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Welcome to nc’s blog. Read, comment, interact, engage. Let’s learn together - recursively.

Sunday, January 29, 2023


Monday morning quarterbacks are those who happily show us how smart they are AFTER the decisions were made, the work was done, and the results are known. 

In the organizational behavior literature this concept is referred to as Management By Exception (MBE). It's when the boss provides little in the way of clarity or guidance, then pontificates or criticizes after team members have acted as they deemed needful (or as they discerned the boss would have wanted).

The best leaders I know refuse to be Monday Morning Quarterbosses. Instead, they engage in a repetitive menu of impactful actions toward organizational improvement and performance. 

That menu looks something like this:

  • Articulate often and with profound clarity the Vision of the organization.
  • With the team, they codify clearly a few (five or fewer) important goals they believe will move the organization toward that Vision.
  • Empower the team to pursue this Vision zealously (within law/policy and within ethical standards).
  • Monitor the activity and the outcomes persistently, through multiple lenses.
  • Meet with the team to collectively assess the impact of their actions, the validity of the data, the fidelity of the efforts, and the adjustments that are needed.
Then they do it all again...............tomorrow or next week or next month. They NEVER wait until next year. 

Note: Team members under the duress of Monday Morning Quarterbosses often find other teams to play on...............because they can.

Wednesday, January 25, 2023


I recently read A Leader’s Guide to Excellence in Every Classroom: Creating Support Systems for Teacher Success by John R. Wink (2017).

JRW does an excellent job of providing a comprehensive framework to ensure optimal learning for
 ALL students.


My top takeaways:

·      Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs can be matched to Wink’s Hierarchy of Student Excellence, from a teacher efficacy perspective. A brilliant analogy. 

·      A 3-Tiered Excellence-in-Learning Support System includes: 1) Schoolwide supports, 2) Teacher team supports, and 3) Individualized supports.

·      Principals should focus on hiring the best applicants, then surround them with systems that guarantee every teacher’s success.

·      CHAMPS intervention technique = Conversation + Help + Activity + Movement + Participation + Success.  

·      Organized classroom management results in smooth routines, minimal loss of instructional time, and high levels of student involvement and ownership of procedures.

·      4 Components of Gradual Release of Learning Responsibility: 1) Focus lesson – “Teacher does it”, 2) Guided learning – “Teacher and students do it together”, 3) Collaborative learning – “Students do it together”, and 4) Independent learning – “Students do it alone”.

·      Rigor = thoughtful work + high-quality learning intentions + high-level questioning + academic discussion.

·      Three important levels of teacher-questions: 1) Scaffolding questions, 2) On-level questions, and 3) Extension questions.  

My favorite quotes:

“An excellent school doesn’t leave excellence to chance.” (p. 9)

“Excellent schools mine for expertise in every person within the organization, and when they find expertise, they empower the expert, whoever it may be, to lead peers toward excellence.” (p. 8)

“Building relationships is the biggest investment a teacher can make in a student’s learning, and in a classroom of excellence, successfully building relationships is not the goal but the constant.” (p. 75)

I highly recommend this book. It is a superb resource for team study by school leadership and/or instructional teams. 

Thursday, January 19, 2023


In electricity, resistors are components that limit or regulate the flow of electrical current.

In organizations life, resistors are often those folks who limit or regulate the flow of the effort/energy directed toward reform, improvement, or transformation.

Regardless of why the resistance is occurring, leaders are wise to deal with it in a straightforward way.

Here are some possible Resistor Responses:

  • Put the issue into open dialogue in the organization. Overtly discuss the pros and cons. 
  • Keep the issue and the discussions around the issue about THE ISSUE (don't let it become about the personalities).
  • Invite troubleshooting around the change effort, seeking suggestions for improvement in substance or deployment.
  • Forecast publicly. What does the future look like if we keep doing the same thing? What might the future look like if we successfully embrace the proposed change?
  • If this proposal for improvement is unacceptable or unworkable, what should we do instead to propel us toward improvement?
Transparency RULES! Keep all (civilized) voices in the conversation. Keep all conversations in the open.

Sunday, January 15, 2023


There are two big drivers in our personal learning journeys: 1) Process, and 2) Outcomes.

The Learning Processes entail things like:

  • The content we consume -- the knowledge, skills, ways of thinking, and ways of behaving
  • The pace at which we learn it -- the speed, which can be slow and steady, or it can be on steroids
  • The products we generate -- the papers, artifacts, exams, demonstrations, change of practice, sharpening of skills
  • The environment(s) of learning -- reading or writing alone at our desk, making observations while walking in the park, dialoguing with other learners, experimenting in the "lab," sitting in a lecture hall with hundreds of others, sense-making in our dreams, ...
  • The collaborators of learning -- the gurus, Yodas, partners, and teammates that learn alongside us
The Learning Outcomes are the fruit of the Process:
  • Changing the way we think or behave
  • Doing things we couldn't do before
  • Sharpening our ability to do things better than we could do them before
  • Failures which serve to accelerate more learning
  • Seeing farther, thinking more deeply, questioning more astutely
Just like the fruit we find in nature, they serve as both evidence of success and regenerative seed for the future. Think of it as recursive.

The smartest and most capable people I know deliberately up their Learning game, day in and day out. They don't view Learning as something they "have to do," but rather, it's something they "get to do." 

Maybe that's why they're so smart and capable.

Wednesday, January 11, 2023


I am an educator by vocation and avocation. Thus, learning theories are my jam.

Connectivism is now widely accepted as a theory of learning. 

Here's a workable definition: Learners make sense of and construct their understandings through a wide array of sources; the interconnectivity afforded by technology and the internet to knowledge sources and knowledgeable others -- Connectivism -- serves to accelerate that learning.

For your consideration............If we increase our skills in digital connection capabilities yet lose our ability to effectively "connect" in interpersonal ways, perhaps we've not learned as much as we should/could. 

Maybe Connectivism has always been a thing, and the digital modality is just the most recent iteration of its evolution. 

Rather than either/or, it seems to me that BOTH is the best path to optimal learning. 

Sunday, January 8, 2023


We all know what a tree is, right? A quick search for images of "trees" yields THIS. Wait! What? How can trees be so different?

We all know what a dog is, right? A quick search for images of "dogs" yields THISWait! What? How can dogs be so different?

Any guesses what happens when we search for images of humans? How about Buddhists ... or Americans ... or Methodists ... or Democrats ... or Bosses ... or ?????

The vast differences we see are reflected in the images, alone. Imagine the uniqueness of each if we were to also consider their smell, dispositions, voices, intellects, personalities.

The filters we use come with MUCH prejudicial baggage. When we choose to focus on the collective assumptions implied by those filters, instead of trying to understand and engage with each other as individuals, problems and misunderstandings assuredly follow.

When I can see you as YOU, not as a representative of a bunch of other ___?'s___, the opportunity for mutual understanding and meaningful engagement is greatly improved.

"Drop the filter and step away from the..." (Computer? Meeting? Microphone? Decision?)

Thursday, January 5, 2023


Achieving continuous improvement in organizations is a tough slog. 

The efforts of each individual or division in the organization certainly helps. The stacking up of those efforts can be thought of as the addends in a mathematical sum. 
Looks something like this:

a + b + c + d + e + ..... = Improvement

A more robust approach, however, is to leverage the mathematical concept of products in our efforts to get better. The resulting product is sort of like a sum on steroids.
Looks something like this:

A x B x C x ..... = IMPROVEMENT

If the addends in the sum represent the individual efforts of the organizations members toward improvement, what do those factors in the product represent? Those are the systems we put in place.

While both sums and products move us in the right direction, it's our systems that propel us toward improvement in accelerated fashion.

**Next week's lesson will focus on the debilitating effects of subtraction and division on an organizations efficacy. (Yep, not pretty.)

Sunday, January 1, 2023


The difference in Gurus and Charlatans is more often in the delivery than in the substance. Most of us have a few of those Yoda-type Gurus whose insight is highly sought (and even occasionally heeded).

What often has the effect of fingernails scratching along a chalkboard is advice that is unsolicited. Yet, the Charlatans feel compelled to continue to spew their advice broadly and pervasively.

As one of my mentors is fond of saying, "Everyone has an opinion; I prefer the informed ones." Amen!

My most highly valued Yoda-types behave in these manners:

  • They WAIT for me to ask before offering their wisdom.
  • They LISTEN to me before offering their wisdom.
  • They READ me and my contexts before offering their wisdom.
  • They FRAME their wisdom to me as a menu of options.
  • They FORECAST with me the possible outcomes of those choices.
  • They DO NOT JUDGE me on the difficult choices I've made after seeking their wisdom.

"Thanks" is usually the only pay my Yodas receive from me, yet they give freely and repeatedly. I can't imagine trying to navigate life and work without them. 

Here it is again: THANKS! (They know who they are.)