When I was in college I climbed my first mountain which was an active volcano near Guatemala City.
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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 →
One of my favorite illustrations of the brain is not from a science magazine.
It is from a Mercedes Benz advertisement. In it you see a painting of the brain with the left side showing scaffolds, numbers, and graphs–a sample of analytical thinking. The right side of the brain is painted with vivid colors, swirls, and faces–an explosion of creativity.
I like to think of that brain illustration when I talk about school leadership because I believe strong leaders must consistently use both sides of their brains. You must have strong processes, procedures, and guidelines in place (left side of brain) while you also encouraging relationships, creativity, and innovation (right side of the brain).
This week’s podcast is a recording of a recent webinar I hosted concerning three topics that focus on creating the processes necessary for students to thrive. 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 →
When I was in junior high school, everyone on my basketball team wore Converse high-tops.
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I’ll never forget mine: they were the color of golden-rod, and I was so proud of them that I never wore them outside the gym because I didn’t want to scuff them up. For a thirteen year-old boy at the time, Converse was the only brand to wear. But a few years later, when Michael Jordan came on the scene during my high school years, Nike soon became the new must-have shoe.
Sometimes I think about the brands I like to buy, but it’s easy to forget that schools are also brands. Because schools are learning communities, they are much more than products; at the same time, students don’t just attend our schools, they experience them. When is the last time you thought about the feelings people have when they experience your school brand? 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.
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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.
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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.
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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?
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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.
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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 →
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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 →