PMP:037 Are You Growing? Learning to Celebrate the Small Wins

Last week I left school early so that I could watch our cross-country teams run at a local race.


My daughter Mattie being hugged by her big sister after a grueling 5K run when she improved her personal record time by 2 minutes.

It was one of those days where the sun and clouds kept alternating in the sky. My oldest daughter, Emily ran in the first race. When it ended, clouds moved in and a heavy shower began falling with scattered lightning and thunder. We huddled under the team’s tent canopy, and waited it out. Before long, the clouds moved away, the sun broke through again, and the races continued: boys’ varsity then onto junior varsity. My second daughter, Mattie, runs on the junior varsity team for our school.

All summer long these kids have been training: showing up for early morning runs or staying late for long runs. Sprinting 1,000 yard sets or running for 60-minute long runs have become a part of various routines as they’ve worked to increase endurance. I’m so proud of the dedication of all our high school athletes, but the dad in me is also proud of my girls. Continue reading

PMP:036 Four Suggestions on Providing Meaningful Feedback from Observations and Evaluations

I have a lot of friends who are good golfers. I am not one of them.
But I recognize a good golfer when I see one. He or she is usually the one who gets the ball in the hole with the fewest strokes. One observation I’ve made about great golfers, however, is that most of them have been coached.

Teaching is often a solitary profession. You may have hundreds of students before you on a daily basis, but you are often the lone adult in the room. But even those of us who often do our work outside the observation of peers or advisors can benefit from coaching. Continue reading

PMP:035 Are You Growing? 5 Questions to Ask Yourself

I remember when my daughter began taking clarinet lessons from a private tutor in junior high.
When I picked her up from her first session, she said, “I have been playing for three years, but I learned today that I wasn’t putting the mouth piece in far enough. That one tip has helped me hit my first high notes ever!”

We all have a lot to learn, and none of us ever reaches a point in our lives, positions, relationships, or responsibilities where we have “arrived.” Sometimes this is frustrating. But it is also a relief. So what are some helpful sources of support and instruction that can help you keep growing in your life or calling in school leadership? Here are a five questions to ask yourself to discover some right in front of you: Continue reading

PMP:034 Six Ways to Avoid Making Wrong Calls

I once knew a teaching couple who told me a funny story.
They lived right across the street from a man who never seemed to go to work.

During their breaks from school, the neighbor always seemed to be home; they would usually see him in cut-offs, working in his yard. They began to suspect the man was unemployed. Before long they had constructed their own narrative–imagining the sad times that must have led up to this disappointing time in his life. Continue reading

PMP:033 What Motivates Your Learning? A Better Alternative…

When I was a junior high student, I remember feeling pretty clueless about what to expect in high school. suprisingimaginationSometimes my teachers would tell me to expect to be treated like a number. At other times, they would warn us that if we were unprepared, we could expect a dismal future.

Over the years, I’ve noticed that whatever stage of education students are in, we often try to motivate them by either the heights they can achieve or the dismal experiences they will suffer without a good preparation. We often appeal to either their pride (what’s in it for me) or their fear (what dreadful thing happens if I don’t do this).

I’ve often wondered if there is a third or better alternative. Continue reading

PMP:032 Olympic Lessons in Collaboration for Educators

Last Saturday my children were watching the Olympics throughout the day.
I was walking through the living room when I glanced up at the screen and saw men’s cycling. After six and half hours of racing, the final five kilometers lay ahead, and Poland’s Rafal Majka appeared a certain winner as he was leading the race with a 25 second lead ahead of any chasers.

Then I heard the sportscaster say something that caught my ear: “He’s only moments away from a gold medal unless the others decide to collaborate…”

Did he say collaborate? I thought. I sat down by my kids and watched.

Behind Majka were several other cyclists. Each of them was riding in single file and taking turns switching the leader to reduce each rider’s drag. The ones behind would ride in the draft created by the line ahead. Then a rider would pull ahead to lead so the previous leader could regain strength from pedaling behind–a method cyclists call streamlining. Continue reading

PMP:031 Creating a Sense of Ownership for Students

Today’s episode is in response to a listener question, “How can we create a sense of ownership for students into today’s education system?”
Although answering this question could be very long, let me ask three questions connected to mindsets I believe are important for any school:

1. As a school leader, how have you envisioned the outcomes you want all students to achieve?

Do you dream about what you want every student to achieve in your school? If you’re a high school principal, for instance, you should be able to communicate to students and parents how you want every student in your school to accomplish learning, be exposed to challenging lessons, and be involved in great activities before they walk across a stage to receive their diplomas. Continue reading

PMP:030 Three Simple Ways to Respond to Negativity

In PMP Episode 30, I continue responding to listener and reader questions.
This week’s question was: What’s one of the biggest leadership challenges you face right now? One principal wrote back, “How can I respond to negativity among teachers about their students, colleagues or the community?” The answer to that question comes in three parts.

1. Check yourself first.

There is no way we can combat negativity unless we’re committed to being positive leaders first. How often are you speaking of those with whom you work in positive, rather than negative ways? If the primary comments we use are negative, how can we influence others to be positive? Continue reading