Category Archives: Steve Jobs

Push and Support

Steve Jobs:

“If we want to move forward, see Apple healthy and prospering again, we have to let go a few things here. We have to let go of this notion that for Apple to win, Microsoft has to lose. We have to embrace the notion that for Apple to win, Apple has to do a really good job. And if others are going to help us, that’s great … And if we screw up and don’t do a good job, it’s not somebody else’s fault — it’s our fault … So the era of setting this up as a competition between Apple and Microsoft is over as far as I’m concerned. This is about getting Apple healthy, and this is about Apple being able to make incredibly great contributions to the industry, to get healthy and prosper again.”

Ross Cooper sent me this quote and it really resonated.  I think competition in some ways (I talk a lot about competitive-collaboration here) is good because it pushes you, but I also know why educators need to work together.

This post could be applied not only at an organizational level, but as a personal level as well.  How often do we (myself included) get frustrated because someone else gets recognized for something that they have done?  This doesn’t mean that we are “less” and that someone is “more”. It is just that they got recognized.  I know that if I just focus on doing my best work, then good things are more likely to happen.  One of my favourite quotes is from Jim Valvano:

“Hard work does not guarantee success, but lack of hard work guarantees that there will be no success.”

When we both push and support each other as organizations and individuals, students are the ultimate winners, along with our schools.

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The Teacher Platter

We often hear about having “too much on our plate”. but I once heard an educator say that teachers don’t have “plates”, but they have “platters”.

Think about it…how often do we add more initiatives to what we do in education compared to how many times do we purposefully pull things off of the plate?

If you want to really do something well, you don’t try to do EVERYTHING. Something has got to give.

Apple, one of the most profitable businesses in the world, doesn’t focus on making a plethora of items, but a select few that are of high quality. Steve Jobs, in an interview with Fortune in 2008, said the following:

“Apple is a $30 billion company, yet we’ve got less than 30 major products. I don’t know if that’s ever been done before. Certainly the great consumer electronics companies of the past had thousands of products. We tend to focus much more. People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are.”

It is important to think about not only why we do things or how we do things, but what things we do. If we do too much, what impact could we truly have?

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Be a Change Agent

Leaders Today

In 2013, I wrote “The 5 Characteristics of a Change Agent“, and the more I think about that post, the more it seems necessary that all educators look at themselves in this way.  It is not that we haven’t experienced change in the world before, it is that we are experiencing it at a rate quicker than ever.  Think about it…the first iPhone was made in 2007, and was greatly limited in what it could do then, compared to what it could do then. But we still marvelled at it.  The only constant we have in our world is change, so we need to prepare ourselves and our students to be able to embrace this.

Here are some ideas and links that might help you on your journey.

Share your story with the world and start a blog. Forward thinkers often spend a lot of time looking back as well. Reflection is crucial. Here are 5 Ideas to Help You Blog.

Try new things with the focus of “what is best for this learner”. Would you want to be a learner in your own classroom? This is a question that you shouldn’t just ask once a day, but always have in the back of your mind.  Try to see things from a student’s perspective, and focus on how you can make things better for each learner we serve.  One of the best PD opportunities any teacher can have is to shadow a student through a whole day of school. What would that tell you and what would it drive you to do?

Become comfortable with being uncomfortable. We challenge our students to think differently and go outside of our comfort zones, but doesn’t it seem that this is easier for kids than it is adults? Here is a great article on how “Being Uncomfortable Can Make You Grow“. Read it. Or at least check out the image from Sylvia Duckworth below.

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Challenge ideas and ask questions…lots of questions. One thing that I would always say to my staff is that I cannot solve problems that don’t exist.  Yet many people are held back on their perception that someone else will say no to their idea. You never know what you can do, unless you ask, and we don’t have to do what we have always done.  The next time you walk into your school, look at it with “fresh eyes“; pretend you have never been there before. What would you do different? What would the words on the walls tell you?  Here is a great article on teaching spelling tests that asks if they are really helping. Don’t just think about the article, but think about all practices. We have to think about why we do what we do, not just blindly do it.

See yourself as an innovator.  In my book, “The Innovator’s Mindset“, I believe that all educators can be innovators. Often what is holding us back is our own thinking, not someone else. What will you create with what you know?

Think Different.  Watch the video below. What legacy do you want to leave in the world?

Notice it ends with a child? That is part of your legacy.

You don’t have to do everything that I have listed above. Every journey starts with one step.  But whatever you do, don’t do nothing.

3 Ways to Rethink the Education Interview

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Innovation in education should not be limited to what happens in the classrooms, but is needed for leadership. This means that we need to relook at what we do as organizations and ask questions on whether what we have done ultimately serves what we want to do.  One of those areas that I really am interested in is the interview process.  Are we expecting something different while hiring the same?

The traditional process of the interview has been one that has not made much sense to me.  In education we talk about things being more than just about the right answer while also having a huge focus on relationships. Yet so many interviews that I have seen involve inviting people into stale environments with several people firing off questions to someone they barely know, and looking for the “best answers”.  There is obviously more to an interview than what people say, but when would educators ever be in this type of high stakes environment again in their career?  Even worse, sometimes the interviews are conducted for teachers by people that do not even work in the school (ie. central office staff).  Interactions between one another in the process are crucial for both sides, not just the person applying.  If we truly want the best people in our organizations, they will have choices. Do you create an environment where they come out of the process wanting to work for you?

Here are three things ways that we can really create a much better interviewing process, not only in education, but in all areas.

 

Make Them Comfortable 

I remember one interview process where I walked into a giant boardroom and there were twelve people sitting around a table and I was sitting at the head of the table by myself.  It was one question after another, simply fired at me, while they took in what I said and wrote notes.  I went home after and felt violently ill, and although it seemed coincidental, the process had given me such anxiety, that honestly I felt there was a correlation to the process and how I felt.

Another interview I had was the polar opposite of this experience.  The two administrators of the building invited me in early, and gave me fifteen topics that I could discuss during the process.  I didn’t have to do all fifteen, but where I felt I had something to offer.  I had about thirty minutes before the process, and I walked in, and it was a conversation for an hour. When it was over, I wondered where the time had gone, and although I felt nervous at the beginning, it seemed like a conversation between colleagues and friends.  What was interesting about the process was that we all had the chance to get to know each other in a way similar to if we were in a staff room talking about education, which is what we would experience after the fact. It was more real than the firing squad process of questions.  It also allowed them to find out where I was strong, and since they left some openness on the position (middle school teacher) the focus was not on hiring the best grade six teacher, but the best person, and shaping a position around them, instead of the other way around.

If a person is too scared to show their strengths in an interview, you never know what you will lose in the process.

Creating Conflict

As someone who has interviewed many educators, one of the important points of this process is how do people handle when someone disagrees with what they are saying?  As discussed prior, making them feel comfortable is crucial to this component, but simply listening to an answer and writing down notes is not something we typically would do in schools.

One of the things that I would do in the interview process was challenge people on their answers and get them to dig deeper into why they were saying what they were saying.  There are multiple reasons I would do this. For one, I wanted to see if someone went beyond the “carbon copy” answers and really knew what they were sharing.  The other, much more essential, was seeing how they would deal with conflict.  Would they defend their answer with evidence, would they be open to hearing different insights, or would they just adapt to saying what they thought I wanted to hear.  The last one was a big red flag for me.  I wanted to know that I was hiring someone who was a critical thinker and would make all of us better, not just simply bend to someone else’s will. How they handled conflict was crucial as well, but again, if you do not make people feel comfortable, of course they will just tell you what they think you want to hear, not necessarily what they believe.

Leave People Better Than When They Started

The tough thing about the interview process is that usually only one person will get the job.  If that is the case, what about the others in the process?  Did they become better teachers in the process and did we create a learning experience that would raise up the profession as a whole, or was this just an interview for a job? I would choose the former over the latter each time.

After the interview, I would call each candidate and I would go beyond simply telling them whether they get the job or not, but talk about specific components of the process, and ask them to look deeper into some areas, so that they would become better teachers.  I remember one candidate who did not receive a job with me, calling me a month after telling me that she received another opportunity and that the interview with my school was one of the best learning experiences she had, and it really challenged her thinking about education, and helped her to become a better teacher.  If you think about this logic, you never know who might end up leaving your school or teaching your child.  If we look at the interview as an opportunity to help someone become a better teacher, whether they get the job or not, we all win.

Concluding Thoughts

 

If you are about to partake an interview, and use this post as a guide, you might be in trouble.  There are still many people who look for “yes” candidates who will simply do what they are told, and to me, if we want our kids to ask questions, why would we not want our educators to do the same?  But if you are the one who is giving the interview, hopefully this helps you think about it in a different way.  We do not simply have to do what we have done, and if we want the best educators in our schools, we have to really rethink the process of how we hire them in the first place.