Transforming Education—February 2017


Give to every human being every right you claim for yourself.
Happiness is the only good. The time for happiness is now.
The place to be happy is here. The way to be happy is to make others so.

–Robert G. Ingersoll 

Perhaps like me, you are concerned about many issues happening in our country and the greater world. The negativity, regardless of your political affiliation, may be wearing you down and fear about the future can easily consume you. As I began to write this month’s column, I pondered what I could possibly offer that would be of value and support. Ironically within two days of initiating my writing, I received email messages composed by two of my favorite authors and their shared topics were happiness and fear.

The two authors were Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage and Before Happiness: The 5 Hidden Keys to Achieving Success, Spreading Happiness, and Sustaining Positive Change, and Margaret (Meg) Wheatley, anthropologist and author of several books including Walk Out…Walk On. Meg begins with the importance of acknowledging fear, to be curious about it, to investigate it, and to engage directly with it. She wrote, “It is our curiosity that transforms fear. Most often, it dissolves into energy that we can work with.” Similarly, Shawn wrote, “Embedded within every stress is meaning. The best way to cope with stress is not to panic and flee from it, but rather to remember why there’s meaning involved.”

I would propose that directing our energy in a positive manner will enable us to not flee from the fear, but rather be energized with a renewed focus on the important work of being an educator and valuing education in our society. If we continue to strengthen the neural pathways of our brains with fear and negativity, we could become paralyzed by fear and unable to see hope, opportunities, and possibilities. Shawn reminds us of how practicing gratitude daily, offering genuine praise to others, and finding time for solitude helps our brains to rest and renew. He wrote, “When our brains are positive, we are better at solving world problems as well as personal ones. But more importantly, the pursuit of happiness should make us lose our fear of sadness. When we know we can create happiness and meaning in our life by changing our habits and mindset, we are more likely and able to face the things that make us sad in the world. It is also important for people to finally understand that the opposite of happiness is NOT sadness. The opposite of happiness is APATHY.”

I am energized on a daily basis by my College of Education colleagues, our bright and enthusiastic undergraduate and graduate students, and by the profound work I witness when I am in schools. I keep a gratitude journal and not one day goes by that I miss noting how grateful I am for my colleagues, my family, and for being given another day of life. I am working on rewiring my neural circuitry so that happiness and optimism are my most frequent lenses to see the world. And while I am working on my brain, I am thrilled that our students are learning about applied education neuroscience. One Butler: The Brain Project continues to thrive with nationally recognized speakers. On March 29, 10 brain sculptures will arrive on campus for a month-long exhibit. Each sculpture has been created to expand awareness of the differences in our brains due to factors such as aging or depression. Catherine Pangan and Susan Kleinman bravely faced the FEAR of creating this year-long project which had never been done at Butler. It has brought us great HAPPINESS and deepened our understanding of brain health.

On April 29, Dr. Lori Desautels will lead our first Education Neuroscience conference. There has never been a more significant time in the history of education to begin applying the research of neuroscience to our educational practices, assessments, and relationships. We are feeling creatures who think and emotional connection drives all that we employ within our schools, classrooms, and communities. In this Butler University Educational Neuroscience Symposium, we will explore the brain research beneath emotional regulation, the critical executive function skills of attention and engagement, and relationships. Educators, mental health professionals, parents, and students will leave this symposium with:

  • Evidence-based tangible strategies for strengthening self-regulatory capacity essential for building self-reliance and adaptive functioning.
  • A deeper understanding and framework of Attention Deficit Disorder and its implications in our schools.
  • Resources, research, and an understanding that will support all educational practices, K-12 that teach and enhance frontal lobe executive functioning of the brain supporting teaching practices, leadership, and community engagement delving beneath student behaviors and words.

We sincerely hope you will join us for this important conference!

Finally, I would encourage you to join me on February 23 for Butler’s Annual Day of Giving. One of the ways we can tangibly move towards positive action is by giving to those causes that are making a difference. I can’t imagine a force that has the potential to do more good in the world than our next generation of educators.

I encourage you to face the fear, discover its meaning, and to be energized into positive action. Practice gratitude, keep focused on the things you can impact, and keep Robert Ingersoll’s quote in your pocket!

Until next month,

Dr. Ena Shelley
Dean, College of Education

Transforming Education—January 2017

“Leadership is not about being in charge.
Leadership is about taking care of those in your charge.”

—Simon Sinek

A copy of Sinek’s quote regarding leadership appeared taped to my office door one morning and it was simply signed, “Thanks!” It was such a lovely surprise and prompted me to examine what I believe about my role in the College of Education. I believe that I have the best job in the world. Colleagues who are unbelievably talented and dedicated surround me—hence I have named them “The Dream Team.” They challenge the status quo, dare to dream big, and then take action to turn their dreams into reality. They do not speak of fear but rather of hope and possibilities. They speak more often with questions than with directives. And most importantly, they engage in deep collaborations within the college and University, our school-based and community partners, education and social agencies, and state and national policymakers.

I believe Simon Sinek is right—my role is not to be in charge but to nurture, support, guide, listen to, and believe in those in my charge. I frequently remind my “Dream Team” that part of my role is to offer them Gatorade as they run past me with their ideas and brilliance. I am the orchestra director of an amazing symphony!

Does Simon Sinek’s quote speak to you? In his wonderful book, Together is Better: A Little Book of Inspiration, Sinek wrote, “Leadership is not a rank or position to be attained. Leadership is a service to be given…Leadership is an education. And the best leaders think of themselves as the students not the teachers.” What if we considered the role of every individual in a school or organization as a leader? For example, I think about a member of the custodial staff at the IPS/Butler Lab School who is a leader. She models kindness and respect for the children and when the children created their own board game she was the first person they invited to play. She takes “care of those in her charge” and is a valuable member of the school symphony. Who do you work with who may not have an official leadership title but is a true leader? Have you considered that YOU are a leader too?

An example of leadership from the College of Education “Dream Team” is EPIC: Educators Preparing Inspired Change which is an academy for superintendents created by Associate Dean Deb Lecklider; Cindy Smith, COE Administrative Assistant; J.T. Coopman, Executive Director of the Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents (IAPSS); and William Gulley, Executive Director of the Butler University Lacy School of Business Executive Education program. The academy officially launched on January 12 and is an example of Sinek’s belief that leaders see themselves as students—we are never done learning!

Another example of leadership is a video created by Dr. Kelli Esteves, Associate Professor in the COE and the recipient of the Richard W. Guyer Chair in Education. Dr. Esteves is the co-author of RTI in Middle School Classrooms: Proven Tools and Strategies and RTI Proven Tools and Strategies for Schools and Classrooms. I encourage you to listen to her message, as you will hear important leadership principles embedded in her words of wisdom regarding RTI.

I invite you to share your stories of leadership with us on Twitter and Facebook. I wish each of you a Happy New Year in 2017 as we travel the road of learning and leading together!

Until next month,

Dr. Ena Shelley
Dean, College of Education