Category Archives: Personal

PMP:086 Now We’re Talking – Interview with Justin Baeder

Have you ever wondered what it would be like if you walked into your child’s room at home, looked around, gave him a quick nod, and then left him a walkthrough-form listing the pros and cons of your short visit?

None of us would ever think about building relationships by practices like that with our family. But what about our school family? As principals, sometimes we may be unconsciously practicing routines that strain instead of strengthen school relationships.

This week’s podcast interview with author and leadership consultant Justin Baeder will give you a lot to think about in the ways you approach instructional leadership. His new book, Now We’re Talking: 21 Days to High-Performance Instructional Leadership, explains how principals can maximize time with teachers, optimize schedules for more time in rooms, and develop deep conversations about teaching and learning.

Justin is a former elementary teacher and principal from Seattle, Washington, an award-winning education leader, and the founder of Principal Center —an organization dedicated to helping school leaders. He is also the host of the Principal Center Radio podcast.

Questions we discuss:

1. How do principals increase time in classrooms in the midst of so many other demands?
2. What difference do principals see in feedback when they spend more time seeing instruction?
3. What are some habits or life-hacks that can help principals be more efficient on tasks “non-instructional leadership” tasks?
4. What does Justin mean by “cycles,” and how can principals use them to rethink the way they do classroom visits?

Listen in to this week’s conversation for these takeaways:

• Understand how daily classroom visits can help you make informed decisions that foster rich relationships with teachers, improve professional practices, reduce stress, and increase student learning.
• Discover how to conduct classroom visits that foster high-performance results and high-quality instructional leadership.
• Take part in 21 days of action challenges toward making classroom visits a daily practice.
• Gain tips for streamlining your inboxes, staying organized, and prioritizing work so you have time for daily classroom visits.
• Learn how to rethink the way you use email and strategies for emptying your inbox.

Let’s Wrap This Up

As you think about your own time as instructional leader, you may find yourself wondering how you can ever increase more time in classrooms. Join over 10,000 principals who have taken part in Justin’s challenge, and see if you can increase your influence on student outcomes.

Bonus Question

When Justin and I finished our interview, I kept recording our final few minutes together and asked him what was something that surprised him in his research while writing his new book. His findings on the lack of research surrounding common walkthrough practices may surprise you. Listen till the end for some valuable final thoughts.

Now It’s Your Turn

How deep are the conversations you are having about instruction? What is one step you can take this week to increase time with teachers? How can you practice some of Justin’s ideas on reading emails, for instance, to increase time with students and teachers?

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Principal Matters–The Book!


School leaders are very busy, so each of the twenty-four chapters is designed as a quick-read and followed with take-action questions for follow-up or reflection. If you want practical ideas on understanding your purpose, managing school teams, dealing with challenges, and leading with courage, action, motivation, and teamwork, go HERE to pick up a copy for you or your team.

Messaging Matters


Harness the power of messaging to create a culture of acknowledgment, respect, and celebration. Written specially for leaders, this title is divided into three parts, helping readers to maximize their role as chief communicators with students, teachers, and parents and community. Each chapter includes suggestions for using digital tools to enhance messaging and ends with reflection questions and practical next steps.

PMP:077 Four Tips for #DadsAsPrincipals

I’ve noticed a group of principals trending on Twitter lately using the hashtag #dadsasprincipals.

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And my friend Daniel Bauer recently interviewed a group of these dedicated dads at last month’s National Principal Conference. You can hear their talk here.

These dads have picked up on the #momsasprincipals movement they saw happening among their female colleagues, and they wanted to encourage one another as dads to stay as invested in their own children as they were to the ones in their schools.

I’ve been thinking a lot about fatherhood this week because my oldest daughter just went to college. Continue reading

PMP:073 Three Takeaways for Your Leadership Journey

Recently I was speaking to school leaders at Okaloosa County Schools’ Summer Leadership Academy in Ft. Walton Beach, Florida.

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I decided to combine my travels there with an opportunity for my family to stay at the beach. My wife and I loaded up all four kids in a Dodge Caravan, and we hit the road. We had a lot of fun putting our toes in the sand, playing in the waves, and just being together.

It takes 13 hours to reach Ft. Walton Beach from our town in Oklahoma. So we also had lots of time for thought, reflection, music and podcasts. We also had much to talk about as a family. My children have always known their dad as either a teacher or school administrator. And this past week after I made the announcement that I will be the new Executive Director for OASSP and OMLEA, there were lots of conversations about how the new job may affect our lives and schedules. Continue reading

PMP:Encore 028 Why Your Vacation Matters

This week’s post is an encore episode I shared a year ago. Have you thought why your time away from school can help you better serve your school?

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Regardless of whether someone is an educator or not, or whether your vacation time is long or short, taking time away from work is healthy for a number of reasons. Also, if you listen to then end, I share one of my creative moments with you from a previous vacation: a song and recorded from a trip to Colorado.

Here are the show notes for this encore episode

Continue reading

PMP:068 Choose To Run The Race Anyway

One summer when our oldest daughter, Emily, was beginning to run track, she signed up to run her first 5k with her younger sister during the July 4th holiday.

Photo by Josiah Mackenzie – Creative Commons Attribution License https://www.flickr.com/photos/36531501@N00


Unfortunately, our younger daughter ended up unable to run it with her. When I drove Emily to the race downtown to run her race alone, I could tell she was a little overwhelmed with the crowds, the music, and the loudspeakers. This was her first 5K and she looked at me at nervously.

“How about I run it with you?” I asked.

“Can you do that? You’re not registered.”

“We paid for your sister’s registration,” I explained. “And I have her race number. I’ll use it.” 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: 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.

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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.

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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

PMP 054: 7 Tips on Rest & Rejuvenation

During my first two years in school admin, I barely slept, rarely exercised, and seldom had time for my family.

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I’ll never forget the night I was up late after my wife and I had put our four kids to bed. I had my laptop open when my wife sat down beside me.

“Will,” she said. “There’s something I need to say. The kids and I have accepted that you are a husband and dad on the weekends. The rest of the time, the school owns you.”

She didn’t say this with bitterness or anger, just simple resignation.

“In fact,” she concluded, “You just seem a shell of the man you used to be.”

I remember watching her leave the room, and I just sat there. I was giving everything I had to my work as a school leader. But in the process, I was abandoning those closest to me.

That night I made a decision. I opened my laptop and wrote a letter of resignation and placed it in a folder. The next morning I placed that folder on the corner of the desk in my office. Every time I looked at it, I would tell myself that either I was going to find a more balanced way to lead, or I was changing professions. Continue reading

PMP 053: 3 Tips for Responding Under Pressure

When I was in high school and college, my brothers and I worked part-time diving for mussel shells in the Kentucky Lake area.

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We would sell them by the pound at local markets, and those shells would in turn be sold to Japanese markets. Apparently, the pearly-white cuts from those shells are unique implants for growing cultured pearls in oysters.

One day I was climbing across the bottom of an area that was ten to twelve feet deep. The only sounds I could hear were the hissing breaths from my regulator. As I found shells, I placed them in a net-bag I had clipped to one side of my weight belt. Continue reading