Author: Jen Woodley

How smart are you?


Emotional Intelligence Is the Other Kind of Smart. -Talentsmart

In 1994, I took the ACT because my counselor and mother said I needed to. I scored a 24, which opened college doors for me. Keep in mind that is only a few points higher than the national average. I share my ACT whenever I speak about emotional intelligence (EQ). You may be wondering why I am sharing my ACT scores and why that is important.

It is important because emotional intelligence is a better predictor of success than intelligence quotient (IQ). I attribute the majority of my success to a constant attention to growing my emotional intelligence skills. I often find myself surrounded by smarter (IQ) people, who offer great input to the team. My IQ will remain mostly static but my EQ skills can be improved with a purposeful focus on one of the four areas. IQ gets you hired, EQ gets you promoted.

When emotional intelligence first appeared to the masses in 1995, it served as the missing link in a peculiar finding: people with average IQs outperform those with the highest IQs 70% of the time. This anomaly threw a massive wrench into what many people had always assumed was the sole source of success—IQ. Decades of research now point to emotional intelligence (EQ) as the critical factor that sets star performers apart from the rest of the pack. –Talentsmart

My goal with this post is to spark your interest in learning more about emotional intelligence. There are a number of books and articles about EQ. EQ can be improved and it can make a huge difference with relationship management and professional advancement. It separates good leaders from great leaders


Emotional intelligence is the “something” in each of us that is a bit intangible. It affects how we manage behavior, navigate social complexities, and make personal decisions that achieve positive results. Emotional intelligence is made up of four core skills that pair up under two primary competencies: personal competence and social competence. – Talentsmart

As always, I leave you with an exercise that you can do with your school staff to help remind educators why we are in the business of making the world a better place.

#Oneperson Action Item:

Positive Shift Email
Very Powerful

Here’s how it works:

  1. I will start us off with something positive that is happening at Cardinal. It can be anything!
  2. Then anyone can reply to all and share your positive shift.
  3. By the end of the day, we will see if our positive energy is greater than when we started.
  4. I invite everyone to join in.

My Positive Shift:

I watched a story about Camden, NJ last week. Camden was once the most dangerous city in America. Over the past year, things have changed. I was pleasantly surprised with the techniques that have been implemented by the new police force. Certainly more resources were added but the police mainly have changed the culture of the city by implementing emotional intelligence skills. The citizens are looking at the police force differently. It was a change in culture. I see the same for our work at Cardinal!

Click here to view:

Can’t wait to see all the positive shifts today!

Shift your attention from the negative to the positive
– Jamie Vollmer, Schools Can’t Do It Alone

(See page 184)

There is a fundamental truth of the universe: What we focus our attention on grows stronger in our life. If we choose to focus on the negative things that occur in our classrooms, our schools, and our district, then we become more negative. Optimism fades. Irritability grows. Our relationships suffer. We have less energy. Our health declines. We become prime candidates for burnout.

Conversely, when we choose to put our attention on the hopeful, encouraging, positive developments that occur within our schools, we become more positive. Optimism grows. Our health improves. We feel better about ourselves as professionals and as human beings. We become more cheerful and productive, more awake, more actualized. We gain these benefits simply by making this subtle, internal shift. When the entire staff practices this behavior modification, positivity is enlivened throughout the district, and spills out into the community.



What Angry Birds Can Teach Educators



“Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” – Denis Waitley

I have recently been reading more about what Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck, describes as fixed and growth mindsets. Dweck emphasizes successful people tend to focus on growth, solving problems and self-improvement, while unsuccessful people think of their abilities as fixed assets and avoid challenges. The Angry Birds illustration above is a great example of a growth mindset.

I have asked my friend, Matt Townsley, to add to this discussion as an expert on growth mindset. Many of you know Matt from his leadership at Solon (IA) Community School District in the area of standards based grading. I appreciate Matt sharing his expertise with us!

Failure is not an option? – guest blogger, Matt Townsley

I will never forget the summer after I graduated high school. For some reason, I decided to give tennis a try.  I was the high school PE table tennis champion several times, so tennis couldn’t be that hard, right?  I was a lackluster basketball player, average cross country runner and mediocre golfer.  I’m not sure why tennis would come naturally.  After several weeks of practicing my serve, my stroke looked nothing like Roger Federer, so I gave up.  Here was my problem: I had purchased all of these tennis balls, but wasn’t sure what I was going to do with them. Then, one day, it hit me. I didn’t want to be known as a tennis failure, so I took up juggling…with tennis balls!  I picked up a copy of Juggling for the Complete Klutz and first learned how to juggle two balls.  Next: three balls.  I would never have learned to juggle if I had not first failed miserably at tennis.  Let’s be honest, in between successful juggles, I made a lot of mistakes too.  I still make mistakes when juggling three tennis balls and I never could figure out how to juggle four!

I took a risk in buying the juggling book.  We need our students to be willing to do the same.  Sure, we have high stakes state tests, which we can’t control, but we do have the rest of the school year to shape the culture of our classrooms and schools.  Every educator I’ve met believes students learn at different rates and different paces.  This means students are going to make mistakes on their way to learning.  When we make mistakes, we are presented with the opportunity to learn from them.  Classroom teachers understand this aspect of their professional practice!  When Monday or second period doesn’t go well, there’s nearly always a second chance to reflect, revise and re-teach.  It is in our DNA as educators to look beyond unsuccessful first attempts!

Experts who proclaim failure is not an option are right.  Failure is the only option that creates meaningful reflection for adults and students.  When (not if) failure happens, look in the mirror or ask a friend, who can help you get up, and face round two of the game of life.


The simple question is: Do we encourage our students to take risks and make mistakes? If not, are we preparing our students for “life after school.” If you want to learn more about growth mindset, please, look at this article:


“Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” – Denis Waitley

 As always, I leave you with an exercise that you can do with your school staff to help remind educators why we are in the business of making the world a better place.

#Oneperson Action Item:

The Secret Voicemail

  1. This is a simple culture activity that can make a big impact on your staff.
  2. If your building has phones in the classroom, this activity is a possibility.
  3. Arrive at school early before any teachers have arrived. Call a teacher’s phone extension and leave a positive message. Make sure you have great energy in your voice and provide specific examples that you appreciate about this teacher.
  4. The teacher will arrive and think “Great, an upset parent if I have a voicemail this early.” The teacher will be pleasantly surprised when they hear a positive message coming from you. The positive energy will grow within the entire building because of one phone call from #oneperson.

Be that #Oneperson

Blogging is not something I have ever done. However, as a lifelong learner I follow many blogs to expand my knowledge as a leader and educator.  I have decided that if I want to build my own Professional Learning Network (PLN) and bring more value to my current PLN, I should create a space for my own experiences and education to assist other educators.

Therefore, my first post will encompass a little of everything I believe about the power an educator has on the life of a child.  I understand all too well, how overwhelming the demands of education can be on the lives of educators.  So, I am creating a post, which will hopefully, energize all educators by simplifying what it takes to make a difference for all children.

I was recently talking to my friend Ron Mirr, a well-known educator in the state of Iowa.  Ron is known across the state for is work and teaching on school connectedness and family-school partnerships. He currently teaches a graduate course at Harvard on this topic every summer.  He shared something with me, which helped me see value in building relationships in education. This research he shared was simple; yet, powerful, and would have a profound impact on my personal mission statement.

In an educational age where politicians, who argue the merits of Core Curriculum and standardized, test scores, can disillusion educators, I believe school leaders must put an emphasis on the impact of relationships. What if every student had just, “one person,” with whom they felt connected?  Does, “one person,” really have the ability to influence the items below?

  • Incidents of fighting, bullying, or vandalism
  • Absenteeism
  • School completion rates
  • Motivation
  • Classroom engagement
  • Academic performance

Well, the research supports the concept of, “one person.” Research from the Center for Adolescent Health and Development, University of Minnesota, has shown a strong association between school connectedness and every risk behavior they studied, including school failure. 71,515 students in 127 schools were asked questions, which helped document the following areas:

  • Why do some adolescents feel attached to school and some don’t?
  • What individual and school characteristics predict connectedness?

I find the  graph below simply astonishing. The students stated the number one factor of school connectedness was the importance of one supportive relationship with an adult. One supportive relationship at school increases success in school over 30% and decreases difficulty in school over 30%.  You will also note that after, “one person,” the percentages do not change by more than a few percentage points.

Screen Shot 2014-06-27 at 9.59.11 AM (1)


One supportive relationship for every student is attainable, and must be a priority for all school leaders.

Action Item:

  1. Hang a picture of every student in your building in the gym during a back to school meeting.
  2. Leave space under the student picture for your staff to write items that they know about each student
  3. When you finish the activity, start a dialogue with your staff. What do we notice? Does every student possess a supportive relationship with at least on adult at our school?
  4. Create a shared plan to connect with every student and make sure every student has #oneperson.
  5. Be that #Oneperson

To the world, you might be just one person.  But to one person, you might be the world.