By Sheryl Nussbaum Beach
(cross-posted on 21st

A good friend told me that he heard another friend whining about how he wished educational bloggers would get back to blogging from the heart. It struck a cord with me. While I am anything but aChicken Soup for the Soul kind of blogger- (more emotion than substance in posts) I do think there is a place for emotional intelligence when addressing educational reform and change.

Michael Jansen, the first black person to serve as dean of the University of Pretoria in South Africa outlines seven themes that I think encompass leadership with a heart. I pulled these from Fullan’s new book, Motion Leadership (2010).

1. We must recognize the politics of emotions that energize behaviors.

2. The change strategy cannot create victims.

3. The problem must be named and confronted.

4. Leaders must exemplify the expected standards of behavior.

5. We must engage emotionally with students in their world.

6. Teachers and principals themselves are sometimes actors.

7. The environment must accommodate risk. (Jansen, 2009b, p.189)

The basic message Jansen gives and Fullan underscores is that we need to learn to combine love, trustworthiness, and empathic but firm handling of resistance, to quicken the pace of the change we wish to see.

In their book Switch, Heath and Heath (2010) suggest that for change to occur in behavior you have got to influence not only the environment but also hearts and minds. Direction and motivation together make the biggest impact, and motivation comes from the heart.

Seth Godin in Tribes says, “Leadership is very much an art, one that’s accomplished by people with authentic generosity and a visceral connection to their tribe” (2008, p121). Tribes is filled with emotion. In the first chapter he challenges us with – “All that is missing is you, and your vision and your passion” (Godin, p. 5).

I wonder if what my friend was longing for was passion. Maybe his own? Maybe that of others? I too have felt it. As the compelling case for change message has been repeated and repeated through many different voices, could it be that it has lost it’s effectiveness for some? With the fervor of Gregorian monks we all chant collectively … Connect- Commit- Collaborate with a constant hum of tools, tools, tools resonating in the background.  But for what cause? To what end? We know the culture needs to shift- but to where? All that seems to be missing is leadership. Leadership that has a command of direction and motivation. Leadership that understands how to leverage- not only the wisdom of the crowd, but also the technologies needed to connect tribes and amplify their work. Which takes me to the real point of this post- my motivation,  my passion, my blogging from the heart.

ISTE Revelation

While at ISTE several of the folks in my network suggested that Powerful Learning Practice had become too “vendor” like because we had a booth. Many snide remarks were made which I am sure were intended, at least in part, to be in good fun. However, many a truth was spoken in jest and to be honest the comments sort of floored me. Here is why.

1. PD as we know it (sit and get) with a tool focus is not shifting educational culture.

2. To provide the kind of job embedded, long term, team based PD that research suggests works in providing transformative change- you got to have strong leadership. The kind of leadership that requires time, commitment and a laser like focus (ie. a full time commitment). And to support full time commitment you have to have a funding model.

3. Schools require PD hours. Schools have a budget that is devoted to PD.  The PD can be more of the same which we know doesn’t work or it can be something unique and built on what we know does work in providing change and shift in a world of fast pace change.

4. PLP enables teams of educators to connect, commit, collaborate and to understand the shifts needed. It helps educators from around the world to stay connected long after their PLP experience is over. It launches great ideas that result in substantial shift on the local level. PLP builds capacity. It provides leadership.

5. In order for PLP to provide that kind of PD we have to be visible. Not in a “step right our gadget” sort of way. But in a here we are- we want to build a relationship with you and help you leverage our network to build your own. We want to connect you together with others who share your passion in the hope that together you will create something more powerful than you could alone. And then we want to help you amplify the great things you are doing in your local context (schools & districts). Not to promote PLP, but to show others that this PD model works and if you need leadership in helping to build capacity for change and toward planning and applying your school improvement ideas through a 21st Century lens- we can help.

PLP is a brand that holds the potential to build a huge tribe. A collective of caring educators who get it and who understand the needs of the 21st Century learner. A tribe that empowers each other to carry on meaningful projects that relate to transformational change in education. I am changing PLP’s mission statement to  It’s not about usIt’s about something bigger than us. It is about a collective us. We simply provide the leadership that Godin and others suggest is missing.

So there it is- my blogging from the heart. Yes, having a booth at ISTE to some may seem “so vendor” but if you stopped by, I think you you might understand why having a booth is actually a very positive thing for a company whose premise is building community, connections and helping school leaders manage change.

So I am curious- What’s your passion? Are you willing to share? PLP needs your ideas, your leadership, your commitment, your collaboration. We are all in this together. Let’s leave education better than we found it.

“A good company is one whose mission is to improve the lives of everyone in its footprint.” Tim Sanders

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During a 25-year education career, Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach has been a classroom teacher, technology coach, charter school principal, district administrator, university instructor and digital learning consultant. Sheryl is the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Powerful Learning Practice, where she works with schools and districts from around the world to re-envision their learning cultures and communities through the Connected Learner Experience and other e-learning opportunities. She is the author (with Lani Ritter Hall) of The Connected Educator: Learning and Leading in a Digital Age (Solution Tree, 2012) and serves on the ISTE Board of Directors.
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