Avoiding Unintended Consequences

The idea of unintended consequences isn’t new.  From John Locke to Adam Smith, from economists to sociologists, the implication that decisions in a complex system may create unexpected or undesirable outcomes is widely accepted.


In our world today, we strive to avoid unintended consequences through discipline, intentional decision making processes.  When we rush to make decisions, when we make decisions based in impulse or emotion, we often fail to take the time to thoughtfully consider the consequences of our actions.


We must develop our ability to process the desired outcome of our own behavior.  We can’t control the events we encounter; we often inherit situations and are expected to respond appropriately.


Processing the situation, asking the question, “What is required of me to achieve the desired outcome?” is essential.  The outcome must be more than ‘in the moment” . . . the outcome must take into account unforeseeable consequences.  Making an easy decision now . . . giving in to the temptation to take the easy way out or to achieve instant gratifications . . . often falls right into the trap of negative unintended consequences down the road.


We live and work in a complex system.  There are very few easy decisions.  Thousands of students count on us every day.  Make sure you take the time to process each situation – to press pause and consider what is required of you – to avoid unintended consequences.

Caring Too Much

The other day, in a moment of pure frustration, I made the comment, “I sometimes wish I didn’t care so much.”


The danger in caring too much is the temptation to expect perfection.  I truly hope to make everyone happy . . . I strive to solve every problem and bring order to every situation.  My sensible side, the thoughtful portion of my brain understands that it is impossible to make everyone happy.  The emotional side of my brain says, “The only way to even get close is to try.”


Life would be simple if we lived with simple right and wrong; if we faced black and white decisions.  Our reality is we are consistently faced with difficult decisions, competing interests, and high emotion.


As educators, we care for each and every student we serve.  Our reality is a world of limited resource – a world of choices and decisions.  We do our best . . . We care!  There are times decisions aren’t fair; there are times decisions hurt.


While in that moment, it would be easy not to care so much . . . not caring would make us less than our best.  The desire we have to be elite . . . the effort, passion, and dedication, pushes us to make the best decisions possible in difficult situations.


Filter Your Thoughts

“I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.” ~Mahatma Gandhi


We live in a world full of negativism.  It is increasingly easy for people to vent, to complain, to blame, and to defending their actions.  From social media to the evening news . . . negativity is pervasive in our world.


It is up to each of us to decide how we respond to the events in the world around us.  We must be discipline to be aware of the world in which we live, but to not allow it to define us.


We listen to others . . . we hear their concerns, complaints, and suggestions . . . but we fight the battle to keep our own minds above the line.  We don’t permit others to bring us down – to pull us below the line.


We must have filters – filters that separate the dirt from the important information.  Our filters permit us to get to the heart of the issue without being pulled into the mud.  Our filers create solutions to problems without internalizing them, without living the problem.


Be intentional today; specifically catch yourself when you permit others to walk through your life with their dirty feet.  Be discipline today; live a life of service, hope, and purpose.

Let the Runners Run

Let the Runners Run

“It does not matter how slow you go as long as you do not stop.” – Confucius


A growth mindset is predicated on the commitment, is rooted in the faith that our basic abilities can be developed and improved through hard work, dedication, and discipline.  We embrace the productive discomfort of change, we believe in our purpose, in order to pursue excellence.  We strive to be elite.


New initiatives in any organization, in any field, are adopted and embraced at various paces.


THE RUNNERS:  There will be those in any organization who run.  These are the early adopters – the people who are the first to try anything new.  These folks have little fear, they embrace failures as learning experiences, and they have tremendous persistence.  You know these people . . . they are the first to load the new operating system, always trying new approaches, and always blazing new trails.


THE JOGGERS:  There are people in any organization who jog.  These people often wait for the runners to get a little ahead.  They ask questions . . . they peak around corners.  They aren’t fearful of change, but they don’t need to be the first one to do something new.  These individuals will try new things, but cautiously and after thoughtful consideration.  The joggers love talking with the runners.  While the runners create best practices through trial and error . . . the jogger want to employ best practices.


THE WALKERS: The walkers are the cautious people within any organization.  Walkers like the “tried and true.”  Walkers are resistant to trying something new without proof that it is going to work, and work well.  Walkers resist passing fads . . . they know what works because they’ve done it for years.  Walkers are steady, solid, and grounded.


Confucius is entirely right . . . we are all moving forward as long as no one is standing still.  We need people to be trail blazers . . . these people bring energy and new ideas to the organization.  We wouldn’t want too many trail blazers; it would be chaos.  We need joggers . . . those who implement best practices . . . those who are the heartbeat of progress.  We need walkers . . . those who are the base for success.  Walkers keep the organization grounded and ensure quality in each and every program.


Each role in the organization is important.  Who are you?  What role do your peers fill?

Keep it Simple

“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” – Albert Einstein


Take a moment and think back on the best teachers in your lifetime.


It may not be a classroom teacher . . . it may be a mentor, a coach, or an instructor.


The best teachers make learning simple.  The best mentors make understanding easy.


The difficult part – the part that takes discipline – is learning something well enough to be able to do it . . . and to explain it . . . simply.


Our work is complex and our work is to prepare today’s young people to be tomorrow’s leaders.  We must devote ourselves to understanding our purpose well enough to keep our work simple.

Educating the Heart

“Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.” – Aristotle


One of the areas of our Quality Profile, our locally developed report card, is the Whole Child.  This isn’t a new revolution . . . it isn’t a twenty-first century revolution.  In fact, the most successful time periods in world history were marked with advances in academic fields at the same time there was a renaissance in the arts.


We are at our best when we have balance.  We seek balance between personal and professional, between family and work, and between heart and mind.  We are at our best when our heart and mind are in alignment . . . when we feed our soul and simulate our brain.


Education is more than reading, writing, and arithmetic . . . education takes place in our art classes, in the music room, during choir, on the fields of athletic completion, and in the dance studio.  Education takes place in the third grade classroom and on the playground . . . life is about balance.


Today . . . during the grind of your daily work . . . take time to ensure balance.  Turn on some music in your workspace . . . stop and look at a piece of artwork in the hallways . . . drop in on someone living their inspiration.  Where is your heart?  How can you feed your soul?

What does Ready for Tomorrow mean?

“There are two educations.  One should teach us how to make a living and the other how to live.” – John Adams



I’m often asked, “What does Ready for Tomorrow really mean?”


Ready for Tomorrow is simple . . . it ensures students are equipped with both the life and academic skills to be successful in the future.


Academic skills are quantifiable.  We have standards for our classrooms.  Our teachers and skilled professionals have developed a curriculum to deliver the instructional standards to our students in the classrooms.  Our students will have the academic skills required to be successful in college, the workforce, or the military.  Each student, regardless of their journey after graduation, will have an individual and personal knowledge base for success in the future.


Life skills are more difficult to measure.  Our students will have developed a strong sense of personal responsibility; they will own their work and act with discipline.  Our students will understand the importance of teamwork, of collaboration, and of respect for others.  Our students will have persistence and focus . . . they will embrace a growth mindset and productive discomfort.


Education is more than simply teaching the knowledge.  Education must be about the character, the relationships, and the responsibility.  These lives must be intertwined because Ready for Tomorrow is dependent on both life and academic preparation.

Life-Long Learning Isn’t New

“Education is not preparation for life: education is life itself.” – John Dewey


We often hear educators speak of “life-long learning” as a new concept in our schools today.  We want to instill in our students a desire to grow as learners and to embrace a growth mindset.  We want today’s young people to have internal discipline and drive to keep learning long after graduation.  We have a belief that the world is changing rapidly and the skills we are imparting in our students today are only a foundation . . . that students today will need to continue to adapt and adjust to a changing world around them as adults.


John Dewey was an educational reformer whose ideas have influenced our educational system today.  John Dewey was born in 1859 and died in 1952.  In 1902 Dewey wrote in his book The Child and Curriculum that educational structures must “strike a balance between delivering knowledge while also taking into account the interests and experiences of the student.” (Dewey, 1902, p. 16).  Does this sound familiar?


Every generation has embraced the productive discomfort of change.  Each generation feels the struggle between the value of the past and the growth mindset required for future success.  For us, many of our values are in our unchangeable-core.  In our heart-of-hearts we know that today’s education is simply the foundation.


Yes, the amount raw information available today is mind boggling.   We are astounded at the speed at which fact, figures, and data are available in the palm of our hand holding an iPhone.  Information is shared like never before . . . the world certainly feels flat to many.  Nevertheless, many things in education haven’t – and shouldn’t change.


The teacher is still the most important aspect in any classroom.  We will never replace great teachers with technology.  Technology is merely a tool to provide education more efficiently and effectively.


Students still need a strong, solid foundation on which to build, think critically, and problem-solve.  We must find that balance between knowledge, interests, and experiences.


Education has never been preparation for life . . . it is the foundation for life itself.  The education we are providing students is the base for future success.  Life is learning . . . and that will never change.

Busy or Effective

“Technology sometimes encourages people to confuse busyness with effectiveness.” – Douglas Reeves 

I am amazed, angered, and frightened by the number of people I see texting while driving. These people not only risk their own health and safety; these people are risking the health and safety of those around them.


I am guilty of falling into the busyness trap too. I fight the temptation – and often fail in my efforts – to check my technology rather than being present in the moment. I over-value the information at my fingertips at the expense of the people in the room. I pride myself in the timely response rather than the thoughtful, mindful communications.


Let’s all be mindful of the need for relationships. In order to be effective we must take the time to engage, collaborate, and build trust. Our job isn’t to be busy . . . our work demands us to be effective. 

Problem Solving Requires Foundations

“To have good prospects in life – to be most likely to succeed – young adults now need to be creative and innovative problem-solvers.” – Tony Wagner 


Our school system has been based on an agrarian calendar; the earliest American schools were based around farming and societal needs. For generations American schools prepared students to live, work, and succeed in an industrial economy. Students were trained to be compliant, to follow directions, and to act with the highest respect for authority figures.


Our work is much more difficult today. As Tony Wagner points out, our students need to be creative problem solvers. I couldn’t agree more; we must continue to inspire life-long learners. What we have been failing to say is that we must also be imparting the essential knowledge required for success. For the Hilliard City School District to live our mission to prepare every student to be Ready for Tomorrow, we must provide both academic and life skills.


Creative students and innovative problem solvers must still have a strong foundation on which to build. Solving problems – creativity – isn’t possible without a fundamental understanding of the problem itself. Success in the future – Ready for Tomorrow – has never been more of a challenge. Providing students with both life and academic skills has never required more from us as educators. We won’t back down . . . public schools have built the foundation of this country for over 200 years. Public schools are the future of this country . . . we will meet the challenge.