Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Coach Wooden's Pyramid of Success

John Wooden and Jay Carty collaborated to write Coach Wooden's Pyramid of Success: Building Blocks for a Better Life. This book is a series of short chapters that outline the Pyramid success with Wooden describing the life and basketball relates and Carty lending a religious basis. Note: if you are offended by Christianity, this book is not for you. The authors celebrate Bible stories to exemplify their message and faith as a central component. This will turn some people off- you are forewarned.

In a nutshell Wooden's theory of success is measured by trying hard to do your personal best. It is irrelevant if the rest of the world considers you successful or not. You become successful by virtue of working hard to do your best. While Wooden is the winningest college basketball coach of all time, he characterizes his success as having tried hard to do his best and bring out the individual best in the people around him.

You can find information about Wooden's pyramid at his website here. It is a pyramid made of 15 building blocks (industriousness, enthusiasm, friendship, cooperation, loyalty, self-control, alertness, initiative, intentness, condition, skill, team spirit, poise, confidence, and competitive greatness) and 10 mortar qualities (ambition, sincerity, adaptability, honesty, resourcefulness, reliability, fight, integrity, patience, and faith). One of the poignant parts that hits me is team spirit. Wooden worked with many stellar players, but most were just good. He talked about the piece that he found critical was their ability to play together as a team. If one player wanted to be the hotshot, Wooden, worked with him to understand that the whole team was required to win. One player, by himself, no matter how skilled, could not win the game. This is so true of life. We need our teams, our support networks, to be successful. They help us get to the top, survive the rough spots and celebrate the journey.

His idea of competitive greatness certainly applies to basketball, but the authors work hard to showcase it as a condition of life in general. He says, "a person with this quality loves a challenge-- the tougher the better... The tougher the circumstances, the higher they (the sports superstars) rose; and in doing so, they always made those around them better" (p. 86). The idea is that when you are the best you can be, you are helping others to be their best as well. Ultimately, "It's not about winning. It's about learning to give all we have to give" (p. 87). It is not about being a superstar, but being a super you. I love the idea of rising to the top as a group. This explains why coaches in education are so critical- they help the team rise to personal improvement and greatness.

This book is an easy read. It is a wonderful resource on being not just a good coach, but a good person. I know I need to dwell on it to see where improvement needs to occur and then to make it happen.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Be present and our children

I am about to sound old. I have spoken about being present before and here I am going to do it again.

This week I went to my daughter's band concert. This particular one showcases each of the 7 bands across the district. It is a fantastic opportunity to see the progress students make as they advance to high school. The kids all did a great job playing and should be proud of how their hard work paid off.

In the row in front of me was a young family with a boy about five years old. For the duration of the concert, he played on his iPad. He was not asked to sit and listen at any point throughout the hour and fifteen minute concert. (I am pretty sure this young one had sat through a Disney flick or two so the idea that he cannot pay attention for this long is invalid.) He was never asked to be present. If we take our children out and do not teach them to listen when it is appropriate, how do we expect them to learn? If we are not expected to pay more attention to the people we are with than to the devices and people who might be associated with them, how are we going to learn to interact with humanity? I know that bringing a five year old to a concert can be a challenge. I can see allowing him to have something to entertain himself before the concert and during the breaks when the various groups changed their positions.(Personally I would love to see parents talking with their children, reading stories, singing songs and doing finger rhymes and such, but that is more than many parents can work up to at the end of a long day.) During the concert, devices should have been turned off.

If we want our kids to learn to be present, we have to model it ourselves. We need to put away our devices, look at our children and become fascinated with the toddler's barely comprehendible tales about his day. We need to cajole our silent one whose day was fine into revealing what happened, and attend to the one who can talk forever about anything. We need to find our teenagers and engage them in conversation about whatever floats their boat. This is how we share our values, learn about our most precious commodity and teach our next generation how to be parents themselves. We need to be present when we are exhausted. We need to be present when we have a million things to do. We need to be present when we would rather be on our iPads playing games. We can do this.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

The six secrets of change

Michael Fullan is, in many ways, an oddity- an educator who has written a book about business management. He draws on both his experiences in the Ontario (of Canada) department of education and research in business practices. The Six Secrets of Change: What the Best Leaders Do to Help Their Organizations Survive and Thrive is all about how to enact transformations for improvement of an organization.

His secrets are:
  1. Love your employees- employees (in education-teachers), customers (in education- students), shareholders (in education- parents) and the community all need to be treated with care and respect. If you only focus on one of these elements, you will not be successful. You need to attend to the entire group and you need to love them. Employees need to "find meaning in their work, their relationships with coworkers and to the company as a whole." p 12
  2. Connect Peers with Purpose- "The job of leaders is to provide good direction while pursuing its implementation through purposeful peer interaction and learning in relation to results." p 12
  3. Capacity building prevails- This is all about ongoing development of employee skills. Training, either formal or informal, in workshops, with mentors or in classes builds capacity to successfully adjust to meet the needs of the organization.
  4. learning is the work- Learning in workshops is one thing, but as any teacher will tell you, much of what you learn in in-services is forgotten within minutes. We learn as we work. Coaching and mentoring are essential.
  5. transparency rules- "clear and continuous display of results, and clear and continuous access to practice" p. 14. This could be examining data. It cannot be humiliation; that detracts from secret one.
  6. systems learn- The organization needs to learn and grow. We are not on a set path that cannot be altered, it is a path that is going to grow as we learn. Risk taking is essential to growth.

I find the idea of coworker relationships to be interesting. My current boss is very committed to building relationships among a group of itinerant teachers who rarely see each other. This is not an easy task. I see where she is going- trying to build the team into a group that works together to be bigger than each individual. It is a huge challenge.

Dr. Fullan's book is an easy read. Digesting the contents is what takes more time.