workbook that walks you through 5 activities you can do this week to help you keep your learner-centered focus.

2. Our Work Day
Many learner-centered leaders are drinking from a fire hose right now. There is just so much information and concerns coming at you that it is easy to become overwhelmed. Regardless of how busy you become during your day, you can set aside at least 15 minutes where you close your door, take the phone off the hook, and let your mind take a break. If you have a secretary, tell them that you will not take visitors or phone calls for 15 minutes. This time alone without making decisions will help "reset" and calm your brain. This is a simple, powerful strategy to it!

3. Our Mindset
Is your glass half-full or half-empty? I hope it is half-full. I find it interesting when people are being negative they tell you that they are just being "realistic", implying that if you see things in a more positive way, you are not being realistic. As Mrs. Howe, my 9th grade English teacher would say, "Pshaw!" I will concede that maybe at the end of the day you are exhausted because the totality of the day was overwhelming, HOWEVER, you must approach the day with the idea that something great will happen and look for it. The greatness might knock softly, so you have to be listening for it. I suggest you go and visit a classroom to find a great part of the day.
5 Day Learner-Centered Leader Workbook

Using The Meta-Cognition Cycle to Help You Learn

Meta Cognition is noticing and understanding the way you think. One of the key attributes of a learner-centered leader is to be a lead learner. This requires that you are constantly stretching the bounds of your knowledge. Using the meta-cognition cycle to help your own learning is a great strategy.
Here is how I used the meta-cognition cycle to approach a book I listened to this week on Audible. The book, Hannah Arendt's Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the banality of evil, was one I chose because I have become interested in the work of Arendt. 

I used Eva Keiffenheim's meta-cognition cycle model to approach the book. Her model looks like this: 
1. Don't just dive into reading. Think about why you chose the book and what you expect from it.

2. Connect what you read to previous information and experiences. You can start your inner dialogue with "This point reminds me of..." or "This conflicts with ..."

3. Pause and yourself clarifying questions while reading. "Does this make sense?" "Do you find an example to transfer what you just read?"

4. Reflect on what you read. Synthesize and digest the text by writing a review or talking to a friend about it.

In my case, the 4 stages worked like this.

1. I knew the book was going to be difficult in the sense that there was going to be background knowledge that I lacked. Philosophical and classical references were not going to be something I could access from previous learning. I gave myself permission to just "keep going" and not worry about those parts of the book. I was reading (or listening) to this book to get a general sense of what Arendt meant by the banality of evil. I was not going to write a research paper on what I learned. The mindset of learning the general themes helped me learn what I set out to learn. 

2. I was very specific with this part of the model. I am also a fan of Eric Hoffer's work around totalitarianism (read his book The True Believer to learn more). I wanted to compare and contrast the two author's viewpoints.

3. While listening to the book, I stopped the book to think about certain points Arendt made. Specifically, I used the "bookmark" function on Audible so I could go back and re-listen to a specific segment of the book. For example, there is a section where she discusses how the Nazis were masters at "turning people inward" toward themselves (thus becoming hyper-individualistic) which allowed the State to act in inhuman ways to other people. By being "inward" looking, people viewed anyone that was not themselves as an "other" and when someone is classified as an "other" you can do horrible things to them.

4. I have talked to people about my take-aways from the book and am writing a short synopsis.

Using the meta-cognition cycle, and specifically, the 4 part method for reading books, helps learner-centered leaders become the lead learner in their organization.
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The Awesomeness of YouTube

YouTube is an absolute goldmine as a learning resource. If you don't believe me, go and find any learner in school and ask them. I asked my 17-year-old son to list his top 10 YouTube channels. Here are his first five.

1. Kurzgesagt This channel's 16.2 million subscribers learn about all sorts of fun facts in 12-minute videos. Some recent topics include: How the immune system actually works, The virus shouldn't exist, but it does, the day the dinosaurs died (minute by minute)

2. Corridor Digital goes deep into how movies use computer-generated animation. It is fascinating for anyone interested in graphic design. They have 9 million subscribers. 

3. Mark Rober is a former NASA scientist who does these crazy engineering experiments and walks his audience through the science of each topic. His tagline is "New ideas, science, and engineering." He has 19 million subscribers and his last video had over 15 million views after only 1 week. I LOVE THIS CHANNEL. One of his most popular videos is "testing whether sharks can smell a drop of blood"

4. Johnny Harris is a former journalist who creates videos explaining historical and current events. The history teacher in me loves this guy. He is "newer" to YouTube so he only has 1 million subscribers. One of his recent videos is entitled "Why Hitler was obsessed with Iceland"...good stuff!

5. Hacksmith Industries is a group of guys who just make crazy things in their shop. The beauty of this is that they tell their audience that it is all right to fail if you learn from the mistake and keep on going. They have 12 million subscribers. Their latest video is "testing an unbreakable TESSERACT." I watched this video and it is great. I wish kids in every school had teachers that allowed this type of thinking. The video was uploaded three days ago and has almost 1 million views. 

Approach YouTube with an open mind. There is a lot of great, educational channels that can be used to help your staff become more learner-centered!
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