Reinventing Authenticity


You’ve thought through 21st century tools and 21st century skills, but how are you set for 21st century virtue? What do you mean “virtue” is a Victorian notion? Don’t you need a stance, a perspective, a context in which to make sense of these quickly-changing times? Think of virtue not as an unblemished character trait, but as a vantage point which gives you the ability to take action and make a difference. There may be a number of such virtues, but there is one that that comes before all others. Authenticity: the ability to impact your world as your genuine self.

The next great frontier turns out not to be the oceans or outer space, but human potential. Think about it. When you look at all the skills and tools touted as the hallmark of this century, what is the common denominator? Real-time, authentic, in-the-moment, interaction. No confinement by physical space and time. No limits to creativity, collaboration, productivity and building new understandings. Our minds are the ultimate frontier.

The irony of the 21st century is that, because of its immediacy, people have become that much more cynical, and it limits our thinking. We just accept that media are not objective. We don’t expect advertising to make sense. We create avatars that serve as caricatures of ourselves. Operating in a virtual world can be all at once very self-affirming and very artificial. Lines are blurred, anything goes and reality checks become optional.


Authenticity cuts through all of the superficiality and makes you well-grounded in reality.

People who operate with authenticity:

  • Know their values – they are clear on what is important to them
  • Are self-aware – they are conscious of who they are and what they are doing
  • Have internal focus – they have a strong sense of how they can make a difference
  • Are results oriented – they keep their eyes on the outcomes they want to achieve
  • Have affective intelligence – they combine thinking and intuition in their knowing
  • Seek deeper understanding – they are driven to go beyond initial answers
  • Generate real connections – they seek out and attract people and ideas of substance
  • Communicate with clarity – they speak and listen clearly, openly and receptively
  • Resist distractions – they operate in the moment regardless of multiple demands for their attention
  • See infinite possibilities – they view the world as more than one pie with only so many slices

Hey, if it were easy, everyone would already be doing it. What’s the incentive to develop your own authenticity? In a world of noisy, disruptive, quickly-changing reality, those who are well-grounded in themselves emerge as the thought leaders and achievers of this new age…the standard-bearers for where we are headed…as educators…as people…as members of a global society.

You know people who personify authenticity; you have already met some of them along the way. They immediately get your attention with their ideas and energy. Authenticity cuts through all that is unnecessary and gets to the point. And at the end of the day, we all respond to anyone and anything that gets to the point. No posturing. No style without substance. No smoke and mirrors. Just true, bona fide, indisputable, unadulterated gravitas.

People who are not in touch with their authentic selves resort to defensive posturing: making excuses for themselves, blaming others and seeing people conspire against them. These behaviors consume their energy giving them a false sense of purpose. You have met people like this too, making a lot of noise wanting your attention…but they don’t resonate with reality. It’s important to see them for who they are…and that’s hard to do until you are in touch with who you are.


When you operate with authenticity, you take charge of tools and skills and circumstances and generate new ideas, new possibilities, and new solutions. Doors open and opportunities make themselves available to you simply because you are no longer limiting yourself in your thinking. You don’t point to situations or people and blame them for your circumstances; you work to create the circumstances in which you want to live.

Yes, authenticity requires effort up front, to know your genuine self and get in the habit of being true to who you are. But the longterm pay-off is incredible…because you don’t have to be a big-name mover-and-shaker to make a difference in this world…you just have to be your genuine self…and all your potential to impact the future will emerge. It’s a journey…not a destination…and it happens by degrees.

So why not begin today…here and now…reinventing authenticity…first by peeling off the thinking and habits that hold you back…and then replacing your old ways with genuine 21st century virtue?




These days there is so much stimuli coming at us all the time…not just information…stimuli…all kinds of pokes and prods and prompts chiding us to react. And the more we become accustomed to it, the more we become desensitized to how it conditions our response. Can I have my facts with a heaping helping of hyperbole, please?

The key to keeping grounded in objective reality? Intention: thinking, acting and feeling in deliberately purposeful ways. Operating metacognitively. Refusing to react. Forcing reflection. Insisting on awareness. Choosing to be mindfully engaged.

This is becoming increasingly difficult in an age where everything is cased in context…emotionally-charged, reaction-inducing, prepackaged context. It’s so pervasive, it’s easy not to pick up on it. And it’s so enticing, we tend to surrender to it. Knee-jerk reaction is easy; it gives into our most base assumptions, biases and preferences. It reinforces what we want to believe, not what we know. It is intellectually lazy.


Intention puts us in tension with how others want us to live. It requires us to stop and forces us to think…not react. It’s not easy; it goes against our natural attraction to those things that reinforce our personal preferences. Intention is hard, but I can condition myself to be intentional, much in the same way outside influences condition me to be reactive. I frame my own reality. I own it. It is mine.

The payoff is, when I am intentional, I retain the power to choose my own thoughts, my own decisions, my own happiness. It insulates me from any outside influence unobtrusively attempting to permeate my sense of what is real and right for me.

Intention is my ticket to authenticity, to being my genuine self, living my genuine life. Without filters. Without static. Without the undue influence of anyone else. Because, in the final analysis, no one else is responsible for my happiness. No one else can get me where I want to be…where I belong.

Practice intentionality in everything you do. Ask yourself why, and then make yourself justify the answer. Know your truth…and accept nothing less than your truth in your life. Teach yourself to be intentionally you…intentionally fulfilled…intentionally happy. As T.S. Eliot implores in Ash Wednesday: “Teach us to care and not to care; teach us to be still.”


BYOD’s Brutal Authenticity


Reposted from teachthought:

Starting in the spring of 2012, Georgia’s Forsyth County began allowing students to bring in their own devices. They installed a separate wireless network that offered filtered internet access. They trained teachers. Then they installed some ground rules, closed one eye and grimaced, fearful of what might happen.

And for the most part, it worked. In a blog post on Innovative Educator, Tim Clark, District Instructional Technology Specialist (ITS) for Forsyth County Schools, explained the shift that occurred once students brought in their own technology. “As the teachers began to introduce BYOD* into their classrooms, some fundamental changes began to occur. They no longer had to teach their students about technology in order to integrate technology effectively in their classrooms because the students were already the experts with their own devices.”

But there’s more. Clark also touts more important benefits of BYOD—those that lead to better learning. “This change in practice (adopting a BYOD program) can evolve as the teachers allow themselves to become collaborators with their students in the learning process. When the students first bring in their technology devices, they are immediately engaged and want to explore all of the possible capabilities of the technology. This initial phase of exploration passes quickly as the students become more literate in their devices and learn how to connect them to the BYOD wireless network. The teacher and the students then begin to adapt their technologies to their current classroom practices.”

Read More…


Leaving Traditional Schooling Behind [VIDEO 3:18]

Traditionally public education has been dedicated to instilling in each student a well-rounded foundation of literature, math, science and citizenship. But today, living in a world where children grow up learning on-the-fly at their own pace connected to people and ideas from around the world, that traditional role of standardizing citizens with lowest common literacy skill sets is no longer meeting the needs of a global society and the global economy to which our children will contribute. Learning today needs to be authentic, applying skills and understandings that are relevant and meaningful to the individual student in question. This video captures the unfulfillment and frustration of young adults today, not having their needs met in their schools. The makers of this video want to get more people in this discussion. If you share it or reference it, please use #DontStayInSchool to expand the dialog to stakeholders everywhere.


27 Ways to Check for Understanding [INFOGRAPHIC]

 learnanythingChecking for understanding is the foundation of teaching. Whether you’re using formative assessment for data to personalize learning within a unit, or more summative data to refine a curriculum map, the ability to quickly and easily check for understanding is a critical part of what you do. In this infographic Mia MacMeekin offers up 27 additional ways to check for understanding.

View the original posting here.

Self-Selecting, Real-World Learning Communities

ImageImagine in your mind, a map of your community. Nothing detailed; just the boundaries and general lay of the land. Got it? Now add in the major areas in your community where people live and work and play. You know, to give yourself some bearings with a few landmarks. Still with me? Good! Now convert this mental image into a heat map. You know, where the hot spots flare up in bright yellows, oranges and reds? Picture in your mind hot spots that indicate places people go to learn new things and practice skills that are important to them. Where are those heat surges? Athletic fields? Dance studios? Book stores? Parks and beaches? Art galleries? Theaters? How about school buildings? No? Why aren’t school building hot spots on anyone’s heat map?

Karen Pittman discussed this this at the recent ASCD Whole Child Symposium Live Event: “Learning communities need to be grounded where children live, being able to learn in all kinds of places within their community. Let’s let go of the idea that there are buildings where learning happens and help children find their own learning communities based on their interests and abilities and pace of learning. Such learning communities do not provide just more learning time, but better learning experiences by being able to learn and practice skills in their authentic contexts. We need to allow young people to create their own heat maps based on their learning needs and interests. And then we need to go to those places where children identify their learning hot spots and find ways to replicate learning experiences there on the ground within the community. You can bet schools are not going to show up very warm on heat maps.”

This isn’t a big conceptual stretch. We already have virtual learning communities that connect people of common interests and skills. Students meet online with content matter experts, skilled professionals and learning partners as a way to push beyond the four walls of the classroom. But as we continue to transform education from an industrial economy to a knowledge economy, why settle pushing the boundaries when we can literally open up the doors and let students out to seek meaning and understanding and practical application of the skills they will need to be successful contributors to their community?


Children are past the point of needing to master content. They can find the information they need on the fly in real time from anywhere. Instead, they need the skills and understandings of how to

  • collaborate,
  • problem solve,
  • create products of value,
  • practice conflict resolution,
  • self-monitor their work performance, and
  • learn from risk-taking regardless of the outcome.

If students can learn and practice these kinds of skills, they will be ready for whatever their adult world looks like, regardless of the information at hand.

“Right now,” Charles Haynes pointed out at the live Whole Child Symposium, “there is an emphasis on student interest and choice in preschool and in college, but nowhere in between.” Why is that? In a world where agility with skills and concepts is key, why are our elementary, middle and high schools focused on prescribed content and contrived outcomes? Because for the last century the ideals of the industrial age were reflected in public education: alignment, standardization, consistency of behavior, ability to follow directions. These things produced a more homogeneous citizenry, a trainable pool of prospective soldiers and responsible stewards of business. We accomplished this to an impressively high degree. But society has continued to grow and morph, and being able to master a set scope and sequence of memorized facts, rote vocabulary and basic heuristics no longer meets the needs in a collaborative, competitive global economy. If we continue training bean counters, they will serve those who can ask important questions, find valuable answers, and deliver innovative breakthroughs in ways our generation cannot even imagine.

School buildings are brick-and-mortar monuments to a bygone age. They have served their purpose well, delivering us from being an agricultural start-up to a world super power. But we no longer need brain factories dispensing knowledge into empty heads. There’s little value in inspecting graduates with one-size-fits-all assembly-line standards. A century ago we enacted labor laws to free children from inappropriate working conditions. Today we must enact education laws that free children from inappropriate learning conditions. Learners participating in self-selected learning communities. Teachers participating as facilitators, coaches and mentors. Learning taking place across the community: libraries, museums, laboratories, businesses, public offices, virtual spaces. Anywhere students are engaged and motivated to learn, allow them to do so. Sure there can still be standards and assessments, but let them be as practical and authentic as the real-world environments where learning takes place.


For the last thirty-five years, the reforms that have been imposed on public education have cited the cost of everything but lost sight of the value education delivered. The solution is not further reform of the outdated model, but to fully transform education to where it needs to be today. It won’t happen quickly, but it will happen. How do we start? Educators committed to children need to band together and take risks, creating environments where learners can acquire and practice the skills they need. It will be our legacy; our gift to the future. What a transcendent way to give back to our profession, and make the world a better place for the next generation.

This blog has been cross-posted on the Whole Child Blog: