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

Sunday, November 26, 2023


I recently read The Power of Making Thinking Visible: Practices to Engage and Empower All Learners by Ron Ritchhart and Mark Church (2020). 

This book is a follow-up to one printed about 10 years prior by Ritchhart, et al. The authors assert that Making Thinking Visible (MTV)… “has the power to: Foster deep learning; Cultivate engaged students; Change the role of students and teachers; Enhance our formative assessment practice; Improve learning (even when measured by standardized tests); and Develop thinking dispositions.” (p. 6)


My top takeaways:

·       Thinking is more process than product.

·       Deep learning is the result of both understanding and thinking. 

·       Engagement occurs on three levels: with others, with ideas, and in action. 

·       Understanding requires both “digging” and sense making.

·       MAKING THINKING VISIBLE is a set of practices: Questioning, Listening, Documentation, and Thinking routines.

·       Robust thinking only happens when the content is also robust.

·       The quality of the questions drives the quality of the learning.

·       Professional development events too often focus on training teachers in a set of tools or practices, but ignoring the deeper learning of the skill set and cultivation of mindsets needed to deploy those tools most effectively. (p. 226)

·       Three teaching inhibitors: The rush toward quick judgment and evaluation, the tendency to predict what students will say before they say it, and the desire for closure.  

·       A powerful facilitative question: “What makes you say that?”

·       Teaching is a complex undertaking, precisely because learning is a complex outcome.


My favorite quotes:

“These opportunities [for deep learning] are infused with critical thinking, grappling with complexity, challenging assumptions, questioning authority, and embracing curiosity – all core elements of what it means to learn deeply.” (p. 6)


“Formative assessment lives in our listening, observing, examining, analyzing, and reflecting on the process of learning. Even then, our assessment becomes formative only when we use that data to inform our teaching and students' learning. Formative assessment then is driven by our curiosity about our students' learning and the desire to make sure our teaching is responsive to their needs as learners.” (p. 12)


“As the feminist poet Alice Duer Miller observed, ‘Listening is not merely not talking,’ it is ‘taking a vigorous, human interest in what is being told us.’” (p. 26)


“Poet Judy Brown writes that it is the space between the logs where the fire grows (Brown 2016)”. (p. 218) 


RR and MC embed in this work several teacher moves (technical applications/strategies) to foster deep learning and make the thinking of the learners public. 

This is one of the best books on the teaching-learning process I’ve read in recent years. An excellent option for team studies by those who want to push their instructional A-game higher.  

Wednesday, November 22, 2023


I don't run as fast as I used to. I have to drive a little slower at night these days. I allow a bit of extra time for almost any kind of activity. Both my hearing and eyesight are waning. Too many of my friends/family are dying off. And some of my former students and athletes are, as well. On the surface, it seems a lot has changed. But...............

Preacher Andy Stanley tells the story of an inspirational parishioner who continued to faithfully serve others during his last years, despite dealing with an insidious terminal illness. When Stanley inquired of the gentleman about his continued servant leadership, even under extreme duress, the response was, "Nothing has changed; God is still in charge."

I am blessed beyond measure, and WAY beyond merit. But if it all ended today, nothing will have changed. The God of my understanding (as feeble as that understanding is) remains in charge.

For that....................I am thankful. 

Peace and blessings to you as we pause ever so briefly to give thanks

Sunday, November 19, 2023


Anti-example is a powerful a teacher.

Some common behaviors we see from not-so-emulatable leaders look like this:

  • They perseverate on short-term goals/gains, instead of long-term outcomes.
  • They seem to believe pushing gets better results than pulling.
  • Their talking-listening ratio is in the 60-40 zone or higher.
  • They focus disproportionately on what's going wrong.
  • They rarely notice good work, and rarely praise good effort.
  • They spend a lot of language on I/Me, and very little on Us/We.
  • They demand loyalty...to themselves, instead of to noble and worthy goals.

As we work steadily to improve our leadership skills, learning NOT to do those things is an excellent space for growth.

Sunday, November 12, 2023


Many of us have landed in leadership roles for which we were completely UNprepared. In some cases, we may have even started out completely incompetent. 

The response we make/made to that circumstance makes all the difference in world. The wisest folks take the following steps:

  • Embark immediately on a self-directed learning journey. Read, consume, listen, observe....always aiming to get better, every day, on purpose. 
  • Seek and engage with mentors experienced in our area of service....always aiming to get better, every day, on purpose.
  • Build a network of wise and valued others within our field and up/down the food chain, and engage with them regularly....always aiming to get better, every day, on purpose.
In short, these wise folks build for themselves a LEARNING system and network....always aiming to get better, every day, on purpose.

Starting out UNprepared is not all that uncommon. Staying UNprepared is nothing short of irresponsible. 

Wednesday, November 8, 2023


The labels: Cowboys, City Slickers, Rednecks, Yankees, Hillbillies, Cajuns, Straight, Gay, Bi, Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Buddhists, Muslims, Christians, Jews, Conservatives, Liberals, Moderates, ...........

On and on it goes. The promulgation of labels seems bent on division, with no interest in harmony.

The very moment we hang a label on someone, we quit viewing them as individuals. We immediately saddle them with a plethora of assumptions and adjectives that may or may not apply.

Worst of all, we quit seeing and we quit listening to them as individuals.

The cost is so very high.  

Think of me, and engage with me, as Nelson. I'll do my dead level best to return the favor.

Sunday, November 5, 2023


Full disclosure: I guilty of driving in the wrong lane as a leader. (Mostly before I learned better.)

What does "driving in the wrong lane" look like? WrongLaners most often jump into action upon hearing of a problem. Of course, problems and bad news have an insidious way appearing at our doorstep (or inbox). 

BEFORE we leap into action, we are wise to enact the following recipe:

  • Identify the folks on the team closest to the problem and ask some clarifying questions. It is highly likely they're "already on it."
  • If not, make sure you're all on the same page about "the problem," and assign the folks closest to it the task of running point on the solution crafting.
  • Provide the resources, support, and "cover" for those teammates to work on the corrective action.
  • Flag our calendar for regular follow-up and monitoring.
  • Get out of their way as they untangle the skein.
  • Heap praise on the Team when the issue is resolved (which it usually is).
Putting the right team in place, and letting them do the work, is one of the best lane-driving strategies we leader types can deploy. It also increases the likelihood that the best ones will STAY on our team.

Wednesday, November 1, 2023


When we ask impactful questions, we send some very powerful messages. Well-phrased questions can and should signal to others that we...

  • Value what they know.
  • Are genuinely curious and want to learn more.
  • Respect the need for various viewpoints/perspectives.
  • Desire discourse and dialogue (as opposed to divisive debate).
  • Might be wrong, ourselves, and are willing to reconsider our own position(s).
Leadership thought leader Dan Rockwell suggests that we use the One Question Challenge: Ask at least one question before making statements.

Seems like wise counsel. Think I'll try to make it a habit.