The other day, a principal friend emailed me this question:
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>>Will, I’d like your thoughts on something I grapple with: that is the importance I place on staff approval of what I do or present…the need to be liked I know is crazy and irrational, but how do you deal with the knock back, hearing a negative comment or ignoring the nay-sayers etc.?< <
First of all, that is an honest question. I think all of us deal with the tension of wanting to create the best possible environment while also facing the fact that we sometimes disappoint others or fail to motivate them.
And sometimes we need to be willing to go another direction than others, especially if it means we choose to do what is right. But I think there are often two sides to the “school culture coin,” so let’s look three points to consider when weighing the options of leading with courage while also building consensus. Continue reading →
He was gracious enough to allow me to repost the interview here. Here are some takeaways from our conversation:
Why is messaging so important?
In every setting of school, amazing learning and moments are happening every day that not a lot of people know about. In the humility of our service as educators, we are often hesitant to brag about our schools. On a national scale, this has created a crisis with a political landscape that now assumes most schools are failing. How can we make a commitment to celebrating the positives so often that those moment drown out the negative ones? Continue reading →
In this interview, we explore how reflecting on your own mistakes is a powerful way to lead with vulnerability and authenticity.
Jon Harper Bio
Prior to becoming an administrator, Jon served as a Math Coach and an elementary school teacher. During his ten years as a classroom teacher he taught first, second, fourth and fifth grades. During his sixth year teaching he earned Nationally Board Certification, which he held for ten years. For seven years he ran a Young Gentleman’s Club that was aimed at helping young men reach their full potential.
Jon received a B.A. from Furman University while majoring in Philosophy. He later went on to earn his B.S from Salisbury University while majoring in Elementary Education. Jon was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to student teach in New Zealand. He eventually received his M.A. degree from Salisbury University in Public School Administration.
Jon lives in Cambridge, Maryland with his amazing wife and two awesome children.
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 →
Sometimes my left elbow aches. I have a scar there from when I broke it falling from a horse almost twenty years ago.
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When it starts hurting, I can usually be certain the weather will turn stormy. My aching elbow reminds me of another story. When I was a boy, I often helped on my Granddad’s family farm. His brother was my Uncle Jimmy. One day Uncle Jimmy and I were driving in his pick-up truck. The windows were down, and I was hanging my arm out of it and playing in the breeze as we rumbled down the gravel roadway.
As we passed a nearby pond, the cattle were gathering around for watering, and two calves were prancing about the field, butting heads and chasing one another. Uncle Jimmy pulled the truck to a stop and nodded that direction.
“See those calves?” he asked.
“There’s a storm coming.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
The skies were blue, the weather warm. (This was long before the days of GPS or Smart-phones.) “Whenever you see calves acting like that, you can be sure there’s bad weather on the way.” Continue reading →
School leader and podcaster Danny Bauer shared a conversation with me about his education journey as well as how leaders are collaborating together to keep growing personally and professionally.
Danny “Sunshine” Bauer is the founder of Better Leaders Better Schools and facilitates weekly mastermind groups to support leadership growth. His podcast has hosted a hundred highly effective school leaders who share best practices for other leaders.
When I was in high school, my dad reenlisted in the Navy and we moved to New York where he was stationed while his ship was in dry-dock.
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For a country boy from West Tennessee, New York was a culture shock. I remember being so afraid to speak because I didn’t want others making fun of my southern accent.
One day I was standing in front of grocery store in Brooklyn when a man stopped to ask me what time it was. I realized I was wearing a watch and he wasn’t. So I just held up the watch without saying a word and let him read the time. Continue reading →
Invisibilia is a fascinating podcast about the invisible forces that affect us without us being aware. In a January 29, 2015 episode, the reporters narrating the episode were talking about a phenomenon known as “entanglement.”
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They began by describing a physics experiment where scientists have been able to isolate particle atoms in separate locations, change the motion, and cause the two separate atoms to react to the change at the same time in separate locations.
That’s right. In one experiment, an atom contained in a box four feet away from itself in another box was demonstrating simultaneous responses in both boxes. These atoms are not mirror images of one another; this research suggests that they are one another. Separate but one: a phenomenon known as quantum entanglement. Charles Q. Choi from Live Science explains that scientists theorize entangled atoms may stay connected even if a universe a part!
Scientists are able to explain how to make this happen, but they are still unable to explain why this is possible. Continue reading →
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.
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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 →
One weekend I was having lunch with a friend who works in petroleum engineering. We talked about the kind of research and data that he uses to determine which sites are best for drilling or exploration.
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Investors are especially interested in the ability of a company to substantiate the reason they should commit to providing resources for research and development–or in drilling and exploration.
When the conversation switched to my work as a principal, my friend asked me a probing question. It was so different than any question I had been asked before that I asked him to repeat it. “In a meta-analysis of student data,” he asked, “what would you say are the most significant factors in predicting student success?”Continue reading →