Sunday, August 30, 2015

Get Your Brag On

That’s right folks; I just stated that you need to brag more. However, it might not be in the context that you think. Bragging has been notoriously frowned upon by society for ages.  The Free Dictionary defines bragging as to talk or write about oneself in a proud or self-impressed way. This can, and most often does, backfire as Susan Kraus Whitbourne writes:
"Almost no one likes a show-off but almost everyone likes to show off, at least a little.  Some showing off happens by accident and some in a deliberate attempt to manipulate others. In either case, though, you run the risk of looking a bit too satisfied with yourself if not downright conceited. The best way to brag about yourself to others is probably not to brag at all."
No one likes a person who brags excessively and just about all of us have been guilty of this at some point or another.  Alina Tugend highlights some of these in an article on the etiquette of bragging:
"Susan A. Speer, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Manchester in England, has found that “self-praise” is still considered largely unacceptable. Speer looked at a variety of data, from psychiatric interventions to everyday conversations, that involved self-praise. In her study, published in Social Psychology Quarterly, Speer discovered that in almost every case, indirectly or directly praising oneself seemed to violate social norms. People responded to self-praise negatively, she said, or, more subtly, with a long silence or a roll of the eyes."
So if bragging is so bad why am I telling you to do more of it? The bottom line is that schools do not brag enough about the great work happening every day, and as a result they pay a steep price.  With a growing negative education reform rhetoric led by politicians and special interest groups and media outlets determined to cover mostly negative issues, the cards are stacked against schools.  As I have stated for years, if you don’t tell your story someone else will. If you let this happen then the majority of the time the story that is told about your school is not even close to the realities that are taking place.  

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Schools and educators don’t brag enough about the positive impact they are having. My call to action is for all schools and educators to brag more. Whether you believe it or not, your work matters. Actually it really matters. As opposed to theory and talk, educators are constantly implementing ideas and strategies while finding success in the classroom. This work matters and in itself is a story worth sharing as they can not only provide needed support for others who are looking for successful ways to improve teaching, learning, and leadership, but also inspire a pursuit of innovative change. Being humble during a challenging period for public education will get you nowhere fast.  Thus, you can sit by idly while a narrative is created for you or you can chose to be proactive by tactfully bragging about the work of your school.  

Don’t stop with what is going on at your school or in your district.  I also want you to brag about your own powerful work and how it is impacting kids.  There should be no shame at all in sharing and promoting your own accomplishments.  I totally understand that the ultimate reward for an educator is the impact that he or she has on students.  However, I also feel educators work way too hard and are never appropriately acknowledged for all the awesome work they do. Thus, it is quite ok to give yourself a public pat on the back once and a while. 

Here are some quick tips that will help you brag appropriately so that stakeholders positively perceive it:

  • Be tactical by proactively sharing your school’s success stories. If you are sharing your own successes do it in a way that does not involve heavy self-promotion.
  • Know when to promote successes. As far as your school goes this should happen often as there is always amazing things happening on a daily basis.  In terms of your own work, think about how the accomplishment will move the profession and others forward. 
  • Success is never a solo act.  Discuss achievements in a team-centered way. 
  • Give compliments to others at your school and over-share their accomplishments. There is nothing better than bragging about the work others are doing at your school to enhance learning and positively impact the life of a child. 
  • Make goals for improvement. When the time arises to get your brag on always follow-up your stories and statements with areas for growth and improvement. 
  • Focus on the voices and work of colleagues and other educators. Social media provides the means to share the awesomeness of your face-to-face colleagues as well as members of your Personal Learning Network (PLN)
  • Build on your positive attributes. We are more inclined to praise others than ourselves. Never be afraid to celebrate positive aspects that define your school and own work.

Share until it hurts (in a positive way), but be careful not to cross the line where the message is conveyed in a boastful way.  Education needs more positive stories to move from perception to reality. It is time to get your brag on.


  1. Eric I agree, we don't share the positive enough. In a day and age when the catch of a routine fly ball is celebrated on ESPN, I am quite certain we can find things to brag about. Our students and staff do amazing things each and every day and it is about time we let the world know about it. I look forward to meeting at Edscape this year.

    1. Should be very easy to find things to brag about :) I am an in HI the week leading up to Edscape and am going to try my best to get there.

  2. Eric,

    Yes schools need to tell their stories more, and I'd take it one step further. When "bragging" or whatever you want to call it, work to CONNECT EACH POST TO STUDENT LEARNING. This is where the research lies on building home-school partnerships, so take advantage of the opportunity of the added family engagement option available during the process of telling your story. Here's a resource with some relationship-based conversation starters to think through in your setting

    1. I could not agree with you more Joe and great Edutopia piece.