Keynote: The Heart of Education

Education is about people working and learning together. It is about building relationships with the students and adults in an effort to create a learning community. How we treat each other and the way we interact with one another will set the tone for everything else we do in school.

This presentation is about building trust in relationships.  It is based on the premise that we make a difference in the lives of students by creating a positive school climate that is conducive to collaborative learning for all.  It is one thing to say that we should be part of a learning community, but it is another thing to translate that into action.

We make a difference. We have to believe that statement. Every child that enters our classrooms in September will be different in June. The question is how will they change? By next September will they simply be one year older? Will they simply have a year’s worth of new facts in their heads? Will they be more school-wise and better able to spew back what we want to hear? Or will they be independent thinkers, mature enough to tackle the academic and social challenges ahead of them? The answers to these questions come from within us, the adults. What we do with students and how we do it, from September to June is the critical factor.

Teaching is not a random act. Our planning and preparation, our teaching and marking, our modeling and mentoring are all designed to have an impact on each individual student. More important than our lesson plans and yearly overviews, it must be emphasized, is our personal interactions and relationships with these kids. How we treat each individual matters. The behaviors that we model and expect make a difference. The depth of our tolerance and height of our expectations set the tone. The variety of learning activities and the range of authentic assessments that we provide make learning meaningful. The adaptations and accommodations we make for individual differences, at both the low and high end of the spectrum, create opportunities for success for all students.

This is what school is about: all students learning and growing.


Based on his successful new book, Tom will share the seven keys to creating a positive learning environment. Sessions range from a 60 minute primer to a two day comprehensive workshop. The pyramid of behavior interventions looks at the connections between positive behavior interventions and supports (PBIS). professional learning communities (PLC), sound assessment practice and positive relationship building.


Tom has structured workshops that can be designed for one hour to full day sessions on a variety of assessment topics including common assessments, targets, unpacking standards, assessment “of”, “for”, and “as”, the seven strategies for effective assessment, and the keys to quality assessment practice.


Schools must focus on the needs of all students, welcome the assistance of all parents and rely on the expertise of all educators to make significant gains in the school environment. Connecting with the heart before measuring the head is critical. A lot has been made for teachers to” think outside the box” when dealing with issues in the classroom. Tom will challenge this notion and set the stage for thinking inside the box as a start to solving classroom and school concerns.


The role of the school leader is critical as we move forward to address the needs of students and staff.Roland Barth talks about the significant relationship role the Principal plays. Tom will look at this role and the challenges facing school leaders today.


Sustainability is a systemic concept, relating to the continuity of institutional aspects of human society. It is intended to be a means of configuring civilization and human activity so that society is able to meet the needs and express the greatest potential in the present, while preserving, planning and acting for the ability to maintain these ideals in a very long term. Sustainability affects every level of organization. All across our country and in jurisdictions around the world a dramatic demographic shift is occurring that will impact our previous views of sustainability. In a time when leaders are being asked to step forward with less experience than in the past how can we ensure that the best of the past is blended with the knowledge of the present to tackle the issues of the future?