Skip to main content

What we Influence

I was thinking today, after meeting with a group of teachers, about something I had recently read by Doug Reeves in his book, Daily Disciplines of Leadership. In the book, Reeves talks about the concept of leaders, if they wish to be effective, needing to influence behavior, not attitude or beliefs. No matter how impassioned our beliefs may be, they do not persist if not accompanied by successful behavior. He goes on to say that all this talk about creating "buy-in," the stuff that causes people to get on board, is not even necessary if we cannot first influence behavior.

He has a point. Acceptance comes only after successful experience. We have to go through some turbulent times, including reluctance and opposition, before we can expect to change deep-seated belief. Think about the student sitting in the back of a classroom, working the math problem that is just not clicking in her brain. Her eyes are glazed and she scoots lower in her seat, hoping against all hope that her teacher will not notice her. The great teacher will notice her, however, but this is a topic for another post...

This student might have a deep-seated belief that she cannot "do math." This belief probably pervades her every thought when she hears the word math. Her parents probably tell her that we weren't good in math either, honey.

This pattern can only be broken when the great teacher takes the time to show her just how easy it can be, maybe showing her that there are more ways than one to get to the same answer.

This pattern will only be broken when this student experiences success.

As with the teacher who has taught the same way year after year, and therefore does not believe there is another way, so, too, the way with the student.

Acceptance comes only after successful experience.

Popular posts from this blog


I am visited by two former Seniors on a recent Friday in early June.  They have been out of school for only a short time, having graduated three weeks prior.  We stay in touch because, well, that's one of the main reasons I am in this profession - to make a lasting difference in the lives of students.  But it's not only the students; it's their families as well.  I attend their graduation parties, keep up to date on their life happenings, I even recently attended the wedding and reception of one of my former students whom I had taught when he was in the 6th grade.  He's now 28.  
But this is what is required of this job.  We are in the business of making lasting impressions.  For anyone who doesn't believe this to be true, and that your only job as an educator is to impart knowledge and provide kids with information that they could just as easily find online, you are sorely mistaken.  I could easily insert here all of the research that proves, beyond the shadow of…

Parenting and the Principal

Very REAL Life, Part I

I need to tell you about my life as principal.
Particularly from the standpoint of this life as husband, dad and foster/adoptive parent.
And the daughter I have who is sitting in prison.

It is the winter of 2009.  I had just been accepted into the Doctoral program at National Louis University, and was heading to an informational meeting about the program when my wife called.  I was pulling into the high school where our cohort would be spending a lot of class hours together over the next few years, excited about this journey my family had agreed was the best time for me to embark upon, even more ecstatic to be the first in my family to achieve this prestigious degree.

We didn't realize the road I was about to travel was actually riddled with potholes, detours, wrong turns, and dead ends.

My wife can barely speak.
It seems like a lifetime, though it is actually 10 minutes on the phone with her,
trying to calm her down,
sitting in my Volvo with the engine turn…

Real Writers. Real Writing. Real Voices

Same 7th grade classroom.
Different group of students.   It is a warm afternoon and the fans are on.   I think back to my days as a 7th grader.   My teacher's name was Mrs. Zurn.   She passed away in the mid-90's and I remember her clearly for her loud voice;  Her booming voice and I remember her because she used to make us write.
A lot.

And it was always about the things that she wanted us to write about, never about the things that I CARED about like music and motorcycles and the ATV's that I spent my weekends on, flying through the cornfields and woods that I lived next door to.  Or my parent's divorce and my dad moving to California and how much I missed him.  We couldn't write about that stuff. 
Instead we wrote about St. Thomas and our favorite lunch, and if we could be anything when we grew up what would it be, and Mother Theresa and what our favorite color was and why, and writing a letter to Pope John Paul II.  I went to a Catholic school.  You can probab…