The Principal of Change George Couros

Stories of learning and leading
Updated: 1 hour 27 min ago

The Myth of the “Laggard”

22 April, 2018 - 23:54

A question I often get in workshops is how to deal with “laggards” or “resisters.” The first thing I wonder when I hear regarding this question is, do the people they are talking about seeing themselves in the same way? Perhaps, they see themselves as innovative in some elements of their practice, but resistant in others. Wouldn’t the majority of educators refer to themselves in that way if we are true to ourselves? There are things that I do in my workshops that I think are quite forward thinking, but I do love lecturing and believe that I do it in a way that is beneficial to participants.

The “Myth of the Laggard,” might be one that we need to address. Here are the questions that need to be addressed:

1. Is the practice in the classroom that we are complaining about hurting students in the present and future? (If it is hurting students, address it.)
2. Are they resistant to change because they hate change, or resistant because they are doing something they believe is beneficial for their students?
3. Most important question…Can you identify the change you want them to create in their practice, and articulate why it is so important?

The reason that the last question is so important is that a lot of administrators I hear from complain that people aren’t changing, but when I ask them what they should change to, they aren’t sure. If you can’t articulate it, how would they know what you are seeking?

Referring to someone as a “laggard” is putting that person in a hole immediately. Find what they are good at and identify that. I have said this a million times when people feel valued, they will go to the ends of the earth for you. When people think you are trying to fix them, they will fight you the whole way, especially if you don’t even know what you are trying to fix.

We have more in common than we think. The best practices in education are often somewhere in the middle, not on the outer extremes. Work together to find those.

(PS…I did a short video on this topic and wanted to go in depth in this post.)

Look for similarities with those you don’t agree with to get closer on your differences.

— George Couros (@gcouros) April 18, 2018

Categories: Planet

Wonder, Explore, Lead

19 April, 2018 - 08:04

I tweeted this quote from my book, “The Innovator’s Mindset“:

“Our responsibility isn’t solely to teach memorization or
mechanics of a task but to spark a curiosity that empowers students to learn on their own. To wonder. To explore. To become leaders.

…if students leave school less curious than when they
started, we have failed them.”

— George Couros (@gcouros) April 17, 2018

As I look at it, I think more about what our learning experiences look like for our staff. Do they have the opportunity to “wonder, explore, lead,” or is this something we save for our students only?

The best way to create the culture you want for your students is to build it for the adults. There are so many constraints placed on schools from government mandates, but do we add to these constraints ourselves? I know that people complain about the state of testing in the US, but I also know that many districts add a multitude of their testing in pursuit of doing better on the state tests. Ask in your organization what you control and what you don’t. Then when you figure out what you control, make those conditions better.


The learners in your organization should have their curiosity stoked. Their ability to explore their learning. When you limit staff, you restrict students.

Find a way for your staff to “wonder, explore, and lead”, and they will most likely do the same for their students.

Categories: Planet

5 Points To Get Across in a Teaching Interview

16 April, 2018 - 23:30

I applied for a job at a historical park when I was in university, and I was excited about the opportunity to be a tour guide and share some of the history with visitors. Eager to get the opportunity, I went through the interview and thought I was doing well.  Then they asked me this question and I will never forget it.  The interviewer held up a pencil and said, “Pretend you are telling the history of this pencil to a group.  Go!”  Right away I shared that I didn’t know anything about the history of the pencil, and the interviewer said, “Make it up then!”

I stumbled along making stuff up that was utterly incoherent and had a Billy Madison debate moment where nothing I made any sense and everyone in the room was dumber for listening to what I had shared.

To this day, I still think the question was stupid and more of a “gotcha” moment. It was not something that was helpful for the interviewers to determine if I was a good fit for the job because I would hope that any of the history that I would have shared at the park would have been accurate, not something I made up on the spot.

As I have seen interviews in education, I have seen some of this disconnect as well.  Asking teachers to “teach a lesson” to a panel, when we are looking for more collaborative learning in classrooms, or panels that don’t talk to applicants and have conversations, but shoot rapid-fire questions their way.  If you are going to get the best educator for your school, you have to do your best to see how they are in an environment that is most like your school, or the school you want to create.

As someone who is being interviewed, you don’t ask the questions but that doesn’t mean you can’t guide the conversations though.  Some of people I have interviewed and some that have interviewed me, keep coming back to specific themes, no matter the questions.  When working with educators that are about to have interviews or newer teachers, I encourage them to have some focus points for interviews that they will come back to throughout the questions.  Here are five key points that I would suggest you look at:

  1. Relationships (staff and students) – One of my favorite principals in the world stated that if you were exceptional with relationships but weak with content, you could last a longer in education than if the reverse is true.  Of course we want educators with both, but focusing on the relationship piece is paramount, this goes beyond students as well. I know some very gifted educators, who are great with children but struggle with other adults.  The focus is finding school teachers, educators that are focused on the benefit of every child in the school, not only ones they teach directly. If the word relationships does not come up in your interview, I would be concerned.
  2. Have a willingness to grow and learn. –  Whatever you know now, should be less than what you know in a year. Somehow in the interview, it is important to give examples of times that you grew through your career as a teacher and learner. You could have been an amazing teacher ten years ago, but if nothing has changed, you can now be irrelevant.  Growth is necessary as individuals, or will not happen at the organizational level.
  3. You have access to knowledge outside of yourself. – Collaboration is key in education, so if you are limited to your own thoughts and ideas, so is your classroom.  Face-to-face collaboration is crucial, but how can you learn outside of your local community? For this post, I asked people for thoughts that I could share for this post:
  4. If you were interviewing a teacher for your school, what things would you like to hear from them? Would love to know your thoughts.

  5. — George Couros (@gcouros) April 15, 2018

  6. If you read the responses, you will see that there are so many great ideas that go beyond this post.  If you want to provide a “world class” education, you have to take advantage of access across the world.
  7. Passionate about the content they teach. – Obviously, content knowledge is crucial to any teaching position, but if you are in education, we all know the teacher that knows their content inside out but is unable to share that knowledge with their classroom. Having a passion for what you teach though, can become contagious.  If kids see you love your subject, it is probable; it will become contagious.
  8. Education is a calling, not a career. – Why did you become a teacher? The prevailing sentiment is that teachers do not get into it for the money, but I also think about the mental tax teachers pay and how much we feel alongside our students.  This doesn’t mean that a teacher should only care about teaching; they should have outside interests as well. But if you don’t LOVE the job, the job will eat you alive or wear you down.

Obviously, the five above are vital points that I think are important to get across in an interview, no matter the question, but are a personal preference.  What would be some of the ideas that you would want to ensure you were to get across in a teaching interview?

Categories: Planet

Every “Best Practice” in Education Was Once an Innovation

14 April, 2018 - 07:49

Adam Grant recently tweeted this article, focusing on the importance of theory and delving into the unknown for science. It is a fascinating read, and the end quote stuck out to me:

Some of the most interesting scientific work gets done when scientists develop bizarre theories in the face of something new or unexplained. Madcap ideas must find a way of relating to the world – but demanding falsifiability or observability, without any sort of subtlety, will hold science back. It’s impossible to develop successful new theories under such rigid restrictions.

In Grant’s original tweet regarding the article (read the replies; there is some interesting back and forth), he states:

Demanding proof stalls creativity. New ideas need room to breathe, and a good imagination will always be ahead of the best evidence.

So what does this mean for education?

When I read this, I first thought of people always demanding that everything is done in classrooms in schools has to be “best practice”.  Ultimately, that means nothing new can come into education, because if it is unproven, then it can’t be best practice. Here’s the thing though…

Everything we have ever deemed as “best practice” in education was once an innovation.

Someone saw things weren’t working the way they should, and they did something better.  I have shared what I believe this process continuously looks like in education.

But these ideas did not come out of thin air. People have based it on their own experience, understanding the students in front of them, while looking at the future in front of them.  There is a balance of learning from what we know and how things could get better.  If we only did what we know, where does “learning” come into the fray?

Not every new idea works.

But not every “best practice” works either for every child.

The focus is not holding onto the past or being solely focused on the future. The focus is on learners and creating betters schools and classrooms.

To do that, we will have to focus on continuous growth, not only what we know.

Categories: Planet

The “Push” That Comes With Being Valued

12 April, 2018 - 09:23

Feeling valued.

We all want to feel that we are valued for the work that we do daily, and when you don’t feel it, “checking out” becomes an option.

When one is truly valued, they are not just commended for the work they do but are pushed to the possibilities of what they possibly could do.

My best boss always found the balance of ensuring she appreciated me, but asking me questions and pushing my thinking on where I could go. The majority of my conversations with her ended with me feeling that I am on the right path, but I have work to do. She was masterful in how she maintained that balance.

Personally, there are many people that I mentor who I know that I push to their limits because I know what they can achieve. I do my best to make them feel appreciated (working on getting better), but because I care, I push them.  Sometimes when you don’t push, that is a sign of giving up.

I also know that there are people that do not build relationships with people they push. That feels more like an “ego” thing than a support thing. The balance is necessary.

As you read this, think of the people who have shown you that you are appreciated while simultaneously frustrating you with their challenges. Think of the students you cared for, but you still focused on getting them to their best. The feeling you had and your students had, were probably quite similar.

Categories: Planet
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