Promoting Courage in our Educational Systems

Courage is an important trait to embody in our Education system, for both Educators and Students.  As one of the Seven Grandfather Teachings, it is a trait that enables all other aspects of good character, including Humility, Inclusiveness, Cooperation, and Respect. It also encompasses the ability to be imperfect, and the ability to contribute to the greater good of all, which is important in our Education System.

Courage is something that Educators and students use every day within our Schools. It takes real courage to demonstrate the following:

  • good character
  • contribute to the common good
  • feel confident in caring for others
  • express oneself creativity
  • display closeness toward others
  • to cooperate with others,
  • to develop commitments
  • imperfection
  • recognition of strengths and weaknesses
  • to use any personal strengths that situation may be required to move forward!

Effective Leadership is needed for our Educators and Students alike, in order to help discover the personal ways that everyone can demonstrate courage in their lives. How courage is displayed from staff and students is in fact a direct reflection of personal feelings of significance, self-esteem, and self-efficacy. Everyone will display Courage in different ways.

When individuals are convinced of their self-worth, their Courage will be displayed through their body language, and that in turn also convinces others of one’s self-worth, and therefore helps to reinforce the positive reactions of others. This promotes healthy, positive, and realistic attitudes of ones strengths and weaknesses. Healthy individuals have the courage to contribute positively to the greater good of all, and have the courage to be imperfect!

How Courage can be Developed through effective Leadership:

  1. Help staff and students to set personal boundaries! Allow others to display the courage to recognize their own personal self-worth and help manage how this is displayed and presented in various situations!
  2. Allow individuals to face what is wrong! Help others to feel it, recognize the dynamics, and reconstruct the self in relation to the problems, change interpersonal reactions of others, or even end maladaptive relationships for more positive ones.
  3. Give staff and students the freedom to explore and test new ideas in safe ways! As leaders and role models, we are often in a significant role in the lives of children, and we can demonstrate respect to them, and teach them how to respect, and be respected from others.
  4. Find new ways to make intervention and change strategies more motivating or meaningful to the individual, in order to gain a higher degree of compliance to intervention or change strategy!

The better that leaders and educators can harness effective strategies to promote ‘Courage, the better the outcomes in developing the whole student, and ensuring that everyone feels significant in their personal roles within the entire school community.

D. McCallum

© Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Educational Leadership and Principles of Cognitive Psychology


Educational Leaders can benefit greatly from the principles of Cognitive Psychology. It is a valid, quantifiable field that is able to help us understand a wide range of issues as they pertain to Education and Learning.

The research behind Cognition has been focussed on how we think and the way we learn, and more specifically on the systematic biases in of the schemas that we hold about the ways the world works. The theory behind our Cognition basically posits that our cognitions (thoughts, beliefs and assumptions), will trigger our affect, behaviour and our motivation. In other words, how we feel will affect how we behave, and they will in turn have profound effects on our motivation to learn.

Basically, biases and distortions are often the barriers to an effective education, and therefore, we need to address them within our education system.  Once we begin to recognized what those barriers are, we can engage in discussion, assessment, and appropriate intervention strategies. Intervention strategies can include effective ways for educators to begin to disrupt the thought patterns that lead to ineffective learning behaviours. This is essential to help students and Teachers alike to create positive change in the education system.

 All humans have the ability to engage in metacognition, and evaluate our own thoughts, it is those thoughts which in turn elicit behaviours. Thoughts certainly affect personality. Therefore, Educators and Leaders can use this premise in order to help students and employees to identify and change any dysfunctional or maladaptive thoughts, in order to improve behaviour and increase achievement and success.

Three cornerstones of Cognitive Psychology in Education Leadership includes:

a) The necessity to recognize the ability for students to self-monitor their own thoughts and behaviour,

b) The ability for Educator(s) and students to collaboratively engage in appropriate activities and schedules, and

c) Continually and actively challenging and what you think you already know about learning and education.

Self-monitoring is an excellent tool that teachers can use with students, to encourage more reflection, and metacognition skills (thinking about the way we think). Once students develop an increased awareness of their thoughts, then educators can help students engage in appropriate activity scheduling to help students actively dispute maladaptive thoughts, which will in turn affect maladaptive functioning and behaviours in the classroom.

Ineffective behaviours usually arise due to ineffective thought systems and reflexive responses. However, we as humans have the power to be active agents in our own development. Therefore, educational leaders can help students and stakeholders to engage in  activities that include strategies to invoke explicit and deliberate thinking, goal setting, problem solving, and long term planning. With careful questioning and activities such as personalized homework assignments, Educators can help students learn to use conscious control of their thoughts in order to recognize and override unsuccessful behaviour patterns and ineffective choices.

Other specific activity scheduling strategies can include (but not limited to)

  • Role Playing
  • Social Skills training
  • Assertiveness Training, and
  • Talking Circles.

In addition, embedding Character Education, Community building, and a Culture of Caring within our schools is also extremely important to restoring public confidence in the education system, in addition to improving transitions from elementary to high school, and high school to higher education.

It is important for Educators to use active questioning strategies to bring about new learning by:

1) Working with Students and Colleagues to clarifying and defining problem areas

2) Assisting in the identification of thoughts, images and assumptions

3) Examining the meanings of events for a student

4) Assessing the consequences of maintaining maladaptive thoughts and behaviours

5) Actively challenging those thoughts, images, and assumptions via appropriate educational intervention strategies.

Educators have the ability to impact the ‘whole’ student, and also using these Cognitive Psychology principles to understand how we learn, in addition to other dimensions of a student’s personality, including anxiety and depression in our students. An increasing variable that we as educators are facing when educating each cohort. Cognitive Theory posits that people suffering from depression and anxiety are not consciously seeking failure in their lives, but distorting their own reality by adopting negative views of themselves, and of their potential for happiness. Another key assumption is that negative automatic thoughts are developed through everyday experiences that are perceived as negative. To manage these variables, Educators can engage in Activity Scheduling interventions are excellent ways to actively dispute negative thoughts and behaviours!

In terms of applying principles of Cognitive Psychology, we as educators can use these thoughts to serve as hypotheses and subject them to validation. Examples  of validating our hypotheses of our students may include the use of homework tasks and assignments where students  actually test their own understanding and hypotheses about themselves and their own learning. This essentially builds excellent metacognition skills. Examples include helping students  and can make personal observations to refute (or confirm) their hypotheses of their own thoughts and behaviours. Therefore, Educational Leadership is always about allowing others to be active participants in developing their own metacognitive and reflection skills!

D. McCallum

© Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education, 2012-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Key Characteristics of Effective Educators


The relationship between Educator and student is so important, especially during the students formative years. To be able to engage students in the learning process effectively, the reality is that this relationship needs to be perceived of as strong, solid, and based on trust and respect. Effective Educators are those who have strong relationships with the students, and this is due to a myriad of characteristics, skills and talents that educators must embody with their students.

The following is a list of 17 Characteristics that an Effective Educator embodies:

  1. Expertise and skills within the curriculum areas they are planning, teaching, and assessing. These are all areas that can take years to perfect, and pre-service teacher education is just the beginning.
  2. Technological skills associated with the areas of expertise, and how to apply them to the curriculum and student needs. 21st Century Technology is so important to introduce and incorporate in our classrooms and curriculum. It is the way of the future, and students need to understand how to use it, plan with it, navigate, understand, and stay safe with 21st Century technologies!
  3. Enthusiasm and striving to increase a personal knowledge base, and practical skills through continuing education, training, supervision and consultation. This is especially true in this digital age where information technology has exploded and continues to change at rapid paces. The most effective educators stay abreast of new knowledge and updates!
  4. Demonstrates understanding and openness to the cultural influences within the classroom. Effective educators develop a keen understanding of how cultural backgrounds affect how knowledge will be interpreted and learned by the students. Some of this knowledge is transferable from classroom to classroom, but much of this knowledge needs to be learned and re-understood in new contexts and learning environments. It is imperative to understand the impact of multiple cultural environments on the students and their effects in the classroom. It is not static!
  5. Keen understanding of their own interpersonal issues and learning styles. This is an area that is often overlooked, but essential for educators to be the most effective in working with the whole student. We do not want educators to inadvertently prioritize their own needs in exchange for meeting the needs of the student. If educators have excellent instructional skills, but lack in insight about themselves, then educators are at higher risk of holding stereotypical beliefs, bias, and prejudice within the classroom. If educators have strong skills in addition to understanding personal strengths, weaknesses, values, and challenges, then that creates educators who are better able to learn, change, and adapt within the classroom, and creates greater awareness of how to create favourable learning environments.
  6. Adequate balance between listening skills, and lecturing as the classroom expert. This is where Inquiry Based Learning, and Project Based Learning are important, in order to enable students to ask the questions, make the plans, and explore and answer their questions through experiential learning.
  7. Facilitates collaboration and cooperation in Flexible ways. Effective Educators are able to assist students in their inquiry, and assist students learning together, rather than engaging in coercion of students with regards to what they must learn at prescribed times, and how they must learn.
  8. Many different types of Assessment are valued utilized when determining final grades. A variety of dynamic and fluid assessments done in real time, and in culturally appropriate ways that respects the individual, are important to understanding the whole student, and accurately assessing what they truly know.
  9. An Ability to handle complex situations & discomfort in appropriate ways. Let’s face it, when dealing with a classroom full of personalities, backgrounds, cultures, and learning styles and needs of not just students, but also parents, and all other stakeholders in a student’s education, situations are bound to be complex and uncomfortable situations are unavoidable. They will occur. Effective educators understand themselves, and understand how to effectively deal with difficult situations..
  10. Understanding of when it is okay to ask for help and support from colleagues and supervisors. Learning is not static, and is always evolving, especially in terms of Globalization and 21st Century technology skills. Further, we all develop our areas of knowledge at different rates, and some areas may be stronger than others. It is not a sign of weakness to understand what areas need help and improvement!
  11. Strong educators feel competent and valuable. When educators feel this way about themselves, they are more likely to continue to teach in ways that strengthens this view!
  12. Critical Thinkers and ability to engage in Metacognition. This involves an awareness of personal cognitive reasoning processes and how they affect own thinking abilities and reasoning of teaching practices and assessment procedures.
  13. Ability to manage power differential. Effective Educators do not misuse power by trying to steer students into the ‘right’ direction.
  14. Ability to work through ethical issues, and conflict  in careful ways that take into account the best interests of all students. Restorative practice may also be a valuable strategy to use because it values all parties.

In conclusion, the most effective educators have a strong sense of self-esteem, and strong skill sets and areas of knowledge. They respect students and seek out help whenever needed. They are culturally aware, and flexible with the needs of the student dynamics in each individual classroom. It is these characteristics and competencies that build positive working relationships and alliances within the classroom, and among all stakeholders in the education of our students!

Deborah McCallum

© Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Creating Welcoming Environments in our Schools and Libraries


In many schools, there can be a lack of cultural diversitiy, symbols and practices that make students and parents feel welcome and important. This is unfortunate, because creating Welcoming Environments are essential to improving Student Learning.

However, it is a challenge to continually create Welcoming Environments in our schools.

With increasing demands surrounding school report cards, test scores being linked to school funding, and demands for increased accountability for educators and students, Educators, parents, and students can feel overwhelmed, and forget that creating a welcoming environments can be the most powerful tool in our quest to improve student learning. Welcoming environments invariably increase parental involvement and support, and parental involvement is paramount to improving student learning both directly, via activities such as tutoring and homework help, and indirectly, via activities including reading aloud to a child and discussing the value of education. Parents and community only become invested in their schools when they feel invited and welcome!

Welcoming environments can be created and improved upon by attending to the Physical Environment, School Practices and Policies, Personal Interaction, and Written Materials and Communications. Here are just a few ideas that can be used:

Physical Environment:

  • Embed Culturally significant symbols, ie., Medicine Wheel, 7 Grandfather Teachings, Dream Catchers, into hallways, classrooms, offices, libraries and websites.

Practices and Policies:

  • Promote strong sense of Community, Culture & Caring Policies
  • Restorative Practices
  • Character Education Models
  • 21st Century Technologies and Digital Citizenship Policies
  • Involving Parents in decision making perhaps through surveys or other assessment tools, parent groups


Personal Interaction:

  • Leaders in the school working on teambuilding to bring staff together & recognize accomplishments;
  • Co-create and share visions at Staff meetings by brainstorming key ingredients of a Welcoming Environment;
  • Do the same with Parent Groups;
  • Staff as friendly and inviting to students, staff, and parents

Written Materials and Communications:

  • Regular Classroom & School Newsletters,
  • Classroom & School Websites
  • Recognize parent & community volunteers
  • Write articles about staff members, volunteers & students
  • Parent Handbooks
  • Twitter Feeds
  • School Facebook Page
  • Ministry Learning Management Systems
  • Telephone answering machine messages
  • And always remembering to limit educational jargon, and write communications at a 6th to 8th grade reading level

Deborah McCallum


Seeing your school as others see it.: Welcoming environment.

© Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.