How to Be Infectious

What does it mean to be infectious? I used my handy Google Dictionary extension for Chrome and this definition relates best to this post:

Likely to spread or influence others in a rapid manner.

My friend Adam Bellow uses the phrase “be infectious” often in his keynotes and other workshops. I did give Adam a heads up that I’d be using this in a post. While Adam doesn’t have the phrase “be infectious” trademarked, I still wanted him to know. Thanks Adam!

Have you ever been around someone who is infectious?  Someone who has an energy about them, who is ready to do whatever it takes for students, and is always willing to try to something new? It might be a new way of teaching the same old content, trying a new learning technology, or exploring a new style of professional development. They’re excited about it, and they want to share it with you; via whatever medium might be most comfortable for them.

But how did this person develop this infectious attitude towards teaching? What was the catalyst or inspiring moment that sent them on their way? I can think of lots of “infectious” teachers I’d like to pose these questions to. I’ve got some ideas about this and I wanted to share with you what I think is necessary to breed an infectious attitude.


If we have leadership that’s infectious, it’s going to spread to teachers. It makes me think of the book Multipliers. If you’re an infectious leader, you strive to spread the excitement for learning; to spread the genius in your own people. This looks like a leader that’s excited about what they do, eager to try new things, and giving teachers the professional freedom to try new things. Which in turn builds more leaders among your staff. The cycle is an infectious one!

Check out this resource from NASSP called Practical Suggestions for Developing Leadership Capacity in Others.


We must be learners first, and teachers second. I’m not saying we should skirt our duty to our students because we’re supposed to be a learner first. It doesn’t mean be out of your classroom all the time either at this workshop or that workshop. It means simply to let your students and fellow teachers see you as a learner first. Have you ever taken the time to learn along side your students? To let them see that you don’t have all the answers? There’s power there. George Couros says it well in this post:

To be an effective teacher, you need to be passionate and active in your own learning first.

Which I believe leads to being an infectious teacher!


There has been much discussion about the importance of failing. Of course no one wants to fail, but a little bit of failure isn’t all bad. It helps us re-evaluate, refine, and redo our practices. We become better. It’s a notion we often don’t instill in our students either. Too frequently the mentality is, “Well I bombed that the first time out of the gate so there’s nothing more to do.” We can’t do this to ourselves as teachers and we certainly cannot let our students think this way.

Having failures and being better because of them and still succeeding despite them leads to being infectious.

This made me think about this recent post from Josh Stumpenhorst, Learning from Failure.


Take a moment to stop and think about the last time you heard about something awesome happening at your school. It can even be something you heard about at another school via a blog post, Twitter, or at a conference or an edcamp. The point is, you heard about it because someone shared it. Sharing the great things happening with learning and teaching and professional development and general work to make learning better for students is so very important. We must share and share often. Don’t be afraid to toot your own horn once in a while. Blog about it, tweet about it, tell your administrator about it, tell parents about it, lead a conversation at an edcamp about it. The point is that you share. Not only are you going to be infectious with your excitement about what you’re sharing, but you might also discover ways to make it even better the next time. More infectious attitude back on you! Double bonus!

I always encourage teachers I’m working with to share; even if it’s just writing down a paragraph of thoughts for me about something they were really successful with trying in their classroom. I had a teacher do this for me recently about the great things happening in her middle school language arts classroom with Google Apps for Education and Chromebooks. She emailed me so excited and her spirit was so infectious! I became so happy and excited for her and I can’t wait to hear about what she tries next.

I came across this recent interview with Ewan Mcintosh, whom I had the great pleasure of getting to hang out with a bit at ISTE last summer, and in it Ewan was asked the question, “What is the best opportunity for innovation in education?”. Here’s what Ewan said:

More sharing of what worked by every teacher who feels they’ve got something to share, and more reading of what worked by every teacher regardless of how good they think they are today.

This should remind all of us that sharing the great things happening leads to an infectious spirit which can lead to sustainable change for the better.

If you have any other ways we can create an infectious spirit in education, please share in the comments. So let’s spread all this awesome around, and let it effect all of us in a rapid manner. Be infectious!

14 thoughts on “How to Be Infectious”

  1. About seven years ago, I presented to a conference in Canada and showed a slide entitled “The Inertia Antibodies of Education Attacking the Innovation Virus” Made folks reflect, chuckle and the frown and say “ouch” Even presented when I shared the stage with Sir Ken Robinson last year. He too laughed, then frowned and said “Hmmm..” Great article. Congrats

  2. This is a brilliant post, Kyle. Passion and enthusiasm are critical for educators. You are a brilliant example of how being alive in your work can change hearts and minds. I love everything about this post!

  3. Laughter is a great way to be infectious! Think of every school administrator you have worked for and try to picture he or she who laughed the most. Were they the best to work for? I would argue that invariably, the answer will be yes.

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