Category Archives: Principal

PMP:065 Celebration Ideas for Finishing The School Year

Last month I was asked to share a webinar on how to prepare for our state’s accreditation visits. I decided to begin the conversation with the practical steps we take with my school team on sharing, planning, scheduling, and compiling for accountability.

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Half way through the webinar, however, I switched gears and talked about celebration ideas our students and teachers had embraced for finishing the school year with enthusiasm. One way my school’s student leaders wanted to end the year was by doing something to help others. They designed an amazing idea called BARK week. Our school mascot is the Bulldog, so the theme fit perfectly.

BARK Week

Here’s an explanation our student council sponsor shared a month in advance: Continue reading

PMP:064 Five Tips For Finishing Strong

During my daughter’s first year in high school, I drove to the local lake dam spillway to meet her teammates for a weekend track workout.

Photo by Chris Maki – Creative Commons Attribution License https://www.flickr.com/photos/79526375@N00


After twenty minutes of warm-up running on the grassy path to the spillway and back, they lined up for drills. These included twelve sprints up an intimidatingly steep grassy incline to practice increasing speed.

It was a joy to watch all of the students working hard and pushing themselves. As they neared their tenth sprint drill, their legs began shaking, their shirts were lined with sweat, and their chests heaved with every breath. Their movement was a mass of arms pumping, legs kicking up the hill, bending over to catch a breath, standing up tall before making the climb down to run up again. 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.

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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:062 Setting the Record Straight & School Advocacy

A few years ago, I had the privilege to participate in a ten-day tour of four cities in China.

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On one leg of the trip, I sat by a Mongolian woman who was fluent in English and on her way home after completing graduate studies at Boston University. We enjoyed trading stories about our families, home, schools, and studies. Toward the end of our conversation, she turned to me and asked poignantly, “Why do U.S. schools not measure up to other nations on standardized tests?”

This was a fair question. After all, I’m sure she had seen the statistics commonly discussed in higher education about the comparison of U.S. public school scores to students in other industrialized nations. I also knew she came from a situation and background that allowed her access to higher education, so she had seen first-hand how helpful her own education had been.

As a good teacher tries to do, however, I answered her question with some questions of my own. Continue reading

PMP:060 How Mindfulness Influences Leadership

A few nights ago, I was sitting on the couch with my wife, Missy, when our four children slowly made their way into the living room.

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Our lives are so busy with three teenage girls and an eleven-year-old boy that we rarely find time to all be together these days. Emily, our oldest, came and sat on the floor so she could get “mommy scratches” while she played on her iPhone. Mattie, our second oldest, was across the room. She had placed her laptop on the piano bench with a video of dancers from the musical Beauty and the Beast, and she danced along practicing moves.

Katie, our third girl, was on the opposite couch with her guitar. She was playing a version of Hello from the Other Side while Emily was humming harmonies along with her. And then there was Jack with a snack of cheese crackers on the table. With a cracker in his mouth, he was everywhere: sometimes carrying his basketball, moving it between his legs or bouncing it. Or he’d sit on the couch and hum along with the music and then jump back up for another cracker. Continue reading

PMP:059 How Does Scarcity Affect Your Mindset?

The other morning, on my drive to school with my daughter, I was listening to a story on NPR called The Scarcity Trap: Why We Keep Digging When We’re Stuck in a Hole by Shankar Vedantam.

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Researchers have determined that when people find themselves consumed with trying to simply survive, they often instinctively operate with tunnel vision. Sometimes they have poorer judgment. They tend to have a harder time thinking long-term. The urgent often overwhelms other important priorities.

In fact, one study looked at farmers in India who are paid only once a year after harvest. When their behaviors were observed before and after, their ability to make rationale, wise choices dramatically changed when their scarcity was replaced with abundance. Vedantam reports that other research has found that IQ scores actually lower when people test while experiencing scarcity than when experiencing stability. Continue reading

PMP 056: Reaching Generation iY and iGen Students

A few years ago, I was talking to a senior student, Jesse, who was publishing his first book.

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He shared with me that he had a great opportunity to speak at a gathering of authors at a book conference. Later, he was invited to a number of middle schools to share with younger students his passion for writing. I asked him if I could attend one of his presentations, and it was amazing to watch him communicating ideas and inspiration to groups of 6th, 7th, and 8th graders.

Over the next few months, Jesse would stop by my office, and we would talk about his dreams and plans. Because he was so teachable, I pointed him toward resources to help him start blogging, creating an email subscription list, and leveraging his social media options. We explored ways he might maximize opportunities before starting college.

As a result, Jesse began building a platform for his writing, ideas, and creative projects before he even graduated high school. He stayed in contact with readers and students he had met through his content and events. He is in college now, has published his second book, and is hosting his own podcast. (Check out his website jessehaynesauthor.com to see his profile, books, and podcast links!)

Jesse has exceptional gifts, drive, and opportunities for someone his age. And as I watch other students like him pursuing their futures, I realize that this generation faces options for careers that my generation never knew. Today’s students no longer have to wait for permission or continuing education to begin connecting, designing, creating or sharing ideas.

When I think about my own children entering the adult world and the students in my school, I realize they have amazing options: Continue reading

PMP 055: Spring Semester & Beta-Testing

When I was boy, my parents would often stop by a decrepit farmhouse where they had first lived after being married.

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My great-grandfather had built it in the early 1900’s with a big front porch, two chimneys, and a tin roof. A large pear tree grew in the front yard, and in the spring, yellow jonquils (or buttercups as we called them) would cover the hillside there. The Old House was no longer inhabitable, but it had become a place where family members stored old furniture or other odds and ends.

I still remember wandering through the sunlit rooms filled with scattered furniture and trunks and imagining what life was like for my ancestors who once lived there without cars or indoor plumbing. One spring when my dad butchered a hog, he wrapped up the hams and carried them to The Old House where he stored the meat in a large wooden box filled with salt. Weeks later, we retrieved the hams from the saltbox and had salted pork for weeks to come.

When I see buttercups, I often think of The Old House. And this is normally the time of year for blooms to emerge. At the same time, spring time brings up other questions about what is in store for our school. For instance, what steps are we taking now that might leave impressions or blooms for the coming school year? 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