Monthly Archives: April 2014

Guest Post: Pivotal Leadership

This is a guest post by Justin Baeder, Director of The Principal Center. He writes about productivity for school leaders at


We all want to improve student learning in our schools.

We want to achieve better results, create better opportunities for students, and help everyone—students, teachers, parents—have the best possible experience every day.

So where should we focus our improvement efforts?

I believe we should start with ourselves, because we have the most control over our own actions.

And as leaders, we have enormous leverage. The impact of improvements in our own effectiveness can be huge.

The Dangers of Being Pivotal
The principalship is a “pivotal” role, and pivot points are always points of stress. Continue reading

A Conversation About K-12 Schools

A couple of years ago, I had the privilege to participate in a ten day tour of four cities in China.
On one leg of the trip, I sat by a woman who was fluent in English and on her way home after finishing graduate work at Boston University. We enjoyed trading stories about our families, home, schools, and studies. Toward the end of our conversation, she turned to me and asked poignantly, “Why do U.S. schools not measure up to other nations on standardized tests?”

This was a fair question. After all, I had seen the statistics and witnessed first-hand how accomplished the Chinese-style of education seemed to be. As a good teacher does, I answered her question with some questions of my own. “Tell me,” I said, “at the schools you attended growing up, how many students did you know with disabilities?” Continue reading

3 End-of-the-School-Year Reminders

Last Saturday I drove my daughter to the local lake dam spillway to meet her teammates for a weekend track workout.
After twenty minutes of warm-up running on the grassy path to the spillway and back, they lined up for drills. These included 12 sprints up an intimidatingly steep grassy incline to practice increasing speed.

It was a joy to watch all of the students working hard and pushing themselves. As they neared their tenth sprint drill, their legs began shaking, their shirts were lined with sweat, and their chests heaved with every breath. Their movement was a mass of arms pumping, legs kicking up the hill, bending over to catch a breath, standing up tall before making the climb down to run up again. Continue reading

Interview with Mitchell Curry

Earlier this year, I had the privilege of hearing Mitchell Curry and his school leadership team present a workshop on how their school became recognized by the National Association of Secondary Principals as a “Breakthrough School”.


Mitchell Curry

Mitchell Curry is Principal of Scott Morgan Johnson Middle School in McKinney, Texas, one of ten schools identified in 2013 as a Breakthrough School.

My goal in posting interviews with successful leaders in education like Mitchell is to inspire us to reflect on how our own choices, goals, and actions can affect our lives, our leadership, and our teams. Continue reading

7 Tips For Dealing With Challenging Students

A few years ago, I was talking to a teacher about a student she had volunteered to mentor.


The young lady had had a difficult past, and the teacher had confided in me that some of their meetings had been challenging. While I was encouraging her to keep up the good work, at the same time, I wanted to prepare her for the reality of mentoring.

“Don’t be surprised,” I said, “when you are disappointed.”

“That’s not very encouraging,” she replied with a perplexed expression.

I went on to explain to her how important it is to expect, not be surprised by conflict, and we talked about the actions to keep taking in the face of disappointment. Continue reading