Tag Archives: school leadership

PMP:058 Triggering the Brain with Wonder

The other day I was talking to our high school choir teacher, when she told me about a fascinating brain study involving music.

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MIT neuroscientists have discovered that music triggers an auditory cortex of the brain that doesn’t appear to respond to other basic auditory sounds like speech.

If our brains have portions that only react to sounds recognized as music, this leads to an important question: Are we really engaging the brain most effectively if we aren’t exposing it to both left brain (facts, patterns, figures, and information) and right brain activities (creative, imaginative, inspiring ideas)? Continue reading

PMP: Encore 05 Caution Lights for the Leadership Journey

Each of us faces different challenges in leadership, and it is important to reflect on the caution lights along the way.

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This week I wanted to take you back to a podcast episode I shared over a year ago that others have found helpful as they reflect on their own leadership journeys: Caution Lights for the Leadership Journey. Just like for me, I hope the reflections can help you evaluate where you may have room to grow too.

Here are the show-notes with links:

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 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 046: 5 Tips for Responding to Resistance

One of my favorite college education professors would often start class with a provoking question.

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As we would grapple with how to answer and/or support our positions, he would stand there with his large hands lifted in the air, his voice booming, “Disequilibrium is the beginning of education!”

It took me a while to figure out that he was teaching us by example. He was trying to help a room full of future teachers see that the greatest learning opportunities in life first start with challenges that “shake” our normal way of thinking about problem solving. Continue reading

PMP:045 Shawn Sheehan “Teach Like Me” (Lessons in Risk, Failure and Wow)

In this episode, I sit down with Shawn Sheehan and talk about the lessons from his life, teaching, and advocacy for education.

Oklahoma Department of Education


Shawn is the 2016 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year and was a finalist for National Teacher of the Year. He is an Algebra I teacher from Norman High School in Norman, Oklahoma.

He is also the founder of the Teach Like Me Campaign, a national movement focused on counteracting negative public perception of teachers and redefining those assumptions through social media campaigns to boost morale among current and future educators.

Questions we explore

In this interview, Shawn answers four questions:
1. How has failure pushed you to re-focus on your priorities as an educator and a person?
2. Why “Teach Like Me”? Why are you so passionate about redefining the public perception of teaching?
3. What advice do you have for educators who are struggling during “tougher” political days ahead for schools?
4. What advice do you have for school leaders to better serve their teachers, schools and communities? Continue reading