Book Review – The Incredible Value of Employee Power Unleashed

The Incredible Value of Employee Power Unleashed: How to Gain Competitive Advantage by Treating Your Employees Well. By Robertson Hunter Stewart 

Treating your employees well? Sounds like a novel concept but as many of us have experienced in the various organizations we work in this is not always the case. Fortunately, Robertson Hunter Stewart wrote this book to help employers, managers and leaders to take a more person-centered approach to dealing with our most precious commodity… people! 

Stewart is all about power to the people! He defines employee power as, “The power produced by employees with an organization which allows it to obtain and keep competitive advantage within the marketplace overtime.” 

In the book, Stewart discusses some of his past occupations (he worked for Euro Disney at one point) and is able to convey what it felt like to be valued and to be not valued. What he found from his experience and his research is a four point understanding for what employees want:

  1. To be treated well
  2. To work in a good atmosphere 
  3. To have the right tools to do one’s job
  4. To be paid well (p.23)

Stewart urges companies to put employee satisfaction as the top priority. He suggests that surveys, focus groups and brainstorming sessions are imperative for management to listen. Unlike a lot of management philosophies that put the customer first, Stewart challenges that notion by articulating how employees must be first. According to Stewart, “Employees are the internal customers.” (p. 49)

One of the  most critical chapters in this book is on training. Stewart presents a very easy to follow training protocol that will help any organization get the most out of professional development. He leaves nothing up to guesswork when it comes to training and it is clear that there is no guesswork. Employees must be trained in an on-going process that values constant feedback and recognition. 

The book concludes with a detailed overview on meetings. He starts out this section by asking one of the most important questions regarding meetings… why do we need a meeting? In order to hold an efficient meeting, Stewart suggests developing a clearly defined purpose. He then outlines a basic protocol that every meeting should have so that everyone knows the expectations. He also points out that management should take time during meetings to listen to the employees concerns, ideas and feedback. 

No matter what type of company you are in or what role you play, The Incredible Value of Employee Power Unleashed will be a great resource. I found the book easy to read and implement. I am quite sure you will too! 

 About the Author

Spike Cook, Ed.D., Principal, Lakeside Middle School, Millville, NJ. In addition to being a Principal, Dr. Cook published two books through Corwin Press (Connected Leadership: It’s Just a Click Away; Breaking Out of Isolation: Becoming a Connected School Leader). He is the co-host of the popular PrincipaPLN podcast and his blog, Insights Into Learning, was recognized as a finalist for Best Administrator Blog by the EduBlog Awards. Spike earned his Doctorate from Rowan University and is featured in their Alumni Spotlight. He is featured in Twinkl’s 30 Education Influencers You Need to Follow and Klear’s Top Ten Middle School Influencers. Dr. Cook is also on the Education Advisory Board for Whole Health Ed. Connect with @drspikecook via Twitter, YouTubeLinkedIn, Facebook or Instagram.

How to Develop a Daily Gratitude Practice

A daily gratitude practice can be a transformational experience in the way that you see the world. When you lead with gratitude, you begin to see the value in what you have as opposed to what you do not have. By spending a few minutes a day focusing on gratitude you can literally rewire your brain and catapult yourself into a new way of life. Sounds like a lot of work but it really is very simple.

The Why

The first time I was ever asked to name 5 things I was grateful for I froze. It was October of 2016 and I was working with a consultant hired by our district to help administrators improve their practice. Unfortunately, I was too focused on all of the issues, problems and shortcomings as opposed to all of the things that were going well. I couldn’t see the forest or the trees 🙂

Gratitude helps you …

  1. Reduce stress
  2. Develop a new perspective on the world
  3. Get through tough times

Gratitude Journal 

In order to develop a daily gratitude practice you need to find some way to capture 3-5 things you are grateful for. There are many journals out there that have prompts and areas for you to write or draw. You can use a note book or even post its. I like using the Notes App in my phone. No matter what you choose, just make sure it is something you will be able to use on an ongoing basis and it is convenient.

How to develop a Daily Gratitude Practice

Step 1

  • Carve out 5 minutes in the morning where can find a comfortable spot to reflect on the previous day.
  • Go back through the day and think of situations, people, places or things that you were grateful for. Specifically, it could have been a phone call to a loved one, the fact that the sun was shining, that you got paid, that you had a relaxing shower, etc.

Step 2

  • Write down 5 things that you are grateful for in your journal, notebook or phone.
  • Be sure to date the entry and maybe write a sentence or two about the day in general.

Step 3

  • Take 3 cleansing breaths to get centered
  • Read each of the entries and start with “I am grateful for …” and breathe as you read each one.
  • After you are finished, read them again and after each one say “Thank you, thank you, thank you”

Start now

Take a moment and think of one thing you are grateful for and say “thank you.” Decide that you are going to dedicate 5 minutes a day to developing a gratitude practice.

Feel free to use this post or this presentation that I made to help others with gratitude. Let me know how you make out on your journey!

About the Author 
Spike Cook, Ed.D., Principal, Lakeside Middle School, Millville, NJ. In addition to being a Principal, Dr. Cook published two books through Corwin Press (Connected Leadership: It’s Just a Click Away; Breaking Out of Isolation: Becoming a Connected School Leader). He is the co-host of the popular PrincipaPLN podcast and his blog, Insights Into Learning, was recognized as a finalist for Best Administrator Blog by the EduBlog Awards. Spike earned his Doctorate from Rowan University and is featured in their Alumni Spotlight. He is featured in Twinkl’s 30 Education Influencers You Need to Follow and Klear’s Top Ten Middle School Influencers. Dr. Cook is also on the Education Advisory Board for Whole Health Ed. Connect with @drspikecook via Twitter, YouTubeLinkedIn, Facebook or Instagram.

Ground Yourself With This Simple Exercise

Ever feel like your anxiety is rising? Maybe you are nervous of a difficult conversation or activity? Or you want to do something to keep yourself grounded each day? This simple exercise can help bring some balance to your day and it only takes a few minutes.

In this post I will give you step by step directions on how to give yourself a much needed hug. Did you know that you could even give yourself a hug? If this exercise works for you, it could be transformational in your mindfulness practice.

Give Yourself a Hug

  1. Find a comfortable seat in a chair with feet on the floor and have your feet shoulder width apart.
  2. Take your arms and extend out in front of you.
  3. Interlock your fingers (right hand over your left).
  4. Pull your interlocked fingers back to your chest.
  5. Cross your feet (right over left)
  6. Breath in for a count of four.
  7. Breath our for a count of six.
  8. Repeat at least three times.
  9. Unlock your hands and feet. Place your hands on your lap and breath three more times.
  10. Variation – After finishing the right over the left you can repeat this exercise with the left hand and foot over the right hand and foot.

What is happening when I give myself the hug?

This meditative practice creates an opportunity for your parasympathetic nervous system to calm you down. Practicing this exercise also allows your brain to access a cross limbic experience due to the arms and fingers being twisted. Lastly, the breathing helps to signal your brain and body that it is time to calm down (which is why it is much more effective to tell someone to breath than to calm down or relax).

Modification 

At first it is going to feel really awkward. There are many variations you can use to modify if you can not interlock your fingers. You can extend your arms and put your right hand over your left and when you pull back put your right hand near your left shoulder and your left hand near your right shoulder.

I use this exercise in my daily gratitude practice, when I am stressed or when facing a stressful situation. It can be done anywhere and only takes a few minutes but the effects can be lasting.

Give yourself a hug and let me know how it goes!

About the Author 

Spike Cook, Principal, Ed.D., Principal, Lakeside Middle School, Millville, NJ. In addition to being a Principal, Dr. Cook published two books through Corwin Press (Connected Leadership: It’s Just a Click AwayBreaking Out of Isolation: Becoming a Connected School Leader). He is the co-host of the popular PrincipaPLN podcast and his blog, Insights Into Learning, was recognized as a finalist for Best Administrator Blog by the EduBlog Awards. Spike earned his Doctorate from Rowan University and is featured in their Alumni Spotlight. He is featured in Twinkl’s 30 Education Influencers You Need to Follow and Klear’s Top Ten Middle School Influencers. Dr. Cook is also on the Education Advisory Board for Whole Health Ed. Connect with @drspikecook via Twitter, LinkedInFacebook or Instagram.

Dealing With a Difficult Person? Try This Exercise

Take a few moments and think about someone who is causing stress in your life. It could be a family member, irate customer, someone who cut you off in traffic, or maybe even a coworker. Have you identified this person? I am sure it didn’t take long. Ok now you have the person in you mind, what I am going to show you could transform the way you view them.

Compassion Exercise

I learned of the Compassion Exercise from a Professional Development workshop by Dr. Aili Pogust. She was presenting to our staff about stress management. In the exercise, she asked us to identify someone that was a trigger for us and causing stress in our lives. She then had us spend some time writing about the person and reflecting on the impact they were having on our lives. Then she handed us these cards:

Just like me, this person is seeking some happiness in their life

Just like me, this person is trying to avoid suffering in their life

Just like me, this person has known sadness, loneliness and despair

Just like me, this person is seeking to fulfill their needs

Just like me, this person is learning about life ~Dr. Aili Pogust

We read through the cards and then she asked us to go back to that person who was causing the stress and anxiety in our life. We were then directed to read the statements while thinking about this person…… Wow, what a simple exercise with such powerful results.

Personally, I walked away from this exercise hopeful of how I could use this in my life. I began to integrate this into my daily morning exercises as I saw how it could complement my work on gratitude and mediation. This daily work on my personal triggers was transformational. I began to see others in such a different light.

On Being Triggered 

Something I have learned from this work is that our triggers are very powerful. If we take responsibility for them, we can stop giving others all of this power over us. Let’s face it, as people trigger us they walk away and keep going with their life. We are left holding that baggage that manifests in stress, anxiety and frustrated. So stop giving these people all of this power!

Reflect on this….

  1. We all get triggered
  2. It is not the responsibility of the person who triggered us, it is our responsibility
  3. We have to deal with what is in front of us whether we caused it or not
  4. Our triggers are our responsibility

Important Note: This is not about forgiveness or condoning other’s behavior

Please be clear that this exercise is about you, not the other person/people. There are some people out there who have done awful things to us. In fact, this exercise is not about forgiveness either. You do not need to forgive or forget things that people have done to you. I recommend in dealing with trauma in your life to work with a certified therapist.

Changes to come 

These changes will not come overnight but I can tell you from my experience they will quickly cause you to look at people (and situations) very differently. This is why I wanted to share this exercise. If I can implement it and change the way I view those who trigger me, you can too.

Let me know how this helps you. Comment below. I am looking forward to learning from you 🙂

About the Author 

Spike Cook, Ed.D., Principal, Lakeside Middle School, Millville, NJ. In addition to being a Principal, Dr. Cook published two books through Corwin Press (Connected Leadership: It’s Just a Click Away; Breaking Out of Isolation: Becoming a Connected School Leader). He is the co-host of the popular PrincipaPLN podcast and his blog, Insights Into Learning, was recognized as a finalist for Best Administrator Blog by the EduBlog Awards. Spike earned his Doctorate from Rowan University and is featured in their Alumni Spotlight. He is featured in Twinkl’s 30 Education Influencers You Need to Follow and Klear’s Top Ten Middle School Influencers. Dr. Cook is also on the Education Advisory Board for Whole Health Ed. Connect with @drspikecook via Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook or Instagram.

Book Review – Project Based Learning by Ross Cooper and Erin Murphy

Project Based Learning : Real Questions. Real Answers. How to Unpack PBL and Inquiry.~ Ross Cooper and Erin Murphy

Author Erin Murphy with a copy of the book!

If you are looking for a boring educational book then this book is not for you! In Project Based Learning: Real questions. Real Answers. How to Unpack PBL and Inquiry, Ross Cooper and Erin Murphy have assembled a very interactive and engaging book designed to help educators transform learning for our children.

Right from the beginning Cooper and Murphy start with WHY. How important is this? Well, there has been extensive research showing that any new learning needs context so if you start with the why then you are on the path! Cooper and Murphy discuss their perspectives as learners and then go into a chapter that is filled with supporting details and research.

As a parent of two daughters, I worry about the educational systems that might make my daughters or any child, feel that learning is just about moving information from a textbook to a worksheet rather than the thrill of discovery ~ Erin Murphy

After they discuss the why, Cooper and Murphy take the reader on the road to how.  As professional development experts, they discuss how they have implemented it and more importantly, trained others to use it in their classrooms. They suggest a three step process to implementing PBL in the classroom:

  1.  Plan with the end in mind.
  2.  Plan the assessments.
  3.  Plan the teaching and learning.

Cooper and Murphy provide charts, graphs and narratives describing the process with such clarity that you will feel fully supported during your journey!

Throughout the remainder of the book, Cooper and Murphy help practitioners tackle difficult subjects such as grades, conferencing, direct instruction and working with colleagues during the process.  According to Cooper, “I was given a copy of Fair Isn’t Always Equal by Rick Wormeli as a administrative intern. Unfortunately, I put it on my bookshelf and didn’t get back to in until I became an assistant principal. Once I read it, I was floored by the ways the author’s ideas and philosophies disagreed with my own. I realized that my practices and the research were out of line. I committed many classic mistakes such as averaging grades, grading group work and forcing students to adhere to strict deadlines when handing in assignments.” As you can see, the authors are committed to Reflective Practice and sharing their growth with the reader!

Assessment says, “I want to help you,” while grading says, “I want to judge you.” ~ Cooper and Murphy

The concluding chapters of the book help the reader with the heavy lifting. How are you going to build a PBL culture? I was really impressed that they spent a huge segment of the book addressing culture. As one of my favorite Peter Druker quests came to mind, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Cooper and Murphy provide a great deal of support to the notion of prioritizing students over the curriculum as well as having a growth mindset about the process. Often times, as they point out, PBL can appear chaotic with the control of the learning squarely on the learner’s back. Cooper and Murphy will not only help you with managing the chaos, they also provide research-based support systems to ensure that learning is occurring during the entire process. These support systems can help with administration, parents or critics who wonder… what is even going on in there?

If you are considering Project Based Learning, I highly recommend this book. Cooper and Murphy’s process will ease any anxiety you have about switching the learning to the students. Then, as you implement the process, the authors will be a tweet away for support.

Continue the learning with PBL and connect with Ross Cooper and Erin Murphy on Twitter.

About the Author 

Spike Cook, Ed.D., Principal, Lakeside Middle School, Millville, NJ. In addition to being a Principal, Dr. Cook published two books through Corwin Press (Connected Leadership: It’s Just a Click Away; Breaking Out of Isolation: Becoming a Connected School Leader). He is the co-host of the popular PrincipaPLN podcast and his blog, Insights Into Learning, was recognized as a finalist for Best Administrator Blog by the EduBlog Awards. Spike earned his Doctorate from Rowan University and is featured in their Alumni Spotlight. He is featured in Twinkl’s 30 Education Influencers You Need to Follow and Klear’s Top Ten Middle School Influencers. Dr. Cook is also on the Education Advisory Board for Whole Health Ed. Connect with @drspikecook via Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook or Instagram.

 

Are You Manifesting Limiting or Abundant Beliefs?

Photo by Eric Muhr on Unsplash

A few months ago, I co-hosted a 5 part series on Maintaining Balance with Dr. Aili Pogust. We explored our mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional bodies and how we are responding to various triggers.

One area that resonated with me was in the mental body in terms of our self talk.  We were asked to examine a number of belief statements to determine if we were limiting ourselves or living in abundance.

Examining the Statements – Are they Limiting or Abundance? 

Take a few moments to examine some of these belief statements and see if this is something that you are (Source: Aili Pogust, 2021):

  • I have the ability to go far beyond the position I now hold.
  • I know when to set my boundaries.
  • My relationship with food is in balance.
  • I am fully capable of taking complete control of my life.
  • I am at ease with my body and my looks.

If one of those statements resonates with you. Do you believe that these statements are true?  Are you limited or in abundance?

What we believe about ourselves and our world literally creates the events we will face in the future. If we feel lack in any area, we are holding limiting beliefs that keep that lack operative. On the other hand, it is true that by imagining abundance in different areas of our lives, we can bring it about. ~ Dr. Aili Pogust, 2021

The Exercise 

When I did the exercise, I resonated with the statement “I have the ability to go far beyond the position I now hold.” I am not sure about you, but I do not always think I can get beyond something that is challenging me in life. Although I might tell others that “this too shall pass” or “the storms will be move away” I wasn’t always manifesting this for myself. So here is what I did.

The Daily Process 

After examining the limiting statement that I didn’t think I had the ability to go far beyond the position I now hold,  I spent a few minutes each morning meditating on the abundant belief “I have the ability to go far beyond the position I now hold.

  • I examined what it looked like if it was a belief system for something in my life that I wanted to get past.
  • I then journaled about what that looks like, smells like, how my life would be different, and  most importantly what would I do when I truly got to the place of going beyond the position I currently hold.
  • I wrote a commitment statement of something (or somethings) that I would do daily to strengthen my belief.
  • I also included a visualization of how my life would be different if I operated more fully through this belief.

Guess what …..It worked! 

I spent about 4 months working on this one abundant belief as part of my daily morning practice. Although it only took a few minutes each day, I eventually was able to see how the limited belief was being replaced by the abundant belief.  We all know that change takes time, and this is true for the abundance exercise. It just takes a little bit each day.

Give it a try and let me know how it works! 
Comment below and let me know how you are manifesting abundance or struggling with limiting statements.

About the Author

Spike Cook, Ed.D., Principal, Lakeside Middle School, Millville, NJ. In addition to being a Principal, Dr. Cook published two books through Corwin Press (Connected Leadership:It’s Just a Click Away; Breaking Out of Isolation: Becoming a Connected School Leader). He is the co-host of the popular PrincipaPLN podcast and his blog, Insights Into Learning, was recognized as a finalist for Best Administrator Blog by the EduBlog Awards. Spike earned his Doctorate from Rowan University and is featured in their Alumni Spotlight. Dr. Cook is also on the Education Advisory Board for Whole Health Ed. Connect with @drspikecook via Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook or Instagram.

Maintaining Balance for Learning During Crazy Times: A Thoughtful Guide for Parents and Educators

Photo by KT on Unsplash

Have you made your 2021 New Year’s Resolutions? Are you looking for strategies to deepen your mental, physical, emotional and spiritual bodies? Based on the overwhelmingly positive feedback from the participants who completed the initial series in November/December, Dr. Aili Pogust and Dr. Spike Cook will be hosting another 5 part weekly series in January 2021 on maintaining balance during these crazy times.

There is no cost for the workshop and if you are interested you can sign up here. We are asking those who are interested to commit to attend all 5 sessions as they are all integrated for you to optimize balance in your life.

About the series 

Your children and your students are counting on you. Before you can help them you have to help yourself. This series will offer you some thoughtful tools to get started. Here’s something to consider. Our western culture has focused intensely on the physical and mental aspects of our lives, yet our emotional and spiritual bodies also need to be integrated for a well balanced approach to life.

Dates and times  (Each session is one hour and 15 minutes)
Tuesday on January 5, 12, 19, 26 and February 2. Time: 7:00 PM EST (All sessions will be on Zoom)

Registration ends on January 2, 2021 at 5:00 PM. We are asking you to commit to the entire series when you register. Register here.

Promo Video 

Here’s what they said… 

I loved every single exercise. I often did not realize how much I needed them until after the session.

The different exercises were very helpful, each in their own way. After each session, I felt more calm, clear and focused. I like the fact that we experienced the topic of each week through more than one way.

I would just like the series to continue. I really appreciated being able to share my thoughts and feelings and hear others. Everyone in my house knew that was “my time” and I wasn’t “bothered” for that hour. That was nice 🙂

I am able to focus on different aspects of my life separately. It’s still not perfect, but I am definitely more aware after this series.

I feel that I am able to say that I have strategies to have a work/life balance.

Overview of each week 
January 5

  • In this session, Dr. Aili and Dr. Spike will introduce the series and provide time for participants to share where they are currently. Throughout the session, you will assess how you utilize the four aspects of your life physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually as well as use a four-step balancing process: Set intention. Self assess. Select options. Survey progress.

January 12

  • In this second session, we begin with a whole group share out based on what you applied from the previous week. In addition, you will explore and practice tools to balance your physical body and continue to use the four-step balancing process. At the end of the session, small group time will be provided for you to talk about your insights.

January 19

  • In this third session, we begin with a whole group share out based on what you applied from the previous week. In addition, you will explore and practice tools to balance your emotional body and continue to use the four-step balancing process. At the end of the session, small group time will be provided for you to talk about your insights.

January 26

  • In this fourth session, we begin with a whole group share out based on what you applied from the previous week. In addition, you will explore and practice tools to balance your mental body and continue to use the four-step balancing process. At the end of the session, small group time will be provided for you to talk about your insights.

February 2

  • In this fifth session, we begin with a whole group share out based on what you applied from the previous week. In addition, you will explore and practice tools to balance your spiritual body and continue to use the four-step balancing process.
  • Since this is the concluding session, a longer small group time will be provided for you to talk about your insights regarding the entire series.

Register here for the series

About the Presenters
Dr. Aili Pogust 
Aili has been an educator for over 40 years. She has taught elementary, middle and high school grades as well as graduate school. As an educational trainer, consultant and coach she has focused her work with educators on supporting effective practices in teaching literacy, communicating well and infusing curriculum with the social/emotional aspects of learning. Her focus as an educator is centered on the process of learning rather than the process of schooling. Aili received her doctorate from Temple University. She authored the book entitled: Communicating With Clarity: A Pocket Guide for Humans.   Aili is the co-founder of The Pogust Group: Mining the Gems of Human Potential.

Dr. Spike Cook
Spike Cook, Ed.D., Principal, Lakeside Middle School, Millville, NJ. In addition to being a Principal, Dr. Cook published two books through Corwin Press (Connected Leadership:It’s Just a Click Away; Breaking Out of Isolation: Becoming a Connected School Leader). He is the co-host of the popular PrincipaPLN podcast and his blog, Insights Into Learning, was recognized as a finalist for Best Administrator Blog by the EduBlog Awards. Spike earned his Doctorate from Rowan University and is featured in their Alumni Spotlight. Dr. Cook is also on the Education Advisory Board for Whole Health Ed. Connect with @drspikecook via Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook or Instagram.

10,000 Steps a Day: One Step At a Time for 6 Months!

Get ten thousand steps wherever you can.

On June 6, 2020 I made a promise to myself to integrate a walking program into my life. Previously, I have tried so many different exercise regimens into my life and accomplished a few things along the way (finished a marathon, few half marathon, 5Ks, triathlon etc.) but these all happened a few decades ago and often lead to injuries. To me, walking was just a way to get from one point to another or something that I did when I was “hiking.”

My new walking companion, Rico. He doesn’t always make walking easy.

I approached walking 10,000 steps differently because I was looking for different results. I wasn’t looking to lose weight, set any records or to get myself ready for anything else. I just wanted to walk to ground myself, maintain balance, experience weather changes and practice mindfulness. In reality, I just wanted to enjoy the walk and I did.

As I got closer to the 6 month streak I started to reflect on the magnitude of steps. I went through my Setpz App and analyzed the data (I use the free version). I walked an average of 11,000 steps a day for 189 days which is about 2,079,000 total steps since June 6. Prior to starting this journey, I never imagined that I could have walked that many steps.

This was when I was walking in a Nor’easter

Walking 10,000 steps a day required patience and time management. I learned a lot of things along the way. Here are 10 insights about my first six month streak walking 10.000 steps a day:

  1. Don’t chase steps – The earlier you get your steps in, the better. I definitely had some times where I was trying to get my steps in later in the evening and that lead to stress.
  2. Break up the walks – You don’t have to get all your steps in at once. I rarely had walks longer that 6 or 7 thousand steps. I liked chunking the steps throughout the day.
  3. Communicate to friends and loved ones – Let the people you spend the most time with know your goal. This helps with accountability and even a conversation.
  4. Invest in good sneakers – I wear running shoes that I get from the South Jersey Running Company. They specialize in matching shoes with your specific biomechanics.
  5. Be prepared for the weather – I walked in the rain, heat, wind and in the morning, afternoon and evening. I paid a lot of attention to the weather to see when the best time would be to walk.
  6. Vary your path – I am fortunate to have a bike path near my house which makes walking very easy, but I get bored. I like changing it up by walking other places.
  7. Park far away from your destination – If I am going to a store I usually park away from the entrance. Not only do you get more steps, but you avoid all of cars trying to get in and out of spots.
  8. Make calls – Nowadays, almost everyone who talks to me on the phone asks if I am walking.
  9. Listen to music or a podcast – When I first started out I listened to a lot of podcasts and music. As time went on, I found myself just enjoying walks without my ear buds in.
  10. Look up at the sky – Since it is getting dark earlier, I get to see a lot more of the stars and planets. In one walk this month (December) I was able to see Mars, Jupiter and Saturn with the assistance of a Star Map app.

My next goal is to make 10,000 steps a day for an entire year. I have 6 months to go, but I know I just need to take one step at a time.

Drop a comment if you plan or have embarked on a walking journey!

A hike with my son, Henry in Virginia.

About the Author

Spike Cook, Ed.D., Principal, Lakeside Middle School, Millville, NJ. In addition to being a Principal, Dr. Cook published two books through Corwin Press (Connected Leadership:It’s Just a Click AwayBreaking Out of Isolation: Becoming a Connected School Leader). He is the co-host of the PrincipaPLN podcast and his blog, Insights Into Learning, was recognized as a finalist for Best Administrator Blog by the EduBlog Awards. Spike earned his Doctorate from Rowan University and is featured in their Alumni Spotlight. Dr. Cook is also on the Education Advisory Board for Whole Health Ed. Connect with @drspikecook via Twitter.

 

Maintaining Balance for Learning During Crazy Times: A Thoughtful Guide for Parents and Educators

In honor of November being the month of Gratitude, Dr. Aili Pogust and Dr. Spike Cook will be hosting a 5 part weekly series on maintaining balance during these crazy times. There is no cost for the workshop and if you are interested you can sign up here. We are asking those who are interested to attend all 5 sessions. 

Promo Video 

About the series 
Is what you have been doing to maintain your balance working for you these days? You are living in a crazy time. Perhaps you’ve noticed that you can no longer follow the paths to which you’ve been accustomed. Creating new paths, however, requires a better awareness of how the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual aspects of your life need to remain balanced.

Your children and your students are counting on that. Before you can help them you have to help yourself. This workshop will offer you some thoughtful tools to get started. In closing, here’s something to consider. Our western culture has focused intensely on the physical and mental aspects of our lives. Notice if you have an urge to attend only a select date. What might that be saying about your state of balance?

Dates and times 
Tuesday on November 10, 17, 24, December 1, 8 (2020) Time: 7:00 PM EST – 8:00 PM EST (Zoom link will be provided to those who register.) Register here. Registration ends November 9 at 10:00 PM. 

Overview of each week 
November 10

  • You will assess how you currently utilize the four aspects of your life physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. You will also learn and practice a four-step balancing process: Set intention. Self assess. Select options. Survey progress.

November 17

  • You will learn and practice tools to balance your physical body. Application to children/students will be explored.

November 24

  • You will learn and practice tools to balance your emotional body. Application to children/students will be explored.

December 1 

  • You will learn and practice tools to balance your mental body. Application to children/students will be explored.

December 8

  • You will learn and practice tools to balance your spiritual body. Application to children/students will be explored.

Register here for the series

About the Presenters
Dr. Aili Pogust 
Aili has been an educator for over 40 years. She has taught elementary, middle and high school grades as well as graduate school. As an educational trainer, consultant and coach she has focused her work with educators on supporting effective practices in teaching literacy, communicating well and infusing curriculum with the social/emotional aspects of learning. Her focus as an educator is centered on the process of learning rather than the process of schooling. Aili received her doctorate from Temple University. She authored the book entitled: Communicating With Clarity: A Pocket Guide for Humans.   Aili is the co-founder of The Pogust Group: Mining the Gems of Human Potential

Dr. Spike Cook
Spike Cook, Ed.D., Principal, Lakeside Middle School, Millville, NJ. In addition to being a Principal, Dr. Cook published two books through Corwin Press (Connected Leadership:It’s Just a Click Away; Breaking Out of Isolation: Becoming a Connected School Leader). He is the co-host of the PrincipaPLN podcast and his blog, Insights Into Learning, was recognized as a finalist for Best Administrator Blog by the EduBlog Awards. Spike earned his Doctorate from Rowan University and is featured in their Alumni Spotlight. Dr. Cook is also on the Education Advisory Board for Whole Health Ed. Connect with @drspikecook via Twitter.

5 Observations on Education During a Pandemic

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

Schools across the globe have been forced to close their doors in a sweeping response to the COVID 19 pandemic. Many educators found this out with little to no time to prepare and it has been challenging for everyone. The school buildings are closed but the learning is continuing and it is revealing a lot about the state of education.

Here are 5 Observations on Education During a Pandemic:

  1. Socioeconomics continues to be one of the major factors impacting education. This debate (and unfortunately it has been a debate) continues as many people are seeing that those families living in poverty do not have an equitable access employment, technology or food. This hasn’t changed with the closing of school, it has just become more apparent.  The big question is…. what are we doing about it?
  2. Educators who lead with a Growth Mindset in regards to technology and remote student learning are having the most successes. If you are being asked to change your mode of instruction (sometimes with less than 24 hours of notice) there is not a lot of time to remain fixed about what teaching and learning is going to look like. By and large educators have taken risks, tried new things and gone out of their comfort zones to ensure that students continue learning during this unprecedented time.
  3. The need to “play school” in the 19th century sense is still alive and well. Those who are trying to play this type of school are struggling. Many educators report that they are “business as usual” or that they are “keeping the curriculum moving forward.” This can be a troublesome approach since the variables of educating students remotely have been drastically increased.  How can we approach business as usual when parents are responsible for balancing their jobs (if they still have them), ensuring that their children are following the remote learning plans, all while everyone wonders what the long term impact of this pandemic will be?
  4. Collaboration is key. Educators collaborate all the time during the traditional school year. Teachers use formal and informal ways to collaborate while in a traditional school setting. During remote learning, educators have had to investigate new forms of communication, attend virtual meetings, use back channels and recognize the importance of social media. Teachers are doing this while also taking care of their own children.
  5. Many were prepared for this. There are countless educators who have sacrificed their mornings or evenings to attend Twitter Chats to grow and connect with others outside their school walls. They listened to Podcasts, joined Voxer groups all in the hopes to learn something new or connect with like minded educators. Numerous educators gave up their Saturdays to attend EdCamps where the un-conference model allowed for an innovative, learner-centered professional development that they were not getting inside the school walls. Thought leaders such as Will Richardson, Eric SheningerDiane Ravitch, Baruti Kafele, and Rafranz Davis were telling us over the last few years that we needed to look at the education paradigm differently, uniquely because we are in a new age.

So where do we go from here? 

Eventually we will head back to the school buildings but the hope is that this experience will force educators to reflect on the current mode of education and to determine what changes they will need to make moving forward to connect with students on a deeper level. Maybe the teachers will be able to take charge of the curriculum again and force state and local legislatures to put the kid’s needs first. Maybe, just maybe the public will see that all of the teacher bashing that has been en vogue over the last 20 years needs to stop and we need to work together for our kids!

Spike Cook, Ed.D., Principal, Lakeside Middle School, Millville, NJ. In addition to being a Principal, Dr. Cook published two books through Corwin Press (Connected Leadership:It’s Just a Click AwayBreaking Out of Isolation: Becoming a Connected School Leader). He is the co-host of the PrincipaPLN podcast and his blog, Insights Into Learning, was recognized as a finalist for Best Administrator Blog by the EduBlog Awards. Spike earned his Doctorate from Rowan University and is featured in their Alumni Spotlight. Connect with @drspikecook via Twitter.