Developing muscle memory in the new job

Here in Dar es Salaam, actually let me be more specific. Here in Masaki I have found a favorite trail to run on that is along the cliff lined coastline. It’s a beautiful stretch that reminds me how lucky I am to live in this amazing community on the coast of Tanzania. The trail is a bit tricky to maneuver with coral rock, cacti and the edge of the cliff. I find myself looking down and really focusing on where to land next. The coral rock doesn’t give when I land like a normal dirt trail might. On this stretch of my run my pace slows dramatically. I’m worried about falling, twisting an ankle, getting stuck by a spine or falling off the edge.

I find that I miss out on the view of the ocean and every so often I have to stop to look out to the horizon. There are Dhow fishing boats floating alongside large cargo ships and the water is bright green or blue.

Main Ocean View

The other day I realized that this is a metaphor for my most recent transition into a new job. In August, I started a new job as the Secondary Principal at the International School of Tanganyika. The move was a return to international schools after a brief two year stint in the United States. After 14 years of working in international schools I thought that my transition would be relatively easy. What I realized is that I have to really pay attention to the details rather than focusing on where we’re going in the future.The rocky path represents my efforts getting to know peoples’ names, reading the handbook, asking questions about how things work and the cultural norms. There is so much to learn in a new environment and I’m also a bit nervous about making mistakes especially since I haven’t been around long enough to build up the emotional bank account. I feel like early mistakes may lead to issues that are difficult to overcome. Just like a mistake on the trail.

The ocean and horizon represents looking to the future and seeing the big picture. The path is enjoyable, but it would just be any old path without the ocean view. The possibilities that are out there are immense, especially considering that what’s on the surface and below the waterline. By looking out on the horizon we can envision what the school will be like in the future, instead of the current situation. There is also the opportunity to take time to scan the horizon and consider what is possible. Maybe we decide to renovate the trail to better fit our vision.

I am hoping that the more time that I spend running that trail, the more comfortable I’ll become glancing out to the ocean. Hopefully I will develop muscle memory and my feet will just naturally adjust to the rock variations. I’ll also know at which points along the trail that I’ll have to watch out for the cacti and cliffs. The rest of the time I can comfortably run and enjoy the view of the Indian Ocean. Maybe then, I’ll feel like the transition is over and there will be a healthy mix of the day to day and planning for the future.

When you come to visit I’ll take you out on the trail to see for yourself.

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Innovation from Kenya

10-years-m-pesa-infographic

It’s no secret that I am always looking for examples of innovation. Since moving to Tanzania I have been frustrated about having to use cash with most of my transactions. It’s even more difficult here in TZ because $1 USD = 2,230 TZH. I leave the bank with stacks of 10,000 TZH bills. I had heard a buzz about M-Pesa but had no idea how it worked. My first instinct was to search the App store for M-Pesa. I later realized that if this service was an App, it would not have succeeded. That’s because tens of millions of cellphone users in Africa use basic cellphones.

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I just returned from a small local store where there was a line for people to either deposit or withdraw cash through M-Pesa. I just deposited money into my wife’s cellphone number so that she can pay her hotel bill in Karatu, TZ. According to my wife, Karatu is in the middle of nowhere near the Ngorongoro Crater.

M-Pesa was launched by mobile operators Safaricom and Vodaphone in 2007. Neither company is in the banking industry but this innovative has become the world’s leading money service. The system simply transfers money from one phone to another. If the statistics above aren’t convincing that this innovation has had a huge impact and changed the way that users do business, take a look at this study by Professor Tanveet Suri from MIT. 

The developers created software that could be used by existing cellphone technology to transform the economies of countries throughout the developing world.

 

5 Strategies to Demystify the Learning Process for Struggling Students | MindShift | KQED News

  • tags: learning brain brain science brain_research

    • But Oakley is a self-described “former math flunky” who “retooled” her brain — and who has since made it her life’s work to help others learn how to learn by explaining some key principles from modern neuroscience.

    • “But before you can even tackle these,” says Oakley, “you have to innoculate learners against the idea that they are stupid if they cannot figure things out first off. You have to teach them that faster is not always better.”

    • Oakley shares the common experience of students who reread their notes and think they know the material —  only to enter a test and find that they cannot retrieve the information. “They are horrified and think they must have test anxiety.” More likely, says Oakley, they simply haven’t been taught how to study in a way that allows them to retrieve the information.  

    • If a concept is easy for you to grasp right off, the focused mode might be sufficient, but if a new skill or concept “takes consideration, you have to toggle back and forth between these two modes of thinking as you get to true understanding of the material — and this doesn’t happen quickly.”

    • Because toggling is essential to learning, teachers and students need to build downtime into their day — time when learning can “happen on background” as you play a game, go on a walk or color a picture. It’s also one reason why sleep is so vital to healthy cognitive development.

    • The hiker brain takes time. It hears birds singing, sees the rabbit trails, feels the leaves. It’s a very different experience and, in some ways, much richer and deeper. You don’t need to be a super swift learner. In fact, sometimes you can learn more deeply by going slowly.”

    • “Any type of mastery involves the development of chains of procedural fluency. Then you can get into more complex areas of fluency,”

    • Here’s another way to think about it. We all have about four slots of working memory that we can use to problem-solve in the moment. One of those slots can be filled with an entire procedural chain —  and then you can put new information in the other slots.

    • “Metaphor and analogy are extraordinarily powerful teaching tools and very often underused,” says Oakley.  “When you are trying to learn something new, the best way to learn it is to connect it with something you already know.”

    • So familiar metaphors allow a learner to draw on a concept they have already mastered and apply it to a new situation. Or as Oakley says, metaphors “rapidly on-board” new ideas. For example, says Oakley, comparing the flow of electrons to the flow of water is a way to “jump-start students’ thinking.”

    • Oakley encourages teachers to not only use metaphor but to challenge students to develop their own metaphors as a study strategy.

    • First, choose a task to accomplish. Then, set a timer for 25 minutes and work until the timer goes off.  At that point, take a five-minute break: stand up, walk around, take a drink of water, etc. After three or four 25-minute intervals, take a longer break (15 – 30 minutes) to recharge. This technique “trains your ability to focus and reinforces that relaxing at the end is critical to the process of learning,” says Oakley.  

    • We always say ‘follow your passions’ but sometimes that locks people into focusing on what comes easily or what they are already good at. You can get passionate about — and really good at — many things!”

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Why Ideo’s Fred Dust Thinks We Must Relearn The Art Of Dialogue

  • tags: listening Communication

    • “I’m going to posit that we are getting dialogue wrong …We’ve actually done it well for thousands of years, and it’s only now that we’re not doing it well.”

    • Televised political debates, Dust says, have taught us to focus more on the appearance of the candidates than the content of the debate itself, further diminishing productive dialogue.

    • That same bully mentality, Dust says, has infused the structure of workplace dialogues, which were informed by leadership training programs developed by the author and lecturer Werner Erhard in the early 1970s.

    • “One of the things we’re doing at Ideo is looking to design practices of the past, and seeing how they might work for us in the future,” Dust says.

    • Part of what we can learn from looking to tradition is how to actually design designated time for in-depth dialogue and conversations. In recent months, Dust says, “we’ve had crisis after crisis,” from the Las Vegas shooting to the California wildfires, “with no time for conversation.”

    • “The times when people learn the most and are most open to change are when they are coming out of a crisis,”

    • That type of reflective, change-embracing mentality can and should, he says, extend to entire communities and countries in the wake of a crisis. “If we’re not designing for how we have dialogue in those critical—potentially curable—moments, we won’t be able to get to radical change,” Dust says.

    • The Creative Tensions format works by collecting a group of people together in a room, and asking them to arrange themselves along a tension—for example, between the statements “police make me feel safe” and “I feel nervous when police are around.”

    • People move, like life-size chess pieces, around the room, aligning themselves next to others whose views differ slightly from their own. The fluid dialogue structure, Dust says, allows people to find common ground, rather than focusing on their differences.

    • What’s important, Dust says, is that we need to get back to a point where we listen to each other from a place of mutual respect and empathy—and if possible, enjoy doing so.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

You never connect the dots in advance

My former boss, Brett Jacobsen always said that we don’t connect the dots until afterwards. When we are planning for the future we can’t know exactly what the final product will look like. We can’t predict the future. It is hard to believe that just over two years ago I stepped into the role of the Head of Upper School at Mount Vernon Presbyterian School. As a school of “inquiry, innovation and impact” it was a match made in heaven. For years I had been chasing the dream of transforming education for our students and Mount Vernon was just what I was searching for. Each and every day I had the opportunity to work with a talented team of educators to push boundaries to constructively answer these three questions. How might we …

  • make school more reflective of real life.
  • empower all learners to be seekers and explorers.
  • inspire one another — and the larger world — through the work we undertake.

I had the pleasure of continuing work where students could explore their passions with iProjects, developing interdisciplinary courses, watching students partner with outside organizations to develop ideas and create was inspiring, creating meaningful project based learning was fun,  using design thinking to develop creative solutions made sense, and where studying assessment for the future was beyond the trees.

The work was challenging and rewarding.

So, no one would have predicted that by July 2017 I would be on safari for new teacher orientation in Mikumi National Park. I never would have predicted that path back in 2015.

Elephants 2
Taking a Drink
Hippo Heart
Sunset at the Hippo Pool
Sailing
Sailing in Msasani Bay

I never would have guessed that my family and I would move to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania where I would be the Secondary Principal at the International School of Tanganyika. IST is another amazing school but very different than MVPS. We strive to “challenge, inspire and support all students to fulfill their potential and improve the world.” At IST our curriculum is based on the International Baccalaureate Primary, Middle Years and Diploma Programs. There are 60 different nationalities represented in the student body and the faculty hails from 20 different countries. Like MVPS, I anticipate that the work will be challenging and rewarding.

After spending 14 years working at three different international schools outside the United States it feels like we’ve found our niche. While our time in Atlanta was an adventure, our life here in Dar will be an uber-adventure. Now that the transition is over I’m ready to share my learning again.

Karibu Nyumbani!

 

 

 

3 Ways to Build Trust on Your Team | Joe Hirsch

 

best-beaches-massachusetts-sm
Photo from Boston Magazine, June 12, 2016

On a note related to this article and what the Chicago Cubs did with their clubhouse.

On 4 July, along with thousands of others, we enjoyed the beach in Dennis, MA. One of the first things that I noticed was that the groups of people were setup in circles. It didn’t matter that some of the members of the group had their backs to the water. Now I have been to beaches all over the world and this is the first time that I remember this type of culture. Typically groups set up facing the water. Now I’m not talking about a few groups – I’m talking about nearly every group setting up that way. I could definitely tell that the circle was much more conducive to conversations among all members of the group. Why is it that me and my friends did not realize this before? Maybe the same reason why most clubhouses are rectangular.

  • tags:leadership Teams trust

    • Instead of stretching across a long rectangular hall, the new Cubs clubhouse at Wrigley Field is a rounded circle. With a diameter of 60 feet, 6 inches, it is the same distance from the pitcher’s mound to home plate. Unlike the sprawling facilities of other teams, the Cubs’ clubhouse is designed to promote a culture of trust.
    • 1. Get to know the other person.
    • A Google study found that managers who express interest in and concern for team members’ success and personal well-being outperform others in the quality and quantity of their work.
    • 2. Readily share information.
    • Only 40% of employees report that they are well informed about their company’s goals, strategies, and tactics. This uncertainty about the company’s direction leads to chronic stress, which inhibits trust and undermines teamwork.
    • 3. Facilitate whole-person growth.
    • t signals the team’s commitment to each player’s long-term performance and progress.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Ideo Studied Innovation In 100+ Companies–Here’s What It Found | Co.Design

  • tags: Innovation Innovative

    • Purpose, experimentation, collaboration, empowerment, looking out (i.e. staying informed about what’s happening in the industry), and refinement (the ability to successfully execute new ideas).
    • For instance, the metrics might show that a team is very purpose-driven, but lacking in collaboration; or a team might score highly on experimentation but less so on refinement.
    • Instead, when teams iterate on five or more different solutions, they are 50% more likely to launch a product successfully.
    • Everyone Should Feel Comfortable Challenging The Status Quo

      Anecdotally, we’ve all heard that team members who are unafraid to challenge the status quo–which often means the leadership–are a surefire way to encourage new ideas.

    • When a majority of team members who took the survey said that they felt comfortable challenging the status quo and acting with autonomy, the chances of a failed launch decreased by 16.67%.
    • “The factor that we’ve identified is that when it remains stable over time, the priorities aren’t constantly changing and the innovation projects and teams have a stable foundation that they can continue to work towards,” Aycan says.
    • As surprising as it might seem, teams that work together across distances can actually be more successful than teams with fewer remote workers.
    • deo’s data shows that the most innovative companies surveyed have between 25% to 57% of their employees working remotely, with an average ratio of remote workers at 41%. Teams with remote workers are 22% more successful in their initiatives compared to counterparts that are comprised of less than 15% remote collaborators.
    • For teams to truly work together seamlessly, they need to collaborate every day–which, amongst the companies using Creative Difference, led to 28% fewer failed launches.
    • “Teams that work together seamlessly across other business functions daily, compared to those that only update on a weekly or monthly basis, are 21% more likely to be successful,” Aycan says.
    • Ideo’s data shows that leaders–both executives and project leaders–who see their role as helping their employees reach their full potential are 17% more effective when compared to more top-down, traditional leadership styles.
    • “But the best organizations are able to empower more of their organization to identify tensions, equip them with ways to solve them, and be fair in terms of where budgets go and what they chose to work on.”

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.