In the year 2024, as the echoes of a nation ring with calls for change in education, we find ourselves at a pivotal moment in history. The sentiments reverberating across communities and classrooms alike are clear:

"We need a change in education." "Education needs to reform to meet the needs of students." "Education is going through an adjustment period now." "AI will help to facilitate the needed changes to support learning with more technology usage." "Recharging education is needed to retain teachers." "Rethinking education to support what students need for the future." "Focus on social emotional needs of learners to address mental health."

These sentiments, while echoing from various points in history, carry an urgency that demands our attention. It's a call to action to not just improve what we've always done but to fundamentally rethink our approach to education.

”Only education is capable of saving our societies from possible collapse, whether violent or gradual.”~Jean Piaget

”Human history is a race between education and catastrophe.”~H.G. Wells

”As we face an increasingly febrile future, the answer is not to do better what we’ve done before. We have to do something else. “~Sir Ken Robinson

As we stand on the shoulders of giants like Jean Piaget, H.G. Wells, and Sir Ken Robinson, we're reminded that education isn't just about imparting knowledge; it's about shaping societies, preventing catastrophe, and navigating the uncertain future with agility and wisdom. I have been influenced by all of them through my studies, listening to TED talks of Sir Ken Robinson and his books. One of his books titled, “Imagine If…Creating A Future For Us All” is where I found the quotes I shared. As leaders, we need to read daily and stretch our minds to always ask questions, reflect and strive to answer why.

The truth is, our current systems are fractured, failing to deliver on promises of equity and excellence. Despite our best efforts to "raise standards" and "leave no child behind," and promise “every child will succeed”. Equity, to me, means ensuring that every child in our nation has equal access to opportunities. However, it's clear that we're not allocating resources to schools evenly or providing consistent levels of quality staffing. The reality remains stark: we're falling short of our aspirations. The question is Why?

The reality is that our existing systems are fragmented, falling short of their pledges to uphold equity and excellence. Despite initiatives to "raise standards" and ensure no child is left behind, and assurances that "every child will succeed," the truth is evident. Equity, to me, means ensuring that every child in our nation has equal access to opportunities. However, it's clear that we're not allocating resources to schools evenly or providing consistent levels of quality staffing. The harsh truth remains: we're not meeting our goals. The question arises: why is this the case?

But amidst this challenge lies an opportunity for transformation. It begins with a commitment to repair broken systems, starting with those within our control. Whether you're a teacher, administrator, or leader in any capacity, the path forward is clear: lead with intention, empathy, and a relentless focus on building relationships.

In my book "Lead with Two Rules," I emphasize the importance of consistency and connection in leadership. By addressing students and staff by name, fostering an environment of trust and camaraderie, we lay the groundwork for meaningful change.

This isn't just about policy reforms or technological advancements; it's about the human touch—the simple act of showing up, being present, and truly seeing those we serve. It's about recognizing that education is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor but a deeply personal journey that requires tailored support and understanding.

So, as we confront the challenges of the present and chart a course for the future, let us heed the echoes of change that resound across our nation. Let us embrace innovation, empathy, and a steadfast commitment to building a brighter tomorrow—one student, one relationship, at a time. For in the end, it's not just about what we teach but how we empower the next generation to shape a world that is yet to be imagined.

It is home, school and community working together to solve the problems we face. I hear, I see and I know we are lacking self-regulation, respect and the motivation needed to achieve. We will not be able to fix these issues over night because together we have created the issues we face for years now. However, we can begin today with Two Rules and trust. Together We Can e the solution today for a better tomorrow.

As the author of "Lead with Two Rules: Feeling Good & Feeling Safe," I am deeply committed to the message and practices outlined in this book. At this time, I am not looking to publish another book, as my focus is entirely on implementing the principles of this book effectively.

One of the key aspects I emphasize is the importance of understanding what it truly means to feel good. This concept holds different meanings for various individuals, including staff members, students, families, and community members. When we delve into discussions about feelings, we often uncover a wide range of factors that contribute to feeling good.

For me, feeling good encompasses a sense of happiness, fulfillment, and being valued. It involves positive self-esteem, how we perceive ourselves, and the way others perceive us. Our internal dialogue and the messages we convey to others about themselves play a significant role in shaping how we feel. It also reminds us of the power we have with influencing others by the choices we make. Our words have great power as well as the actions we take.

As children, many of us were taught the phrase "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me." However, this is far from the truth. Words and actions can deeply impact our emotions and well-being. Therefore, it is essential to address how we respond to both external influences and our own self-talk.

Instead of reacting impulsively based on emotions, which often leads to negative outcomes, we should focus on proactive and constructive responses. By understanding the power of words and actions in influencing how we feel, we can work towards creating environments where everyone feels valued, respected, and safe.

In essence, "Lead with Two Rules: Feeling Good & Feeling Safe" encourages a shift from reactive behaviors to thoughtful responses, fostering a culture of empathy, understanding, and positive communication. It is through these practices that we can create lasting and meaningful change in our schools, communities, and beyond.

My question for today is one that delves into the core of our well-being: Do you feel good? How do you define feeling good? I invite all of you to share your thoughts and perspectives on this topic.

Feeling good encompasses a spectrum of emotions, from joy and contentment to peace and confidence. It's about more than just a fleeting moment of happiness; it's about a deeper sense of fulfillment and positivity in our lives.

If you find yourself not feeling good, I encourage you to reflect on why that might be. Is it due to external circumstances, internal struggles, or a combination of both? Sharing your feelings can be a powerful step towards understanding and addressing them.

Remember, you are not alone in your journey towards feeling good. There are many professionals trained to help with specific needs, whether they be related to mental health, emotional well-being, or personal challenges. Reach out, seek support, and believe in the possibility of finding solutions that work for you.

I often use the term "we" because I believe in the power of collective action. It takes a community, a team, a network of support to navigate life's challenges and triumphs. You are never alone, and you should never feel that way. Together, we can find the strength, resilience, and solutions needed to overcome any obstacles we face.

Chapter 6 in Lead with Two Rules is dedicated to using teams. A team approach was something I experienced and utilized throughout my professional career. It is best practice for finding solutions.

The simplicity of following the guidance of Two Rules, naturally provides students with the ability to learn the skills they need to be successful overall.

In education, the concept of "look fors" is crucial during walkthroughs and evaluations. Administrators are trained to observe specific elements in classrooms. Establishing a sense of community among students and teachers in a positive learning environment forms the basis for differentiated instruction that caters to all students' needs. Helping students acquire skills such as self-awareness, social-awareness, decision-making, self-management, and relationship skills is fundamental as we prioritize creating an environment where everyone feels good and safe. These skills can be included in the “look fors” easily.

The "look likes" in our classrooms are crucial for our teaching staff to identify as they spend quality time with our children every day. Teachers play an essential role in our children's lives, providing academic education, life skills, and much more. They can quickly recognize changes in students, such as signs of depression. In my book "Lead with Two Rules," pages 120-121 feature a chart outlining characteristics of children with depression in school, helping educators understand what to look for in the classroom. While it doesn't ask educators to diagnose, it encourages awareness of changes to look for, similar to how leaders approach situations. Building relationships with students and families is vital in meeting the needs of our children.

Chapter 6 is titled, Using Teams to Support the Whole Child and contains a wealth of information to support efforts in building a system of support.

Nurturing Trust and Building Connections In Education

I appreciate the time with Danny Bauer as a guest on his podcast. He is a masterful leader, friend and encourager. Please take a listen as he interviews me and enjoy all of the resources he has to share.

I have written about this and talked about listening several times. I repeat it because of how important it is for all of us to be mindful in doing this on a regular basis. Have you ever been misunderstood? Has someone only heard a few of your words, but not all of them to completely understand you?

"The Art of Active Listening: A Key Skill for Personal and Professional Growth" emphasizes that listening goes beyond merely hearing words; it involves grasping the deeper significance behind them. Whether in our personal or professional spheres, mastering the art of active listening can revolutionize relationships, resolve issues, and bolster decision-making capabilities.

Effective communication extends beyond verbal cues; it encompasses understanding the unspoken messages conveyed through various channels. Trust, a cornerstone of any relationship, evolves gradually as individuals dismantle the barriers when trust is earned. Expressing emotions or comprehending the underlying reasons behind them isn't always straightforward, highlighting the importance of active listening in deciphering the 'how,' 'what,' and 'why' of one's feelings.

Supporting active listening involves adopting certain practices and techniques. Here are some steps one can take to enhance their active listening skills:

  1. Give full attention: Make a conscious effort to focus entirely on the speaker without distractions. This means putting away electronic devices, maintaining eye contact, and refraining from interrupting.
  2. Show empathy: Seek to understand the speaker's perspective and emotions. Reflect back their feelings and validate their experiences to create a supportive environment.
  3. Practice nonverbal communication: Use nonverbal cues such as nodding, smiling, and leaning forward to convey interest and attentiveness. These gestures encourage the speaker to continue expressing themselves.
  4. Ask clarifying questions: Paraphrase what the speaker has said to ensure understanding and ask follow-up questions to delve deeper into their thoughts and feelings. When I am talking with a student I always like to say, “tell me more, what if…, how did you____, how do you think they_______, what now?”
  5. Avoid judgment: Suspend judgment and refrain from jumping to conclusions or offering unsolicited advice. Create a safe space where the speaker feels comfortable sharing openly. I utilize a great deal of wait time, hardly speak, but do provide questions to prompt not to interrogate.
  6. Provide feedback: Offer constructive feedback that acknowledges the speaker's message and encourages further dialogue. This demonstrates active engagement in the conversation.
  7. Practice patience: Allow the speaker to express themselves fully without rushing or cutting them off. Silence can be an essential part of active listening, providing space for reflection and processing.
  8. Be mindful of cultural differences: Recognize that communication styles and norms may vary across cultures. Respect cultural differences and adapt your listening approach accordingly.
  9. Stay present: Avoid letting your mind wander or thinking about your response while the speaker is talking. Stay fully present in the moment to absorb and understand their message.
  10. Reflect on your listening skills: Regularly assess your listening habits and identify areas for improvement. Actively seek feedback from others to refine your active listening abilities over time.

By incorporating these steps into your communication practices, you can become a more effective and empathetic listener, fostering stronger relationships and deeper understanding in both personal and professional contexts.


In the wake of the global pandemic, the narrative has been dominated by tales of learning loss and the erosion of social skills. We've witnessed shutdowns, endured heartbreaking losses, and grappled with unprecedented fears. In the face of such adversity, it's easy to feel overwhelmed by the enormity of the challenges before us. However, amidst the chaos and uncertainty, there lies an opportunity for strength, inspiration, and boundless enthusiasm.

Yes, the pandemic has brought about significant disruptions to our education systems and social fabric. But it has also sparked a resilient spirit within us, urging us to adapt, evolve, and thrive in the face of adversity. The trauma we've endured has left scars, but it has also forged us into stronger, more resilient beings.

As we navigate these uncharted waters, it's crucial to acknowledge the profound impact of the changes we've experienced. The loss of loved ones, the upheaval of familiar routines, and the uncertainty of what lies ahead have all taken their toll. But amidst the darkness, there is a glimmer of hope—a beacon of light illuminating the path towards a brighter tomorrow.

Now is the time to rise above our circumstances, to embrace the challenges before us with unwavering determination and resilience. It's a time to reimagine education, to explore innovative solutions to address learning loss and bridge the gaps in our social fabric. It's a time to foster a sense of community and connection, to reach out to those in need and offer support and compassion.

Despite the hardships we've faced, we must not lose sight of the incredible strength and resilience that resides within each and every one of us. We are capable of overcoming the greatest of obstacles, of emerging from the darkness stronger and more united than ever before.

So let us seize this moment with courage and conviction, let us harness the power of our collective will to rebuild, renew, and rejuvenate. Together, we can turn the tide of adversity, transforming challenges into opportunities and setbacks into triumphs.

In the words of Helen Keller, "Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it." Let us be the architects of our own destiny, the masters of our fate, and the agents of change in a world hungry for hope and inspiration.

The journey ahead may be daunting, but with strength, inspiration, and enthusiasm as our guiding lights, there is no obstacle too great, no challenge too insurmountable. Together, let us rise from the ashes of adversity, forging a path towards a brighter, more resilient future for generations to come.

During a recent lunch with some of my former retired elementary teachers, we delved into a conversation about a strategy I had initiated with students who were meeting our standards but seemed content to plateau. One of the teachers remembered and said she is working with interventions using what I had suggested. These students were achieving at the expected levels, yet lacked the drive to push beyond their comfort zones. While some may have been satisfied with this status quo, I couldn't shake the feeling that there was more we could do to ignite their potential.

In our discussion, I proposed an intervention aimed at challenging these students to reach new heights. This intervention wasn't just about pushing them for the sake of it; it was about recognizing their untapped potential and empowering them to soar to greater heights. We understood that our tiered interventions were designed to support all children, regardless of where they stood academically. However, it became apparent that some students needed an extra push to break free from complacency and strive for excellence.

This intervention wasn't about shaming or belittling these students for their current achievements. Instead, it was about instilling in them a sense of ambition and a hunger for continuous improvement. We wanted them to understand that they were capable of achieving even more than they thought possible, and that the journey towards greatness is one marked by persistence, determination, and a willingness to step outside one's comfort zone.

Implementing this intervention required a collaborative effort between teachers, parents, and students themselves. We needed to create a supportive environment where students felt empowered to take risks and embrace new challenges. Through personalized learning plans, targeted interventions, and ongoing support and encouragement, we were able to inspire these students to push beyond their perceived limits and strive for excellence.

The results were nothing short of remarkable. Not only did these students begin to excel academically, but they also developed a newfound sense of confidence and self-belief. They no longer settled for mediocrity; instead, they set their sights on achieving their full potential and pursued their goals with passion and determination.

As educators, it's our responsibility to nurture and cultivate the talents of every student, regardless of their starting point. By providing targeted interventions and fostering a culture of excellence, we can empower students to unlock their true potential and become the best versions of themselves. It's a journey that requires patience, dedication, and a willingness to challenge the status quo, but the rewards are immeasurable.

In the end, it's not just about pushing students to achieve higher test scores or earn more accolades. It's about equipping them with the skills, knowledge, and mindset they need to thrive in an ever-changing world. It's about instilling in them a lifelong love of learning and a belief in their ability to overcome any obstacle that stands in their way.

So let us continue to challenge and inspire our students to reach new heights, to push beyond their limits, and to strive for excellence in everything they do. Together, we can create a brighter future for all.

If I can point out, these interventions are being supported by the community help and not just on the plates of teachers. Teachers cannot produce these outcomes alone. It takes teachers, support staff, administrators, community and families working together to lift all of the children up. I utilized all of these resources. Retired teachers are an amazing gift, families, community members and even your state officials can come in to support your efforts. Always ask, include and encourage the help.

"I only have 2 rules!"
© 2023 Brenda Yoho
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