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

PMP 052: Starting a Movement of Kindness

Although I grew up in West Tennessee, I was born in San Diego, California when my dad was stationed there in the Navy.

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Some of my earliest toddler memories include playing on the beach while my dad and older brothers swam in the waves. Even though I was three or four years old, I still remember seeing my first jellyfish, finding starfish, and playing in the sand.

My dad had a unique way of building sandcastles. He would begin by gathering a mound of wet sand into a pile. Then he would scoop handfuls of sand and water. He would slowly drip the sand-water onto the mound until a small hill began to form. Drip, drip, drip… Each little drop of water would evaporate in the sun, leaving the sand behind in whatever shape it had formed. Eventually, the mound would build until it looked like a tall volcano with rippling spires.

When I think about creating and building, I’m fascinated by the small, steady actions that overtime can create something awesome.

Building a Momentum of Positive Culture

Last week one of my teachers told me she was having a bad day. Some of her students had been challenging, and she was having a hard time keeping a positive outlook. After classes that day, she visited the girl’s bathroom.

She was surprised to see someone had a left a post-it note on the mirror that said, “You are enough.” Another note said, “You are loved.” Suddenly, she felt better and smiled at the kind sentiments. Continue reading

PMP 051: The Shocking Truth About Your Decision-Making

When I was going to graduate school for my Master’s Degree in Education Leadership, I decided to conduct my own informal research.

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Over a number of weeks, I talked to current and retired principals about what they considered to be the lessons they had learned from their years in school leadership.

I remember one man in particular who was a retired teacher and administrator who had moved into higher education. We stood in the hallway one night after one my classes, and I asked him the question:

“What do you consider the greatest lesson you learned from your years as a principal?”

He looked down for a moment, and then looked back up at me and said. “I think I had to learn that I wasn’t always right. In fact, looking back now, I think I’d be lucky if I made the right decision 25% of the time.”

I was shocked. How could someone who seemed so articulate, competent, and confident say such a thing?

He smiled and explained. “Before you become the principal, you think you have all the answers. But once you take the position, you begin to realize how many things you don’t know…and sometimes you will call it wrong.”

“The sooner you accept that fact,” he went on, “The easier it will be to not be too hard on yourself when you make mistakes.”

I still remember walking away from that conversation in a daze. Continue reading

PMP 050: The 5 Marks of a Learning Culture

After living in Oklahoma for more than twenty years, I’ve become keenly aware that our state’s economy is intricately related to oil and gas.

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In addition to our rich Native American heritage, almost every major city or town in our state has its roots in the oil fields and exploration that brought workers who in turn brought their families and built communities.

A lot has changed over the decades, but for those who work the rigs and fields today, they can tell you that drilling and production can still be very dangerous work. When managing parts and machines under tremendous pressure, one mistake can be fatal.

Recently I was listening to The New Norm, an episode of Invisibilia, a podcast on the invisible forces, emotions, or psychological influences that affect the way we think or behave.

This episode focused on a story from 1997 when Shell Oil had commissioned Ursa, the largest offshore drilling rig in history. One man, Rick Fox, was assigned the task of assembling and training a crew who would manage a floating multi-story complex the size of two football fields. His biggest fears? He worried a lot about the inevitable injuries or deaths that could take place in metropolis of such high-pressure engineering—where a misread gauge or a wrong turn could be unimaginably catastrophic. Continue reading

PMP 049: Why Self-Control Matters–5 Benefits for Leaders

A couple of months ago, I enjoyed some special time away with my son, Jack.

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He had turned 11, and when his older sisters reached that age, my wife took each of them away for a special weekend. Now it was my turn with Jack, and we had fun weekend in historic Eureka Springs, Arkansas. In addition to just having fun together, one of the purposes of these one-on-one conversations is focused time to talk about life, priorities, and choices.

In a world that offers our children a menu of options everyday, I wanted Jack to understand that his choices must be based on something greater than what is convenient or fun in-the-moment. We talked about why it is important to learn patience and self-control…how the benefits of self-denial outweigh the temptations of self-gratification.

When I talked to Jack about how self-denial plays out in the life of a boy his age, I shared an illustration I have heard both from Tim Elmore and Seth Godin in presentations: The “Marshmallow Test.” Continue reading

PMP 048: Looking at 2017–Let’s Stay Connected!

One of my first superintendents had been an elementary teacher.

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Sometimes she would begin our leadership meetings by bringing a shopping bag full of hands-on materials (paper, scissors, glue, popsicle sticks) as demonstrations for a lesson or an idea she wanted us to understand.

No matter what your age, you never outgrow the need for self-improvement. And I don’t know about you, but I know I would not grow in my own leadership if I wasn’t interacting, questioning, exploring, and sharing with others.

As we wrap up 2016, I wanted to share some ways I have been “keeping my bag full of ideas” by connecting with other leaders this past year as well as some ways we might connect together in 2017. Continue reading

PMP Bonus 02: “Bee Stings” And Thoughts on Life & Death

This week’s post is more personal than school leadership related. Recently, my wife’s father-in-law, David L. Fulbright, passed away.

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He was a former teacher, minister, and counselor. He was also a great story-teller and Papa. As the family sat by his bedside in his remaining hours, I had some quiet moments that brought back memories of my own childhood that I wrote down. Later as I was flying home from a leadership event in Atlanta, I pulled out the story and finished it—bringing my thoughts full circle from my own childhood fears to the thoughts on David’s passing.

This story is a tribute to his memory. Maybe it will provide perspective for you when you’re facing your own challenging moments: Continue reading