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Get Creative? Why Not!

P1040304This month’s Scientific American Mind has a quick article on being a better artist (January/February 2014, p. 200) with four easy ways to make sure it’s easy for you to be more creative. How might you

Get outside more. In one measure of creativity, those who went backpacking did 50% better than those who didn’t. It turns out that nature makes us more aware of patterns, forms, and other elements that add to creativity. Oh, and it’s a stress-reducer. Stop telling yourself you don’t have time and get outside to spark better ideas!

Embrace your own weirdness. People who aren’t ashamed of their quirks–who talk to themselves or admit to knowing the name of every Star Trek episode or who have to win a game of Spider Solitaire before opening their research files–come up with more creative ideas.

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Is Our “Gold Standard” for Education Research the Right Standard?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFirst grade students show improved performance with a reading intervention. But what about their enthusiasm for reading? And, have they improved on isolated skills or on being able to comprehend, analyze and use/appreciate the information?

Fifth grade students taught with a new mathematics curriculum show better ability to multiply and divide fractions. But do they understand the concepts? Can they come up with real-world illustrations of what  3 1/2 / 4/5 really means?

Eighth grade students show mastery of more science concepts when online teaching modules are used to supplement curriculum. But are they developing curiosity, a necessity for great scientists? Are they learning the lab techniques necessary for meaningful research? What about measures of their creativity? Are they increasing or decreasing?

Right now I’m seeing a great deal of research showing improvements that are:

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My Top Five Books That Made Me Think This Year

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAccording to goodreads.com (join me there—it’s great for keeping track of what you’ve read) I finished 117 books in 2013. I read just about anything, for if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that ideas, and new knowledge, and “aha’s”, and creativity, and laughter, and profound insights, can come from the strangest places. Here are five books that kept me thinking long after I closed the covers.

The Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal. The author, a pottery artist, traces the history of Chinese figurines he inherited from an uncle, and thus learns of his Jewish ancestors’ rise to the very top of Parisian and Viennese society, their fates during World War II, and how they rebuilt their lives. I constantly found myself thinking, “How would I have handled both the triumphs and the tragedies? How would my family talk about it all?” If you decide to read it, I’d suggest

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3 Moves for Moving from SMART Goals to Intentional Results

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall.”

(Covey, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, p. 101)

How about substituting  “SMART goals” for management and “being intentional” for leadership in the above quote? Why?

Too often, a goal is SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound) but still not the right goal. If you’re setting goals for yourself, or if you’re coaching others, here are three key questions that aid in ensuring that goals intentionally target what is most important, not what your or your client might assume is most important.

  1. Is this the right goal right now? Leadership is situational. While there are core competencies all leaders need, different ones are more important in some situations than in others. Unfortunately, those new to leadership—or to a given role—may be unaware of priorities they’ve never needed to attend to in the past.
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Tools to End the Time, Money and Energy Wasted on Polarization

Now AvailableI’m so excited about my newest book that I’m breaking from my usual blog content to include the press release here. 

How should mathematics be taught? What must students learn? Who should teach? What is the proper role of arts education or physical education in schools? Educators, politicians, parents and business people often take polarized positions, yet these issues involve interdependent “answers,” not right/wrong solutions.

Now a new book, Unleashing the Positive Power of Differences: Polarity Thinking for Our Schools, by Jane Kise, Ed.D., introduces a powerful set of tools for ending polarization by bridging differences. Polarity thinking allows individuals and groups to work together and acknowledge the wisdom of each other’s viewpoints. Jane points out, “The alternative—and we see it everywhere—is wasting time and money on partial solutions that are doomed to be replaced when leadership changes or when results fail to meet expectations.”

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Are You a Wild Reader? If Not, Read This!

RIW

Do you worry about reading emergencies–getting caught waiting somewhere without a good book in hand?

Do you have to-read lists, piles, shelves, and/or book cases?

Do you have a reading plan–what you’ll be reading next, what title you’re saving for vacation, how you’ll proceed when your favorite list of award winners is announced?

You do? Oh, can we share title recommendations? Please???

You don’t? You think you don’t have time to read? Or that reading simply shouldn’t be a priority right now?

Then Reading in the Wild by Donalyn Miller and Susan Kelly is for you. Really. Yes it was written for educators, but its message is for all of us: Reading opens doors. Reading improves our brain power. Learning to love reading means cultivating key habits. It’s never too late.

Chances are your local library has a copy of this brand-new book that most members of my professional learning network devoured the instant it came out this month. If any of the following reasons are keeping you from going wild over reading, know that its pages contain solid advice,

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A Mirror for Leadership Blind Spots

INFJ KiseA long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (or so it seems), I took on a volunteer leadership role in a rather large organization. Given the issues we were facing, and my own strengths, one of my key priorities was to stay friends with the leaders of all of our different constituencies.

This was not a wishy-washy “let’s be kind” sort of goal, but rather an acknowledgment that certain market trends and changes in how we were allowed to conduct business meant that partnerships, mutual support, and flow of information were vital to our future. I’m good at collaboration and building trust, but with those strengths–especially if I overuse them–comes an inherent blind spot. I tend to assume everyone is on the same team, working toward the same goals.

“You could say that being politically savvy is not one of my key strengths. Considering potential competing motivations of other players isn’t generally on my radar screen.”

SO…in that leadership role, I very intentionally sought out two politically savvy members of the board and told them, “Call me when I’m being too trusting. Tell me to my face when I forget to ask, ‘What’s in it for them?'” And they did. Very effectively. Thanks, Chuck and Ray–you know who you are!!

Fast forward to my being in a very informal leadership role. As always, I considered what the right priorities would be for the situation. Again, relationships were key, and I though I had the relationships in place that allowed for working toward mutual goals.

I forgot that I still had the same blind spots…”

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