Category Archives: Education

PMP:065 Celebration Ideas for Finishing The School Year

Last month I was asked to share a webinar on how to prepare for our state’s accreditation visits. I decided to begin the conversation with the practical steps we take with my school team on sharing, planning, scheduling, and compiling for accountability.

Photo by chiaralily – Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License https://www.flickr.com/photos/26870279@N04


Half way through the webinar, however, I switched gears and talked about celebration ideas our students and teachers had embraced for finishing the school year with enthusiasm. One way my school’s student leaders wanted to end the year was by doing something to help others. They designed an amazing idea called BARK week. Our school mascot is the Bulldog, so the theme fit perfectly.

BARK Week

Here’s an explanation our student council sponsor shared a month in advance: Continue reading

PMP:064 Five Tips For Finishing Strong

During my daughter’s first year in high school, I drove to the local lake dam spillway to meet her teammates for a weekend track workout.

Photo by Chris Maki – Creative Commons Attribution License https://www.flickr.com/photos/79526375@N00


After twenty minutes of warm-up running on the grassy path to the spillway and back, they lined up for drills. These included twelve 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

PMP:063 Reflecting on Regrets & Rewards

I was listening to an interview between Daniel Bauer and Jethro Jones the other day on Daniel’s Better Leaders, Better Schools podcast.

Photo by Alan O’Rourke – Creative Commons Attribution License https://www.flickr.com/photos/33524159@N00


Daniel asked Jethro, an Alaska principal, “What is one of your regrets from your time at your school?” I really liked Jethro’s response because he focused on how relationships were such an important part of his work, and he wished he had been able to better bridge the gap with some of his colleagues.

As important as it is to celebrate our wins with students, it is also a good reality check at times to reflect on where we wish we could improve. Continue reading

PMP:062 Setting the Record Straight & School Advocacy

A few years ago, I had the privilege to participate in a ten-day tour of four cities in China.

Photo by rmgirardin – Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License https://www.flickr.com/photos/30559266@N04


On one leg of the trip, I sat by a Mongolian woman who was fluent in English and on her way home after completing graduate studies 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’m sure she had seen the statistics commonly discussed in higher education about the comparison of U.S. public school scores to students in other industrialized nations. I also knew she came from a situation and background that allowed her access to higher education, so she had seen first-hand how helpful her own education had been.

As a good teacher tries to do, however, I answered her question with some questions of my own. Continue reading

PMP:060 How Mindfulness Influences Leadership

A few nights ago, I was sitting on the couch with my wife, Missy, when our four children slowly made their way into the living room.

Photo by Patr!c!a – Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License https://www.flickr.com/photos/25439875@N04


Our lives are so busy with three teenage girls and an eleven-year-old boy that we rarely find time to all be together these days. Emily, our oldest, came and sat on the floor so she could get “mommy scratches” while she played on her iPhone. Mattie, our second oldest, was across the room. She had placed her laptop on the piano bench with a video of dancers from the musical Beauty and the Beast, and she danced along practicing moves.

Katie, our third girl, was on the opposite couch with her guitar. She was playing a version of Hello from the Other Side while Emily was humming harmonies along with her. And then there was Jack with a snack of cheese crackers on the table. With a cracker in his mouth, he was everywhere: sometimes carrying his basketball, moving it between his legs or bouncing it. Or he’d sit on the couch and hum along with the music and then jump back up for another cracker. Continue reading

PMP:059 How Does Scarcity Affect Your Mindset?

The other morning, on my drive to school with my daughter, I was listening to a story on NPR called The Scarcity Trap: Why We Keep Digging When We’re Stuck in a Hole by Shankar Vedantam.

Photo by Nathan Rein – Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License https://www.flickr.com/photos/45067812@N00


Researchers have determined that when people find themselves consumed with trying to simply survive, they often instinctively operate with tunnel vision. Sometimes they have poorer judgment. They tend to have a harder time thinking long-term. The urgent often overwhelms other important priorities.

In fact, one study looked at farmers in India who are paid only once a year after harvest. When their behaviors were observed before and after, their ability to make rationale, wise choices dramatically changed when their scarcity was replaced with abundance. Vedantam reports that other research has found that IQ scores actually lower when people test while experiencing scarcity than when experiencing stability. Continue reading

PMP:058 Triggering the Brain with Wonder

The other day I was talking to our high school choir teacher, when she told me about a fascinating brain study involving music.

Photo by AmandaD_TX – Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License https://www.flickr.com/photos/8773000@N08


MIT neuroscientists have discovered that music triggers an auditory cortex of the brain that doesn’t appear to respond to other basic auditory sounds like speech.

If our brains have portions that only react to sounds recognized as music, this leads to an important question: Are we really engaging the brain most effectively if we aren’t exposing it to both left brain (facts, patterns, figures, and information) and right brain activities (creative, imaginative, inspiring ideas)? Continue reading

PMP: Encore 05 Caution Lights for the Leadership Journey

Each of us faces different challenges in leadership, and it is important to reflect on the caution lights along the way.

Photo by _Davo_ – Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License https://www.flickr.com/photos/35675717@N04


This week I wanted to take you back to a podcast episode I shared over a year ago that others have found helpful as they reflect on their own leadership journeys: Caution Lights for the Leadership Journey. Just like for me, I hope the reflections can help you evaluate where you may have room to grow too.

Here are the show-notes with links:

Continue reading

PMP 057: Why Self-Reflection Matters (Questions to Ask Yourself)

A couple of weeks ago, my wife and I took our oldest daughter, Emily, out to dinner.

Photo by scribbletaylor – Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License https://www.flickr.com/photos/64958688@N00


She turned 18 this year, and we wanted to encourage her in the opportunities and challenges she will be facing as a graduating senior and soon-to-be college student.

Previously, I had been reading Tim Elmore’s Generation iY where he shares about three intelligences that help us in conversations with our students and children as they mature:

Emotional intelligence: We need to help them develop their EQ—self awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management.
Moral intelligence: We need to coach them toward robust character—personal discipline, secure sense of self, strong positive values. (Perhaps we could call this MQ.)
Leadership intelligence: Finally, we need to encourage clear vision, courage, priorities, big-picture perspective, and planning skills (LQ) (Elmore 209).

During dinner, I asked Emily if I could read through the descriptions and if she could reflect on areas she felt were her strengths and where she thought she still needed to grow. As she self-reflected on different areas, I learned some new insights about her. And I think she may have learned some new insights about herself too.

My Own Self-Assessment

Self-reflection isn’t only good for our children as they grow. It’s good for older learners like you and me. I remember about five years ago when I was talking to a buddy who is twenty years younger than I. He was telling me about the goals he and his wife had set and reached. He was excited about being a young father, starting his own business, and pursuing his dreams. I began to reminisce with him about when I was his age—how my wife and I had paid off debts, bought our first house, started a family.

As he listened, he looked at me with a curious expression and asked, “So that was twenty years ago. What are your goals now?” Suddenly, I was stumped. I realized I didn’t have an answer, and as I stumbled around to find one, I finally looked at him and said, “You know. I think right now I’m just trying to survive.”

When I walked away from that conversation, I was haunted by my response. When was the last time I had self-reflected on new goals for my family and my future? In some ways, I had achieved a lot of my dreams in my career. But where did I want to grow from here? Continue reading