Byron's Babbles

Is Your Group Too Small?

Posted in Coaching, Education, Leadership by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on October 16, 2014

IMG_0516.JPG Yesterday I finished the great new book, You Can, You Will: 8 Undeniable Qualities of a Winner by Joel Osteen. If you have not read it; it needs to go on your “to read” bookshelf. One of the comments Osteen makes in the book is: “If your the smartest person in your group, your group is too small.” I loved this comment and tweeted @ByronErnest it. I found that many others loved the comment too because it was retweeted several times. The comment also hit home because I just wrote the post, “Are You The Smartest Person in The Room?” a couple of weeks ago.

When I heard Osteen make this comment (I listened to this book on Audible during my commute) I immediately thought about the advice of always surrounding yourself with the best people. How can your team be great if you are smarter than everyone around you? I’m reminded of my dad’s advice to me at a young age: “Always marry better than yourself!” That’s hard advice to understand, but now coming up on 29 years of marriage; I completely understand it. I certainly married better than myself. Hope is smarter, a better parent, better leader of a household, and the list goes on and on. As I always tell everyone, she is the primary parent! I fail in comparison. In fact I am reminded of a comment my son, Heath, made to his teacher when he was in the fourth grade when asked if he had done all of his reading the night before: “I’m not sure; my mom is out of town for work and dad and I have no adult supervision.” That really is a true story, and of course he had heard me make that comment jokingly before. But, really, there is some truth to it. So, if your still looking for that someone, make sure you marry better than yourself!

The real point that Osteen was making was, however, that we all need to be taking responsibility for our own personal growth to be the smartest, most skilled person in the room, but we need to also seek those who are talented in the areas we are not. The quote from Melanie Joy sums it up nicely: “Educating yourself does not mean that you were stupid in the first place; it means that you are intelligent enough to know that there is plenty left to learn.” We all need to make sure we are constantly taking advantage of any chance to learn that comes our way. For example, I am excited to be presenting at three conferences yet this fall and early winter. I am most excited because of the chance to learn from all the other conference attendees and the other presenters’ sessions. I am positive I will not be the smartest person in the group of attendees and presenters!

So, think about your own situation and find some ways to get yourself some personal professional growth. It may be reading a book (I am always amazed at how much I learn from every book I read), going to a conference, taking a course (I’m proof it’s never to late to start a doctoral program), or finding a coach, mentor, or sponsor. I loved another comment that Osteen made in his book: “While it may be a lot of fun to hang out with Mo, Larry, and Curly; you probably won’t be getting any smarter or experiencing any personal growth.” In other words, who you hang out with matters!

Finally, don’t forget to give of your “smarts” to others. I am always amazed to watch others in leadership positions who seem to want to hire “dumber” than themselves, suppress the learning of others, and just not provide growth opportunities to others. I guess they think this makes them look smarter – NOT! It has always been my personal mission to make sure that when those I have worked with reflect back that they say, “My life is better and I grew personally and professionally because of being around Byron.” Actually, a pretty good epitaph, don’t you think?

Go forth and make your group big enough that you are not the smartest!

Behavior is…

Posted in Uncategorized by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on October 10, 2014

IMG_0514.JPG We had a leadership retreat yesterday and today for Hoosier Academies Leadership Team. To start off with we had done some pre-work by doing a personal DISC evaluation. It is important to note that this evaluation is really about one’s communication style. It is no secret that I am a very high “I.” This means I am an influencer. I want a sociable, talkative, and open environment. To this end, I will bring enthusiasm and energy to the team. As an “I” can also be persuasive and spontaneous. In my test results have me labeled as a “Stimulator.” As a leader, I am totally comfortable with this label!

All of that being said I would like to share seven bullet point themes that I wrote down during our retreat as important leadership and team thoughts. I really think they are self explanatory and will cause you to do self reflection.

Here they are:

+Behavior is…observable, flexible, dynamic, and based on thoughts and beliefs.
+When you focus on the light; there are no shadows!
+There is a domino effect to positiveness.
+Don’t be so sensitive! Take feedback as constructive.
+There is no “They” in the Hoosier Way!
+Consider the impact of your lane on others’ lanes – what you do affects what everyone else does.
+Make decisions based on the goals and strategic plan of the organization
+Make sure that every member of the organization understands their role in the mission, vision, goals, and action plan of the organization.

Also, as a part of this post I have a picture of an activity we did where we put all of the descriptors that would be used to describe our team and organization success in 2016. The idea was to visualize what success will look like. Take a minute to check out the picture.

I hope these bullets and visual give you some things to reflect on in your own organization.

What Is Your Organization’s Microclimate?

Posted in Education, Education Reform, Leadership, Learning Organization by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on October 5, 2014

IMG_0511.JPG While flying into Denver, Colorado today to get my connecting flight to Indianapolis I noticed what appeared to be clouds stuck on one side of the Rocky Mountains. I have included pictures I took out the plane window here in this post. I then decided to do a little research on this because it really made me think about my journey with Hoosier Academies right now that we have themed, “Hoosier Climbs Everest.” To me, it looked like the clouds were clinging to mountains or stopped on one side. I compared this in my mind to the obstacles and storms that happen as a school system or any other organization is working very hard to put the culture, processes, and learning organization in place to be high achieving.

Mountains also experience more severe weather in the form of rain, sleet, and snow on their windward sides. Think about it, organizations that are in turnaround mode are on the windward side of the mountain. These landforms do not so much attract clouds as cause them to form, in a well documented meteorological phenomenon. They are, in fact, a very important factor in meteorology — without mountains, the Earth’s climate would be very different. To continue my analogy we must realize that the culture we are building will also build the climate of our organization.

Air currents are constantly traveling across the surface of the Earth, usually in patterns that remain consistent. In the United States, for example, the prevailing winds run West to East. As air travels, it picks up water molecules in vapor form, which remain vaporous in the higher pressure at low elevations. When the air encounters mountains, however, it is forced to rise.
In the same way that the air is forced to rise when it reaches the mountain, we know that as we climb the mountains of building and improving our organizations that storm clouds will develop. Just remember, these are a necessary part of the meteorology and climate building of our organization. And, just as certain weather patterns can be dangerous when climbing mountains (remember the Everest disaster of 1996), we must too watch the weather patterns on the organizational mountain climbs we are making with our teams.


With the Continental Divide running northwest to southeast though the center of the park, two distinct weather and climate patterns are created. Typical of the east — Estes Park — side is a dryer, semi-arid climate with annual percipitation of 13.10″. The west — Grand Lake — side is marked by a moister climate with 19.95″ of annual percipitation. I have been on both sides of the Rockies and both sides are beautiful. Therefore, we can use this analogy to realize that the different weather patterns will drive the climate of our organization. Therefore we must always understand how these climate patterns of our organization are developed.

Large mountains often form their own microclimates, with extreme variations in weather depending on whether the observer is on the windward or lee side and what the elevation is. Think about it, our organizations form their own microclimates as well. Improving an organization can be as daunting a task as climbing Mt. Everest and we must make sure we are balancing the weather patterns of the windward and lee sides of the mountain. We need to make sure we create a balanced microclimate of shared leadership and learning.

Education: Our Military Mission

Posted in Education, Education Reform, Learning Organization by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on October 5, 2014

IMG_0509.JPG While flying home from Calgary, Alberta Canada today I had the chance to finish reading Tom Vander Ark’s amazing book Getting Smart. In his book he give vivid descriptions of the ‘digital revolution’ coming in our educational system. One part of the book really jumped out at me and reinforced the topic of using relevant contexts to improve student achievement and performance, and increase student motivation and engagement. Vander Ark tells the story in the book of how the U.K. ministry of defense has tapped Lockheed Martin to train all of its aircrew for the next 25 years. There are at least four things that K–12 education can learn from the military and specifically the relationship with Lockheed. First, they really understand how to differentiate. Something that education and specifically many teachers still struggle with. We should be using Lockheed Martin to help us understand how. In their model, Lockheed Martin creates rapid pathways to mastery and the flexibility to test ways to blend different components and types of learning for different types of students.

Secondly, some of the training is conducted to simulate the stress of realistic situations, but with the safety to fail. Our facilitation of learning needs to use more real-world-connected learning—more opportunities for students to see why learning matters and to experience the consequences of actions. It is why my own research in the effects of using agricultural science to teach biology concepts is so important. Students learn at a much high level when taught in relevant contexts with high rigor. Simulations, internships, lab experiences, inquiry based and problem based learning, can all help make learning real. This in turn has the students solving real world problems. Third, the military is really good at job training and preparation. We need to step up our game in the area of Career and Technical Education (CTE) in the United States. The military takes a systematic approach to certification. As a former CTE I know the value of these programs. The problem is there is a great deal of variation in the quality of programs from school to school and state to state. These programs need to be leveraged to not only provide certifications, but also the relevant context for teaching the core subjects of math, English language arts, science, and social studies.

Finally, the military is an outstanding example of a learning organization. By learning organization I mean an organization that is constantly learning from others, the team members are learning from each other, is free from risk of failure, and is able to put lessons learned into play. The military has perfected the art of being a reflective practitioner; something we know is important as educators, but rarely take, or make, time to do. The military after action reviews are something that every teacher and school leader should take time to study and learn from. Additionally, the military is great at forming partnerships and have systems in place to learn at a high level from those partnerships.

In conclusion, we need to leverage the partnerships we have in our own states and communities to help us provide the four things we have learned will help us achieve Getting Smart!


Vander Ark, T. (2012). Getting smart. Jossey-Bass: San Francisco, CA.

Learning To Lead Together

Posted in Coaching, Education, Education Reform, Leadership, Learning Organization by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on October 4, 2014

IMG_0506.JPG As is standard operating procedure for me after some type of professional development, I have written a post reflecting on my learning. The Kappa Delta Pi Learning, Leadership, and Practice: Educating Global Citizens International Research Conference in Calgary, Alberta, Canada really caused me to reflect on my own leadership journey. Many of the presentations touched on environments, situations, and leadership that were in place, enabling me to get to where I am today. This post is a compilation of the thoughts I have had over the last couple of days and those of the presenters.

There are really five characteristics that great educational leaders that I have been associated with possess: Passion for learning, Supervisory intentionality, Reflective Conversations, Learning Culture, and High Expectations. Other Characteristics of exemplary leaders include moral purpose and interactive visibility (awareness). Great leaders then coach and mentor learning leaders who are “schooled by the system” so they are ready to move into all leadership positions. These all start at teacher leaders.

Highly effective schools with highly effective teachers promote environments where everyone can be “Learning Leaders.” Everyone in an organization fits into one of these three categories: Aspiring, Beginning, and Experienced Leaders. Because of this coherent and coordinated quality learning opportunities to support school leaders must be a part of career long professional learning. As a leader, we are a leader of learning. As such you have a responsibility to take part in career long learning.

Leadership Matters! School leadership is second only to classroom teaching as an influence on student learning. High performing school leaders regularly lead, sponsor and participate in formal and informal teacher learning. Every person in the school shares the leadership for student success. Great school leaders build a strong connection between learning and the collective leadership. High performing schools have fatter decision making structures. This fatter, more effective structure comes from shared leadership. Shared leadership works through its motivational impact and the school staff works to create structures for collaborative decision making. The school then really becomes a shared learning school.

When a school becomes a shared learning school it can more effectively address three of the most important factors of a school: Learning, Well Being, and Engagement. There are four parts of effectively building a shared learning school and classroom: Setting Direction, Developing People, Redesigning the Organization, and Managing the Instructional Program.

Built correctly, a shared learning school has an instructional ethos where there is an an acute awareness of the instructional actions and an acute awareness of teaching and learning in the school. Then everyone in the school become designers of worthwhile tasks for students.

One Man’s Trash…Leadership is Art!

Posted in Coaching, Leadership, Learning Organization, Strategic Planning by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on October 3, 2014

IMG_2220I am writing this post while in Calgary, Alberta, Canada for a conference. I am always amazed at how the littlest of events will inspire posts for my blog. Allow me to tell a story of another one of those times. With a little free time I was doing what I do best – explore and be curious. As I was exploring the streets of Calgary I came across an interesting sculpture of a horse outside Saltlik A Rare Steakhouse (I am eating there tonight). I have posted a few pictures of it in this post. It is actually a major work of art in my opinion. Basically, the artist took metal pieces of farm equipment and tools and welded them into this great representation of a horse. Really, it is amazing enough that I probably looked at it and analyzed for about an hour. Now, as a farm boy, let me tell you it is awesome!IMG_2222

When I first viewed it, in awe, I first thought of the old phrase, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” because all of these tools and parts would really be of no value to anyone today, from an agricultural industry point of view. Yet, these worthless pieces of metal were looked at by the keen eye of an artist who saw value and placed the pieces together in perfect harmony to form this magnificent representation of a draft horse.

The longer I gazed at the beast and identified the parts of metal (my dad would have been proud) two other thoughts came to mind. Some leaders, and I consider myself one of these, are artists. We take what we have, what we can find, and what we can develop – whether time, treasures, talent in the form of people, or other resources, and mold those into something amazing. Some call this visionary, but I prefer artist. A visionary is not necessarily an artist. A visionary person can see direction and predict what needs to be done, but can’t always see how to put it all together. Take a close look at the horse and imagine all those pieces lying on the ground. A visionary might say, “let’s make something,” but the artist starts taking the pieces and welding them together while seeing the horse the whole time in her mind. The artist says, let’s make a horse,” and then proceeds to do it. I strive everyday to hone my skills as an artistic leader providing wowful educational leadership.

Another thought I had while looking at the iron equine was all the different pieces that were welded together are like all of the different individuals that make up our teams or organizations. Every piece of metal that makes up this horse had a specific role to play. If you look closely there is a tractor seat, part of a sickle, plow shear, cultivator points, leaf springs, and the list goes on and on. Again, every piece had a role. Sound familiar? This imagery hit me so hard and reminded me how important it is to make sure that every person in your business, organization, or school understands his or her specific role in carrying out the vision, mission, and action plan of the organization. This then empowers your team members to work effectively on high achievement of the key performance indicators (KPI) for your organization.

Next time you are working with your team, take a little time to imagine them all as pieces that come together to build the artwork of a successful organization! If you do that you are not just horsing around!!!IMG_2221

Educating Global Citizens

Posted in Coaching, Education, Education Reform, Leadership, Learning Organization by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on October 2, 2014

As I write this post I am flying over the beautiful Canadian countryside on my way to Calgary, Alberta, Canada for the Kappa Delta Pi Educating Global Citizens International Research Conference. This will be my first time to Calgary and I just know it is going to be a breathtakingly beautiful place with lots to do. I am super excited to be able to attend this conference. I was turned on to Kappa Delta Pi when I was invited to membership as 2010 Indiana Teacher of the Year. I have even had the opportunity to make professional development videos with KDP on educational leadership, effective student engagement, and highly effective facilitation of learning using technology. Kappa Delta Pi has become an important part of my personal professional development. I am even more excited that I am a conference presenter on my research entitled, “The Impact of Agricultural Science on Student Achievement and Performance in a Biology Class.”

I cannot wait to share the impact that teaching in a relevant, real world context can have on student learning. I have shared the powerpoint and supporting documents as a blog post as well entitled, “#KDPLeads.” Click #KDPLeads to read that post. My goal is to effectively facilitate a discussion and planning session that helps teachers, administrators, and other stakeholders to use relevant contexts to facilitate highly effective learning. Really, shouldn’t that be the goal of the whole conference and all our schools?

Furthermore, I picked the sessions I am going to attend (Conference Program) with one simple goal in mind: I want to learn how to be a better leader of highly effective principals and teachers in our school corporation. To do this, I want to hone my personal call to action of: delivering wowful educational leadership! It is always exciting to go to an international conference. The chance to connect, interact, and learn from leaders all around the globe is exciting. As a believer, promoter, and practitioner of global connectivity and citizenship it is a chance for me to model asset based thinking. In other words, no matter where someone comes from or their cultural orientation, he or she brings assets to the table. And, I for one, want to learn from everyone in attendance at the conference.

With the goal of connecting with everyone, I have created the hashtag #KDPLeads to organize all of my tweets and hopefully others at the conference will tweet their learning and thoughts to this hashtag as well. I am always amazed at what a great professional development tool Twitter is. Even those not in attendance at this conference can follow along and even make comments. How cool is that? So, make sure you follow me at @ByronErnest and learn with me at #KDPLeads.

The great part about belonging to an organization like Kappa Delta Pi is the smorgasbord of professional development it has to offer. These opportunities are so important for teacher leaders and school leaders because your school’s circumstances will dictate the choices made for professional development. It is also important to note the advantage KDP brings to the market because of all the platforms they make available for members to choose from. These range from live, face to face conferences like I am on my way to, to recorded videos that members can watch on their time. This truly differentiates the learning for members. I am a huge believer that professional development must be differentiated for professionals the same way it is differentiated for student learners – both in modality and content.

It always amazes me when I here educational leaders talking about not having time for professional development. I change that to the question of, “There isn’t time to not take part in personal professional development.” The educational landscape changes so quickly that we must stay current and put ourselves in the best position to create learning organizations where we can learn from others. We must be learning from each other’s mistakes, failures, and successes. The bottom line is we must be sharing the knowledge we have created. There is such a sense of urgency that we must have whether turning schools around or moving high achieving schools to the next level. The students and families we serve are so valuable that we must do everything possible to develop our skills so we can perform at the highest level. Isn’t that what we expect from the professionals that serve us – doctors, lawyers, pilots, et cetera?

If you are not doing so, I challenge you to make time to take part in some personal professional development yet this fall!


Posted in Uncategorized by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on September 29, 2014

KDP-CalgaryHere are the handouts for my presentation at the Learning, Leadership, and Practice: Educating Global Citizens Kappa Delta Pi International Conference. I am so excited to be presenting on Saturday, October 4, 2014 from 12:30 – 1:30 p.m. in Room 2035 of Mount Royal University – Roderick Mah Centre. I will be presenting on my research entitled: The Impact of Agricultural Science Education on Performance in a Biology Course. To view the entire conference schedule click here. I will update and add to this blog post as the conference begins and upon completion of my presentation.

Also, you can follow my conference tweets by following me on twitter @ByronErnest and using the hashtag: #KDPLeads.

Hope to see and connect with you in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

Here are the handouts:




Are You the Smartest Person in the Room?

Posted in Uncategorized by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on September 26, 2014


If you are like me, when you are in a meeting you make judgements on the knowledge of the others in the room. Sometimes this is based on someone who just has no clue as to what is going on. Sometimes this is based on me realizing I am the one that has no clue! You know if you are honest, you’ve been in both situations! Also, if you are honest, you’ve tried to make sure you are seen as the smartest person in the room. I’ll admit – its true for me.
I also always remember my dad saying, “The amount of talking someone is doing is not necessarily a direct correlation to how smart they are.” Gosh, he was a smart man!

So what does this really mean? Do we need to be the smartest person in the room? For me, I believe the most important thing is making sure we have done the preparation to be the most uniformed person in the room. In fact, those who know me know I often lead off with, “I may be stupid on this..” or “please tell me why I am wrong…” In a true collaborative and learning organization it is so important that everyone is learning from each other. The old adage that all of us are smarter than one of us is so true.

In my studies of Patrick Henry and reading Lion of Liberty I found that he was very self deprecating and never looked at himself as having all the answers. In other words he did not see himself as the smartest person in the room. In reality, however, he probably was always the smartest person in the room, but it was because he was making sure he was learning from everyone else that he became the smartest person in the room.

I also had to reflect about the statement made by Daniel Kahneman in Thinking Fast and Slow “People who have the most knowledge are often the most unreliable.” Now this unreliability is not referring to getting things done. It relates to being unreliable in terms of having the right answers. Sometimes those who are very knowledgeable become immune to realizing that they may be wrong or their answers might not be the best. We can look at this from a personal standpoint and from a listening to the experts standpoint. How many times have we done what the “experts” say and in reality there was a better answer.

It is also very important to remember that sometimes you will be the most knowledgable person in the room. But always remember that what might be obvious to you, may not be obvious to those you lead or those you are on a team with. You have often thought and studied far more about subjects than they have, so you must work to bring them up to the same knowledge level as you are. Think about the perspective of others because they are not at the same knowledge level as you. Recognize that you can ask your teams to share thoughts from their knowledge level. You may just find that you might be the most knowledgable person in the room, but you may not be the smartest in the room.

I would love for you to respond to this post with your thoughts.

Living & Leading Like Curious George

Posted in Coaching, Education, Leadership, Learning Organization by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on September 25, 2014


Who isn’t a fan of Curious George? No matter your age, the inquisitive little fellow who always seems to get into one scrape after another has, in all likelihood, captured your heart. I think I am such a fan because I still live every day just like like him. In fact, as you can see from the picture on this post, I have an area in my office dedicated to him. When I am at Harvard University I always have to stop into the World’s Only Curious George store to do some shopping and get my “Curious George Fix.”

Perhaps his popularity lies in the predictability of his unpredictability. You know that as soon as the man with the yellow hat leaves the house, warning George to be careful, George is going to get into trouble. And when George starts getting into trouble, he only digs himself deeper. The more you poke around, question systems, and look for new ways of doing things, the more you will frustrate some people. As a leader, though, this is what you need to be doing. All to often, however, it’s easier to leave the status quo untouched. This can really get organizations in trouble. To assume you can “arrive” and be done growing and changing is maybe the biggest mistake anyone can make. And the more you push for those out-of-the-box changes, the more you’ll frustrate those who are satisfied with keeping things the way they are.

Children naturally gravitate towards creativity and fun. But life has a tendency of breaking many of us of that. I am so blessed I have been able to resist this tendency because curiosity is a beautiful thing. It leads to new discoveries and new adventures, as long as you’re willing to pursue it. As Margret Rey (who created Curious George with her husband, H.A.) observed, “George can do what kids can’t do. He can paint a room from the inside. He can hang from a kite in the sky. He can let the animals out of their pens on the farm. He can do all these naughty things that kids would like to do.” As leaders we need to remember curiosity is a beautiful thing and needs to be embraced and encouraged. One cannot give enough credit to the Reys. H. A.’s delightful illustrations and Margret’s clear and precise turn of phrase may appear effortless, but that’s only because they labored over each book to achieve that perfect look and tone. Don’t get so tangled up in details, systems, and processes that you forget to have a little fun along the way. There’s an adventure around every corner if you’re willing to look.

If you embrace creativity in life and encourage creativity as a leader, know that things will get messy and chaotic. Rarely will you find order in the middle of creativity. As an artistic leader, I know that I’m going to have to put up with a bit of chaos in the creative process. But at the end of the day, it’s worth it. The insights, new directions, and “art” you’ll create for your school, organization, or business through the process make it worth the effort.

H. A. and Margret Rey each looked to the child within. “I know what I liked as a child,” H. A. once said, “and I don’t do any book that I, as a child, wouldn’t have liked.” By portraying George as a servant leader, they really created a great role model for all of us. If you’ve read the books or watched the cartoon’s you know George’s goal is always to help people. In helping people, however, he often gets into big messes. Doesn’t this sound familiar as a leader? Many of the characters in the books get frustrated with George. Even the one that loves him the most, the man with the yellow hat, get frustrated with him. Again, sound familiar? Which is what you’ll sometimes, unfortunately, find as a servant leader. Facilitating change, growth, and dealing with life is often messy and frustrating.

As a leader, however, the most joy I receive is in the mentoring, coaching, and creatively developing the professional growth of our team members. There are many young and talented leaders in our organization right now that have very promising careers ahead of them and I am so honored to serve them in taking that journey. Their success, advancement, and ultimately, outstanding service to others makes me as happy with them as the man in the yellow hat is with Curious George.

So, my challenge to you is to live and lead a little more like Curious George!


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