Just a few days ago I was presenting to principals in Wichita, Kansas.
Photo by Štefan Štefančík – Creative Commons No known copyright restrictions https://unsplash.com/@cikstefan?utm_source=haikudeck&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=api-credit
I was a little nervous because I had been having trouble with my voice from some bronchitis in my lungs. The doctor had given me some meds to combat the congestion, and my voice was returning. At the same time, I was reminded what a gift it can be to communicate with words.
Have you ever thought about how much communication affects your work as a school leader? I once heard someone say that communication is 100% of a principal’s job. At first I wasn’t sure if I agreed. But when I began to think about how much a school leader is involved in planning, conversation, counseling or sharing, I had to agree that every part of his or her job includes some form of communication. Continue reading →
When I was in college I climbed my first mountain which was an active volcano near Guatemala City.
Photo by Amanda Perez – Creative Commons No known copyright restrictions https://unsplash.com/@amandaperez?utm_source=haikudeck&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=api-credit
We loaded a bus the night before and arrived hours before sunrise to begin our hike in the dark. As we made it up the mountain, the pale colors of morning began to greet us. With the altitude change came the hard work. Each one of us was catching our breath while plodding toward our destination.
The team leader for this climb had pulled all of us together before it began. He explained the route, described the climbing conditions, and gave each of us the opportunity to back out if the climb sounded too strenuous.
As we reached the last stretch toward the peak, the ground turned to rocky ash. Each step we would take forward would require the use of hands and knees. Soon we stopped talking as each person focused on the next step. Continue reading →
As vastly different as the stories of a horse and former President can be, I find that both of them are full of similarities in the kinds of challenges, risk, courage, and strategies necessary to achieve goals and dreams. As you think about your own school leadership, how can you take lessons from those around you (both in person and in history) to reflect on ways to keep growing and learning? Continue reading →
Recently, on a trip to Philadelphia, I was sitting in airport gate seating area, which gave me a view of the ground crews prepping planes for departure.
Photo by Linda Söndergaard – Creative Commons No known copyright restrictions https://unsplash.com/@lindasondergaard?utm_source=haikudeck&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=api-credit
Workers were driving baggage trains, pulling fuel trucks in and out, and loading bags on runways into planes.
While I watched them, I thought about how many people it takes for you to arrive at any destination. Whether you’re on the road or in the air, someone has to build the vehicles, hire the workers, schedule the routes, write code for mapping programs, or drill the ground for the necessary fossil fuels. But no matter how varied the people or methods for reaching your destinations, you can’t reach the road ahead unless those people or methods are reliable. Continue reading →
When I was in college, I was a resident advisor in the dormitory where I lived.
Photo by Mpho Mojapelo – Creative Commons No known copyright restrictions https://unsplash.com/@mpho_mojapelo?utm_source=haikudeck&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=api-credit
My dorm director, Scott Boss, was a graduate student who not only supervised all the resident advisors in my dorm but also taught us leadership lessons. One day Scott was talking to the R.A.’s about ways we could better communicate with the other men who lived on our floors. He said something I’ll never forget. “When it comes to building relationships with others, remember this simple equation: Time Spent = Relationship Built.”
Over the years, I’ve tried to keep that in mind as I’ve visited with students, teachers, or parents. In fact, it is one of the reasons I believe parents struggle so much in connecting with their own children: they simply don’t spend enough time together. I believe the same is true for school relationships as well. The problem, however, is not always how much time you are spending with others, but the mindset you have when you are together. Continue reading →
Recently, my twelve-year-old son, Jack, and I took a long road trip from Oklahoma to West Tennessee to visit my parents.
Photo by Stanley Zimny (Thank You for 25 Million views) – Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License https://www.flickr.com/photos/82256086@N00
Gran and Grandaddy live in the country–so far out they receive no cell service. It was a weekend of being unplugged. It was also a weekend to be reminded that my life is more than just school leadership. We took long walks to see turning leaves and rambled through the deep woods. Jack borrowed Gran’s shovel and dug out an old spring down the hill from the house–a spring we used when I was his age.
Time away is a great time to reflect on life. And reflection is an important part of professional growth as well. As I reflect back on the lessons learned in school leadership, my biggest takeaways often come from trial and error. But experience also teaches you some useful steps for moving forward with more confidence.
This week’s podcast is a replay of a webinar I shared with principals a couple of weeks ago about three important areas I have reflected on in chapters 9-11 of my book Principal Matters. These takeaways come from lessons learned from my experiences as an assistant principal and principal. Continue reading →
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 walk-through-form listing the pros and cons of your short visit?
Photo by JESHOOTS.COM – Creative Commons No known copyright restrictions https://unsplash.com/@jeshoots?utm_source=haikudeck&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=api-credit
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.
When I was a boy, I loved to walk the garden where my grandparents grew summer vegetables.
Photo by Daniel Hjalmarsson – Creative Commons No known copyright restrictions https://unsplash.com/@artic_studios?utm_source=haikudeck&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=api-credit
My grandfather had an interesting way of planting tomatoes. He would dig a deep hole, scatter a small handful of fertilizer in the bottom of the hole, and then place a tomato plant in while gathering the rich soil around the plant till it was secure. Then he’d water the plant and place a bucket over it. He would alternate times when the plants were covered or open to the sun until they were well established and ready to start blossoming.
Creating a strong environment for learning involves a lot of care and attention. In addition to being instructional leaders, school leaders have to be aware of how we are cultivating the soil of our schools. Sometimes this requires consistently managing various demands, dealing with difficult conversations, and planting seeds of positive school culture. Continue reading →
Photo by James Loesch – Creative Commons Attribution License https://www.flickr.com/photos/34920192@N02
The first half of the book is what educators know intimately: the changing cultural trends in technology, relationships, politics, and information – and how these affect the ways students learn, think, grow, and behave.
Did you know, for instance, that the average attention span of today’s youth is 6-seconds? It is a challenging mission to reach children so pressed by distracting images, not to mention the social/emotional or intellectual challenges or issues students bring with them each day. Elmore covers many current trends and data on how youth today face challenges we adults never knew at their ages. Continue reading →
A few days ago I was at airport security when I ran into a parent from my previous school.
Photo by PeterThoeny – Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License https://www.flickr.com/photos/98786299@N00
We exchanged pleasantries, and I asked him about his children. As we said goodbyes, he commented, “We miss you.” I thanked him, and as I walked away I couldn’t help but be grateful.
In my new role as a director for my state principal association, I often think about the joy of leaving work I enjoyed to do work I also enjoy. And when you give yourself to a school for more than a decade, you leave behind a lot of your heart and soul.
Ten years gave me time to make a lot of mistakes. But it also gave me time to plant my roots deeply and enjoy watching others grow. In order to lead so that your pros outweigh the cons, you have to maintain serious focus on your targets. Continue reading →