Category Archives: Leadership

PMP:129 Why School Culture Matters – Interview with Heather Shaffery

This time of year, I’m on the road a lot visiting schools across my state.

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As I drive across Oklahoma, trees and fields have been brushed with the red and orange hues of fall. Rivers are swollen with much needed rains. And you can feel the first hints of winter’s chill in the strong prairie winds. The change in weather also brings along a change in expectations too. Teachers and students are talking about fall break, Thanksgiving, and even Christmas.

Just as our physical environment influences our feelings and attitudes, our school cultures also affect they way we feel about school. And as I visit with school leaders, I am hearing a lot of conversations about the importance of their school culture. Building strong school culture is a tall order but one that more and more school leaders realize is the foundation for building a community of learning. Continue reading

PMP:128 Integrating Technology School-wide with Janalyn Taylor

How can schools integrate technology across all classrooms?

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Janalyn Taylor, Principal of Nance Elementary in Clinton, Oklahoma, believes that school leaders must be willing to model learning and teaching with technology in order to see teachers and students embracing its innovative uses.

In a recent webinar conversation, Ms. Taylor explains how her school has embedded technology into learning, and how parents and community members are engaged with the lessons, activities, and products students are creating and sharing.

Janalyn Taylor is Oklahoma’s 2018 National Distinguished Principal.

She holds B.S. and M.Ed. degrees from Southwestern Oklahoma State University. She has spent the last 11 years of her 36-year career as principal of Nance Elementary School, a rural school serving a diverse population of pre-K through first grade students. With 83% of students participating in the free- and reduced-price meals program and 29% classified as English Language Learners, Taylor’s leadership is driven by a fierce commitment to equity and her ability to rally teachers and staff to ensure her vision is realized.

She will be recognized at the 2018 National Distinguished Principals Program Oct. 11 – 12, 2018 in Washington, D.C., To see her entire biography, visit the National Association of Elementary School Principal website list of National Distinguished Principals.

In our webinar conversation, she shares lessons for principals who want to integrate technologies for student-learning in every classroom. You can watch the webinar here, or listen to the podcast version of the presentation. Continue reading

PMP:Encore053 How Do You Respond 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.

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.

Because of low visibility, we didn’t swim with tanks on our backs. Instead my compressor, tank, and filtered line all connected to my boat. I was connected to a 50-foot air hose taped together with a 50-foot line of rope, and my regulator line was connected by a clip-on-hook to my weight belt at one end and attached to the boat and compressor at the other end. As I worked along an even stretch of clay and mud, I swept the surface with my hands while pulling the boat along with me.

Suddenly, I came up to a trotline. Continue reading

PMP:127 Why Social Emotional Learning Matters – Interview with Tamara Fyke

Educators are talking a lot about students in trauma. Although you may not always know when students are stressed or facing a crises, research by the American Psychological Association, shows that today’s students have the same level of anxiety as psychiatric patients did in the 1950’s.

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Some of this anxiety is the result of increased expectations placed on students. Sometimes it is their unstable environmental conditions. At other times, it may result from unfiltered content they view via social media.

As a result, today’s students need schools that provide places of stability and belonging. A first response to the growing number of students with anxiety is awareness. When you have a mindset of anticipating students face emotional stress, you can commit to building relationships of trust so that they feel safe in school. A second response is just as important: practicing social-emotional learning strategies that work well for all students. Continue reading

PMPEncore046: 5 Ways to Respond to Resistance

One of my favorite college education professors would often start class with a provoking question.

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As we would grapple with how to answer or support our positions, he would stand there with his large hands lifted in the air, his voice booming, “Disequilibrium is the beginning of education!”

It took me a while to figure out that he was teaching us by example. He was trying to help a room full of future teachers see that the greatest learning opportunities in life first start with challenges that “shake” our normal way of thinking about problem solving. Only by challenging us to think would we ever really learn. And it is often the challenges or resistance you face that help you gain strength for the tasks ahead. Continue reading

PMP:125 Leaving A Legacy – What Will Others Say About You?

Recently, the United States mourned the passing of Arizona Senator John McCain.

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Before his death, Senator McCain was asked by a reporter what words he hoped to see on his tombstone. He replied, “I’ve been a small bit of American history, so I think if there’s something on my tombstone, it’ll be ‘He served his country,’ and hopefully you add one word, ‘honorably.’” (Source: Dailycaller.com)

How do you judge endings? In his book, When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, Daniel Pink explains research by behavior scientists that study how people evaluate the moral behavior of others. Continue reading

PMP:124 Six Tips for Investing in Future Leaders

When I was a Language Arts teacher, I would walk my students through a series of practices on identifying their surroundings and writing down the details.

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You could try it right now. Take a moment and pause to consider the following:

What are you seeing? Look up, down, around, and behind you. Are you seeing the glare of sunlight from a nearby window? Or maybe it’s the stained surface of a tabletop. Could it be a yellow painted wall holding a framed photo?

What are hearing? Stop and simply listen. Maybe you hear the buzz of a heating or air system from nearby vents. Or do you recognize the distant hum of passing traffic?

What do you smell? Are you surrounded by the scent of brewed coffee or mix of aromas coming from a busy kitchen? Or maybe you smell the mustiness of old books.

What are you touching? Your body is full of nerves. Can you feel the fabric of the shirt you’re wearing resting on your shoulders? Or how about the press of your shoes against your toes? Are you holding the smooth ridges of a pen in hand?

What are you tasting? Maybe it’s the sweetness of gum or the caramel flavorings of your favorite soda? Or it could be the aftertaste of your most recent snack.

What are sensing emotionally? Are you anxious, excited, worried? Do you have a sense of confidence or angst for the day ahead? Or maybe you’re tired from a short night of sleep, or hungry for your next meal?

It is easy to step into your day with a list of to-do’s and fail to see what is right around you or even what is happening inside your own brain. Sometimes it takes real effort to pause and reflect on your surroundings. But being mindful is important, not just in writing, but in leadership. Continue reading

PMP:123 Rowing Together – Why Your Marriage Matters for Your Leadership

This summer my wife and I enjoyed time away celebrating our twenty fifth wedding anniversary in Lake Tahoe, Nevada.

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One afternoon we drove to Emerald Bay, a cove nestled a mile below the mountain highway there. We hiked down the trail and rented a kayak. When we pushed away from shore, I was immediately struck by the clarity of the water. Gray mountains covered in tall pines and shrubs formed a semi-circle around the cove. As you look across the water, the blue skies shine across the clear, spring-fed surface with a silvery-blue hue.

My wife, Missy, was sitting up front, her bare legs and feet extended straight out on the front of the boat as she soaked in the sunlight. We rowed ahead until we approached the round boulders of a small island where we stopped for photos and selfies. This was a happy moment, and we were doing what we loved most – being outdoors together… Continue reading

PMP:122 Packing Parachutes – Why Your Money Management Matters

The other day I was talking to a friend of mine who ran track in high school.

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When he was at his fastest, he could run a mile in 4 minutes and 30 seconds. Even though he was naturally fast, he learned to increase his speed through a strong practice his coach required: wearing a parachute during practice.

I was thinking about what it would feel like to run in a parachute. The weight and pull against your shoulders and legs would be almost unbearable. But imagine how fast you would run once the resistance was removed!

Sometimes I think managing finances is like wearing a parachute. If you are running with a lot of financial stress, for instance, you may feel the pull and weight of trying to move ahead with life. If you’ve found a level of financial security, however, you may see money as a parachute that is helping you land safely when needed. For most people, money seems to act both ways. Continue reading

PMP:121 The Power of Play – 7 Tips for Education Leaders

When I spotted the mud puddle, I thought it would be fun to jump it.

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The dirt road that ran along the edge of the field by our West Tennessee farmhouse was often traveled by trucks or tractors. And the ruts in the sandy, red dirt would fill with rain and create long stretches of rust-colored puddles. I was barefoot and seven years old. My brothers and sister were with me.

“Watch this,” I said. And I ran and jumped.

My feet landed in the thick mud and streaks of red clay splattered across my legs and shorts. They laughed. And soon, one by one, each of them tried it too.

“I think you could paint with this mud,” my sister said.

“Oh, yeah? I bet it would look good painted on you!”

And the mud battle began. Fists full of Tennessee red clay were thrown and splattered.

And we chased one another until my oldest brother said, “You know, in ancient times, people would bathe in mud as a way to treat their skin.”

He slowly began smearing it on his arms, his neck, his face, his legs. We followed suit. And before long, we were covered from head to toes in the red earth. Continue reading