Transform Learning this School Year with Eric Sheninger

Episode 111 – The 10-Minute Teacher Podcast

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

Follow @coolcatteacher on Twitter

Eric Sheninger @E_Sheninger motivates us to transform learning this school year. We’re starting Season 2 with a bang and a big book Giveaway, Learning Transformed by Eric Sheninger and Thomas C. Murray! Enjoy!

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Podcast Sponsor

This episode is sponsored by Staples. Staples is my go-to back to school shopping source. Check out for my 10 Ways to tackle back to school like a pro. And remember to sign up for Staples Teacher rewards for free shipping on orders over $14.99 and 5% back. Staples has everything we need in stock all season long and ready to go for school. Go to for more information and great deals!

Listen to the Show

Below is a transcript modified for your reading pleasure. For information on the guests and items mentioned in this show, scroll down to the bottom of this post.


Transcript of Episode 111: Transform Learning this School Year with Eric Sheninger

Download a PDF of the transcript

[Recording starts 0:00:00]

Today’s show is sponsored by Staples, my back to school shopping location for my classroom. Stay tuned at the end of the show and I’ll tell you how to get my tips and trips for back to school.

Get motivated to transform learning this school year. This is episode 111 and the start of Season 2.

The Ten-minute Teacher podcast with Vicki Davis. Every week day you’ll learn powerful practical ways to be a more remarkable teacher today.

Eric Sheninger and Tom Murray have a new book, Learning Transformed. We’re hosting a giveaway. Click here to see how to enter.

VICKI:   Welcome to Season 2 of the 10-Minute Teacher. Today we have one of the most motivational people I know for our Motivation Monday, Eric Sheninger @E_Sheninger has a new book that he has co-authored with Tom Murray @thomascmurray called Learning Transformed.

So, Eric, how can you get us pumped up to transform learning this school year?

ERIC:           When we think about transforming learning I think we have to look first and foremost at why we do what we do and ask our kids. All kids have greatness hidden inside them, it is the job of an educator to help them find and unleash it.

An essential mindset for starting the school year

Our mindset is perhaps one of the most important things we have as we start the school year. If we look at students as having greatness inside and view our job as unleashing greatness. It makes a big difference!

ERIC: How do we help them unleash it? You know what, first off, we got to focus on the ‘what ifs’ instead of the ‘yeah buts’. We have to look at the opportunities and the potential of the tools, the ideas, the pathways, the strategy that we have now to unlock creativity and limitless potential of our kids.

I think as we begin the year it really comes down to this, don’t prepare students for something, prepare them for anything. So as we reflect on our practice, how do we prepare kids for anything, how do we move past the status quo, how do we change our thinking? Because if we utilize the same old thinking we’re going to get the same old results. And when we think about transforming learning, Tom Murray and I spent well over a year looking at the research.


We unearthed over 180 research citations to focus on the why. I love the work of Simon Sinek @simonsinek, and if you have not watched his TED Talk on leadership  and focusing on the why. It is a great way to start the year.

Motivate and Inspire Yourself to Be Remarkable

Start the school year with your colleagues by showing a video get in the right mindset. The Simon Sinek TED talk is a great one. If your principal doesn’t show you videos, watch it yourself to get in the right frame of mind. Don’t let the doing keep you from being the kind of teacher you need to be!

ERIC: But if we don’t articulate the why, our vision, our mission, our values it is kind of fuzzy. My message, Vicki, to everyone listening is as we think about out beginning of the year, celebrate our success, celebrate what we do well, but keep an eye – where do you want to be? And what are those areas of our roles that we can do what we do better?

VICKI:          The why is so important and I hate say this – and my mom won’t be listening to this particular podcast, I hope, but sometimes our big ‘buts’ get in the way, they really do because so many times you talk about something transformational and then somebody look at you and here you see, and it’s coming and it’s coming and they say, ‘but’ and you’re like, “Please, let’s just focus on these students.”

We start building a culture of trust with our colleagues and students on the first day.

ERIC:           Yeah it’s interesting. ‘Buts’ really put up a barrier, a roadblock. And that road block inhibits us from building a culture of trust. We need to build a culture of trust with our kids, with each other. When we think about our work, when we think about learning, it all comes down to relationships. Without trust, there is no relationship, without relationships, no real learning occurs. And those ‘buts’ just enable us to, again, revert back to a fixed mindset, status quo, this is the way we’ve always done things and yeah, I guess it’s worked.

But when we think about kids the world is different. Kids are learning differently, the environment in which they learn is different. So we need to think, learn and act differently.

VICKI:          Yes, you have to relate before you educate.

Yes, you will hear me say this a lot. You have to relate before you educate. Before you create. Before you innovate. You relate first. I believe I’m a better teacher now because I’m better at relating and building those relationships. On Wednesday in episode 113, Nancy Blair will talk about a genius idea to help a whole staff relate better to students.

VICKI: Now, Eric, I want you to travel back to the time when you were principal and you’re looking at those teachers and you’re thinking about the first day and you’re about to give the a pump-up speech to really reach those kids and leave the past behind and move behind, what do you say?


Eric Sheninger’s essential reading list

Leaders are readers and readers are leaders as John Maxwell says. (I paraphrased a bit.) I keep a list of books I might want to read in my to-do app. Many years a go, I read that Brian Tracey says to be in the top of your field, you need to only read an hour a day. That has been my habit for at least eight years now and it does make a difference. Here are some great books to start reading.

ERIC:           Well, I can tell you what I did many, many years ago. Part of my mindset shift was reading a lot of books. I read Drive  by Dan Pink, Linchpin by Seth Godin, Outliers   by Malcom Gladwell, The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, and I read another book, it was called the No Complaining Rule  by Jon Gordon and the rule was simple. Let’s not complain, we don’t want our kids to complain but complaining helps to create an environment that’s not conducive to change innovation. So when we think about our complaints and we think about our challenges which we have, we have realistic challenges. I would encourage everyone to think about solutions. If we focus on solutions as opposed to excuses and challenges we can truly begin the process of implementing the type of changes that our kids will appreciate.

And the other thing I would say is put yourself in the shoes of your students. Would you want to learn under the same conditions as your kids? Would you want to learn in the same environments as your students? And I think that gives us a lot of motivation to begin to change our practice, help our kids see value by modeling and implementing a better way.

The Biggest Mistake Educators Make Starting the School Year

We need to lear from our mistakes. But if we learn from the mistakes of others, we can get better, faster.

VICKI:          So Eric, what’s the biggest mistake educators make when they start the year?

ERIC:           I think the biggest mistake is we’re so focus on getting the schedule set up, going through our syllabus, going through the rules the expectations, going through them monotony of school. Basically, we’re prepping the kids for another year of school. And I think we have to flip it. I think instead of going through the monotony of the job and what we think we have to do because that’s the way it’s always been done, what about thinking about asking kids, engaging them, why are they here? Why is learning important? How can we together create an amazing learning experience for you? What do you need to be successful?


And I think taking Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle , the why, the how, ‘the what’ to sort of flip that first experience we have with our kids can really jumpstart learning and begin to set the stage for a pretty exciting things as the year goes on.

VICKI:          So Eric, how do you have that conversation? Because honestly, some kids, if you say why are you here, it will be “because mama dropped me off”?

ERIC:           And that’s the challenge. If kids don’t see the ‘why’, we don’t engage kids enough at understanding the significance of learning. And I think we have to have those more conversations, we can’t be afraid of having difficult conversations because if we let that mentality go on, as the year goes on we just run the risk of losing kids more and more. And I think that ‘why’ is tying into the bigger picture, the bold new world of work, the exciting world and thinking about our interest of our kids, aligning that in the beginning days to the work at hand. It’s a difficult conversation, Vicki, but I think it’s a conversation we shy away from much too often.

A remarkable school year starts by captivating kids on the first day. How will you do it? Sure, we need to cover procedures but think about what students will SAY about your class on the first day when they go home to their parents. The first day is an important first impression. Use it well!

VICKI:          Well, and I believe that a remarkable school year starts by captivating students on the first day and I don’t know if anybody’s syllabus is exciting enough to captivate someone’s mind and capture their heart.

ERIC:           I don’t think so. And I think in our book, Learning Transformed, Tom and I talked about redesigning learning experience and we really don’t focus as much on personalized learning as we do personal learning. Get to know your kids, find out how their summers went no matter how old they are. Find out what books they read, what did they do with their free time and use that as a catalyst to plan future lessons, future units, future projects. Get kids excited about why they’re in your classroom and what they’re going to gain from that experience.

VICKI:          So Eric, we’re going to do a giveaway of your book, the information will be in the show notes. Tell us quickly about it.


About their book Learning Transformed

Enter the book giveaway competition.

ERIC:           Learning Transformed was Tom Murray and my attempt to bring all of the research together to, again, emphasize the ‘why’ but the showcase innovate practices in action. We don’t just present a ton of research, we present educators across every position that are implementing change, that are getting results. Sir Ken Robinson @SirKenRobinson said in his words, “This is a manifesto for the change that we need in schools.” And that’s a lot coming from Sir Ken who’s work on creativity we all appreciate.

So I think educators will find it research-driven, evidence rich and sort of it showing how we can bring efficacy to all the amazing ideas that we’re talking about.

VICKI:          So educators, let’s get out there and have a remarkable year. And Eric is giving us so many wonderful ideas. So let’s get motivated.

Thank you Staples for sponsoring this episode.

Our sponsors help keep this show going. I’ve been sharing my favorite products for makerspaces and other tips for back to school shopping for this year. Thank you for supporting our sponsors.

Staples is my go-to back to school shopping source. Check out for my ten ways to tackle back to school like a pro. And remember to sign up for Staple’s Teacher Rewards for free shipping orders over $14.99 and 5% back. Staple has everything we need in stock all season long and ready to go for school. Go to for more information and great deals. Good luck with back to school

Thank you for listening to the Ten-minute Teacher Podcast. You can download the show notes and see the archive at Never stop learning.

[End of Audio 0:09:49]

[Transcription created by Some additional editing has been done to add grammatical, spelling, and punctuation errors. Every attempt has been made to correct spelling. For permissions, please email]

Bio as Submitted

Eric is a Senior Fellow and Thought Leader on Digital Leadership with the International Center for Leadership in Eric SheningerEducation (ICLE). Prior to this, he was the award-winning Principal at New Milford High School. Under his leadership, his school became a globally recognized model for innovative practices. Eric oversaw the successful implementation of several sustainable change initiatives that radically transformed the learning culture at his school while increasing achievement. He has emerged as an innovative leader, best selling author, and sought after speaker

Competition to Win the Book

Learning Transformed Book by Eric Sheninger and Thomas C Murray

The post Transform Learning this School Year with Eric Sheninger appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

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5 Simple Ways to Improve Teacher Professional Development

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

Follow @coolcatteacher on Twitter

A common cry from teachers across the world is for relevant professional development.

A 2014 Gates Foundation study shows only 29% of teachers satisfied with current teacher PD. Another 2015 study shows that only 30% of teachers improve substantially with PD. So, what we have doesn’t seem to be working.

So, what can we do to improve teacher professional development?

This is a contribution to Cathy Rubin’s Global Search for Education Top Global Teacher Blogger’s Column. This month’s question is about how to improve teacher professional development.

1 – Model What is Being Taught

In my own experience, I remember sitting through a class on differentiated instruction. The “teacher” had more than 200 slides. She read them to us.

To further make this point, let’s discuss what differentiation is. Think of it this way — Some students learn by seeing. Others learn by hearing. Others learn by doing. But no one learns one way. So, when you have many ways of teaching material, nearly every student learns better.

But during this class on differentiation, the teacher didn’t differentiate with us. She lectured. She showed slides. We didn’t act it out. We didn’t see a movie. We didn’t do any kinds of hands on activity. We didn’t talk about it with the person next to us. All the content on differentiation was delivered in a non-differentiated way.

So, if differentiation works – do it. If project based learning works – do it. Model teaching what you’re teaching if it works.

In my opinion, if you can’t teach me about game based learning by using games, you’re not qualified to teach game based learning.

Professional development should teach using the methods being taught.

2 – Commit to Personal Professional Development

Kaizen is a Japanese term for “continuous improvement.” Kaizen is a mindset. Organizations following Kaizen look at a system as a whole and make slow, small steps to improve.

My strategy of Kaizen innovation is that I “innovate like a turtle.”

Although I’ve been teaching in K12 for fifteen years, the last eleven have been transformational. Eleven years a go, I made a decision that changed my teaching. Coming back from GAETC 2015, I realized that I had been to the conference before but my classroom was unchanged. I had a list of fifty things and did none of them.

So, I decided to do two things:

A – List My Big 3. I would keep a list of the next three things I wanted to learn. Just three, no more. I would steadily learn about those things until I integrated them into my classroom. Sometimes, one of the three wasn’t suitable, and I’d abandon it for something else.

B – Turtle Time. I take 15 minutes 2-3 times a week during my morning break to learn something new.

I’m dedicated to Kaizen, but that term is not one that excites me. By calling it turtle time, I acknowledge my commitment to slow, steady improvement. Forward progress is progress.

3 – Understand and Use Micro Teaching Practices

In John Hattie’s updated ranking of effect sizes on student achievement, microteaching is near the top. Microteaching is

“a video recording of a lesson with a debriefing. The lesson is reviewed to improve the teaching and learning experience.”

Most teachers have a device that can record video. If we use our phones to record small portions of our lessons, we can use microteaching to improve. Certainly, there is a method of improving through microteaching.

Personally, I learn so much when I record my own teaching and watch it later. (I use a Swivl and my iPhone. The device follows and focuses on me around the room.)

4 – Use Student Feedback to Shape Learning with Just in Time Learning Strategies

Formative assessment can help teachers understand how students are learning. Formative assessment is a snapshot of how knowledge is forming in a student’s mind. Instead of asking one student what they know, you can ask the whole class.

The point that can make all the difference. But what does a teacher do when students aren’t learning? When a teacher realizes students aren’t learning is perhaps when the greatest professional development could happen. There are several strategies a teacher could use today, however, each of them has limitations and reasons teachers don’t. Perhaps if we understand these, we can work together to improve just-in-time learning strategies for teachers.

An Instructional Coach

The business world has “life coaches.” Education does have “instructional coaches.” Unfortunately, in some schools, these instructional coaches also have administrative responsibility.

To understand a common problem with instructional coaching, let’s look at the business world for a moment. For example, in the business community, a life coach is typically not someone in your chain of command. The person doesn’t have the ability to evaluate you. The “life coach’s” job is to help the person. Often a life coach doesn’t even work for the company of the person they are coaching.

In the education world, instructional coaches can be called by a teacher for help. However, if the coach is helping a teacher improve in an area, that needs to be confidential. If, however, the instructional coach makes a beeline to the principal, let’s see what could happen. Let’s say the coach told the principal,

“Mrs. Jones has me helping her with a classroom management problem.”

Now, suddenly the principal thinks Mrs. Jones has a huge problem.

In reality, however, every single teacher on staff has problems and areas to improve. Mrs. Jones is just the only one asking the instructional coach for help. Mrs. Jones may be one of the best teachers on staff, but she’s penalized for getting help to improve her teaching.

Until schools make it ok to admit struggles and get confidential help, teachers will keep their personal pd needs private. Teachers won’t ask for help even when student formative data shows they need it if their request for help is misunderstood or even worse – used against them.

Just In Time Resources

Many teachers use YouTube and other video services to search for help. For example, if they have a problem with Google Classroom, a video tutorial may do the trick.

However, with a few exceptions, edtech seems to dominate the teaching videos available on YouTube. It is hard to find answers for classroom problems like classroom management by searching YouTube.

Books, Videos, Courses, and Conferences

Teachers can find books, videos and courses to help them on an issue. However, typically curriculum directors or district officers determine how money is spent. Teachers have a difficult time getting money for individual opportunities. If they ask for it, they have to justify their need and may end up in the same situation they often have with some instructional coaches – they have to admit the problem they are trying to solve.

One problem with materials such as this is that classroom teaching is evolving so rapidly. So while a content creator may have a Ph.D., sometimes they may not be as relevant as a classroom teacher. Many teachers love Teachers Pay Teachers while others frown on the resources because they prefer traditional textbook companies.

Microcredits and Badges.

An emerging professional development “economy” of competency based micro credentials has teachers taking a new type of course. These small courses, for example, could have a teacher focusing on “checking for understanding.” They would take online instructional materials, but then involve peers and colleagues in a person submitting a demonstration of skill.

The fascinating aspect of micro-credentials is the melding of online and offline learning.

This area is evolving rapidly. So quickly, that the proliferation of badges has many calling for more rigor in the earning of badges. So, in this case, not all micro credentials or badges are created equal.

5 – Unconferences

If you’ve read this far, perhaps you can see why the teacher unconference is so popular. The most popular form of the unconference is the Edcamp, but many conferences are scheduling an “unconference” day with this same format.

At Edcamps across the world, teachers show up on a Saturday morning to an unconference location. It is free. Teachers self-organize into topics. If people want to learn something, they show up to the designated room. If a session doesn’t meet their needs, they can leave and go to another one. Teachers can model and create and innovate together. Sometimes they bring gadgets or share lesson ideas. Many teachers love this environment.

However, some locations don’t give teachers professional development credit for these valuable sessions. Understandably, some teachers hesitate to give up personal time without continuing education “credit.” Others like things to be more organized.

But on the whole, many innovators I know like unconferences and prefer them over any other method of professional development.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Personalized learning is the conversation in student learning today. It should be for teachers as well.

We know professional development as it has always existed isn’t working. We also know that we must improve teacher knowledge and learning.

What many people don’t know is that teachers don’t have much time. I have had years with too many “duties.” Those are the years I didn’t innovate. You can’t innovate like a turtle when you’re working like a dog.

So, first, we need to make sure that teachers have time to learn. Let’s streamline paperwork. Let’s remove non-teaching duties. Let’s help teachers focus on teaching and learning about teaching.

Second, teachers must personally commit to learning. If we teachers are freed up to learn and use it to hang out in the teacher’s lounge and bash students, we aren’t innovating like a turtle – we’re becoming toxic waste. As a teacher, it is my professional duty to level up and learn continuously.

And third, I think we need to let teachers have a major role in vetting and determining how they’ll learn and what they’ll do with their PD. We should give teachers the financial resources and the time to go to professional learning opportunities. While teacher shortages are a problem in many places, we can’t shortchange teaching professionals and keep them from learning how to become better teachers. Effective professional development should be a priority.

If personalized learning works, perhaps it should start with teachers.

Let’s learn. Let’s become better teachers. And let’s be part of the evolution of teacher professional development. It’s about time.

The post 5 Simple Ways to Improve Teacher Professional Development appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

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