Transforming Education—September 2015

Ena newsletter header“The biggest mistake you will ever make is being afraid to make one.”

— Author Unknown

A new school year has begun and with it brings the opportunity to try new ideas and approaches, and to test our willingness to not be afraid to make mistakes! I am beginning my 11th year as the Dean of the College of Education, and, if there is one lesson I have learned, it is to not let fear hold me, or my amazing colleagues, back from being creative and innovative. We are intentional and do our best to explore questions, develop hypotheses, and then we try. The deepest learning is when things do not go according to plan. We readjust, and we try again.

My career in education began as a kindergarten teacher, and I continue to carry with me the valuable lessons I learned from children. Each year, an eager, delightful group of children with unbounded dreams and energy arrived in my classroom eager to try. Seldom did I encounter a child who was afraid of making a mistake. I do not recall having conversations with children where their apprehension was they would do something wrong. And, as a young teacher, I know I made many mistakes and had to adjust often times in mid-air, but I did not let that hold me back.

I have only one solid rule as a dean. No one can come to see me and tell me they are “sorry” for making a mistake in their work. My response is always to ask, “What did you learn, and what will you try as your next step?” And I am so proud to share that my amazing colleagues in the College of Education take me back to my early years as a kindergarten teacher.

Each August, they return filled with excitement, dreams, energy, vision, and an eagerness to explore and create incredible learning experiences for students. In spite of the relentless attacks on teacher education, they try with hope and determination. The following are just a few examples of the results of their work from not being afraid to make a mistake:

  • Kelli Esteves created and led a summer study abroad experience in England and Scotland focused on children’s literature and authors such as Beatrix Potter, Roald Dahl, and J.K. Rowling. She will offer this course again in the summer 2016.
  • Suneeta Kercood, a Fulbright Scholar, continues her work in Thailand and India to improve coordination and access, in a complicated health care system, for those with disabilities.
  • Arthur Hochman designed and facilitated a summer professional development experience in New York City for the staff of the Kokomo’s Wallace School, an integrated arts school.
  • Angela Lupton led a May study trip for a group of undergraduate students, university student teaching supervisors, and alumni to Budapest, Vienna, and Prague.
  • Meredith McAllister traveled to Thailand to provide professional development for teachers in science education at the invitation of the Ministry of Education.
  • Mindy Welch and Art Furman collaborated with peers from the Butler Athletics program and the Health and Recreation Center to create and launch The Hinkle Academy. This online program helps completers become front-row leader in wellness, sport, and allied fields.

These are just examples of the excitement about teaching, learning, and leading that is happening when talented people try and do not fear making a mistake. What will you do this year? We are anxious to hear what you try and are willing to share with others. Please share your stories with us!

Until next month,

Dr. Ena Shelley
Dean, College of Education

Transforming Education – Dean’s Newsletter

The Work of Creating Culture


Dear Friends,

“Happiness is not just a mood—it’s a work ethic.”
—Shawn Achor

Earlier this month we welcomed author and researcher Dr. Kathy Cramer to campus as she launched her new book Lead Positive. Dr. Cramer’s work in Asset-Based Thinking has been the cornerstone of our work in creating culture in the college. Let me say that again. It has been the cornerstone of our work in creating culture.

I am always pleased when people who are not directly related to the COE recognize our solution-focused culture that honors the best of what people bring to the table. However, I am equally struck by the number of people who assume that it just “happened,” or that we “got lucky” to work with such a collaborative bunch. Now, while we are certainly lucky to get to do the work that we do, it takes a tremendous amount of work to create culture.

I reflected upon this when I scanned the audience at the event with Dr. Cramer. Here was a room filled with school- and university-based professionals, who had decided to give up an evening, after a long day of work, in order to think about what it means to Lead Positive. This was a room full of people who decided that the most important thing they could do on this given evening was to think about how they lead and the culture that they can create. They were there to think about the work of creating culture.

Dr. Cramer states, “What you do leads others to imitate your actions and develop the complex skills that form the culture of your team.” Imagine the effect these leaders will have as they begin to work and shape their own personal view of leading positive. When we begin to empower people to use their own assets in a model of collaboration, then problems are more likely to be solved, positive outcomes are noted and recognized, and people are generally happier in their work.

The quote above by Shawn Achor notes that happiness is also about doing the work. When we lead positive and the workplace becomes a happier environment, then we begin to change the trajectory of success. Achor, in his TED Talk on The happy secret to better work notes that people often assume that success will lead us to happiness. But the science behind happiness tells us that is a false hypothesis. Our brain functions significantly better at happy and positive than it does at neutral or negative. So, imagine the work that can be done and the success that can be achieved in our schools if we focus on creating culture that allows people to find the space and satisfaction to also be happy in the midst of the work.

The leaders who came to the Dr. Cramer event are ready to think about the work of culture and how they can make a shift in their school community. But I also challenge you to think about the ripple effect when schools operate from a place of positive, solution-focused culture that values people’s happiness as a key to success. … Imagine what then gets replicated in our classrooms and the outcomes of success for our students.

I am grateful for leaders such as Kathy Cramer and Shawn Achor for helping us to conceptualize a new way of working to shape culture and success. But I am even more grateful for those leaders, like those at the Lead Positive event, who are ready to action-ize these ideas at the grassroots level and work to create intentional culture .

Until next month,

Dr. Ena Shelley
Dean, College of Education

Butler Students Participate in TEDx Youth Indianapolis

Butler was so happy to participate by providing an ABT Action Lab at the first ever TEDx Youth Indianapolis conference which was held on January 26, 2013 at the Indiana State Museum.  Undergraduate students Shelbi Burnett, Amber Zimay and Zachary Baldwin and graduate counseling students Kristin Hendrich, Matt Stach and Maggie Power planned three action labs for students to participate in during breaks and lunch.  The action labs were based on the activities and ideas in Kathy Cramer’s books “Change the Way You See Everything”.

TEDx Youth Indianapolis was a unique conference with many great ideas presented by 6 adult and 8 student speakers.  The theme of the conference was “balance” and this was reflected in many talks and performances.  Butler had dancers who performed during the event as well.  We had a great time being involved with the International School of Indiana and TEDx at both TEDx Indianapolis events this year!  Check out some photos of the event below.