Weekend Wrap up

Happy Weekend!

If you are like me, you are using this long weekend to take a breath, unwind and relax. And maybe get caught up on some To-dos. Midway through my second cup of coffee this morning, I realized that today would be a good day to go back through some of the things I found or shared on social media last week. Between Twitter and Facebook, there is a lot of good stuff floating around the interwebs. So often I retweet or share with the intention of going back and digging deeper…and then life gets in the way and I don’t. But today – I will. Here are my favorite finds from the past week.

  • The Costs of Workplace Rudeness, The Wall Street Journal – We have all done it. Snapped at a colleague because we were stressed out or overwhelmed. This essay from WSJ makes you stop and think about what your rudeness might be doing to your work environment. Rudeness can be contagious but so can kindness. Goo to stop and reflect once in a while to make sure you are following your own “no jerk” policies and modeling good behavior.
  • Cool Cat Teacher, Vicki Davis has a wonderful 10-minute Teacher Podcast. In episode #140 she talks with Aaron Maurer (@coffeechugbooks) about five ways to amp up STEAM learning. Best take away – “Hold on to your crayons.”
  • Jeffery Bradbury from TeacherCast shared a wonderful blog post from January, Should You Hire a Tech Coach…or a Tech Conductor? Loved the idea that a good district tech coach is like a conductor. I do not come from a music education background but as a former band member, I found his thoughts on leadership and teamwork in ed tech inspiring. Not only gets me excited about working with teachers but almost makes me want to pick up my oboe again…almost.
  • As a self-diagnosed selfie addict, I love the idea of using selfies in the classroom and exploring self-portraiture as an art form. Ed tech guru, Shelly Sanchez (@ShellTerrell) has a FREE Epic Selfie Adventure Template that you can download. I need to give this a try. See, my selfies are for education!
  • If you are not following Richard Bryne (@rmbyrne) then you are really missing out. He shares a ridiculous (as in awesome) number of ed tech resources. This week he had several augmented and virtual reality tools to share. Here are a couple This Is Augmented Reality, This Is Virtual Reality and Membit – Augmented Reality Photo Maps. Follow him on Twitter or read his blog. He shares great stuff.
  • Creativity has been on my mind a lot this week. I’ve been feeling a bit uncreative and uninspired so I’ve been looking for ways to regain my creative mojo. Here are a few posts that I found helpful. George Couros (@gcouros) tweeted an article (5 Weird Signs You’re Creative) that reminded me that I’m not weird, I’m creative. And Fast Company is going to help me rediscover my creativity with this 14 Day Creative Bootcamp. Challenge #1 was to take five minutes and write about myself. Sounds easy but I can’t say where I’m from, what I do, or the roles I play. OK, not sure what’s left but I’ll give it a try. Set the timer for 5 min…and go! Wow – that was hard. Give it a try. Here’s a peek at who I am.

I like to think that I am a creative person who tries to have fun. Sometimes I get overly enthusiastic and can be a bit overwhelming to others. Other times I just want to sleep. I want to explore new places and new ideas – even if it is from my couch with a cup of coffee. I’m still trying to figure out who I am and where I want to go but also like to remember where I’ve been. I am energized by the people who surround me but also like to be alone to think and sleep. I still have lots of questions.

That’s a quick snapshot of a few of my favorite finds from the week of August 28th. Want to see more? Follow me on Twitter (@kbrynteson)or Facebook. What were your favorite finds last week? Share them in the comments.

You Need to Believe in Yourself – How I Deal with Imposter Syndrome

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I’m not sure who to credit for this image. If you know – post in the comments.

I have this picture hanging up in my office. When things get rough and my confidence gets shaky, I look at it and think, “I can do this. I believe in my inner unicorn.”

Can I let you in on a secret, I look at it a lot. I use to be more confident. Heck, during my undergrad I was a cocky, know-it-all engineering student.  I had confidence to spare. I was awesome! At least I thought so. However, sometime in my thirties, self-doubt started creeping in. Maybe it was parenthood. Maybe it was grad school. It seemed like the older I got, the more I learned, and the more I started putting myself out there to share my knowledge and expertise, the more overwhelming my self-doubt became. Shortly after I successfully defended my dissertation, I kept waiting for that email saying that they made a mistake. I was not good enough to be called Dr. I had this ever present sense of dread that one day, no matter how hard I worked or how much I learned, someone was going to come bounding into my office and scream – “You fraud! You know nothing. You are an imposter!” Ugh! I felt like a horse at a fair wearing a fake horn trying to be something magical that I was obviously not. I was not a unicorn, I was just an imposter horse with a plastic horn and everybody knew it.

This feeling was amplified (and in my head verified) a few years later when someone said I was inexperienced and unqualified to do my job, and that my degrees (all three of them) were meaningless and empty. Ouch. Talk about hitting me where it hurt. There have been other times when outside voices have questioned my background, minimized my experiences, or criticized my performance. Don’t get me wrong, I welcome constructive criticism and suggestions for improvement. They are an important part of personal growth. However, these were not words that were said to help me improve and grow but rather to cut me down and make me feel inferior. For a while, I believed them. I let their voices amplify my own inner voice of self-doubt and self-criticism. Then I stopped and thought about it. Then I got angry. I started arguing with those voices and defending myself. And it felt good. I realized that this was not an external fight. Who really cares what others think about me, really. This was an internal fight.

I learned that what I was feeling is called Imposter Syndrome. (You can read more about it here.) According to the American Psychological Association, Imposter Syndrome was first described in the 1970s as the phenomenon found in high achievers who attribute their success to luck and not deserved. They fear that others will find them out as the fraud they are. Yep. That about sums it up. Now that I had a name for it, I could start doing something about it.

After a little bit more research and self-reflection, I decided that I fall into the Expert sub-type. (There are five sub-types.) People in this sub-type typically have that “Haha! I fooled you. I actually know nothing!” feeling. We tend to feel like we never know enough and will never be the expert people think we are. There was more I needed to know before I deserved success. My drive to always be learning was also my tool for self-sabotage. I felt that I wanted to learn more because I didn’t know enough. This paralyzed me. How could I think about advancing my career until I’m an expert? It’s true when they say that the more you know the more you realize what you don’t know. This is something the Expert types do. They use the drive for more knowledge as a procrastination tool and an excuse for not moving forward. Now that I see that, I have become much more comfortable stepping outside of my comfort zone and taking professional risks. I don’t need to know everything, I can learn as I go.

I will never be an expert. I can now say I am OK with that. No, I’m not just OK with that. I embrace that. I will always have more to learn. I will always have more to explore. That doesn’t make me unqualified for my job or unqualified to advance my career. It doesn’t make me an imposter, faking it through life. That no longer scares me or holds me back, it excites me! It makes me a perpetual learner. Which I think makes me an even better educator. I’ve heard teachers I work question themselves like I questioned myself. I’ve heard them grapple with some of the same self-doubts and paralyzing fear of failure because they don’t think they know enough to try a new tech tool or teaching strategy. I want to help teachers (and their students) be confident in what they know but also comfortable with being uncomfortable and not knowing all the answers. You can’t learn if you think you already know it all.

If you find yourself dealing with Imposter Syndrome, take some time to reflect on all you’ve done and how far you’ve come. Allow yourself to be proud of what you have accomplished. You earned it. Admit that you will always have things to learn and room to grow and that’s OK. You’ll learn them as you need them. Find a mentor to talk to. Read blogs or watch talks from others who have felt these feelings and overcome them. It helps put things in perspective. Here are a few that helped me.

I still struggle with those voices of self-doubt. There are still days when I think, “Yikes! I know nothing. I’m in over my head and everyone knows it.” However, I don’t let those feelings defeat me. I don’t let them make me feel like a horse with a plastic horn trying to be something I’m not. Instead, when those imposter feelings creep in and I start to feel like I don’t know what I’m doing I think, “I believe in myself. I’m a unicorn. No, I’m a badass unicorn and I’m ready to do this!”

 

 

Everything I Know about Leadership I Learned from Being a High School Cheerleader

Tips and advice on being a good leader are everywhere. Over the last few months I have been in many meetings about it and have read multiple articles outlining effective leadership frameworks and exploring the virtuous traits of a strong yet fair leader. Articles such as this one from Inc. Magazine on the seven things your team needs from you as a leader or this one from LifeHacker that claims if you want to be a better leader, think like Swiss Cheese. Most recently I was introduced to the Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership that are part of the Leadership Practices Inventory presented by James Kouzes and Barry Posner. (You can read more about their work on their website – leadershipchallenge.com)

From articles and books to toolboxes and TEDtalks, there is no shortage of information about growing yourself as a leader. I have to admit, that although this information has been helpful and insightful, there was very little that struck me as groundbreaking or new to me. Most of the time as I read or watched these leadership experts, I would think to myself, “Yes. You are right. But I already knew that.” Reflecting on my own leadership style and skills (admittingly not perfect by any means) I had to wonder why all this leadership talk wasn’t new but instead confirmed what I already know- even if I am not putting it into practice. Where did all of my leadership knowledge come from? Was I just born with this magical understanding. No, that’s not it. So, where did all this knowledge come from…After much reflection on the subject (and a couple glasses of wine) it dawned on me. Everything I know about leadership I learned as a high school cheerleader.  

OK, stay with me here. Don’t slam your laptop in disgust or delete me from your feed. Let me explain.

For those of you who know me personally, it might not surprise you that I was a

KB_Cheer
Friday Night Cheer

cheerleader. No, not the stereotypical cheer-mean girl we see portrayed today in popular media. But the loud, overly enthusiastic, big-haired cheerleader of the 1980s. Yep. That was me. All through middle school and high school me and my fellow Rah Rahs cheered faithfully for the Genoa-Kingston Cogs. Yes, we were the Cogs and we were proud. During my time donning the orange and blue I learned a lot about what it means to lead and inspire, even though I didn’t realize it at the time. Here are the five things I learned as a cheerleader that help me be a better leader today.

 

  1. Rally everyone behind a shared mission. When your mission is clear, it is easy to inspire your team. “Who’s gonna win? We’re gonna win!” During a football game, the mission was clear and everyone understood the goal. Don’t get me wrong, this does not mean that winning is always the goal, it is just an example of a clear shared mission. We all knew we wanted to win. The team playing knew it. The fans knew it. Everyone knew it. We cheerleaders helped keep that goal front and center and rallied everyone behind that mission. A good leader does the same. If the goal isn’t clear people don’t know what they are working towards.
  2. Celebrate success. This one should be self explanatory. A good leader celebrates the success of the team and the individuals responsible. Celebrate it loudly and often.
  3. Stay positive. Your goal might be to win, but that doesn’t mean you always do. Sometimes you are not successful. A good leader keeps a positive perspective on failure and helps the team learn, recover, and stay focused on the goal. This was a lesson hard learned while cheering for our 8th grade boys basketball team. (Former members of the team – don’t hate me. I still love you all. Let others learn from your pain.) They were….not good. The hardest game was an 80 to 0 loss. As expected, as the opponents score got higher, our team’s morale get lower. The guys started to slump and the fans started to leave. We cheerleaders did not. We stood at the sidelines and cheered for our team. We encouraged them to keep going and do their best. We did the “Aw, Shucks!” cheer over and over and over. As the buzzer sounded on that fateful game, we cheered for our team with all our heart. And we were there at the next game ready to cheer for them again. We didn’t give up on them so they didn’t give up on themselves. Sometimes, teams fail. A leader helps a team stay positive through failure, learn from mistakes, and move on to be better next time or to try something different (our guys were much better at football). In sports, as in life, sometimes things go well and sometime things don’t. Leaders (whether they are the cheer or otherwise) must inspire and support their team to help them stay motivated and work together through the good and the bad.
    Bases Rock
    Me and my flyer. Feats of trust!
  4. Support your flyers. On a cheer squad, there are bases and there are flyers. A base supports the flyers in pyramids and launches the flyers during stunts. The flyers, well, they fly. They are the ones who get tossed up in the air or who stand at the top of the pyramids. I was a base. I was at the bottom of the nine person pyramid holding things up. For most of my six years, I worked with the same flyer. She and I worked together every practice and became a solid team and were able to do stunts that others couldn’t do. That is because we trusted each other. She could not fly if she did not trust me to be there to support her and provide a good foundation. She knew I would do my best to not drop her or let her fall and I knew that she would do her best not to elbow me in the face. We had trust. The same is true for leadership. If you want your team to perform and be stars, give them the support they need to fly. A flyer can’t fly if they do not trust their base or have the support they need to get airborne.
  5. Sometimes you gotta dance. Back in the 80s cheerleaders didn’t usually dance. That was left for the Pom Pom squad. And the Pom Poms didn’t usually work with the cheerleaders. But, we Cogs were rule breakers. Innovators. We challenged the status quo. Great things happened when we partnered with the Pom poms and danced. Our two squads had fun, learned from each other, and became better teams because of it. It helped that we had a shared goal and mission. As a leader, pursue innovative partnerships that help your team think creatively and grow in new directions. Embrace change and challenge the norm. Then bust a move.

There are many things I learned from my time on the cheer squad. Some relevant to my adult life and some not. I didn’t realize how many of the lessons I learned then have helped shape me into the professional I am today.

Please, before you take to the comments section with cries of “Leadership is more than that!” “What about the coach?” “Leadership is more complicated than quipy comments about your childhood!” let me say that I 100% agree. Leadership is complicated. For most of us it takes a lifetime of learning and reflection to get even close to being a great leader. So, by all means, read the gurus (I like Tim Ferris,  James Altucher, or John C. Maxwell), find a mentor, study all the great texts on leadership. Just don’t minimize the importance of your past experiences and what they can teacher you. For me, the above represent my personal leadership journey. You need to find yours.

So, whether you were a cheerleader or the athlete (“Cheerleaders are athletes! Leaders. Believers!” – That is another story for another time.) embrace those lessons and think about how they are relevant today. You may be surprised by what you know.  “GO TEAM!”