PMP:121 The Power of Play – 7 Tips for Education Leaders

When I spotted the mud puddle, I thought it would be fun to jump it.

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The dirt road that ran along the edge of the field by our West Tennessee farmhouse was often traveled by trucks or tractors. And the ruts in the sandy, red dirt would fill with rain and create long stretches of rust-colored puddles. I was barefoot and seven years old. My brothers and sister were with me.

“Watch this,” I said. And I ran and jumped.

My feet landed in the thick mud and streaks of red clay splattered across my legs and shorts. They laughed. And soon, one by one, each of them tried it too.

“I think you could paint with this mud,” my sister said.

“Oh, yeah? I bet it would look good painted on you!”

And the mud battle began. Fists full of Tennessee red clay were thrown and splattered.

And we chased one another until my oldest brother said, “You know, in ancient times, people would bathe in mud as a way to treat their skin.”

He slowly began smearing it on his arms, his neck, his face, his legs. We followed suit. And before long, we were covered from head to toes in the red earth. Continue reading

PMP:Encore06 – Essential Questions for a New School Year (& Predicting the Weather)

How are you anticipating the start of a new school year?

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This week I wanted to share some thoughts from a previous post as reminders for your new school year:

Predicting Your School Climate

Sometimes my left elbow aches. I have a scar there from when I broke it falling from a horse almost twenty years ago. When it starts hurting, I can usually be certain the weather will turn stormy. My aching elbow reminds me of another story. When I was a boy, I often helped on my Granddad’s family farm. His brother was my Uncle Jimmy. One day Uncle Jimmy and I were driving in his pick-up truck. The windows were down, and I was hanging my arm out of it and playing in the breeze as we rumbled down the gravel roadway. Continue reading

PMP:120 A Leader’s Spiritual Growth – Four Reasons Your Faith Matters

A few weeks ago, I was on an airplane with my oldest daughter, Emily, who just finished her first year of college and is enjoying summer break. Being with her brings back a lot of memories.

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At the time, she was staring out the window into the landscape of clouds below while we flew to a conference together in Chicago. As I watched her, I recalled moments from her birth and growing up years. And I thought about how hard is to explain the kind of love you have for your children. Continue reading

PMP:Bonus03 – Answers to Listener Questions + Thoughts from the Road

I’ve been on the road (and in planes) a lot the summer, and I have been thinking about issues and ideas I’ve been wanting to share with Principal Matters readers and listeners.

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This week I was on a long road trip when I was pondering some questions a listener had emailed my way. After stopping to gas up my car, I decided to plug my mic into my laptop and hit record. The result is this 30-minute episode of issues that have been on mind.

No notes or accompanying blog post. Just straight talk.

Here’s an outline of this week’s podcast episode: Continue reading

PMP:119 Your Friendships – Learning to Climb Together

When I was in college, I had my first experience in mountain climbing.

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I was traveling in Guatemala for a summer missions outreach when one morning, we woke up before dawn and rode a bus to the base of an active volcano. About twenty of us had decided to begin our climb in the dark so that we could summit the mountain at sunrise.

The night before, our team leader had talked to us about the climb. He explained how difficult the terrain would be as well as the altitude changes. He encouraged us to find team members whom we could stay with on the hike. He cautioned us that climbing was just as much emotional as it was physical, and that we must be committed to finishing as the last 100 meters of the climb would be the hardest.

This past week, I was talking to my wife about friendships. She had just been reading the book, Friendships Don’t Just Happen!: The Guide to Creating a Meaningful Circle of Girl Friends by Shantel Nelson. In the book, the author refers to a study released on friendship in 2008 by professors from four universities called the Social Support and the Perception of Geographical Slant in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.

Participants in their studies were asked to estimate the incline of a hill in front of them. Continue reading

PMP:118 Growing Leaders Takeaways – Crucial Conversations About Students

The other morning, I woke up early in a hotel room in Atlanta, Georgia.

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For a moment, I couldn’t remember where I was. Then it dawned on me that I was presenting that morning at a Growing Leaders Principal Roundtable event hosted by Dr. Tim Elmore. I dressed, grabbed my laptop bag and headed downstairs for a hot bowl of oatmeal and a cup coffee before walking the short-distance to the conference event center.

As I sat my bag down near a table up front, I was excited. Not only do I enjoy presenting to other school leaders but also, I was going to hear from some dynamic speakers and presenters as well as interact with principals during discussion times about their best practices.

My own kids tell me I geek-out about principal leadership, and this event was giving me permission to do just that. After playing some fun, interactive introduction games, the lessons began. Continue reading

PMP:117 Your Time – Are you Making the Most of Each Moment?

Balance is a popular word among life coaches and leadership authors. As important as it is to remember to invest in the meaningful areas of your life, too many people place unrealistic expectations upon themselves.

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Living a life of meaning does not mean being perfect. This is misperception is not only unrealistic, it is also unhealthy. Life is messy. Sometimes you face unexpected challenges in your health, relationships, or finances. When you look at your own condition, not matter how exhilarating or depressing, the first response is to give yourself the kind of grace you would want to extend to someone you love. We all face ups and downs.

But sometimes we need reminders to refocus on what matters. It’s a delicate but important tension to be aware of both truths:

1. You need to invest in what matter to keep growing.
2. You need to be patient with yourself (and others) along the journey. Continue reading

PMP:116 The Starbucks Story – Three Lessons for School Leaders

Recently, Howard Schultz, the owner and CEO of Starbucks announced he will be retiring as CEO of the company.

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This news comes after several years of stunning success for a company whose stock price rose from $7 a share during the recession to $56 a share this past week.

As a part of my commute, I’ve been listening to the audio-version of Schultz’s book, Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life without Losing Its Soul. In the book, one story that inspired me happened in 2008. This was when Schultz decided to return to the position of CEO at Starbucks. At that time, the economy was in recession, Starbucks had over-expanded, and many of its locations were losing connection with customers and quality in its brewing. One of his first decisions was to shut his stores across the U.S. for a day in order for baristas to be retrained in making exceptional espressos. Continue reading

PMP:115 A Leader’s Influence – How is the Air You Breathe?

In 2010, I had the privilege of traveling to China for ten days on an education tour.

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One morning in Beijing, I headed outside the hotel before breakfast for a quick run. Later as I showered and dressed, I began to feel sick. I thought perhaps I was catching a cold or was just suffering from jet-lag. Over the next few days, we visited Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, and the Great Wall before heading to another city.

As we traveled throughout Beijing, I noticed the skies were never blue. But on our trips outside of the city, the skies cleared. When I mentioned my observation to our tour guide, he told us it had been an especially cloudy season that summer in the city. But when we left Beijing a few days later, the skies cleared again.

I’m sure you have heard of China’s problems with smog and pollution in its cities, but I soon realized firsthand why I felt sick when I would go running. When is the last time you thought about the air you are breathing? Not just the physical oxygen your intake, but the emotional, cultural, and relational atmospheres that surround you. Even more importantly, what kind of atmosphere are you creating for those whom you are leading? Are you helping creating an environment of clean, healthy intakes, or are you contributing to an atmosphere of cultural pollution? Continue reading

PMP:Encore027 Ten Tips for Interviewing for an Education Opening

Last week I was on the phone with a teacher who will soon be interviewing for an assistant principal opening.

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Just this past week, I have talked to two superintendents and a principal who have openings for principal or assistant principal positions at their schools. It’s that time of year again for hiring and job searches!

Whether you are conducting an interview or being interviewed, I have found some common expectations anyone should have when walking into an education interview. If you are looking for sample questions specific to principal interviews, let me encourage you to check out the post, 30 Questions from Principal Interviews.

But if you are in transition or you know someone preparing for their next interview, I want to share some tips to keep in mind for a solid interview experience: Continue reading