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The Learner-Centered Leader: Reflect and Renew
6 Disruptive Trends that will Rule Schools As A Result Of The Pandemic
1. Schools will innovate beyond their traditional "walls". The pandemic taught us two things about school.
  1. Virtual learning works for some learners.
  2. Virtual learning does not work for some learners.
The fact that virtual learning is viewed by parents (and learner-centered leaders) as a method to make schooling more flexible for learners is the takeaway here. 

2. Community schools will reemerge. A few decades ago, community schools were a trend created to help bring the community and the school closer together. Schools started to bring in services within the school walls (medical, counseling) that traditionally learners and families accessed after school hours. I know that schools have already adopted a model to provide mental health counseling to learners, and this trend will only increase.

3. Social-emotional learning will be viewed as important as academics. Anyone who has spent any time in schools over the past year and a half knows that our learners (and families) are suffering emotionally. Schools will finally grasp the idea that educating the "whole child" means moving beyond test scores. In fact...

4. There will be a pushback against standardized testing. this may be hopeful, but there is a simple fact that the testing-industrial complex is the root cause of the emotional problems plaguing many of our learners. During the pandemic, many parents opted their children out of the tests. Hopefully, the genie is out of the bottle, and parents (and schools) will see how harmful the testing-industrial complex is for learners.

5. Educators will get a sense of diminished authority with the strengthening of the parent's rights movement. Although "parent's rights" is not clearly defined yet, the next two years will see this movement solidify and impact schools. A new relationship will be created between parents, parent advocacy groups, and the staff of the school. The new relationship may start more confrontational, but great learner-centered leaders will view this as an opportunity to build better, more positive relationships with their community.

6. The teacher/staff shortage will force innovation. Let’s not sugarcoat this...there is a crisis in staffing schools right now and it will only get worse. Once unthinkable options are being considered by school leaders. This crisis may lead to drastic changes such as school consolidation, new organizations that provide teachers and instruction to schools, parents "shopping" for the best learning experiences for their children, and entirely new structures of schools formed out of necessity. The question, "what is a school?" will have to be answered by all of us engaged in schooling.
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Connecting With Our Inner Wisdom

Arrianna Huffington wrote a blog post that I had to read a few times. In the post, she makes the argument that all of us have a "fourth instinct". That instinct ...

"is the instinct beyond our instincts for survival, sex, and power. It’s our relentless drive for meaning, for self-discovery, for self-knowledge, for becoming. It’s what connects us all — to each other and to ourselves, and it’s as deeply imprinted and encoded in us as our other three instincts, but much less discussed and understood."

I love the phrase, "a relentless drive for meaning." If humans are in fact always striving for meaning, what happens when we either stop that drive or get so busy that we forget about it?

As learner-centered leaders, we operate in a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) world. We are steeped in a deluge of information.

Consider this:
  • According to IBM, 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are added to the internet every day​
  • 90% of the information on the internet today was added within the last two years
  • The amount of information a person encounters today is 5X more than in the wonderful year of 1986
Furthermore, think of the distractions that can rule our lives:
  • The average American office worker receives 121 emails a day​
  • The average American receives 41 text messages ​a day
  • The average American receives 61 push notifications a day​
  • Americans check their phones 8 billion times a day
Many of us think we can "multi-task" through all of this...brain science says we cannot. Your brain actually switches back and forth between tasks because it can only hold 1 or 2 thoughts at a time. So when you think you are multi-tasking, you are actually multi-slacking!"

In an environment that I just described, it is easy for all of us to get lost in the transactional nature of living and drift away from what really matters to our core being. Reconnecting with our Fourth instinct helps mitigate the effects of a VUCA world.

Here are some suggestions on how you can "slow your brain down" so you can work to reconnect with your Fourth instinct.
  1. Get 8 hours of sleep. Your brain is working all night long to create connections between everything it has learned during the day. the reason many people have "a-ha" moments in the shower in the morning is because of the work the brain did overnight. Don't skip on your sleep.
  2. Deep Read. We are being trained by the internet to read in 8-15 second blocks of time. This does not allow your brain to retain (let alone make sense) of what you are reading. Take time to "deep read". Deep reading has been described as, "...the deliberate act of reading thoughtfully and on purpose. It’s reading with a greater understanding and comprehension, which means you’re actively using your brain. Deep reading is all about immersing yourself in a book rather than skimming it or scanning it. It’s about selecting one great book and focusing on it to the exclusion of all else, with no interruptions from social media or the environment."
  3. 10 Minute Turnaround. Carve out two "10-minute turnarounds" during your workday. These 10 minutes are a time when you isolate yourself, turn off your smartphone, tell people that you do not want to be interrupted, and work on a problem or project for 10 uninterrupted minutes.
Read The Blog Post


This week, Duff and I discussed the concept of hope in school. Without getting too deep into the subject. Hope is driven by a leader’s ability to engender trust blended with professional safety in a "freedom to fail" environment. It is this culture that generates Hope and Hope is the fuel of learning - a culture of Hope.

Hope is something that we have to handle with care and delicacy. There is so much false hope in the world that leads to despair. Unrealistic expectations of how people should look, act, and behave (created by a consumerist culture) actually go against innate human nature. When a person starts to sense this disconnect, anxiety is the result. 

3 questions to ponder:

1. Hope is driven by ideas - where are we (you) building a culture of ideas within education?

2. How can you move beyond professional learning that perpetuates the status quo and becomes future-focused?

3. How can a learner-centered leader connect individual hope with institutional hope?

A Learner-Centered Statement by a Governor
Well, the title of this section is something that I never thought I would write! 

What you are about to read is a courageous statement by a politician who is being "politically incorrect" as it relates to views held in his State.

I say the statement is courageous because he articulates his true feelings on a subject. Agree or disagree with the content of what he says, but admire the fact that he said what he feels. He definitely did not hide behind "politician speak" in his statement.

In Utah, Gov Spencer Cox (R) was presented with a bill limiting the participation of transgender kids in interscholastic sports. He vetoed the Bill, which the State legislature later overrode.  Here is his statement.

"I must admit, I am not an expert on transgenderism. I struggle to understand so much of it and the science is conflicting. When in doubt however, I always try to err on the side of kindness, mercy, and compassion. I also try to get proximate and I am learning so much from our transgender community. They are great kids who face enormous struggles. Here are the numbers that have most impacted my decision: 75,000, 4, 1, 86 and 56. 75,000 high school kids participating in high school sports in Utah. 4 transgender kids playing high school sports in Utah. 1 transgender student playing girls sports. 86% of trans youth reporting suicidality. 56% of trans youth having attempted suicide. Four kids and only one of them playing girls sports. That's what all of this is about. Four kids who aren't dominating or winning trophies or taking scholarships. Four kids who are just trying to find some friends and feel like they are a part of something. Four kids trying to get through each day. Rarely has so much fear and anger been directed at so few." 
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