When I was in high school and college, I spent a lot of time diving for shells in the lakes near my home in West Tennessee.
It wasn’t as glamorous as it sounds. Lake diving is work that requires you to spend a lot of time in depths too dark to see while crawling mud or sand searching for shells with your hands. It is also a job that requires relatively good navigation and communication, especially on windy or stormy days. Continue reading →
Last month I enjoyed some time away with family in West Tennessee.
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When I was there, my son Jack and I hiked the backwoods behind my parents’ farm. There is a winding creek that runs behind the house. It’s filled with lily pads in the summer, and on the back end of the creek is a beaver dam that floods an area that is great for duck hunting. Although Jack and I didn’t do any duck hunting, we did enjoy tramping around the woods, walking fields, and just enjoying the time away. Continue reading →
A few years ago, I sat in a gymnasium with bleachers filled with middle schoolers while I watched high school student Jesse Haynes, one of my own Skiatook seniors at the time, share about his new novel he published that year.
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“This is one of my teammates and me after winning our first tournament of the year,” he said, as he scrolled through a Powerpoint presentation of himself playing basketball. Then he showed a photo of himself with his dog, and another one of himself sitting in his favorite chair at home where he wrote his first book.
Jesse was one of those students who didn’t need much encouragement to pursue his dreams or creative ideas. And he enjoyed sharing them with others. In fact, he possessed a rare gift. He believed that he could accomplish whatever he was willing to take action toward achieving. And that was his message for that gym full of middle school students. Continue reading →
Just a few days ago I was presenting to principals in Wichita, Kansas.
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I was a little nervous because I had been having trouble with my voice from some bronchitis in my lungs. The doctor had given me some meds to combat the congestion, and my voice was returning. At the same time, I was reminded what a gift it can be to communicate with words.
Have you ever thought about how much communication affects your work as a school leader? I once heard someone say that communication is 100% of a principal’s job. At first I wasn’t sure if I agreed. But when I began to think about how much a school leader is involved in planning, conversation, counseling or sharing, I had to agree that every part of his or her job includes some form of communication. Continue reading →
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 →
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 →
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.