Leading in a VUCA World

Bena Kallick and Allison Zmuda

Bena Kallick and Allison Zmuda are authors, friends, and colleagues. They co-authored the 2017 book, Students at the Center: Personalized Learning with Habits of Mind.

When we walked into school each day prior to COVID-19, we were accustomed to living in an unpredictable environment. Many of us have developed some of our greatest strengths through that unpredictability. Through the many challenges, we become more creative, inventive, and flexible problem solvers.

When the crisis closed schools down around the world, leaders faced a challenge never imagined. Leaders need to draw on their strengths to communicate. They express empathy by naming their emotional state, drawing on confidence in the relationships they have built with others in the school community and using habits of mind as a language.

In this newsletter, we focus on leadership — not positional leadership but emotional and relational leadership. Each of the voices in this newsletter represent different positions in school life but what they have in common is the heart they are expressing as they find their way through this new unknown territory.

  • Craig Gastauer, Instructional Lead Coach at Vista High School in California, wrote a heart wrenching post on how students are coping with daily realities since COVID19. His post focuses on using Habits of Mind to better address students’ needs and continue to refine our efforts to maximize the growth of students’ abilities during the Covid-19 shutdown.
  • Eric Chagala, principal of VIDA Middle School in California, posted a brief video that was an impressive communication that directly addresses and reassures parents regarding their concerns.
  • Nick Bruski, principal of Montecito Union School in California, continues his experience with response to crisis as he moves the community from the raging fires of last year to COVID19 now. In his post he describes how he leans on Habits of Mind as a guide for his actions.
  • Heidi and Allison interviewed David Lovelin, high school principal from HKIS, to capture nine lessons learned from their school closure in November due to the riots in Hong Kong and how that prepared them for the COVID19 closure. Based on the buzz generated from our Curriculum Triage post, Heidi and Allison invite you to visit our new website to engage with school leaders from around the world on how they are generating ideas and actions in response to COVID19.
  • Jeff Dillon, Superintendent of Wilder School in South Dakota, shares insight in how his district moved into emergency remote learning more seamlessly because of his 5-year focus on preparing students for the world right now.
  • Bill Somers, former HS principal and presently leadership coach, shares his rich experience with developing student voice as a significant stakeholder in this VUCA world.
  • Art and Bena contribute how leaders use the Habits of Mind to play a significant role in listening, questioning, and communicating during this unexpected demand on school leaders.
  • Giselle Martin-Kniep, Founder and President of Learner-Centered Initiatives, reminds us of the importance of taking a stance of inquiry before rushing to action. She poses helpful questions to consider as we move forward.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts and practices with us. You continue to inspire our work and we hope this newsletter inspires yours. Keep sending us your stories, wonderings, and actions.


Allison Zmuda
Email: allison@allisonzmuda.com
Twitter: @allison_zmuda
LinkedIn: Allison Zmuda
Bena Kallick
Email: bena@habitsofmindinstitute.org
Twitter: @benakallick
LinkedIn: Bena Kallick
Art Costa
Email: artcos


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