My journey to Google Certification

When I was facilitating professional learning for my District as a Literacy Consultant , I had written all of the exams except 1. It was different back then–you had to write a test for Google Sites, Google Docs, Gmail/Calendar etc…). I ran out of time for the last one.

I will never forget. I got an email saying my test would expire in 24 hours and that I would need to start over again if I didn’t complete the Google Sites exam and pass it. Except I read the email at 8 pm, with the test set to expire at midnight. So what did I do? I tried the test. Cold. No preparation. I figured I knew Google Sites well. But of course I didn’t and so all of the tests became invalid.

In the subsequent years, I did not have the time to write them again. I had begun my Masters, written a book, and was trying to balance that with being a good wife, mom, daughter, sister…well you get it.

I also wondered WHY. I know my Google stuff. Why do I need to write a test to prove to the world that I really know my Google stuff?

Maybe it’s an ego thing? I know I am the only GEG Ontario leader in our awesome group of 7 who does not have any Google qualifications. They have never let me feel inferior. When I hang out with my Ed Tech team peeps (online or in person) and present at Ed Tech Summits, I am keenly aware that I am probably the only one there not qualified either (maybe they didn’t know that which is why they let me in or maybe I was just being paranoid???). Everyone kind of assumes that because I facilitate professional learning, that I am. So what’s the big deal?

When my friend Tisha Richmond first suggested in our Voxer group that she wanted to spend time this summer studying and writing the certification exams to possibly apply to be an innovator, I immediately contacted her. Let’s do it together! For me, it was an opportunity to co-learn, to challenge myself, and to prove to myself that I can do something I set my mind to.

Our goal was to complete Level 2 by the end of August. Well guess what? Despite time zone issues and summer mode, we tried and BOTH SUCCEEDED last night! This is what made it even more special for me.

But the real story is that we were ready to write the Level 1 test last night and realized we didn’t have to–we could go for Level 2. We spent lots of time deliberating. Were we ready? Is this the right choice? In the end, we both went into the test with the following mindset: “Let’s try it and if we fail, we will know what to expect next time”.

The test was VERY intense. It was three hours of practical application and serious thinking. I haven’t written an exam in a long time, and I think the exercise itself was a great challenge. My girls were so cute. They both said, “You got this, mom!” and left me in perfect silence only to come up once in a while to blow me a kiss or give me a thumbs up.

Am I more Googley today than I was last month? Absolutely. Preparing for the test taught me so much that I would definitely use and show others.

This is definitely not a path for everyone, but if you are even thinking about it, go for it! Even better, grab a friend and go for it! There are tons of resources out there to support you. We used Kasey Bell’s Certification Matrix and various Youtube videos. Tisha and I took turns learning and sharing using Google Hangouts which was a great way to learn.

Google Innovator? Trainer? Maybe. Maybe not. In the end it’s not the status but the learning that I value most, and the knowledge that when I set out to do something, I can! That and modelling life-long learning for my girls.

The Twitter Thread

I have an ongoing love/hate relationship with the trend to use a long Twitter thread (a series of posts meant to continue one stream of thought) instead of a blog post. This conversation was instigated by Justin Schleider and Doug Timm, my Edumatch pals.

I have often seen “rants” using this medium, which is perhaps why I dislike it so much. Until today.

Connie Walker, a Canadian journalist, created a thread about her journey with her daughter (now there was a response to the thread that basically says DO NOT DO THIS as monarch butterflies are in crisis), but what I want to focus on is the potential for storytelling.

Unlike Twitter moments, which I mention in Social LEADia, as opportunities to curate content on Twitter to create your own interpretation or story about it, Twitter threads are completely blank slates for creation. Composing a Twitter thread would simultaneously restrict kids and give them flexibility to be creative.

It would also be a really important lesson in digital citizenship because you would need to spend time peer-editing each other’s for a global audience.

What do you think?

Social LEADia Podcast: Episode 1 @TheLivBits

My first guest is 11 year old Olivia Van Ledtje. Listen here:

In the episode, we talk about Class Accounts. Here is a resource that might help and this helpful resource from Alice Keeler really helps with managing class tweets.

Don’t forget to follow @TheLivBits on Twitter or Instagram and check out her blog and Vimeo channel as well.

Missed the WHY a Social LEADia podcast? Here it is.

Are you and your students making a positive impact on and offline? Please contact me. Would love to have you on the show.


Introducing the Social LEADia Podcast

I can’t believe it has been a year since DBC Consulting (aka the amazing Dave and Shelley Burgess) published Social LEADia!

I am most proud of how the book is changing conversations around our need to use social media in our schools and most surprisingly, that it has inspired actual change in classroom practice. I have received dozens and dozens of messages and links over this past year that have made my heart melt and sometimes even cry!

To celebrate, I had a 5-day birthday wishes campaign with the intent of crowd-sourcing resources which mesh with the spirit of Social LEADia:

#socialLEADia #birthday1 –> Lots of inspiring folks to follow

#socialLEADia #birthday2 –> Some great digital citizenship and social media in education resources shared

#socialLEADia #birthday3 –> Lots of great organizations (some student-led) that kids around the world are passionate about

#socialLEADia #birthday4 –> Inspiring quotes you can use in your context or which can be used for a pick me up

#socialLEADia #DBC50 –> Book snaps from the book and/or other DBC books.  See what resonates with others!

What’s next?

I often say, the problem with writing a book is that you have to finish writing the book. Social LEADia is unique in that it shines a light on the voices and projects of teachers and students for digital leadership–to improve the lives, well-being & circumstances of others (Couros, 2013) and who are using technology and social media to learn and share learning, promote causes that are important to them, and to be a more positive influence on others.  The stories and examples are just as relevant today than they were a year ago, but every day, I meet more and more students and educators who are simply awesome. Although I continue to update the resources at, I feel like so many more stories and students need to be highlighted and shared!

And so, I decided to start a podcast, Social LEADia: Making a difference on and offline. It will be a short 15 minute conversation highlighting students and/or teachers; many of whom you may not know about at all. Their ideas and projects will hopefully inspire you to try something similar in your context. It will run for 15 minutes and will run bi-weekly. It will be hosted here on my blog as well as on possibly on VoiceEDCanada Radio.

I literally don’t know what I’m doing here! I have learned Garageband, Zencastr, and Anchor–thank goodness for Youtube and friends like Matt Miller, Coach Ben, Stephen Hurley, Brian Costello, Jennifer Gonzalez, my husband, and many others who have helped me try to figure out this podcast thing (I am still working on transitions obviously!!) Here is my WHY!

Thank you to George Couros for inspiring the book, for my many friends and family who critiqued, shared, and supported Social LEADia this past year.

Thank you to everyone who has read the book, are thinking of reading it, and have supported me on this wild and amazing journey!

I hope you will join me on this new journey! Are you and your students making a positive difference in the world? Please connect with me.

🙂 Jen


What makes a difference in learning (from students)


I sat with forty-three grade 12 students two days ago to ask them what really makes a difference in their learning. These four ideas repeated themselves in slightly different variations forty times.

  • A teacher who is passionate about their subject
  • A teacher who cares about me and connects with me as a person
  • Interactive lessons and discussions–not just taking notes, taking a test, and repeating the process
  • A teacher who connects their subject to the real world

I think it is important to ask kids what they value and I am so glad I did. It really goes to show how very important our impact is on students and their learning. Their list is quite simple, isn’t it? And yet, the passion and longing with which some students shared these desires was quite startling to me. It’s amazing how a simple good morning and a warm smile and a “hello” can have!

I am reminded of a powerful post from my friend, George Couros from a few years ago, 10 Easy Ways to Create an Amazing #ClassroomCulture this year. . which lists very simple ways to ensure a child feels valued and cared about.

Their responses also made me to connect to  this oldie but goodie by Sir. Ken Robinson which was shared by Dr. Erin Keith in my Dynamics of Change class:

Teachers are the lifeblood of the success of schools. But teaching is a creative profession. Teaching, properly conceived, is not a delivery system. You know, you’re not there just to pass on received information. Great teachers do that, but what great teachers also do is mentor, stimulate, provoke, engage.


It is not lost on me that this is near the end of the year, but NOW really is an amazing time to loosen up and really get to know your kids, to have fun with them and help connect them to their passions.  It’s never too late to connect with our students. Here are a few ideas for the end of the school year which may help with the “interactive lessons” part.




10 Reasons Why we should start showing Middle Schoolers how to use Social Media

I was recently tagged in a post called, “Ten Reasons Middle Schoolers Don’t Need Social Media” based on a post in Psychology Today and asked about my thoughts. The post was written in a Parenting forum. My response requires more that 280 words, so here are my responses in blue:

1. Social media was not designed for children.

A tween’s underdeveloped frontal cortex can’t manage the distraction nor the temptations that come with social media use.

  1. Although not designed for children, social media is being used by kids at younger and younger ages, Adolescence is also a time where kids are “able to reflect on their own thinking, and are able to observe how they learn and develop strategies to improve their learning, as well as when planning and impulse control is developing (Adolescent Literacy Guide, page 16). Thus, this is the ideal time in an adolescent’s life for mentoring children in the appropriate use of technology.   A 2016 Common Sense Media study talks about many ill effects of unmonitored use of social media recommends adult role-modelling as necessary to prevent problematic media use. 

2. You can not teach the maturity that social media requires.
I hear parents say that they want to teach their child to use social media appropriately, but their midbrains are not developed yet. Like trying to make clothes fit that are way too big, children will use social media inappropriately until they are older and it fits them better.

2. Kids learn and grow in their maturity and understanding of social relationships not just via social media but in face to face situations as well as texting situations. A parent can get an account for/with the child (because 13+ is generally the age requirement) and help a child navigate the space and use it positively.Having an open relationship and conversations with a child and role-playing can help navigate some of these tensions as they happen and can open up a healthy dialogue–no matter what the medium. There are so many kids who use it quite intelligently and for positive reasons. We seem to harp on the negative so often that we discount the good. 

3. Social media is an entertainment technology.
It does not make your child smarter or more prepared for real life or a future job.

3. This is a BIG FALSE. Social media is about who you follow. Middle school is an amazing time to show kids that social media can connect them to organizations, causes they are passionate about, authors, and learning opportunities.  I have met kids who, as a result of social media connections have had opportunities they never would have had otherwise (Michelle Wrona, Aidan Aird, Timmy Sullivan, Hannah Alper ,Olivia Van Ledtje, Curran Dee to name a few), as well as kids who are leveraging social media for GOOD!

4. It is not necessary for healthy social development.
It is entertainment attached to a marketing platform extracting personal information and preferences from your child, not to mention hours of their time and attention.

4. Because so many kids are presently on social media (and I don’t suspect this will change any time soon), it is true that so much of a tween’s social life is connected to their phone. So NOT allowing a phone and/or social media can actually ostracize a child. Yes, social media is a marketing platform; in the same way that kids have to be critical of magazine and television ads, it is important today to have conversations about the media and the techniques they use to sell a product. In a 2016 Stanford study, 80 % of middle school kids could not discern the difference between an ad and an article, which means that we need to stop trying to ban social media, and instead help our kids make sense of it.

5. A tween’s “more is better” mentality is a dangerous match for social media. 

Social media encourages them to overdo their friend connections like they tend to overdo other things in their lives. Does anyone have thousands of friends?

5. Middle school is an ideal time to talk about friendships as well as isolate the difference between a friend and a follower and what makes online and offline relationships the same or different. But we also have to recognize that for kids, online is an extension of offline because they have only known a world with technology in it. It is also important to note that every person has the power to give another person great joy by sending positive and complimentary messages online as well as in person. As adults, are we modelling the positive and constructive ways we can communicate with one another in person and online? 

6. Social media is an addictive form of screen entertainment.
Like video game addiction, early use can set up future addiction patterns and habits.

6. danah boyd in It’s Complicated talks about the “addiction narrative” being problematic (negative and a misnomer), stating that what we are calling addiction is more a teen’s dependence on their friends which is a natural physiological part of adolescence. I would also add that  Middle school is an ideal time for families to talk about balance and to keep each other accountable, and to talk about the impact of notifications and responding to them right away. Many parents need to better model their own excessive use and starting these conversations and good habits early will set kids up for success later in life. 

7. Social media replaces learning the hard social “work” necessary for success.
The use of social media greatly lessens opportunities requiring children to practice dealing face-to-face with their peers, a skill they need to master to be successful in real life.

7. Face to face interactions are important and need to be continually fostered. This is a good time to teach kids when it is appropriate to respond in person, on the telephone, or on text; helping them to determine what is appropriate in each situation. “Real life” today, however, also increasingly demands that people know how to respond appropriately in electronic formats. I have worked on several collaborative projects without ever having been in the same room as my colleagues.  It is therefore important to allow students opportunities to practice both.

8. Social media can cause teens to lose connection with family.
They view “friends” as their foundation and since the brain is still being formed, they need healthy family attachment more than with their peers. It is just as important now as when they were preschoolers.

8. Adolescents will typically choose friends over family; it’s part of this developmental stage. But social media use doesn’t mean that family attachments are lost; in fact, it can provide great impetus for conversation and some fun (have you Snapchatted with your teen lately?) and can actually strengthen bonds with family. My own children saw their grandmother once every couple of months, but because of Instagram, they connect far more frequently and she knows what’s happening in their lives far more than she did before. When they see each other face to face, they have much more to talk about.

9. Social media use represents lost potential for teens.
The teen’s brain development is operating at peak performance for learning new things. Studies show that it is nearly impossible for them to balance it all and teens waste too much time and too much of their brain in a digital world.

9. Multi-tasking is not good for anyone (adults or kids) as many research studies have proven, but is a separate conversation from social media which can be a place of connection with new ideas and an abundance of learning. In fact, the reading, posting, creating, and viewing that kids are doing on social media are literacy rich activities, and need to be recognized as such. Literacy has always been impacted by technology. Social media is a part of the world today and we have an obligation to help kids understand the world around them. As adults we can be inquisitive rather than condescending about pop culture, and changes in the usage of langage. 

Today, there is an increasing digital divide not necessarily when it comes to access to devices, but with HOW devices are being used. There are lots of kids doing awesome things online and adult mentors who are showing their tweens & teens how to use social media to follow their passions, follow inspirational people, connect with people in careers they are interested in, and make a positive difference in their communities. Sadly, some have no idea of the potential. That is a reason parents, kids, community, and schools need to work together to show kids there is potential beyond entertainment and that they can create intentional and positive digital identities. Middle school is an ideal age for this, because it occurs before they develop notions of what social media is “supposed to be”.

10. Do any of us wish we had started earlier?

10. Absolutely. If only I had known that social media could provide me with a network of passionate, committed, and generous educators, when I was a young teacher starting my career, I would have been so much better for it.

I’m not sure why we feel it is an all or nothing situation. We need to recognize that the world is different than it was even 10 years ago, and balance our fears with opportunities to help our kids not just survive but thrive and be leaders in online spaces!

Check out my book, Social LEADia which has tons of examples of students using social media for good!


Having a Positive Impact

I had the honour of keynoting the #iEngageMidWest conference this past weekend in Chicago. It was a wonderful day co-organized by Berwyn South & West 40 ISC

AND it was at Hamburger University. Not too many people know this, but when I graduated from university, at the at of 22, I was at a crossroads. I was offered a full time managerial position at the McDonalds where I was a shift manager. This would have meant a company car, access to the corporate cottage, a handsome salary, and training at Hamburger University. I loved working there and when I saw many people who had graduated from university come to our store to make McDonalds a career, I seriously considered it. On the other hand, I had the impact of a passionat teacher in my life and thought I would be happy as a teacher.

Well, you know what choice I made. But I often think about how different my life would be now if I had made a different choice. I thought about all of the people in my professional life whom I have met who have made a positive impact on my life.  I guess it’s thinking about this that made me challenge the iEngage Midwest participants. I invited them to share their learning on social media and celebrate someone who made an impact on them this weekend. There was lots of great sharing. This was one of my favourites:

We were challenged by @JCasaTodd to thank someone for their impact. I thank @jbagus59 for sitting next to me at #IEngageMidwest, a month from retirement, still learning and growing. You have impacted so many people, Jane. Thank you. 💚#d100pride

— Leah O’Donnell 📖📝 (@leahod) April 29, 2018

It was so heartening to see people celebrate each other!

Everywhere I look these days, teachers and students are stressed and tired. I think that an attitude of gratitude won’t diminish our stress level or our work pile, but it can help lift people up. I am mindful to do this every day in some form or another: on and offline.

Some people are rich with material things, I am rich in blessings: people who inspire me, support me, and lift me up when I need a boost.

So this week, I challenge YOU. Celebrate one (or more) people who have made an impact on you. Do it openly on Twitter or Instagram or in your blog. Let’s flood the internet with gratitude and awesome!

Here’s my gratitude list:

My family. Always.

My school community at Cardinal Carter which feels more and more like my extended family each passing day.

Thank you to Jordan Garett for inviting me to Chicago and the iEngage Midwest team and participants for being so very awesome (and Jordan’s fiance, Matt for driving us at 6 am and even giving me a yummy all-natural protein bar to tide me over).

I am grateful to Jim Stewart for inspiring me to choose teaching and for encouraging me to be a leader.

I am so thankful for Lori Lisi, Cathie Furfaro, and the 21C team for helping me to develop and hone those leadership skills.

I am grateful to George Couros for pushing and pulling and for supporting and mentoring and for a thousand other things.

I am grateful to Robert Cannone, Stephanie Viveiros, Stephanie Corvese, Fran Siracusa, Olivia Van Ledtje, Joshua Williams, Braeden Mannering Quinn, Aidan Aird, Timmy Sullivan, and all of the other teachers and students who have inspired me and allowed me to share their stories in Social LEADia.

I am grateful to the ONEDSschat team led by Leigh Cassell, the GEG Ontario leaders, Edumatch, the 53s, my Sing-off peeps, and the Dig Cit Summit Canada team for doing and being awesome.

And I am thankful that because of so many the people with whom I interact on social media (all of you with whom I have had several DM conversations–too many to list separately), I feel the positive impact that connection with a PLF brings…and with that comes bringing new passiona and learning into my building.


Facebook reflections

In light of the recent breach of data by Facebook, several people have asked me if I am still on Facebook or if I have changed my stance on social media and its importance and relevance in the classroom and for empowering digital leadership. After all, my book Social LEADia is about inspiring people to think differently about social media in school.

My short-response?  Nope.

There is an even greater need than ever before to bring social media into the classroom through our media strand and an even greater need to empower our students to not only understand how social media works but how to be the change.

And so, I began this blogpost this morning to talk about my thoughts on targeted ads and privacy in light of Zuckerberg’s testimony and the recent scandal, but that will have to wait until another day, because in the meantime, I received the following message from a friend on Facebook Messenger:

Hi, I’m Mark Zuckerberg The Director of facebook.

Hello everyone, it seems that all the warnings were real, facebook use will cost money

If you send this string to 18 different from your list, your icon will be blue and it will be free for you.

If you do not believe me tomorrow at 6 pm that facebook will be closed and to open it you will have to pay, this is all by law.

This message is to inform all our users, that our servers have recently been very congested, so we are asking for your help to solve this problem. We require that our active users forward this message to each of the people in your contact list in order to confirm our active facebook users if you do not send this message to all your facebook contacts then your account will remain inactive with the consequence of Lose all your cont the transmission of this message. Your SmartPhone will be updated within the next 24 hours, will have a new design and a new color for the chat. Dear Facebook users, we are going to do an update for facebook from 23:00 p.m. until 05:00 a.m. on this day. If you do not send this to all your contacts the update will be canceled and you will not have the possibility to chat with your facebook messages

Will go to pay rate unless you are a frequent user. If you have at least 10 contacts

Send this sms and the logo will turn red to indicate that you are a user

Confirmed … We finish it for free Tomorrow they start to collect the messages for facebook at 0.37 cents Forward this message to more than 9 people of your contacts and it will be free of life for you to watch and it will turn green the ball of above do it and you will 9 of you

and this video:

Both are clearly fake. How do I know?

The letter:

  • riddled with grammatical errors
  • urgency to have you forward the information is typical of a phishing scam
  • Mark Zuckerberg’s official Facebook has no such message

The video:

  • the date it is posted in April 1st (April Fool’s day)
  • a close look at Z’s face suggests doctoring and the voice is robotic
  • there are actually very few close-ups of Mark talking
  • the content does not align with Zuckerberg’s testimony or his public statements about the company

The video’s purpose is very different than the message itself and I would argue that life without Facebook would be similar to life with it and that many other platforms can be places to foster connections, learning, sharing, and promoting positivity. It can also destroy relationships and spread hate. It’s not the tool but the user of the tool that makes a difference.

What I am wondering…

What is my own and collective responsibility to create healthy and positive online environments?

How can I model positivity and digital leadership with my own accounts? How many people forwarded this message vs ignored it vs reported it?

What role do educators, leaders, and parents have in empowering our students to understand how to detect fake messages?

What might kids do to lead change if we have these conversations with them and educate them about the way media works?

How do Districts support teachers via professional learning around social media: the risks, as well as the affordances and opportunities?

How can we educate our children about the world around them (a world that includes social media) if we block and ban social media from school?

If you do get that message forwarded to you, don’t just ignore it. Add this blog link or a quick message and report the message to Facebook.

Would love to hear your thoughts.



Parenting Today: Brickwall, Jellyfish, & Backbone

Several years ago, I was a part of a community network of parents who brought Barbara Coloroso to our school community to talk about parenting from her book, “Kids are Worth It”.

I will NEVER forget her talk as it really resonated with me as a daughter, a mother, and an educator. Now, as I prepare my own talk for a school community in a few weeks (kind of crazy how it has come full circle for me), I am thinking about Coloroso’s parenting message as it applies to cell phone conversations.

She talks about three kinds of parenting styles: the brickwall parent, the jellyfish parent and the backbone parent. 

In this video, Coloroso elaborates on these styles.

I was raised in a brick-wall parent environment. The first response by my parents was always no. And while I did not revert to a jellyfish parenting style in rebellion, I know that since I saw Coloroso speak about 12 years ago, I always strived to be a backbone parent. And I think for the most part, this worked!

EXCEPT…when it came to the initial cellphone use of my kids! You see I allowed the media to scare me into rigidity. I set parent controls, and was very absolute about rules that I HAD SET. It is not surprising, that my kids engaged in media use behind my back (they admitted to me later that they had learned how to circumvent my Safety controls). I share lots of my parenting fails in my book, Social LEADia.

I have seen MANY parents engage in Jellyfish parenting when it comes to cell phones: laughing about how kids these days just seem to know all this stuff, not having any kind of guidelines for time spent online, or allowing kids to play 18+ games at the age of 10. When something goes wrong, these parents jump into “brick wall parent mode” because they don’t have strategies to fall back on; often banning kids from devices for long periods of time.

I think I have finally reached the point where I feel like I am a back bone parent when it comes to use of devices. This is not true all the time and I definitely don’t think I’ve got it all figured out, but here is what I am thinking about it right now:


A few tips for being a back bone parent when it comes to device use:

  • Co-create family guidelines for cell phone use
  • Moderate time spent online vs time spent offline and have conversations about balance
  • Encourage exploration of online communities for creating and connecting
  • Have ongoing conversations about what kids are seeing, learning, and excited about, and uncomfortable with or wondering about. Model this by engaging in your own “think aloud” about what you are seeing, learning, excited about, uncomfortable with and wondering about
  • Ask questions and learn about what your kids are learning, seeing, and doing online
  • Model the behaviour you would like to see and admit your own shortcomings and struggles

Would love to hear your thoughts.

Are you a Drainer or a Charger?

I just came back from Spring Cue in Palm Springs. While I have so much to reflect on about my experience, I really wanted to jot down my thoughts on something I tweeted while watching Ann Kozma during the #CUEBoom event (a rapid-fire 3 minute inspiring talk with a maximum of 9 slides).  It was AnnKozma quoting Julie Adams #FULLYCHARGED Keynote about the importance of charging up our students & staff by meeting their Maslow needs, when we don’t, we act as drainers. Schools can be uplifting (Disneyland-like) & the place people WANT to be when we do so.  I tweeted:

For many, this tweet resonated, but for Brenna, in Australia, such an absolute statement proved problematic. (Take a look at the whole thread as she expands upon her point of view).

This is unrealistic at best, harmful at worst.
Is it better to pretend to be posiitve when we’re not feeling positive? Push down negative feelings when we’re having a tough time? Always put on brave face? Ignore our feelings in the hope they’ll go away?

— Brenna McNeil (@msbmcneil) March 17, 2018

Brenna is referring to the mental well-being of teachers. I appreciated the conversation. I clarified my thinking and Brenna expanded upon hers. Even with 280 characters on Twitter, we were still able to see each other’s point of view.

Another person, Malcolm responded:

“No. That’s how a very bad school got away with keeping its staff in miserable acquiescence. Everyone seemed to be ‘happy’ and the parents thought everything was okay. ‘Negativity’ can be resistance.

Their comments made me ponder whether or not I should have made such an absolute statement. And so I wondered about the impact of the two possibilities in a school:

Imagine if a school leader said, our school is going to ensure that we provide a positive culture for our learners. We approach everything from a growth-mindset perspective. We smile. We don’t complain for the sake of complaining. We don’t gossip. We are never malicious. We presume positive intentions. We motivate, celebrate, and re-charge our students and each other.

vs a school where a leader either doesn’t overtly address negativity, gossip, or malicious attitudes, or doesn’t care about this at all.

I would like to work and learn in the first school. Here’s the other thing. I just came back from a conference where I got to hang out with my #PLF–people who inspire me and re-charge me with their own positivity. And I smiled for two days straight.

I am also reading Learner-Centered Innovation by Katie Martin. So many lines in that book resonate with me, but in particular, for this conversation this one does:

“We can’t change who we serve, but we can change how we serve them.”

–Katie Martin

Katie often talks about the learning environment and how important it is for the vision to align with the reality.

I try to lift others up and be a positive force on others. But do I do it at the expense of my own well-being or the well-being of others? When I approach a situation with positivity, I am often rewarded with positivity coming right back at me. And my students have commented that they always feel happier when they leave my Library Learning Commons. Sometimes, I give out stickers, just because everyone can use a sticker every once in a while. Other times, when kids have their heads down, I check in with them and ask if I can help them in any way. And every day I greet my students and colleagues with a Happy Monday (insert day of week here). Am I masking my own fatigue or stress to put on a smile for them? Sometimes. But sometimes, that fake-in-the-moment smile, leads into genuine happiness. A recent Stanford study suggests that our brain works better on positivity.

But the counter-argument does have validity. If we are trying to make our school the happiest place on earth, are we undermining those who are struggling with anxiety or depression? I recently saw a similar charge/vs drain image. It was shared at a self-care presentation. It showed an image of a cell phone and asked:

“Would you ever let your phone totally drain down to 0%? But for some reason we may allow ourselves to drain down to 0%”

This really resonated with me. So here is the new image I came up with.

What do you think? Please check out the comments below and add your own.