Sunday, 19 June 2016


I struggled all last week with a bronchial issue that caused extreme physical stress. That was quickly put into perspective with the Orlando massacre last Sunday night followed by the tragedy with the boy from Nebraska and the alligator.  A bad cold that evolves into pneumonia is not a tragedy.  While it results in a lot of personal discomfort, it can be treated.   Senseless deaths of loved ones at the hands of a terrorist have no known cure except to mourn and grieve and eventually heal from being torn apart. 93 gun-related deaths in the past 72 hours not including Orlando. (6.19.16)

Listening to the debates and discussions, if you can call them that, about guns and gun control, mental health, and the presence of angry, alienated young men in our society leaves me with a feeling of helplessness and I don’t like it.  To hear a physician/psychiatrist say that the gun crisis is not a public health issue makes me wonder what he thinks is a public health issue.  His name: Dr. Keith Ablow, really, a Fox news commentator named ABLOW!  You can’t make that up!  He also had a choice psychoanalysis of President Obama that isn’t worth printing.

Back on the personal front, two of our three vehicles have been in the shop for repairs, neither being dealt with competently and delay after delay as a departure date for two of them looms large this coming Wednesday morning.  No time margin and no extra breathing room tend to exacerbate stress and it’s fairly common knowledge that stress can be debilitating and we’ve already had enough of that, thank you very much.

We have all had a bad day or even a bad week.  Gratefully, last week is over. It is past, gone and done and I will find a way to put it to rest and move on. I can let go of most of the bad stuff coming down and yet I wonder at times, what’s next?  I am not overly concerned about that for I believe I have the resources to deal with whatever comes along regardless of how serious, how major or minor. 

Perspective helps, faith helps, and family helps enormously.  I think and I talk and I write.  And I get quiet and go inside myself.  It all helps and the questions that remain are what return can I make, what help can I provide?

Today is the first day of a new week, fresh and unspoiled thus far.  Tomorrow is Summer Solstice, a time to celebrate the greatest amount of daylight of any day in the year.  The Sun will be at its highest elevation in the northern hemisphere with the North Pole at its maximum tilt toward the sun.  Let’s make it a week of LIGHT AND LIFE.  For me, Tuesday is a day of preparation and Wednesday marks the beginning of a ten-day road trip filled with happiness, joy and celebrating with others.  We press on, Regardless!  

Tuesday, 24 May 2016


Have you noticed how often you get a notice that a piece of software or an application needs to be "updated" and "downloaded" to be sure that you have the latest and greatest whatever?   It seems to me that it's at least a weekly function like filling the gas tank or going to the grocery.  It cleans up the old and now you're all fueled up and filled up.  I just did one for iOS 9 point something and iOS10 is supposed to debut in the Fall alongside a new iPhone 7.  Jeez, I just updated to iPhone 6.   Here's my concern.

Why do things go out of date so quickly?  Is there some kind of conspiracy like a new car model every year in order to boost sales?  Oh yes, there are improvements and sometimes, on rare occasions, increased speed and efficiency. I am not persuaded that faster is always better.  In fact, I now believe, and there's some evidence to support this, that slowing down is healthier and more productive, especially when it comes to mental tasks.  I have suspected built in obsolescence since the advent of Apple.  My old MacBook G-4 from 2006, worked just fine.  So why did I succumb to a new 13" Mac Book Pro Late 2011?  Was it the Intel HD Graphics 3000 384MB?  Honestly, that means nothing to me.  I'm just glad the damn thing works most of the time, doesn't get viruses, delivers what I need in terms of communication, files and storage and the rest I leave to the techhies. Yes, it's a great design and user-friendly but I am no longer dependent on the hardware or software for what means the most these days.  Must be one of the great benefits of "retirement" or shifting gears and enjoying the ride.

I no longer have the need or the desire to try staying current with too many things, too many people, too many contacts.  It's simply too much so I am in the process of cutting back, cutting out and cutting down.  I may even Link Out of Linked In.  I belong to very few groups online or otherwise.

If I offend anyone in the process, I will send my apologies ahead of time.  I doubt it will be traumatic for any of them but I have concluded I want to spend what time I have in activities other than software updates.  I find it's a little like too much traffic that makes me wait while there's a space for me to enter and continue.  I think I'll just use my new GPS to avoid the traffic.  Thank you very much.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016


“Teaching may be the greatest of the arts because the medium is the human mind and spirit.”  John Steinbeck    

The original occasion for this piece was a gathering of thirty outstanding teachers from all over the United States.  They had been accorded that status by their district, county or state or in a few cases their own school.  They had been recognized as outstanding due to their achievements, their unflagging zeal and their commitments to the profession and to their students and colleagues.  They were star quality teachers.   They were each invited to come to Santa Fe, New Mexico because I wanted to know why they were outstanding and why they, among so many, had been singled out for this special reward and publicity.  What they told me was that they never gave up, that they believed they could always do and be better, that they worked hard. It was clear that they were conscientious, responsible, reliable and dependable and that they loved what they did.  It was also clear that they loved their students.   Here is what I told them.

We teach because we want to transcend that which holds us back…that and the sacred otherness of life are the most compelling reasons that we teach.  We all know the things that hold us back.  We have looked at and encountered some of the obstacles and barriers and they come in all forms, shapes and sizes.  Here is a partial list in no particular order: uncooperative or uninvolved parents; unrealistic and bureaucratic administrators; unmotivated and apathetic students; colleagues suffering from arteriosclerosis of the mind and heart; discouraging lack of progress as shown by where we are compared to other industrialized nations of the world; reading and writing proficiencies; math skills and general knowledge.

Realize that only one-third of eleventh graders in the United States could identify, on a multiple choice test, in which half century the Civil War was fought, less than 40% could identify the purpose of the Emancipation Proclamation and fewer than two-thirds knew the significance of Brown versus the Board of Education in Topeka, Kansas.  Appalling? I think it is inexcusable, irresponsible and the result of years of cowardice and caving in trying to please everyone by making it easy, comfortable and appealing, and trying to find shortcuts to success.

Real learning means that children inevitably find out that they are not the center of the universe, that they are not infallible or invincible and that pooled ignorance has no place in the classroom or a school, let along in our state and national governments.  Their group does not rule the ant hill and they will learn that their lives and ours, if lived honestly and with integrity, will be eked out in the valley of tears sometimes and that mastery of any academic subject demands hours, days and even years of hard work and maybe, just maybe a high degree of individual responsibility and accountability.

In one school where I worked we adopted our own three R’s, as we liked to call them, and while on the surface it sounds canned, like “Character Counts”, I think it went farther in terms of understanding the reasons and the values for adopting such a code of ethical behavior.  The three R’s were Respect, Responsibility and Restraint.  Most have often heard of the first two but seldom the last one, and all we need to do to know how much we need to exercise restraint before we speak is to sample some of the behavior of both children and adults in both the public and private domains.  Television, the movies and social media are filled with examples of the lack of restraint, often in the name of entertainment.  Who are the role models for our children today?  Fortunately for some of the students of these outstanding teachers, they have served as models for their students.

One of those outstanding teachers said to me that one of the biggest rewards she had was a student coming to her and saying, “I want to be just like you.”  That student may not know entirely what “just like you” means and what that teacher has done and what she does all the time to be who she is.  But there is something about teachers that is extremely valuable that often reaches students at more than a cognitive level.  We teach because we care and because we want to make a difference.  We teach because we want to change schools and communities and the world. Another of the outstanding teachers wore a pin that said she was changing the world, one student at a time.  It is about growth and change.  And here we have this magnificent and wonderful opportunity to teach kids the value of learning and knowing, of loving what you do, of being happy that we have been given a place where we can express the best that is within us.

We teach because we want our students to become active, lifelong learners, sharing ideas and experiences, telling stories and being affirmed and encouraged and supported to go on.  We want to challenge our students, lead and direct them and have them take on responsibility for their own learning and growth.  It’s why we like to see them graduate and continue their journey with whatever we have been able to add and contribute to the process.  We want them to be inspired by that which sustains life, that which enriches and makes it exciting, enjoyable and rewarding, that which makes it all worthwhile.  It is really an awesome and noble profession that you have chosen, or that has chosen you.

So, we teach, not because we can’t do something else but of all the things we could do, this act of teaching, this commitment and dedication to kids and families and schools and communities, this helping people to value themselves and others, and helping them to learn how to live productive, constructive, creative lives. This is what gives us all hope that the world will be better because we and they walked in it for awhile together.

Friday, 29 April 2016


Making a tough decision and making it stick is but one challenge of a leader in charge.  An executive decision requires more than using that part of your brain called “executive functioning” which is officially defined as “a set of cognitive abilities that control and regulate other abilities and behaviors. Executive functions are necessary for goal-directed behavior. They include the ability to initiate and stop actions, to monitor and change behavior as needed, and to plan future behavior when faced with novel tasks and situations. Executive functions allow us to anticipate outcomes and adapt to changing situations…” 
That all sounds accurate and desirable except that it’s from the Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders!  It’s when that function is lacking or disabled that signs begin to appear that all is not well, thus some kind of malfunction, not what one wants to see in a CEO.
If you are going to be adept at solving problems and anticipating outcomes, one of the main functions of an effective leader, then it’s imperative that you have the ability to anticipate those problems before they become even larger. You might call that foresight, something beyond insight. There is even a Foresight Institute ( that promotes transformative technologies that promise to address how to capture the opportunities and avoid the risks of nanotechnology in the future.   Perhaps every organization should have a “foresight institute” or task force of some sort, capturing opportunities and avoiding risks. Or maybe that’s one more task for the executive in charge.
Two other main functions of an effective leader, from Nan Keohane, are making things happen and taking a stand.  An effective leader is a catalyst for actions that will have positive impact on people and the community that he or she leads.  Making things happen doesn’t just mean deciding what will happen or who will do what, but also understanding why you are doing what you’re doing and why you’re doing it that way. It is then easier to communicate your actions to others and ahead of the decision rather than ex post facto may be the better strategy.
Taking a stand is being able to articulate with clarity and consistency your core values and how they inform, direct and support programs and policies that are the infrastructure of your organization. And being able to do that even in the face of controversy.  Getting everyone on board as much as possible so that you can move forward with common vision and common purpose is easier when your constituents are subscribers to your mission and understand it sufficiently to repeat it often. 
Executive decisions need to be sound, wise and well-informed and in the best interests of those whom you lead and serve.  The most effective leaders understand the burden and blessing of responsibility that go with the position.  Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to exercise your executive authority with courage and conviction and perhaps most importantly with grace and generosity of spirit.

Saturday, 16 April 2016


Almost everyone I know, including myself, have had some kind of event that has thrown us off track, hopefully temporarily.  It’s not always easy to resume, like pushing the button on speed control.  There are many reasons why it’s so difficult to regroup ones energy, purpose and drive to continue.  We can feel emotionally and physically drained, fuel tank on empty and no immediate relief in view.

These life events range from the death of a loved one, a serious illness of a family member or ones self, and less major occurrences that can include being disabled, laid low for awhile with a health issue and even something like losing a job or being rejected repeatedly while trying to get an application or a manuscript accepted or just changing jobs from one track to another.

A neighbor down the street recently had his leg amputated, at first just above the knee and then all the way to his hip.  His attitude appears to be I’m still alive and I intend to make the most of what I have left while I can.  He has made great progress on a walker, has been fitted with a prosthesis and he drives his truck with his left leg.  He is definitely getting back on track, maybe not with the same speed or ability but he is a great example of doing the best he can with what he has where he is.

A number of people who seem to lose a sense of purpose and the desire to continue have a hard time convincing themselves that the effort and energy required would be worthwhile and that it would be easier to just give up, give in and throw in the towel.  The truth is that it would be easier.  The encouragement and support of friends and family are well-intended, maybe even helpful sometimes, but they either don’t understand or if they do, their answers are what they would do, and those may or may not work for you.

It may be that we need to step back and “recalibrate,” a term I learned from an Intel employee who often used the term when she meant that we needed to have another look and see if our assessments were accurate and on track. Her experience from another industry helped us on numerous occasions to take another, different approach.  It fits the “on track” metaphor because trains run on tracks that are definitely calibrated and recalibrated frequently.  In the U.S. most tracks are exactly 4 ft 8 12 in or ​1,435 mm.  When I worked on the railroad, we spent a lot of time lining tracks and making sure they were the exact, correct width.  Now machines do that job.

So, what can we do to get back on track besides realigning the road ahead?

·      Take time and don’t rush it.  Step back and evaluate your choices.
·      Make sure you’re doing what you can for yourself physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually, meeting those needs for good health.
·      Talk to someone who might understand and appreciate your challenges and perceived obstacles.
·      Start with building a simple step-by-step plan and adjust it as needed. Take baby steps.  It’s the way to move forward.
·      Engage and connect.  We are social beings and isolation sometimes delays getting back on track.  However, there is also value in spending some time alone gathering your resources.
·      Rediscover a new purpose or explore something entirely different.  Consider giving some time as a volunteer.
·      Realize that each day is a gift and what you make of it is up to you.
·      Check in on your “attitude of gratitude” and how you might appreciate what you have in a different way.
·      Read, listen, watch and pay attention.  There are clues out there.
·      Be KIND to yourself.

There is no magic formula or recipe that works for everyone.  Each person has his or her own unique personality and figuring out what is going to work best for you is a process, not flip the switch and instantly be on a different track.  And remember, breathe deeply while you consider the road ahead.

Monday, 11 April 2016


Schools are already in the “real” world.  They just aren’t taking advantage of their external environments in creative and contemporary ways.  Instead they are still using old models for new learning.  Put new wine into old wine skins and what happens?  They burst, wasting the wine.  Too much energy, time and resources have been spent on correcting mistakes rather than getting it right the first time.

Educators must be clear about how to make things work and take it a step at a time and keep backing up before going forward into unknown territory.  Before you can play a piece of music, it helps to learn the notes, where the fingers go on certain instruments and then practice, practice, practice. 
It’s the same with sports.  Much more time is spent practicing than in playing the game.  Certain kinds of athletic skills are developed and finally mastered in order to play the game at the highest level.  I wonder if we make the mistake of trying to get to the performance too soon, before the skills are refined and there is a sufficient level of confidence in those skills to be effective?

School might be restructured more like the real world and organized according to areas of interest.  There are signs of that with magnet schools and some other specialized schools in science and the arts.  I would not have been particularly interested in mechanics and robotics but there are plenty of kids who are.

I would have been drawn to a school that focused on reading, writing and producing whether essays, books, plays and movies or in telling stories of people in different cultures.  But, I would not have wanted to miss an introduction to science, engineering, technology, math and the arts.  That sounds a lot like STEAM and PBL.

I think it’s time to reexamine why schools are structured the way they are and perhaps shift not only the paradigm for educating kids but building entirely different models for different kinds of schools for different kinds of kids.  The schools all look too much alike and smell the same.  Kids are different and schools need to be different too, much more so than they are.

In the real world there are there are engineering, scientific, manufacturing and distribution jobs.  There are the worlds of design, retail and entertainment.  There are unlimited opportunities in health care, public service and education itself.   Kids need to see all of those, and more, up close and personal. They know that there are huge problems in the world needing their talents and skills to solve.  That will require a complete overhaul of the system, not just introducing technology and updating methods and environments.   The focus on changing the delivery system is a good start but it’s only a beginning and there’s much more to be done.

Yes, kids need basic skills of effective communication and presentation and they need to understand the value of social interactions without depending wholly on the internet, cell phones, texts and face factories.  What keeps schools from radically altering their identities is not only their marriage to the status quo but also their lack of preparation to make the shift.

IF you were starting over, how would you do it?  What would you do differently and what is preventing you from doing that now?  Look at the obstacles and either dismantle them or leave the old behind and find a new wine skin.  One example among many others evolving currently is Big Picture Schools. Here the design components are based on three foundation principles: first, learning must be based on the interests and goals of each student; second, a student’s curriculum must be relevant to the people and places that exist in the real world; and finally, a student’s abilities must be authentically measured by the quality of her or his work.

Here's another new model that includes action-oriented research:

Saturday, 2 April 2016


I’m a quitter.  In my first year of my first graduate school in 1959, I didn’t like it and I wanted to quit.   It did not seem like a good fit and although I was succeeding academically, I was not happy in pursuing those studies.  So, I decided about mid way through that first year to take a test to see if I could learn to fly with the U.S. Navy.  I made an appointment and traveled about 45 miles from Princeton to Lakehurst NAS, New Jersey.

The test was a long day of examinations, written tests and physical exams.  The results came back a few days later and I had passed.  I was told that I could report to Pensacola, Florida, to begin flight training in January.   As I considered this option several thoughts came to mind.  I had started something and I usually finished what I started so I thought of a compromise. 

What if I finished at least the first year and delayed my start of flight training for six months?  Would the Navy consider that?  Yes, they said they would. Would the graduate school hold a place if I washed out of training?  Yes, they said they would, so at least I had a back up if I needed or wanted it.
Between December and June, three incidents changed my mind about flying.  Two close friends of mine in college, were both killed in separate accidents flying for the Navy. One was killed in training in Corpus Christi, Texas, and the other flying off an aircraft carrier in the Pacific.  A third pilot, older brother of a high school friend was killed flying for the Marines. I will spare you the details. Suffice to say, the impact was sufficient for me not to pursue the Navy offer further.  I had seen the devastation of the families up close and believed that the risk/reward ratio, and the statistics, were not in my favor. It wasn’t fear as much as it was seeing the aftermath.

I returned to graduate school, finished another two years, got a master’s degree and gave my best efforts to practicing a profession about which I had continuing questions, doubts and concerns.  Seven years later, I quit that profession and went back to another graduate school to get another master’s degree, a doctorate and continued working for another 43 years, a total of 50 years of full time work, enough to “quit” once again just five years ago.

Although I had been schooled in my early years by the adults in my life that quitting was negative and undesirable, I learned later that quitting could be a good thing.  In fact, I quit and left more than one job for one reason or another and now, as I look back, quitting was the right thing to do in almost every instance.  Would I do anything different if I had to do it over?  Maybe.  I might have quit sooner although the timing in most cases seems to have worked out just fine.  It wasn’t so much about quitting as it was about a change, welcomed and embraced.  When you quit one thing it’s an opportunity to begin something else or even something similar in a different place with a different cast of characters.  This is true whether in work, life, health or relationships.

This journey of living and working has been rich with change, with growth and with evolving into someone who is both the same and different.  It has been and continues to be a marvelous experience for which I am most grateful. I continue to explore the opportunities and adventures that I can explore and look forward to even more.  Close one door, open another.