Summer Sun…

        So here we are staring down the final four and a half days of the school year, and before we all head off to soak up that summer sun I want to take this chance to say thank you. The work that you have all put in to make us a better school over the past ten months has been staggering, and I want you to know that I recognize and appreciate your commitment, your effort, and your passion. This has been a year of change for us in many ways, and much of the transformative work that has been introduced is starting to take shape, and it’s all because of you. I feel honored and privileged and very, very proud to work alongside you on this journey, and I have become a better person, leader and educator because of what you bring to our students and to our surrounding community each and everyday…thank you!
        I wrote a post around this time last year all about the opportunity that we all have over the summer holiday to reflect, and to emerge in August a better version of ourselves. Not only is the summer break a chance to relax and recharge, it’s also a chance to grow and to critically think about ways that we can all improve our practice. I’d like to share again a piece of what I wrote last June as I believe it’s a good message to chew on as you chase your upcoming adventures…
        As you’re sitting on the deck of your cottage, or swimming in the lake, or playing a leisurely round of golf, or even engaging in some summer professional development, I’m asking that you think about the ways that you can emerge from your well-deserved holiday a better version of yourself. What are the areas of your life, and your teaching that need a bit of a push…are there ways that you can enhance your lesson planning and delivery…are there ways that you can build stronger relationships with your students, particularly the ones that you find the most difficult to engage…are there ways that you can become a better teacher leader…are there ways that you can push yourself out of your comfort zone and take more risks…are there ways that you can become a better teammate and colleague…and are there ways that you can become more innovative in your approach to instruction? My bet is that the answer is yes to most if not all of these questions, and the challenge that I’m giving to you is to not just think about them, but to act on them, and come back in August armed with concrete ways to make next year the best year of your professional life. There are many educators out there that get so comfortable and complacent in their job that they end up delivering the same year over and over again, and the only thing that changes are the beautiful and eager faces in front of them…don’t be that educator. 
        We have a busy week ahead of us as we speed toward the end, and I’m asking you all to finish strong, and to make this a week that our beautiful kids will remember. The last week of the year can be a very emotional time for students as you know…and for us too. Saying goodbye to leaving friends and families is hard, and couple that with the excitement around the upcoming holiday and emotions can start to overflow. Please keep a close eye on how our kids are doing this week, and be there for them…let’s be there for each other as well. The incredible work that you’ve put in this year to build strong and lasting relationships will pay off this week, so be present and make Friday’s send off a positive experience full of love, smiles, and heartfelt gratitude. Enjoy this beautiful summer poem by Carl Sandburg, and enjoy that beautiful summer sun that’s beginning to rise…all my positive thoughts and energy to those of you moving on, and for those of you returning, Im excited to do it all again next year. Have an amazing holiday everyone…you all deserve it!

Summer Stars – Carl Sandburg       


Bend low again, night of summer stars. 

So near you are, sky of summer stars,

So near, a long-arm man can pick off stars,

Pick off what he wants in the sky bowl, 

So near you are, summer stars, So near, strumming, strumming,

So lazy and hum-strumming.



Quote of the Week…

I wonder what it would be like to Iive in a world where it was always June.
– L.M. Montgomery
Related Articles and Resources- 

Bring Learning to Life…

        So recently I have had the absolute privilege and pleasure of watching our students showcase their learning in many different ways, and in many different forms. To watch kids put their talents, their hard work, their passions, and their learning on display is easily my favourite thing to do as an educator, and it always brings me back to the paramount importance of finding ways for all our students to make their learning visible for themselves and for others.
        It’s essential in my opinion for schools to set up opportunities for students to creatively show what they know, and to design performance tasks and performance assessments which will allow for all students to bring their passions and their learning to life. Here’s just a small sample of the kinds of things that I’ve watched over the past several weeks…
Spring Music Concerts
PYP Exhibition of Learning (Grade 5)
Middle School Poetry Slam
Middle School Social Studies Mock Trials
PYP Attributes of a Learner Assembly (Reflection) 
Middle School Science Project Showcase
Student Council Elections
Design Thinking Unit Showcase
Middle School Student Math Games Fair
Project Based Learning Unit Culminations
Drama Performance of The Witches
School Wide and Local Community Student Art Displays
Soccer and Basketball Championship Games
International Festival Cultural Performances
After School Activities End of Season Jamborees
Student Inspiration Projects 
        These performance opportunities not only allow students to profoundly learn for themselves, but to profoundly learn from each other as well. They engage in real world problems, they demonstrate a process, and they actively engage in their learning. By allowing for alternate assessment opportunities like these, students get the chance to showcase their learning in so many different ways, and in many different real life situations. These often push students out of their comfort zones, and encourage risk taking and reflection, which are exactly the types of learning experiences that schools should be promoting throughout the learning environment.
        I’ve loved the last several weeks here at our school, and I’m proud of our teachers for giving our kids these rich, performance-based opportunities. I’ve seen so much growth in so many areas from our kids over the past few months, which I wouldn’t have seen if they didn’t get the chance to publicly showcase their learning. If anything, I’m left wondering how we can create even more opportunities like these for our kids, and not necessarily wait for the end of quarter or the end of the semester or for the end of the year. Let’s all think of ways that we can make the learning of our kids visible throughout all of next year, and to create a culture where active learning and performance learning is at the absolute forefront of what we do. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our kids and good to each other.

Quote of the Week…

An acre of performance is worth a whole world of promise – William Dean Howells
Related Articles – 
Great Related TED Talks – 
Feel Good Videos – 

Student Appreciation Week

        So this past week a friend of mine shared a beautiful little story with me. He was running late for work one morning because his brother was staying with him along with his niece and nephew, and his morning routine was thrown out of whack…when he checked the clock and saw what time it was he frantically yelled to his wife from the crowded breakfast table, “Honey, hurry up…we’re not going to catch the ferry!”. Hearing this, his little six year old niece looked up at him with astonishment, excitement, and hope and exclaimed, “Wait a minute, you can catch fairies!!??”
        Well, not only did this story put a small lump in my throat, it also got me thinking about the beauty and innocence of children, and how if you really think about it, it’s children (all the way up to our graduating seniors) who are the world’s greatest teachers. You see, as educators most of us (if not all of us) got into this amazing profession because we wanted to make a positive impact in the lives of kids, and to play our part in shaping and inspiring their individual futures as well as the future of our world…and you know what, we do this everyday. Teachers work incredibly hard and are easily my favourite people on the planet, and they deserve to be recognized way more than they are but here’s the thing…when I really think about it, the best part of being a teacher and the true secret behind why we love it so much is that we may just get more out of this then we put in. Here’s what I mean…
        When I think about how much I’ve given to kids over the past 20 years or so, all over the world and all across the grade levels, I honestly don’t think it adds up to what my students have given to me. If I think of all the incredible life lessons that I’ve learned over the years, and all of the magical moments in my life, and the best belly laughs, and the person and leader and father that I’ve become, it’s all because of what I’ve learned from children. Their innocence and honesty, their willingness to shake off mistakes and try again, their ten-foot tall and bulletproof approach to life, and their ability to live truly in the present…all of the things that go into making a beautiful life…teachers get a chance to see this every second of everyday, and if we are worth our salt, it reminds us and inspires us to live this way ourselves, and to be this way for others.
        I don’t think we recognize enough the immense and immeasurable and beautiful contribution that children give to our world, and the positive effect that they have on us as adults. I think we all too often see ourselves as the keepers of the knowledge, and the ones who are going to make everything okay in the world but we might just be getting this backwards…I think that every school in the world should plan a student appreciation week for next year, much like our annual teacher appreciation weeks, where we spend 5 days (not nearly enough) doing nothing but thanking, celebrating, and recognizing all that our students give to us! It wouldn’t be hard at all to plan, and it would be super fun to get creative with it, but the message would be the right one to send. Field days, pizza parties, teachers serving kids breakfast and lunch, giving kids loads of time to research and share their passions during the day, and a beginning and end of the week assembly to bookend this incredible week…it’s crazy that we haven’t been doing this all along.
        So, as you’re planning next year’s calendar, take a second to think about who really and truly needs to be celebrated in your communities…the kids…and set aside some time for you to give them what they deserve. We don’t do this enough and there’s no better time to start than now. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.
Quote of the Week….
You can’t pick out the pieces you like and leave the rest…being part of the whole thing, that’s the blessing.
– Natalie Babbit
Related Articles –
Feel Good Videos – 

Sustainability and Service

        So next October we will host a regional GIN (Global Issues Network) conference at our school, and the opportunity that this affords us is immeasurable. It’s an opportunity to deeply inspire our students and our surrounding community around the world’s biggest and most important issues like sustainability and service, which will hopefully transform not only how we educate our kids, but how we live our day to day lives.
        We’ve already been working hard to find solutions to important local and global issues through our ongoing curriculum units, which use a design thinking process and a project based learning approach, and this year our Grade 5 PYP exhibition of learning is focused on how student passions can be leveraged to make our world a better place. The trick however, is how to make this approach to sustainability and service well…sustainable! 
        We’ve had wonderful student led initiatives over the past several years here at school, and we’ve had incredible student leaders who have been working tirelessly to bring their passions for creating a sustainable world to life around our campus…but we just haven’t yet been able to turn the corner and create a culture of service and sustainability that is pervasive throughout all that we do…we’re getting there however.
        We’re hoping that the momentum that has been generated lately through our community service expectation in the Middle School, the amazing support that we’ve seen from our entire community following the recent earthquake, and the 85 students who have asked to join our new GIN elective for next year in the Upper School, will finally be the tipping point for us…this momentum, coupled with the hosting of the conference and our recent partnerships with other local international schools, makes me feel optimistic that the fabric of our school is about to change…forever.
        Giving our students the opportunity to impact meaningful change for their futures, and finding ways to make their learning relevant to their lives right now is our ultimate goal…and having kids think critically about ways that they can positively contribute to the betterment of our world is a huge focus for us…and they are responding incredibly well. I couldn’t be more proud of our students and our teachers for taking on this challenge, and for the ease in which they have been changing their mindsets around what is truly important in education…kids owning their learning and being true difference makers for their futures and for our world!
        I’m excited about the direction that we’re headed as a school, and I feel like we’re on the road to affecting incredible change as an international school community in our collective approach to sustainability and service…it all begins with our students as you know, so keep finding ways for them to lead the way. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our world and good to each other.
Quote of the Week…..
It’s not too late at all.  You just don’t yet know what you are capable of – Mahatma Gandhi

True Colours

        So just over a week ago Ecuador was hit by a massive earthquake that completely devastated many communities on the coast. Thousands and thousands of families have been deeply and tremendously impacted by this event, including members of our own school community here at Academia Cotopaxi, and it’s been a trying and emotional week for our country to say the least. All of Ecuador has spent the past week doing everything in their collective power to find ways to support the families in need, and international relief efforts have been in full swing…but there is still so much left to do before we can even think about rebuilding what has been lost.
        Despite the obvious sadness and strong feelings of helplessness that many of us are experiencing, I have found myself being incredibly inspired by the outpouring of support, and the coordinated relief efforts that have been happening all around me. It’s been amazing to see the country, as well as our school community rally around each other, and spring into action in every possible way. It got me thinking about how often times in the face of tragedy a community’s true colours are revealed, and how the best of who we are as a group bubbles up for all to see.
        Yesterday, Academia Cotopaxi held a “We Are Ecuador” Solidarity event at our school and it was one of the most beautiful experiences of my international school life. Parents, teachers, students, community organizations, the military, and other dedicated groups of people all working together to give back and to help support our country. It was a huge event and all proceeds and donations were either loaded onto trucks headed for the coast, or sent directly to relief funds which will go to support all those in need. I spent the day watching the performances, listening to the speeches, and watching our community come together like I’ve never seen before…and it was so beautiful. Adversity often brings out the best in people, and it can help bring people together in powerful ways…I’ve been watching this unfold throughout the week and like I said before, I’ve been inspired and incredibly proud to be a member of this community.
        I’d like to share one little story that truly touched my heart, and shows the level of support that has trickled down to the most beautiful of places. Last Tuesday, just three days after the earthquake struck, I was welcoming the students off of the buses like usual when a second grade girl came walking over to me. She tapped me on the arm and as I turned she reached into her pocket and pulled out a one dollar bill. She said, “Mr. Kerr, I want to give my special allowance money to help the victims on the coast. Maybe it will help buy some water for a little girl like me who has lost her Mommy and Daddy…please make sure that this money gets to her”. Well, you can imagine what I was feeling as the little girl walked away, and it snapped me back to what education is all about…empathy, compassion, kindness and teaching our students to think beyond themselves, and about creating a better word for us all…out of the mouths of babes.
        Anyway, below is a link to our solidarity relief site, which is a place for you to not only help if you feel so inspired, but to see how our community has come together in a very special way. I’m proud of our school…I’m proud of our country…and I’m proud of the international community who has offered their much needed support. In a world full of bad news and bad press, and seemingly unending tragedy and disaster (both natural and man made), it is beautiful to see the gratitude that can come out of the face of adversity. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.
Quote of the Week….

Gratitude in adversity is the most beautiful and precious crown of the soul 


We Are Ecuador Relief Page –

Articles on Overcoming Adversity –
TED Talks – 
Earthquake Relief Videos –

If You Smile At Me…

        So I’ve been thinking a lot about diversity these days, and it keeps bringing me back to one of my all time favourite song lyrics which goes, “If you smile at me I will understand, because that is something everybody, everywhere does in the same language”. You see, we’ve been focusing lately as a school on celebrating and embracing our diversity as a community, and really digging deep to create a culture of acceptance, tolerance and kindness within our school. We’ve been dedicating our assemblies to this topic and we’ve been giving workshops to our students which revolve all around these themes, and it’s exciting. Like all international schools we have families from all walks of life, bringing with them all kinds of needs, and we want to specifically tap into the richness and power that our collective differences (and similarities) can bring to our school culture.
        It is easy to take for granted the fact that we work in a school that it is exploding with such diversity, and the gift that this provides us as international school educators. We have such an opportunity to teach cultural awareness and empathy, to breakdown any preconceived notions or prejudice that we might have, and to give our kids the ability to see people for who they really are…released from their skin color, their individual needs as learners, their differing likes and dislikes, their religious affiliations, or their specific customs and traditions. International school education should be, and is a true celebration of diversity, and I’m not sure that there is anything more important than celebrating this as we send our kids off into the world.
        All of this work that we’re doing as a school coincides nicely with our international festival which is coming up in a couple of weeks…a day dedicated to coming together as a community to showcase and celebrate the beauty and strength that our differences bring. It’s also a day that will bring to life the fact that even with all of our differences, it is actually the similarities that we share which make us strong.
        That said, we know that a two day event won’t deeply embed these understandings in our kids, which is why it has to be something that we do on a regular basis…within our classes, our advisory programs, our curriculum writing, our leadership councils, our house system, and everywhere else. It has to be pervasive in all that we do if we want our kids to become the true empathic, tolerant, accepting, and open minded ambassadors who will change our world for the better. My challenge to you this week is to think about how you can find ways to celebrate our school’s beautiful diversity with your students on a daily basis. Let’s not take this gift for granted…let’s bring it to life in a very real way and let it shine bright. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.
Quote of the Week –
If you smile at me I will understand, because that is something everybody, everywhere does in the same language –
Crosby, Stills, and Nash song lyric (Wooden Ships)

Interesting Articles –

Inspiring Videos –
Wooden Ships – Crosby, Stills and Nash

An Educational Responsibility

       So this past Friday I presented at a regional TTT (Teachers Teaching Teachers) conference here in Quito, with over 1000 educators on hand to learn, to network, and to share their educational expertise with each other. It was a huge event and very well organized, all revolving around how to use innovative teaching practices to engage and inspire students…and to dig deep into some progressive approaches and strategies, which will ultimately enhance student learning. I walked away feeling energized and encouraged by the sheer number of teachers willing to present their progressive views, and it got me thinking about the educational responsibility that we, as educators, have to contribute…and to share!


       It got me thinking about about what Dean Shareski says about The Moral Imperative of Sharing, and also about one of my favourite books recently by Bob Johansen and Karl Ronn, titled The Reciprocity Advantage. You see, as teachers, it is very easy to hide away in isolation and to keep our professional knowledge to ourselves. Traditionally that’s the way it was, and historically, teaching became viewed as a very private and possessive profession…classroom silos cut off from the world…not to mention cut off from from our own colleagues. Well, that’s not the case anymore thankfully, as more and more educators from all around the world are sharing, taking risks, and contributing publicly to this paradigm shift in education…and it’s awesome. 
       It is now an expectation…no, a responsibility that we all have to write, to blog, to post, to tweet, and to share our thoughts, our expertise, our successes and failures, and our collective knowledge about what is working for students and for schools. We are now learning from each other in a very global sense, and I feel privileged to be a part of this incredibly exciting time in education. It has never been easier to professionally develop ourselves, and it’s never been easier to gather feedback from educators from the four corners of the world. Schools are now partnering together for the betterment of our kids, and sharing data around what’s been working for them…it’s open source and a powerful way to get back more than you give. Like I said, it’s an exciting time and very much the expectation in this day and age…so, where are you in all of this? Are you sharing your thoughts? Are you tweeting out interesting articles? Are you blogging about what’s working in your classroom? Are you videotaping your successes and posting them for all to see…or your failures? How are you contributing to the progressive movement of our profession? If you’re not, then it’s certainly time to start…don’t you think?
       We have an educational responsibility to learn from each other and to share…it’s that simple. I’m challenging you all this week to look critically at this, and to see where there might be ways for you to share more of yourselves and your effective practices. We all have something to share, and together we can move our profession forward…the best part about sharing however, which cannot be overstated, is the fact that you end up getting more back than you put out. Put yourself out there to the world and watch how the world will respond…there’s no better way to grow as an educator in my opinion. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other. 
Quote of the Week….
Everything good that I know was taught to me by great teachers and I feel like giving back and sharing the technique is the thing to do – Betty Buckley

Let’s Read!

        So every year on my birthday I receive some money from my beautiful wife to spend on books. It’s the best gift that anyone could possibly give to me, and there’s nothing that I love more than to spend a day or two trying to figure out which books will make my birthday list. The only catch is that I must finish reading all the books that I order before my next birthday or I don’t get to cash in for the following year! It’s a fun challenge for sure, and it forces me to carve out time to read even when I feel like there is no time.

       Reading is something that most of us absolutely love to do, but it’s also something that is often difficult to prioritize. Educators are so, so busy with their long days and their hard work that it’s challenging to find an opportunity to sit down and to take a breath…between finding innovative ways to engage their students, and preparing for and attending meetings, and the endless unit and lesson planning, and all the daily individual student assessments and feedback…not to mention their lives outside of school…reading can often be something that we long to do but never accomplish…I definitely get it. I also know that for many of us, if we do happen to find a few minutes here and there, the first thing that we reach for is a nice fiction novel to take us away to another world, and to get our minds off of the day spent at school…I get that too.
       That said, I believe that carving out some time in our lives to read a professional book from time to time is one of the most important things that we can do as educators, as it is an amazing source of professional development, and an incredible way to keep us current and to keep us learning and growing, particularly in this wonderful and transformative time in education that we’re currently living in. Breaking out of routines and changing our daily habits is hard I know, and I also know that our intentions are positive and strong, but if you can find a way to set aside at least an hour a week to pick up a professional read, I guarantee it will be time well spent, and it will make you a better educator for your students, your colleagues, and your community. A great book to help you get started is called The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg…a book that will without a doubt set you up for success.
       Anyway, I wanted to share my birthday book list with you all for the upcoming year…a list that is heavy around innovation, leadership, personal growth, and becoming your best self for your students and for others. I spent several hours searching on-line, combing through the shelves at the Harvard bookstore, asking trusted friends and colleagues for recommendations, and trusting my gut…I can’t wait for the order to arrive and to open to that first page. The only issue is that I don’t know where to begin…but that’s okay, as long as I begin…I have less than a year! Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.
How Will You Measure Your Life? – Clayton M. Christensen
The Art of Possibility – Rosamund Stone Zander, Daniel Zander
Stumbling on Happiness – Daniel Gilbert
Immunity to Change – Robert Kegan, Lisa Laskow Lahey
The Right Kind of Crazy – Adam Steltzner, William Patrick
Everybody Matters – Bob Chapman, Raj Sisodia
Black Box Thinking – Matthew Syed
Collective Genius – Linda Hill, Greg Brandeau, Emily Truelove, Kent Lineback
The Heart Led Leader – Tommy Spaulding
Team Genius – Rich Karlgaard, Michael Malone
Thanks for the Feedback – Douglas Stone, Sheila Heen
Presence – Amy Cuddy
Adaptive Leadership – Ronald Heifetz, Marty Linsky, Alexander Grashow
Leaders Eat Last – Simon Sinek
The Innovator’s Mindset – George Couros
Beyond Measure – Vicki Abeles
Quote of the Week….
I read my eyes out and can’t read half enough… The more one reads the more one sees we have to read – John Adams
Articles – Finding Time to Read
TED Talk – Ann Morgan
Upworthy – 4 Ways that Reading Changes Your Life / Junk Mail Reading Practice

Student Learning Communities (SLC’s)

        So I’ve been doing a lot of research of late into the power of Professional Learning Communities (PLC’s), and looking into ways that we can tweak and improve our own current situation with regards to continuous professional learning, which if structured correctly will heavily impact ourselves as learners as well as the learning of our students. The best definition that I’ve found so far which describes the true purpose of a PLC comes from the AllThingsPLC website, which describes them asan ongoing process in which educators work collaboratively in recurring cycles of collective inquiry and action research to achieve better results for the students they serve.”  
        I’m excited about this for our community for sure, but honestly, all this PLC research has driven me to wonder about whether or not there is a place for our students in all of this? I’m thinking about how this structure could be adapted and applied to our kids, and rolled out as a form of Student Learning Communities, or SLC’s…hear me out.
        All good schools that I know of are finding creative ways to engage students in the learning experience, and in many ways, allowing them to drive their own learning and personal growth. Good schools also purposefully structure time for teachers and teacher teams to analyze and discuss student data, as well as each individual student as a person and learner. But why not set up a situation where students get a chance to go through the same powerful process? I’d like to set up a structure that allows all students to work together every so often to talk about their learning with their peers, to analyze their own feedback and assessment data, to talk about their strengths and weaknesses, to learn from each other, and to provide important feedback for their teacher or teachers about how they best learn. 
        Once a cycle or once every week or two, students will get into their student learning community (grade specific or subject specific, or ultimately, passion specific that isn’t tied to grade level bands or subject areas) and collaboratively reflect on the day to day experience of school. They can listen to each other talk about their successes, they can learn from each other, they can teach each other, they can talk about some struggles that they might be having, and when the trust is right, they can share their own assessment data and feedback from teachers to see how and where they might be able to improve. 
        All of this can be documented and shared with the teacher as feedback for them, to help the educator in the room to better plan a differentiated lesson, to better understand which student needs some extension or some intervention, and to get a much richer idea of what each individual student needs. Of course, during the SLC, a teacher can walk around to each group and engage in the collaborative conversations, getting immediate feedback on how each unit is going, and checking for conceptual understanding. It doesn’t have to be only focused on academics, it can be a wonderful portal into each student’s social and emotional well being. The students could be directed and encouraged to talk about bullying, relationships, their home life if they’re comfortable, and how they feel about themselves as people…these SLC’s could provide incredible insight into each student’s individual experience, and could help individual teachers and schools to dig deep into the most important data of all…the personal perspective and feedback from the kids!
        Anyway, these are my initial thoughts on what this might be like, and I’m keen to bring this to life at some point for our community. I’m asking for some feedback from you on what you think…are you doing something like this already with your kids…do you have a structure in place where this is already happening, can you see any reason why this wouldn’t be powerful and realistic, and can you offer up and suggestions how to roll it out initially as a pilot program? Let me know what you think…PLC’s as we all know are incredibly powerful in moving schools forward, so why not bring students into the mix? SLC’s might just be the perfect extension of the PLC model, and a way to get the most important voices into the conversation…the voices of our kids! I’ll be presenting this idea at our regional conference in a few weeks, and I’m excited to discuss it as another way that we can engage our students in their learning…I’ll keep you updated on where it goes. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other…
Quote of the Week – 
Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t – Bill Nye
TEDTalk – 10 Ways to Have a Better Conversation – Celeste Headlee (Please Watch This!)
Beautiful Videos to Make Your Day –

PLC Articles –

Thanks for the Feedback…

        So I finished reading this really interesting book last week titled, Thanks for the Feedback , by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen, and it opened up my eyes to how truly difficult it sometimes is to not only hear and process quality feedback, but how to give it in a manner that will be well received by others. I have to say that I found out a lot about myself while reading this book, as I began reflecting back on how I personally and typically respond to feedback from colleagues, parents, friends, and students.
        I walked away with some new skills and strategies that will allow me to really hear what’s being said…even if it’s delivered in a way that makes it easy to dismiss, or puts me quickly on the defensive like honest and quality feedback can often do. I also came away with a better understanding of how as a leader, I can deliver quality feedback in a way which will allow people to really hear what’s trying to be communicated, with the right mindset, and in a way that honours their intent, their hard work, and their intrinsic desire to get better.
        You see, giving honest and at times difficult feedback to people is really hard, and receiving it well can be even harder. We’re always conscious of a person’s feelings as well as their positive intent, which is why it becomes so tricky to say what needs to be said without negatively impacting a relationship. Most of us, including me, are really good at giving positive feedback to people, because it strengthens relationships, it makes people like you, and it doesn’t disrupt the routines or approaches that we have to our lives…essentially, it’s easy. There comes a time however, when the trust and the strong relationships have been developed, when easy doesn’t cut it anymore, and when we begin missing out on opportunities for real growth and improvement as people and as educators.
        The really interesting and important thing about feedback that I have come to understand, is that it’s really not about the person delivering it…it’s about you. It’s about how open you are to learning, and how interested you are in growing. It’s about developing a skill set that will allow you to sift through much of what’s being said to find the core of it, and it’s about managing the emotions that get stirred up when the feedback is delivered in a way that is less than ideal. Like Stone and Heen suggest in the book, we all have triggers, and blind spots, and distorted views of how we operate, so learning how to recognize these and navigate successfully through them is the key to learning and growing and receiving well…and delivering successfully.
        Giving and receiving quality feedback might just be the most important and crucial thing that we can do for each other, but it’s also the most challenging in many respects. It takes practice, it takes trust, it takes an open mind, and it takes a willingness to learn and improve. I’m asking you all this week to think about how you tend to react to feedback, particularly if it’s hard to hear, and to think about how you give feedback to others…what’s your approach, and does it need some refinement or some tweaks? I’m excited to put some of this book into practice, and my hope is that it allows all of us to become better for each other and for our students. I would recommend this book as an important read for all of you so if you get a chance, pick it up. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.
Articles About the Importance of Quality Feedback –
Related TED Talk – Teachers Need Real Feedback (Bill Gates)
Inspiring Videos to Make Your Day – 
Happy Valentine’s Day –