May 15, 2020

Thriving or Surviving

Each EmpowerED 3.2.1 features a brief summary of my musings about and learning from multiple disciplines as they apply to leadership in education. 


3 Big Ideas

    1. I was corresponding with a friend and colleague this week. He is a professor at a large university in a performance degree program. When I asked how he was doing with online synchronous and asynchronous teaching, he replied, “I am doing very well and thriving. I feel that extroverts and introverts are having entirely different reactions to this new reality. Reflection and introspection has been beneficial for all. Students are finally having to teach themselves, which is what I have been striving for my college students to do forever. I have given them so much knowledge and it is high time that they take ownership. Zoom is really more of a supplement, but is helping push them forward. They will know many of the great performers from the past and what made each of their arts special. Time for things that we can’t normally explore, but nonetheless important.”

      I am continually reminded to plan deliberately for members of my staff to be involved, valued and heard. This means taking into account their learning styles, preferences, and ways of being. Introversion and extroversion relate to where we get our energy from, not from being shy or outgoing– in other words how we recharge our brains. Leo Widrich co founder of offers “The 4 Elements of Physical Energy and How to Master Them.” The difference is compelling:

      Introverts (or those with introverted tendencies) tend to recharge by spending time alone. They lose energy from being around people for long periods of time, particularly large crowds.
      Extroverts, on the other hand, gain energy from other people. Extroverts actually find their energy is sapped when they spend too much time alone, hence my friend’s observation. They recharge by being social.

      Knowing yourself, your family, your staff and students can help you lead them in ways they can all learn, contribute…and love their jobs! “Work Life – Are You An Introvert Or An Extrovert? What It Means For Your Career” by Belle Beth Cooper in Fast Company nicely distinguishes the subtle and not-so-subtle differences.


    2. My friend continued, “My students are bonding in a different way through research, observation, and sharing. I have given them listening exercises and critical thinking assignments to direct them in developing their acumen in a genre, discernment of differing interpretation options and developing their concepts of what they would want once they can resume in-person education.”

      Much has been said in praise of critical thinking and why it is important and so needed starting with Socrates.The Wasabi Learning website reads, “ Fast forward past Galileo, W. E. B. Du Bois, Albert Einstein, Bertrand Russell, Martin Luther King Jr., and countless others, and we discover that the practice of extolling the benefits of critical thinking is literally thousands of years old. So what is it that makes it such an honored skill set? In what ways does critical thinking truly benefit us?” Take a look at 6 Benefits of Critical Thinking and Why They Matter for a well-rounded outlook, and check on Nir Eyal of He offers “4 Simple Introspection Steps That Will Boost Self Awareness” that, when added to your day can lead to greater job satisfaction.


    3. My colleague ends with, “Determination, resilience, adaptability, and creativity are being tested and sparked—we have become too soft and this is nature’s way of toughening us up a bit in a good way.”

      As all teachers know, what they do with passion every day prepares our learners not just for the time in the classroom, but for success and well-being when the formative years are done. John Dewey, however, probably said it best: “Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.”


As an INTP on Myers Briggs Type Indicator, MBTI® Basics, I can easily relate to my friend’s comments. Think about the big ideas he shares of what he wants his college-aged students to know and be able to do. Don’t we want learners and workers who engage in reflection and introspection; students who are independent learners and take ownership of their education; and people who think about the past as it relates to the present and the future? What about fostering the skills of determination, resilience, adaptability, and creativity? Check your mission and vision. Are these ideas there? How can we build on the current situation of at-home teaching, learning, and leading with online as a supplement to get our learners and workers thriving and not just surviving?



“Manage your energy, not your time.”

– Tony Schwartz, Journalist

“Spend your free time the way you like, not the way you think you’re supposed to.”

– Susan Cain, author, Quiet
TEDTalk on The Power of Introverts

1 Question

How are you going about fostering the skills of determination, resilience, adaptability,
and creativity in this new way of teaching and learning?


About the Author: Marcia Baldanza is also the author of Professional Practices, a Just ASK Senior Consultant. and adjunct professor at Virginia Tech. Until recently she worked for the School District of Palm Beach County, Florida, where she was an Area Director for School Reform and Accountability; prior to that she was Director of Federal and State Programs.


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