Category Archives: Podcast

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:085 Managing Demands, Dealing with Difficult People, and Promoting Positive Morale

When I was a boy, I loved to walk the garden where my grandparents grew summer vegetables.

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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

PMP:084 Adapting to the Changing Winds of Education

I’ve been reading an excellent book by Tim Elmore and Andrew McPeak, Marching Off the Map: Inspire Students to Navigate a Brand New World, and it has sparked a lot of thought.

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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

PMP: 083 The Importance of Mindset, Motivation, and Modeling for Education Leaders

A few days ago I was at airport security when I ran into a parent from my previous school.

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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

PMP:082 How Can You Accomplish a Mission?

This past weekend, NASA broadcasted the final transmission of the spacecraft, Cassini, as it plunged into the atmosphere of the planet Saturn that it had orbited and monitored for the past 13 years.

Photo by Kyle Mortara – Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License https://www.flickr.com/photos/8068336@N02


Cassini’s mission actually began in 1997. It took six years for it to reach Saturn, an its exploratory orbiting mission began. The spacecraft was originally slated to complete a 3-year mission of orbiting, but the technology proved to be so reliable that it remained working far beyond original plans. From 900 million miles away, this spacecraft took over 400,000 photos as well as transmitted data back to Earth about Saturn’s moons, rings, and atmosphere. The end of Cassini is also another hallmark moment for what amazing feats can be accomplished through human engineering, science, technology, and teamwork. Continue reading

PMP:081 Leadership, Courage and Caution Lights for Principals

This past week I hosted a webinar for principals as a part of a book study over Principal Matters: The Motivation, Action, Courage and Teamwork Needed for School Leaders.

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In 2012, after being named Oklahoma’s Assistant Principal of the Year, I was asked to share ideas with new or aspiring leaders in graduate classes, workshops and conferences. And I was being asked a lot of the same questions about the pressures, challenges, and strategies involved in being a school administrator. So, I decided to start blogging about those issues. Eventually these same ideas became topics for my first book. Continue reading

PMP:080 A Reality Check for New or Aspiring Principals—10 Takeaways for the Road Ahead

The other night I was invited to visit a university classroom with sixteen educators who are working on graduate degrees in educational leadership.

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I listened to each of them present vision and mission statements related to their work with students. It was obvious they had a strong understanding of the road ahead–they understood the “why” of school leadership. I was encouraged and optimistic thinking about the future of our schools in the hands of these potential leaders.

At the end of the evening, I was asked to say a few words to the students. I wanted to give them both a reality check as well as some encouraging reminders. So, I broke the conversation into two parts. Continue reading

PMP:078 How To Respond to Resistance

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

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:076 Messaging Matters–How to Inspire Teachers, Motivate Students and Reach Communities

Last month, Justin Baeder, from Principal Center Radio, invited me as a guest on his show to talk to me about my new book Messaging Matters: How to Inspire Teachers, Motivate Students, and Reach Communities.

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