PMP:045 Shawn Sheehan “Teach Like Me” (Lessons in Risk, Failure and Wow)

In this episode, I sit down with Shawn Sheehan and talk about the lessons from his life, teaching, and advocacy for education.

Image Source: Norman News

Image Source: Norman News


Shawn is the 2016 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year and was a finalist for National Teacher of the Year. He is an Algebra I teacher from Norman High School in Norman, Oklahoma.

He is also the founder of the Teach Like Me Campaign, a national movement focused on counteracting negative public perception of teachers and redefining those assumptions through social media campaigns to boost morale among current and future educators.

Questions we explore

In this interview, Shawn answers four questions:
1. How has failure pushed you to re-focus on your priorities as an educator and a person?
2. Why “Teach Like Me”? Why are you so passionate about redefining the public perception of teaching?
3. What advice do you have for educators who are struggling during “tougher” political days ahead for schools?
4. What advice do you have for school leaders to better serve their teachers, schools and communities? Continue reading

PMP Bonus Track: Focusing on the Simple Joys of Life

Today I’ve decided to take a break from a focus on school leadership and share some simple joys of life.
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During Thanksgiving Break, I took time to record a couple of songs that I decided to include in today’s bonus podcast track.

My wife and I have four children: 3 girls and 1 boy. This Thanksgiving we hosted some of my wife’s relatives including her cousin, Joy, who is one year older than our oldest daughter. When the girls were little, we wrote a song together called “3 Little Girls,” and we decided this past week to sit at the kitchen table with a microphone and my guitar to record it.

Here are the lyrics and a direct link to the recording of the song: Continue reading

PMP: Encore 04 Thankfulness (And the Bacon Story)

This week’s podcast episode is an encore recording of one of my favorite growing-up stories.
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As you listen, I hope you take time to remember your own good memories. As we approach Thanksgiving, I hope you are taking time to recharge your batteries and invest time with friends and family. Thanks for doing what matters!

Here are the shownotes for PMP: Encore 04: Continue reading

PMP:044 How Challenges Help You Grow

I remember my first year of teaching when I walked into a boy’s bathroom that was reeking of smoke.

Photo credit: Flickr user Hessa.

Photo credit: Flickr user Hessa.


A couple of boys were standing at the urinals when one of them dropped a lit cigarette at his feet.

I didn’t know his name, but I told him to grab his bag and follow me to the office. All the way there, he was talking.

“I don’t know why you are taking me to the office,” he complained. “It wasn’t me. I don’t know whose it was, but that cigarette wasn’t mine.”

“I saw it drop right at your feet,” I said. Continue reading

PMP:043 Lessons from a Comet Landing (What Can We Accomplish Together?)

The European Space Agency’s historical comet landing of the spacecraft Rosetta in 2014 was an amazing feat I share about in this week’s podcast.
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First of all, imagine organizing a team of scientists and space engineers who design and launch a spacecraft with the goal of intersecting with a comet 500 million kilometers from Earth. Then imagine ten years later, your findings show the spacecraft is indeed crossing paths with the targeted comet.

From 500 million kilometers away, your Earth-bound team maneuvers the activation of the spacecraft’s previously inert power source, it orbits around the comet, and it attempts a landing. Continue reading

PMP:042 The Future of Education (A Conversation with Undergraduates)

Recently I was asked to be a guest presenter for an undergraduate education class at Bartlesville Wesleyan University, a college not too far from my high school.

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“What do you see?” Wonder Image Source: wonderopolis.org


At the end of my presentation, I asked four students if I could interview them for a podcast episode.

I had two goals in this conversation:
1. I wanted to hear from prospective educators their motivations, dreams, and challenges in choosing this career.
2. I wanted others to be reminded why investing in training, recruiting, and supporting strong teachers is so essential.

I’m indebted to the generosity of Dr. Jeffrey Keeney for allowing me to present to his class, and to the four students who agreed to participate in this podcast: Shelby Totino of Spearfish, South Dakota; Karley Baker of Fredonia, Kansas; Kelly Tjon of Houston, Texas; and Kirsten Fisher of Bartlesville, Oklahoma.

If you’ve ever wondered why we should be committed to investing in education—why we should be finding ways to better compensate teachers for their hard work and dedication to children—then listen in to the responses of these four young people. Continue reading

PMP:041 What Makes a Productive Team?

When I was boy, my dad bought a long, green Pontiac station wagon.
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Long before the creation of the mini-van, it was the car of choice for a large family. We spent countless of hours of my childhood driving from the West Coast to the Mississippi River and back during his Navy years.

After we had moved to the farm, Dad retired the old Pontiac in a field beside our first chicken lot. Before long our chickens began to roost and nest around the old car. One day my dad rolled down the windows, and the hens found their way into it. For years to come, the old green station wagon was a makeshift chicken coop.

Yes, we were backwoods folks, but I still have fond memories of spreading corn on the dirt and grass each morning—the red, brown, and spotted black hens gently clucking and jostling around my feet.

Hens are interesting creatures: they feed together, warn one another of impending danger, and huddle close for warmth. They are instinctively team players unless they identify another chicken they perceive as a threat. Then they can become vicious in isolating or attacking the culprit.

Heffernan: Lessons on Laying Hens

Last week I was reminded of chickens when I watched a great TedTalk presentation by Margaret Heffernan, businesswoman and consultant, who uses the research by William Muer to inform others about what truly makes some groups more productive than others. Continue reading

PMP:040 How Do You Positively Respond to Apathy?

Last week when I was hosting a webinar for school leaders, an overwhelming number of responses were made about the challenges of overcoming apathy.
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How does a leader initiate positive changes when others resist, don’t seem to care, or only comply half-heartedly?

There’s so much to unpack in that question. In this podcast, I try to hit on a few important points.

Listen in for the complete discussion. Here’s a summary of the show-notes:

7 Tips for Responding to Apathy

Continue reading

Brunch & Learn Webinars

As a practicing principal, I need to be practicing.
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And as much as I enjoy writing, speaking or presenting about school leadership, my primary responsibility as a school leader is serving my school.

So this past summer, I was thrilled when Vickie Williams, the Executive Director of the Oklahoma Association of Secondary Principals asked me to partner with OASSP to offer a monthly webinar series on school leadership topics.

Webinars offer the best of both worlds: the ability to connect, share, learn and grow with others while doing so from the convenience of your office computer.

Beginning in September 2016, we launched our first episode on Organizational Leadership, and yesterday we presented on Purpose-Driven Leadership and Goal Setting. Over the course of one school year, we will be covering an array of leadership topics: Continue reading

Becoming Better: How You Influence Growth

Last weekend I traveled with my son, Jack, and his Cub Scout pack to a joint campout with an older Boy Scout troop.
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It was a perfect October weekend: 70’s with sun and breeze; evening temperatures in the 50’s—cold enough that a sleeping bag was the perfect cocoon for tent sleeping.

Although Jack and I have camped a lot, this was my first experience watching a Boy Scout troop at a campout. Throughout the whole experience, the boys were in charge. During mealtime, the senior patrol leader, a ninth grader, separated the group of 23 boys into three groups. Each had their own food preparation area, menus they had created, food they had procured, and tasks assigned.

Whenever the entire group needed to be addressed, the senior patrol leader would call them together, hold up a Scout sign (three fingers), and everyone would go silent as they held up their fingers in response.

That night the boys had a special treat: they were given a tour of the U.S.S. Batfish, a retired World War II submersible boat that once toured the Pacific and survived. Its maiden crew of 80 was confined to tiny spaces where each man played essential tasks: repairing engines, launching torpedoes, radioing signals, navigating with gauges and periscope, or preparing pastries for hungry crew members.

After the tour, the boys were allowed to bunk in the berthing room for the night. Two adult leaders stayed on the boat, but I made way back to my tent. Continue reading